Most people wonder, “what really happens at dog daycare”? As an owner of a dog daycare, Underdog Kennels in Dallas, TX I’m going to reveal it all to you: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
For some dogs, the excitement starts before they even get to dog daycare. Some of our customers tell us their dogs get so excited about going to dog daycare they are too excited to eat their breakfast, so many of them bring their breakfasts along with them and we feed it to them.
Many of our customers tell us their dogs get super excited as they drive to Underdog Kennels and will begin to get very boisterous and jump around in their cars as they get closer and closer to being dropped off at dog daycare.
Once they arrive at dog daycare, they generally fly through our front door and make a beeline straight for the doorway which leads to our overnight boarding and dog daycare play areas, generally never looking back once to tell Mom or Dad, “goodbye”. I used to experience this before I owned a dog daycare and was just a consumer of the services for my own family. At first, this always hurt my feelings a little bit, but I came to realize this was a good thing – they LOVED going to dog daycare. This realization brought me great comfort knowing they were in good hands when I couldn’t watch over them and brought me a great deal of peace of mind.
Once past the doors of the dog daycare what really happens?
Socializing – speaking “dog” with their furry friends and becoming more comfortable around others. Dogs are descended from wolves which means they are pack animals. They were designed to interact with others. Proper socialization requires exposure to other humans outside of your family and to other dogs. The best time to start this socialization is when your dog is still a puppy – ideally when they are 4 months old. By this age, their immune system has matured enough for them to safely interact with other dogs in a healthy way. This is the age that most doggy daycares will allow puppies to first start attending. With proper socialization, you and your dog will be able to enjoy leisurely walks in the park and relaxing refreshments on restaurant patios. Proper socialization also boosts your dog’s confidence, which creates a calmer dog. The dogs will make “best friends” which they tend to hang out with and play with. They will literally smile when their BFF walks in. It’s the cutest thing to see.
Playing – of course, lots of playing takes place at dog daycare. Watching dogs play together never gets old. Dogs play in 4 Distinct Playstyles: Chasing, Neck Biting, Body Slamming, and Cat-like play. Most dogs utilize a combination of these play styles. At a good dog daycare provider, there will be plenty of trained supervision to make sure everyone is “playing by the rules” and no inappropriate behavior or unsafe play takes place. Playing at dog daycare is much safer than going to the dog park.
Different Personalities at Dog Daycare – while every dog is wonderful and unique in their own way, we see certain personalities emerge at dog daycare…the Alpha, the class clown, everybody’s best friend, the fun police, happy-go-lucky, I’m cautious – so let’s go slowly, independent, playful, resource guarder, rough & tumble, the social butterfly, submissive, talkative and well behaved. It’s great fun to watch them all interact with each other.
Running – depending on the dog, there can be lots of running at dog daycare. Some dogs love to be chased and some dogs love to chase so it makes for a perfect game for them to play.
Jumping – this is a favorite pastime for many dogs. Dogs are very athletic and love showing off their jumping skills in front of their buddies. Many dog daycare facilities will play with bubbles (some are even bacon-flavored – non-toxic of course) blowing them for the dogs to chase. Many of the pups will jump into the air and bight them.
Climbing – many dogs are very adventurous and love to climb on things, so many dog daycares will have play equipment that the pups can climb on, under or through. Some even have slides which the dogs actually slide down. Dogs really are just furry kids when given the chance!
Tummy Rubs, Ear Scratches, and Snuggles– This happens a lot at dog daycare. The staff at these facilities are DOG LOVERS! Your pup will get loved on all day long when you take them to dog daycare. The staff will become part of your pup’s pack.
Sniffing – dogs experience the world through their mouths and their noses. The average dog has a sense of smell that is about 100,000 times more sensitive than a human’s partly because dog noses contain 150 million olfactory receptors while human noses only have 5 million. When we smell a pizza – we smell pizza, your dog smells every ingredient in the pizza. And dogs devote about 1/3 of their brain mass to the detection and identification of odors, while humans utilize a mere 5% for olfactory purposes.
Everything gets sniffed at dog daycare, including other dog’s butts. Why do they do this?! According to VCA Animal Hospitals: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/why-dogs-sniff-butts
Inside the rectum are two small sacs called anal glands which secrete a noxious smelling substance into the rectum through a pair of tiny openings.
Dogs sniff butts as a form of greeting and obtain vital information from the anal secretions. Is this dog friend or foe? Is he going to be a good “date”? Will he be aggressive? Is he feeling ill? And because the odor is unique to every dog, two dogs can quickly determine if they’ve met before. That aroma emanating from the anal region is a unique form of canine identification.
The manner in which dogs sniff rear ends can establish which of two dogs is dominant and set the foundation of a canine relationship. The dominant dog will initiate the sniffing while the submissive dog waits his turn. A submissive dog may stop sniffing first and retreat. A dominant dog may growl to end the smelling session. Some dogs like to limit the information they give out and will simply sit down and clamp their tails over their rectums reducing the odor they emit.
