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.
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.