Dogs are members of the family, and you’re not going to trust an unvetted daycare for your four-legged kid anymore than you would for your two-legged kid. Use this comprehensive checklist to find the best doggy daycare for your fur baby.

Doggy daycare is an invaluable service for working pet parents, people who travel a lot, and even animal guardians who want their pup to have an active social life. But not all dog daycare facilities are created equal, and this six-point checklist will help you find one where your pup will be happy, healthy, and safe.

1. Take a Tour: Does It Pass the Sniff Test?

Safe and reliable facilities will be happy to give tours to prospective clients. When you do take a tour, do the sniff test. Kennels or play areas may have a dog smell, but it shouldn’t be overpowering and definitely shouldn’t be stinking up other areas like the lobby.

2. Will Your Dog Have Enough Supervision?

Many pet parents ask “How many dogs can a dog daycare have?” and a good rule of thumb is one staff member for every 10 dogs.

For dog boarding, it’s not uncommon for there to be no on-site staff overnight—as long as the dogs are in separate kennels. But the facility should have live cameras for safety and security.

3. What’s the Daily and Potty Break Schedule Like?

It’s important to know how your dog is going to be spending the day. Are there scheduled potty breaks? regular walkies? nap times?

In terms of bathroom breaks, find out if there’s an outdoor area. Some daycares only have enclosed potty areas, and this will be important if your pup only goes to the bathroom outside or on walks.

4. What Are the Health, Safety, and Medical Protocols Like?

The staff should have first aid training for animals, be trained to administer medications, and have emergency procedures in place about contacting a vet when necessary. And ask if vaccines are required for dogs. If not, then your pup could be at risk of transmitting serious diseases.

5. Do They Have Procedures for Safe Socializing?

Daycare is a great place for dogs to socialize, but it has to be done safely. A good daycare will evaluate temperaments, separate dogs based on size and temperament, and have procedures in place to prevent fighting.

6. What Are People Saying About the Doggy Daycare?

Online reviews are a great place to start, but they shouldn’t be your only guide. Talk to regulars who have been going for a long time or ask other people for recommendations about their favorite places.

Heather Beck is the founder of Heather’s Heroes, and she’s been running a dog training, daycare, and boarding facility for over 20 years. She came up with this checklist to help pet parents find doggy daycares that are safe and fun. And in the end, how do you know if your dog likes daycare? Well, if you say “daycare” and your pup reacts like you just said magic words like “walkies” and “car,” then you know you’ve found a good one!

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Heather Beck has dedicated her life to saving the lives of dogs all over the world by providing the tools, education, and training that canine professionals and dog owners need in order to improve behaviors and transform relationships. For more than 25 years, Heather has worked with shelters and rescues, other trainers, and dog families to teach them how to be heroes for their dogs. Much of this work has been done within the walls of her training, daycare, and boarding facility, K9 Lifeline, located in Draper, Utah. K9 Lifeline works with dogs of all ages, sizes, and temperaments by helping them learn proper behaviors and socialization skills. The facility has not only been critical for the families in the community, but has hosted education workshops to help trainers from around the world improve their skills to better serve the dogs in their care. Heather Beck and K9 Lifeline have been able to save dogs and help them to live happier and fuller lives. https://k9lifeline.dog/