Doggy Day Care

Doggy day care fills a niche for dogs and owners


Does Joker’s high energy level leave you exhausted?
Do you work long hours and fear that Boomer doesn’t get enough exercise or attention?
Does Pepper get in the way when the painters, plumbers, and paper-hangers arrive?
Does Monster have separation anxiety when left alone?
Is Bandit off-the-wall at obedience class on Thursday nights?

Doggy day care may have the answer for you!

An article in the online magazine described the benefits of dog day care this way:

“The guiding principle behind dog day care is simple – provide a safe and healthy atmosphere with lots of interaction, both with other dogs and with people. Dogs can participate in group play, gnaw on a favorite toy, hang out with humans in the office, or just lounge on a couch and watch television. The point is that they’re not at home by themselves.”

Dog day care got its start in California in 1987. Pundits claim that things come to Cincinnati 10 years after they peak everywhere else, but this fast growing phenomenon throughout the US has come to the Queen City and environs with a bang. Several centers devoted to day care have opened in the area in the past five years and some kennels and other businesses have added day care to their menu of services.

Stand-alone day care businesses are often the brainchild of animal lovers who want to spend their days with dogs.

Bernadette Ball, owner of Strictly Dogs in Fairfax, Ohio, left the corporate world where she was an office manager to open her dream business. Her contact with dogs was limited to pet ownership, so Ball methodically set out to learn about dogs of all shapes and sizes. She volunteered at a Great Dane rescue and a Cincinnati area shelter, visited other day cares, did a home study course in obedience training, joined the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, took a grooming class, earned a Red Cross certificate in pet first aid, and observed other trainers.

“Everything I learned as a business manager, I incorporated into this business,” she said.

Matt Ramsey of Puppy Day Care near Montgomery and Indian Hill, (near Cincinati, Ohio), looked for a day care center for his dogs about two years ago and decided to open a business when he couldn’t find one close by.

“I am determined to create a very benevolent dog day care,” Ramsey said. “Dog daycare is not just a simple solution for

conflicts between parents and their dogs, but it is long overdue as normal pet care for these proud animals.”

However, Ramsey said that day care is not appropriate for every dog, particularly those that are over-protective or aggressive in nature.


Day care services are as broad and deep as the imaginations of the business owners. Day care centers can be combined with overnight boarding, training, and grooming; can include such extras as canine massage and aromatherapy treatments; and can even offer well-dog checkups through a visiting veterinarian. Some centers sell dog treats, toys, and equipment such as collars and leashes; most have a variety of cost packages to fit the needs of any owner whose dog passes the screening test.

Dog day care centers are generally held in large, open spaces such as a pole building or renovated warehouse space that can be divided to provide separate areas for large dogs and for small and medium-sized dogs. Most have an outdoor exercise area as well as large indoor space and a time-out area for dogs that get too rowdy.

Some centers provide furniture for dogs to climb on, and many have tunnels, and other equipment for dogs to hide in, run through, or climb on. All have toys for play.

Screening process

Day care centers have policies about preventive medical care for client dogs and require that the dogs pass an entrance exam to assure that aggression or excessive shyness or fear won’t be a problem. Most screening processes involve interviews with the client to find out if the dog is food or toy aggressive, protective of territory, or fearful of humans, followed by evaluation of the dog in various circumstances.

At Strictly Dogs, Ball follows a four-step assessment: She

  1. Administrates the tolerance test used by Therapy Dogs International. This test involves tugging on the dog’s ears, pulling on its collar, judging its reaction to noise, and checking for food aggression.
  2. Introduces new dogs one-on-one with other dogs to see how they interact.
  3. Puts a new dog into a small group of four or five compatible dogs.
  4. Places a new dog in an empty room while all other dogs outside, then bringing dogs back in one or two at a time to check new dog’s reaction.

“If they don’t let me touch them, they don’t get past the first step,” Ball said.

The first day for new dogs is a half-day. “We want dogs to have a good experience,” Ball said.

Medical prerequisites are similar across the board. Most day cares require that dogs have annual vaccinations for distemper, hepatitis, parvo virus, and Bordatella; are up-to date on rabies inoculations; and are taking preventives for fleas, ticks, and heartworms. Dogs must be spayed or neutered if over six months of age unless special arrangements are made. Some day cares will accept dogs that are not vaccinated annually if the owner has a letter from a veterinarian stating that the dog is on an alternative vaccination schedule.

Day care is not for every dog. Older dogs may have trouble adjusting to the commotion caused by a dozen or more dogs romping and playing in a large area; shy dogs may be overwhelmed by the crowd; and aggressive dogs have no place in a group setting.

Day care costs may be slightly higher than boarding costs because the ratio of staff to dogs is high so that the dogs may be constantly supervised. Cost packages are generally available for those who want to use the service several days each week or month.

Choosing a day care

Day care for Fido should be chosen as carefully as any other service for a member of the family. The facility should be convenient, the cost within the budget, the staff well-trained and tuned in to dog behavior, and the surroundings clean and appropriate for groups of dogs running together. There aren’t enough day cares in most areas to visit several and make a choice between programs, but dog owners should visit any nearby facilities and compare services and experience before making a choice.

Things to consider

Norma Bennett Woolf

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