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For dogs who aren’t well-socialized, there are other exercise options. Making sure you put time in your schedule for a good game of fetch every day might be one choice, or if time is your problem, you might check around for someone who can walk or run your dog regularly.
Even if your dog is a good candidate, you’ll still need to find a good day care. In a large metropolitan area, you may have quite a few choices. That’s certainly true in San Diego, says Liz Palika, who has seen the best and the worst in these businesses. She says that before you bring your dog in for an evaluation, you need to visit on your own.
“I recommend that you check it out several times,” she says, “ask other dog owners for referrals, and ask your veterinarian or a veterinarian who practices close to the day care for their take on the place.”
From the point-of-view of this veterinarian, I need to see clean — and smell clean. A business that’s looking out for the people and pets will be what I call “smell-neutral” — clean but not smelling of strong cleaning products. And it ought to be pretty obvious that the people working there love dogs (and aren't smoking around them, anymore than they should at a child's day care). You should be able to pick up a “pawsitive” vibe! Many day cares offer streaming video so you can check in on your dog anytime, and this is a really good selling point.
A good day care will evaluate your dog as an individual and with other dogs. They will not accept your dog if he won’t be a good fit. There’s nothing wrong with your dog if he’s not “the day care type,” but you do need to accept their decision. They don’t want your dog to be hurt or to hurt anyone else.
If your dog passes the evaluation, you should expect to be asked for proof of vaccinations, all your contact information, and your veterinarian’s information too. Most day cares require pets to be altered, to help reduce certain behaviors that can lead to fighting. Yes, fights do happen, but a good day care manages their guests to minimize the potential, watches the dogs carefully and constantly — and knows how to end a fight quickly.
But chances are if you’ve chosen well, you’ll never get a call with bad news. What you will have, every day you pick up your dog, is a happy, tired dog who can enjoy some snuggle time on the couch, dreaming of the next day he's with his pals at day care.
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