Dogs also have a good scent memory that can identify other dogs they haven’t seen for years and who was the dominant member of the pair simply by smell. When dogs belonging to the same family are separated for a while, they use the sense of smell to catch up on things. Changes in odors may convey where the dog went, what he ate, and what he did.
In addition to chemical communication, there is another purpose to butt-sniffing. Dogs smell rear ends as a calming mechanism. Performing this innate ritual soothes them and serves as a stress reliever. Plus, sniffing is much quicker than a lengthy conversation. So, even though sniffing butts seem revolting to us, try to think of it as a healthy, socially acceptable form of canine communication!
Sunbathing – who doesn’t like to soak up some rays?! Vitamin D makes us all feel good and the warm penetrating rays of the sun can be really relaxing.
Napping – this should be a very important part of dog daycare. Dogs are designed to take many restful naps throughout the day. It’s in keeping with their natural circadian rhythms (body clocks). Most dogs who are left in an open playgroup with other dogs all day long will become over-stimulated. This over-stimulation contributes to aggression, stress, and exhaustion (think about a toddler who never takes a nap). For this reason, the guests at Underdog Kennels get some restful naptimes in the comfort and privacy of their own rooms throughout the day.
According to experts at the National Sleep Foundation, it’s normal for dogs to spend about 50% of their day asleep. Another 30% of the day is spent “resting,” while dogs are active, just about 20% of the day.
Canine sleeping patterns closely mimic our own, but differ in a key way. Entering sleep, they take about 10 minutes to transition from the slow wave — during which breathing slows, blood pressure drops, and heart rate decreases — into rapid eye movement (REM). In the REM phase, their eyes roll under closed lids, and their body might react to dreams. This is what’s taking place when your dog is moving their legs or making cute noises while asleep.
Dogs only spend about 10 percent of their snoozing time in REM because of their irregular sleep patterns. Since they tend to doze off whenever they want, often out of boredom, they also wake up quickly and jump to alertness. By contrast, humans spend up to 25 percent of sleep in REM, reflecting their more typical schedule of staying awake all day and resting through the night. As a result, dogs require more total sleep to compensate for their lost REM.
Relaxing – this is one of the best benefits of dog daycare…your dog gets to relax and just be a kid! When our dogs are with their owners, they feel they have a job to do: protect you, protect your family and protect your home and yard. This comes instinctually to them. This job can be stressful. When they come to dog daycare, they leave all those responsibilities behind and they just get to goof off, play with their furry friends and relax.
Pooping & Peeing – I said I was going to reveal it all to you…now for the less appealing side of dog daycare. Pooping – everyone poops. It’s a part of life. No big deal.
Peeing is a bigger deal at dog daycare. It’s been said: “Dogs read about the world through their noses, and they write their messages, at least to other dogs, in their urine.”
Dogs use their urine to mark areas they consider to be theirs. Marking their territory lets other dogs know that they are present. Urine also signifies the reproductive status of the dog and their ranking. Dogs who aren’t altered (spayed or neutered) are more likely to mark than those who are fixed
Exciting social situations can trigger urine marking. Some male dogs only urine mark when in the presence of female dogs (especially if they’re in heat), and some urine mark only when interacting with other male dogs. Some dogs only urine mark when visiting homes where other dogs have urine marked before. Other dogs only urine mark when they become highly aroused and overstimulated in social situations. These dogs often mark nearby objects, people or other dogs.
Occasionally, someone can get peed on completely by accident because one dog is busy sniffing while another dog decides it’s time to go to the bathroom. If we see this occur, we’ll give that dog a courtesy bath.
Dogs may even mark on their own beds while at dog daycare or overnight boarding to let the other dogs know it’s their property. Hopefully, we notice this, and we’ll throw it in the wash before it goes home.
Fun – lastly, the most common thing that happens at dog daycare is the dogs have fun! Whether they are running, jumping, sniffing, or wrestling, the dogs are having a great time, and smiles are everywhere and our guests go home calm, content, and relaxed. There is never a bad day at dog daycare and I feel blessed to have the best job EVER.
About Underdog Kennels: At Underdog Kennels, we Temperament Test all guests who wish to play in Dog Daycare to ensure they are DOG FRIENDLY and then our guests are divided up into different playgroups based on a combination of their: size, age, play style, and temperament to ensure they will be in a playgroup where they’ll have fun but more importantly, will be very safe for them.
Underdog Kennels Dog Daycare is structured based on the latest Dog Behavioral Research which shows our dogs are much like small children toddler age or slightly older. Most dogs who are left in an open playgroup with other dogs all day long will become over-stimulated. This over-stimulation contributes to aggression, stress, and exhaustion (think about a toddler who never takes a nap).
For this reason, Underdog Kennels Dog Daycare is structured so each playgroup goes out and plays together in the morning and also in the afternoon but has restful naptimes in the comfort and privacy of their own rooms in between their play sessions. This also compliments their natural circadian rhythms (body clocks) as dogs are intended to take multiple restful naps throughout the day.
Our goal is not to exhaust your dog but to send them home calm, content, and relaxed so you can still enjoy their company at the end of your busy workday.
Each guest has their own private room for naptimes and to be fed or play with their own toys in privacy is a unique amenity at Underdog Kennels.