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Old 12-08-2013, 12:57 PM
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Question Doggy daycare workers/managers/owners??

It's something I think about on a nearly daily basis and it's my 'what I'd quite fancy when I grow up' job.... Or quit mine and decide to work in a doggy field.

I have soooo many ideas in my head about hours, how I'd run it, what I'd offer etc...

But I've never even been near one, they're not really common here, which is what tempts me... Untapped niche!!! I work in quite a nice area, with people who have spare cash and like dogs.. Ya know what I'm saying.

But what's the insider view? What's your daily routine like? How many dogs do you juggle? How does it work? What else do you offer? How much do you charge? Basically tell me everything - good, bad and ugly!

Just to fuel my fantasy......
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Old 12-08-2013, 01:14 PM
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It can be flipping insanity. I will say that I would like my job a lot better if we were strictly daycare, as many times even just the break of going home for the night is perfect for the dogs.

As with anything, you will get the good and the bad. You will get dogs that are nippy, scared, reactive, won't let you touch them, ect. And then you will have great dogs who get along with everyone and are just a pleasure.

Some owners are nutty, others are good, some you just want to shun and turn away forever.

If I were to do it on my own, I'd only be open three days a week. This is a career that is very easy to get burned out on.

Just my insight! Also, I wouldn't recommend any carpet, breakables, or things you don't want pee'd or pooped on. Lol!

ETA: I forgot about everything you asked! We feed twice a day, putting dogs away in kennels about a half hour before feeding time. The rest of the day, we operate with rotations. During the week, I'd say we have an average of about 30 dogs, with 8-12 being daycare on any given day. Weekends we don't have more than 1 or 2 daycare. We charge based on weight. Anywhere from $15 for a dog under 40 pounds, $17 41-90 pounds, $18 for anything above 91 pounds. We don't offer daycare packages or anything, but we have very regular daycare customers we will offer small discounts weekly. Most daycare owners ask us to feed lunch.
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Old 12-08-2013, 01:49 PM
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Interesting!!! I'm in a very high stress burnout job, so doggy daycare would be a breeze compared lol! My first job was in a boarding kennels, and I have no interest in working nights and weekends.....

Why do you charge by weight? Do you do half days/full days??
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Old 12-08-2013, 01:52 PM
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I worked in a very small scale daycare, but the packages were a huge hit! And we did half/full day options. There are a lot of dogs who honestly just don't want to be there all day, but a half day gives them an outlet and they don't get overstimulated and cranky halfway into the day.
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Old 12-08-2013, 02:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dizzy View Post
Interesting!!! I'm in a very high stress burnout job, so doggy daycare would be a breeze compared lol! My first job was in a boarding kennels, and I have no interest in working nights and weekends.....

Why do you charge by weight? Do you do half days/full days??
We are more boarding oriented, so we do not offer half days. It's been talked about, but at this time we just don't have enough daycare clients who would be interested in it. I'm not sure why they chose to charge by the weight, but I've found it works pretty well for our system.

May not burn everyone out, but it does for me personally. It's loud, dogs are obnoxious with jumping and stuff. It's basically just stressful in that way for me.
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Old 12-08-2013, 03:34 PM
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I work at the PetSmart PetsHotel...so doggy daycare and boarding. This might be more large scale than you're thinking about, but I figured I'd share anyways. The managers don't do the same stuff that I do obviously, so I can't speak for them. I'd say their biggest headache is dealing with owners (erm..."pet parents") and just general organization (putting everyone in the right playgroups) .

The routine there is like this for daycare:
AM daycare runs from 9 to 12
Then the dogs get a break and can eat lunch if the owners want them to
PM daycare runs from 1 to 5
Dogs that don't go home before PM camp is over can stay up until 9pm without being charged for boarding.


