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At the risk of seeming like the 30-year “veteran veterinarian” that I am, I don’t have to think very hard to remember when there was no such thing as “doggy day care.” Or to remember so many of us rolling our eyes and thinking that the whole idea was just a little bit crazy.
That didn’t last long, though, at least not for me. That’s because all my life I’ve wanted to learn more and see more, and that means I am always open to new ideas. So while I’m guessing many an Idaho farm boy (which I once was) would have no use for day care for dogs, as a veterinarian who loves any idea that helps people, pets and the profession, I am onboard with the whole idea.
That doesn’t mean I believe day care is a good thing for every dog. The dogs who benefit most from it are those who are outgoing, playful and need more exercise than other dogs might.
I have to note here, however, that very few dogs get enough exercise, and this leads to health and behavior problems, and certainly to the obesity crisis we see in our veterinary practices. But there are always dogs who just cannot stand being anything but busy, especially as adolescents and young adults. For these pets the half-hour daily dose of heart-pounding aerobic exercise I recommend doesn’t even scratch the surface. They need to keep busy, and if you’re at work they’re going to be unhappy — and so, likely, will you.
Day care is a place for dogs who like to be social, but it’s not ideal for socializing dogs. My friend Liz Palika, a San Diego–based dog trainer and author of many outstanding pet care books, shared her perspective, and I think it’s good information.
“One of the biggest problems we see comes from dog owners who have dogs who weren't adequately socialized as puppies and perhaps now have some social issues — fear of other dogs, fear aggression, or so on,” she says. “The dog may be one, two, three years old or older — past the age for puppy socialization — and the owner decides doggy day care is the thing to do. The end result is either a dog who is even more fearful of other dogs or one who fights.”
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