Services for your dogs - from walkers to day care

If you can't give your dog regular exercise or you're not always at home, it's important to find another way to give them what they need.

For many dog owners, using a dog walker, a home boarder or doggy day care can help.

Dog walkers

Like a balanced diet, water and company, all dogs need regular, appropriate exercise. But, whether it’s because of health or mobility issues or work commitments, some owners can’t always give their dog the exercise they need. That’s where dog walkers come in – in fact, they can be the difference between someone being able to have a dog or not.

Find the right walker for your dog

Dog walkers are unregulated. They’re not licenced, and don’t have to have professional training. Therefore, it’s important to do some research before you pick one. While many don’t have any qualifications, there are plenty who do – in dog training, behaviour, and first aid.

Many walkers walk several dogs at the same time – sometimes as many as six. So think about whether this is right for your dog. It may be fine if they’re socially mature, confident, and good with other dogs. But if they’re very playful, socially immature (usually under three years old) or worried around other dogs, another walker might be better. Some walkers offer individual walks where they can focus all their attention on your dog, and even train them.

Doggy day care

If you work full time and no one else is at home, doggy day care may appear a good option for your dog. Doggy day care is somewhere you can drop your dog off for all or part of the day without an overnight stay. Some boarding kennels and home boarders offer day care as well as overnight boarding. And most establishments advertised as doggy day care provide an area for a group of unfamiliar dogs to stay.

Check where your dog will be during the day

Most doggy day care services have large areas so the dogs can get lots of exercise. They usually accommodate several dogs. Licences give a maximum number of dogs allowed, but there can be more than 10 dogs all mixing together. There’s often a range of sizes, ages and personalities in each group. So there should be at least one person in the area at all times, to break up any squabbles.

What to look out for

Some dogs are fine in this mixed environment. For example, well-socialised adult dogs who enjoy interacting with other dogs, and are not overly physical in the way they play.

Other dogs may find this set up scary – usually it’s those who show fear or aggression around other dogs. And it can cause more social issues for them. You can do a trial day to see how your dog copes, but there are a few things to watch out for.

Most dogs behave well on a trial day. The presence of the other dogs often subdues any underlying aggression or anxiety. This can leave owners delighted their dog will overcome their social issues in this environment. But sadly the long-term effect can be an increase in anxiety around dogs. This usually shows when they feel less threatened – often on walks with their owner.

Doggy day care customers often say their dogs come home really tired and sleep almost straightaway. This may seem like a good thing, but it’s actually mental and physical exhaustion. Dogs need more sleep than us and should relax and sleep for several hours a day. At doggy day care, dogs can spend most of their time interacting or playing with each other, and are alert most of their time there. This excessive play can make them obsessed with dogs on their walks. Some dogs can develop a habit of lunging and barking, especially when they’re on a lead and see another dog in the distance.

Well-trained doggy day care staff will be able to prevent your dog getting overstimulated, and reduce the chances of more social problems developing. So talk to them if you’re worried.

Check the carer’s licence and qualifications

The doggy day care industry is licenced through the local authority in a similar way to boarding kennels and home borders – they should display their certificate at the premises. If they don’t have one, they may be operating illegally. Licencing doesn’t call for qualifications in animal care, behaviour or training. Ask to see a copy of the carer’s licence certificate and find out about their qualifications before you book your dog in.

Home boarders

If you’re going away and can’t take your dog, finding somewhere for them to stay is a big decision. Regular boarding kennels are a good option for many, but no longer the only option. Home boarding is a great alternative if you want your dog to have company and a homely environment while you’re away.

Check your home boarder’s licence

Home boarding is a regulated in a similar way to boarding kennels and doggy day care. So if you’re considering a home boarder, ask to see their licence – they should display their certificate at the boarding premises. If they don’t have one, they may be operating illegally.

Ask about the home boarder’s qualifications

As with doggy day care, boarding kennels and dog walkers, home boarders and their staff can run their business without needing qualifications in animal care, behaviour and training. So before you book your dog in, ask the home boarder what relevant training and qualifications the staff have.

Check where your dog will stay

Home boarding is more like normal home living than boarding kennels, and each home boarder has their own set up. So it’s best to check where your dog will be staying to make sure it suits them, and you’re happy for them to stay there.

Book a short stay for your dog first

When you think you’ve found the right home boarder, book your dog in for a day or two to make sure. When you know they’re happy and well looked after there, you can book them in for a longer stay whenever you need to.

At-home day care

If you’re unsure about doggy day care services or home boarders, finding someone to take care of your dog at their home is a great option. You might know someone who loves dogs and is at home a lot, but is unable to have a dog. If they’re happy to help, they’ll be able to take care of your dog’s individual needs. This type of care is often the best option for young adult dogs and puppies.

The next best solution is a registered doggy day carer, or a registered home boarder that also does day care, in their own house. They may have a few dogs staying with them, but your dog will get a more individual approach to care. They’ll also have different spaces to relax, away from the other dogs, if they want to.

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