Introduction: When humans bring their dogs to your center, they are looking for people who work with dogs because they care about dogs. They need to see, hear and feel demonstrations of activity, conversation, and devotion to the dogs. They want you to sell and use products that are safe and healthy. They want the place to be clean. The expectation is that you will treat their dog better than they treat their dog, and that should be exactly what is done.
Your dog day care has to be overt in showing these things. Dog parents want a report at the end of the day about how the dog's day went, they want to be able to log onto the internet and check up on their pooches, and they need to see that your center is organized, up-to-date, and has plans in place for emergencies. As the owner and operator of your dog day care, you owe each customer proof that your day care is the best place for their dog and then make sure it is. They are paying you for this service, and to maintain a good reputation, you must offer assurances in these areas. Each employee will have to understand this mindset to fit into this framework.
Not only do your customers and dogs want a safe and healthy place but they want a place that offers various activities throughout the day. Places for dogs to socialize with other dogs, to run and play, things to climb on, and people to interact with, are all requirements of a good dog day care. It might help to think of your dog day care center as a child day care center. Children are given toys, time to play alone, with others, indoors and outdoors, all helping them develop physically, socially, and intellectually. Dogs need no less than these same things. Get creative if your space is smaller. Find a way to make the day for the dogs filled with fun.
The third part to making sure the dogs have a great experience at your center is to have their records up to day and easily accessed by every employee. Hopefully your technology makes it easy for your workers to access the records from your Wi-Fi and on their phones. Train your staff in first aid for dogs and make sure first aid supplies are readily available. Staff should know if certain dogs have allergies, or other health concerns. There should be a system set up like color coded tags on colors for quick identification. Also you have to have staff you can trust to make a quick call to parents to ask a question or to give them information about their dog.
Health and Safety: Every part of your dog day care center, from the drive up, parking, entry and the intake to the greeting areas, store front, play yard, and exit, should scream clean, healthy, and safe. Safe guards that allow customers with sensitive or hyper or more aggressive dogs to bring them into the main area with some separation should be made. There should be available clean up supplies, waste receptacles, scent diffusers in several spots throughout the center and hand washing stations. The minute a dog has made a mess a worker should be right there to clean it up and sanitize immediately. The supplies used throughout should be safe for the dogs, the handlers and the environment. Your certificates of inspection need to be posted neatly in the front so no one has to ask to see them. If you aren't proud of your ratings, then your dog day care needs to change.
Your staff must be well trained not only to work and care for dogs but in first aid for dogs. Staff can learn how to minimize barking and aggressive behaviors and how to introduce new dogs into a group. Making each worker train for each job in the facility is another way to help the facility to run smoothly.
The materials used in the floors, walls, and trim have to be animal friendly. You don't want a dog to gnaw on a corner of a wall and getting ill. The ventilation systems should be purchased specially to clean the air of respiratory germs. All small areas must be ventilated well and in cages there needs to be at least two sides open to air flow.
Materials should offer sound control all over the building. Sound diffusers can be added. If using stainless steel, which is easy to clean and maintain, sound pads are a must. Staff also need to be trained in the use of steel without increasing the noise levels as they work with the dogs and clean throughout the day. For both good health and good behavior, the center must keep stress on the dogs at a low level. Stress is directly related to the noise levels.
Putting drains in the floors is another support for clean facilities. With drains in the floors and hoses that hang from the ceiling, it will be easy to clean stalls, runs and dogs. The staff will need to stay clean as well and the center should supply them with changes in clothes or overalls for cleaning. Dogs should never be left alone by a staff member in order to clean cages. At all times dogs need to be monitored.
Grass or a safe synthetic turf should be provided for purpose of elimination, to play on and exercise their large muscles. A high fence to prohibit jumping and running off is also great to have. Otherwise you have to keep dogs on leashes and they will get less exercise.
Places for Various Activities: There are those who promote a dog day care as an easy venture. But it is not easy if your goals are to maintain a healthy, safe and fun atmosphere for the dogs and the staff, comply with all requirements, and organize for success. Once you have your plans laid out, the structure ready, and your staff trained, you will find that going forward will be much easier than if you don't plan or put in the work up front.
Dogs want to have a stress free place to be alone, to rest, eat, and drink. Having time outdoors, time to play alone, with a few other dogs and interact with humans are all part of a dog day care. If you work to set up the center appropriately, you will have happy dogs and happy customers. There are many books that go into the details of dog behavior, health and interactions. You will need to read everything in these areas and become expert. Your customers will expect you to know all about dogs.
Dogs cannot be put, en masse into one large room. It is neither healthy, safe or fun for dogs. It would only increase stress in dogs who are already away from their human parents, cause inappropriate behaviors and increase cross contamination in any illness yet to be detected. It is not healthy in any way. There should be at the very least one adult with a group of 10 or fewer dogs that appear to get along, though dogs, like kids do not always enjoy socializing.
Make sure everybody knows what their assignment is for the day. Someone needs to be assigned to play with dogs, another person to clean up messes, and still another staff member who prepares food and clean water, clean bedding can also manage meds the dogs must take and the few small rooms for dogs who prefer some isolation, need calming down, and have special needs due to some health reason. For more dogs you will need more people. It is better to retain an extra staff member or two just in case. If one is absent and you are over staffed there is no scurrying around to find a substitute that isn't trained. It only takes one bad employee substitute to ruin all you've work for.
As you plan your set up and costs, include the cost of some extra employees. You just have to add that into your budget and set fees accordingly. People will pay for a care center that is always ready to meet the day with trained workers who are familiar with their dogs. Using multiple staff who are untrained and don't care about your facility is not good for your business, your customers, or the dogs.
Create and design a facility that is welcoming to the customers, the dogs, and the staff. People and dogs will spend their entire days in your facility and for many days in a row. Look on YouTube for animal relaxation music and use color as well. Dogs do not see red and greens but they do see shades of yellow, blues and grays. They do not see color as intensely as humans but can be affected by color. Different dogs respond differently to different colors, but it is good to use the colors dogs do see in their areas. Dogs, staff and the dog owners want to feel that your center is organized, comfortable, clean, and enjoyable. Paint and music and cleanliness cost little but the pay-off is big. Make it fun for everyone.
Keeping the Records: Organization of information needs to be simple and up to date. Each customer should have a file as well as every dog. Copies of health records, vaccinations, vet's information, phone numbers with back-ups, and some history can be very helpful. Depending upon what you decide about food - each person bringing their own or requiring each dog to use what you supply- have labels that clarify what kind and how much each dog requires. Noting any current medications, changes in the dogs emotional or behavioral health and what toys each dog prefers only helps staff to do a better job. The more information you have on each dog, the happier the dog and owner will be.
Dog FAQS: Retractable leashes were made to be used with dogs for tracking and recall and should never be used just to walk your dog. They aren't safe. Because they allow a dog to go so far, your dog can get to a speed that when the leash is taunt, will exert so much force on the walker as to yank the hold out of your hand or even cause the leash to break. If the handle flies out of your hand and it retracts to the dog, it can scare or hurt your dog causing him to run away.
In fact, a long leash also creates tangling for you or another walker possibly injuring one or both of you. The length also allows your dog to run into the street before you are able to get the leash under control. In some places in California, leashes that are longer than six feet are actually legally prohibited. What appears to be something fun for your dog may not be healthy. Teaching a dog to walk under your control will help your dog feel safer and act with less aggression.
Let walking your dog be a time of interaction. Pay attention to your dog, talk to him and enjoy his companionship. Having a dog and especially walking your own dog can influence your own emotional state and relieve the stress of the day.
Summary: When deciding to start a dog day care, there are many things to think about and plan. Before you ever begin, know what you want in a facility. Read and become an expert on all things to do with dog day cares. Be efficient and well organized with your facility, your staffing, your use of time and managing the health and safety of the center. A dog day care that is planned well, structured well, and run well will be a success.
Making sure your center gives the dogs and their owners the best experience possible will not only keep you in business but it will keep your profits flowing. Creating a place that is a home away from home for your customer and her pet is your goal. For the public to feel like they are part of a family of dog lovers is important to them and to your success. Maintain a respect for everyone and their pets at all times. Train your staff to think for success as well and you are on your way. Make it professional. Keep it professional. Whatever it takes, do it right.