We have four daycare rooms, three of them can hold 17 dogs, 1 can hold 12 dogs. We somewhat organize by size. Basically the "small" dog room is for tiny dogs, fearful dogs, and dogs that don't like big dogs (we have a Great Dane in the small dogs room).
The "large" dog room is for medium/large dogs that are rambunctious, or dogs that are laid back enough to handle rambunctious dogs without putting holes in them.
The "medium" room is for any sized dog that is too fragile/timid/touchy for the large dog room but too playful or obnoxious for the small dog room. Or just for larger dogs that are not super rambunctious when large dog is full.
Our fourth camp is usually a med/large dog camp, and ranges in temperament and used when the other camps fill up or we have to have an additional camp due to clashing temperaments. Sometimes it's super rambunctious, sometimes it's more laid back.


Daycare has its problems. The main one is that the dogs really are not THAT social with other dogs. Very, very few dogs are okay being crammed into a room with 16 strange dogs. You have your terrified dogs that spend the entire time pacing or sitting in the corner. You have dogs that are at least comfortable and people social but want to be left alone by the other dogs, so sleep the whole time. I hate being in large dog camp because I feel like I spend the whole day preventing fights and interrupting humping. In small dog camp I'm lucky if three dogs are playing, everyone else is asleep or shaking. Usually I can't play with the dogs because they get possessive over the toys and try to eat each other. Then you have the unfortunate situation where you get a playful, friendly dog but no one else in camp is playful so he harasses the **** out of them and causes them to be terrified or aggressive. You also have dogs that become possessive over you so then you can't pet any dogs either (luckily this isn't very common).

Over the busy holidays we couldn't give the dogs a break between day camps because the kennels were full of boarders, and it was awful. I was in medium dog which is pretty tame compared to large dog, and the dogs wanted to kill each other. 7 hours of straight camp is not okay. Dogs were getting super snappy, one dog got super possessive of me, dogs personal bubbles grew significantly, it was bad news.

Some days are good. If all of the playful dogs have a buddy or two then it can actually be quite enjoyable. But it rarely happens that way.
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Old 12-08-2013, 07:30 PM
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This is going to be long!

First (and probably my favorite, sans the boss) was pretty strictly a boarding kennel, though we did kennel dogs for just the day vs having a dog playgroup. There were 6 'wings' with about 26 kennels in each. Two of the wings both had indoor/outdoor kennels. The rest of the wings had half indoor/outdoor and half indoor. We didn't charge differently for the kennels, if it was slow all the dogs stayed in the indoor/outdoor kennels and if it was busy we moved appropriate dogs to the indoor only kennels (or if we had a dog that needed that-fearful of the door or something). We tried to split the wings into loud, quiet/geriatric, etc. The dogs all went out (individually) 2-3x a day into small grass yards to potty. In the mornings we turned the dogs all out to the outdoor kennels, and cleaned the insides (pick up solids, rinse, spray disinfectant, rinse, dry), while putting the dogs out in the yards. Then we put down food, brought them in, and cleaned the outsides. Usually one can person could do the 26 kennels in about 3 hours. There were also 'suites', with toddler beds, glass doors, etc..only small dogs and very geriatric dogs could be in there. A cat room, and a bird/small animal room. I think it was $18-25 a night, with the suites being around $32? a night. Oh, we had full service grooming, and also playtimes-we had about an acre yard with a pool, if the owners paid for them we took them out there individually to play ball, swim, run about. I got in disagreements with the boss outside of work (I took care of her horse barn, and boarded my horse there) and decided to leave.

I went to another kennel, a more daycare oriented place. There was only me and one other employee. It was awful. The boarding dogs were kenneled 24/7 (did not get put out in yards, did not go out with the daycare dogs even if the owner paid). Went in in the morning, put the dogs out in the outdoor part of their kennel, cleaned the insides, let them in, cleaned the outsides. The owner freaked about the heating/cooling costs and the dogs were locked outside or in. Small dogs were always in a rack of small "vet" type cages, owners were not told. Daycare was crappy, yes it felt like you were always preventing a fight, and it was one large yard and one small one (split into big/playful and small/quiet). You sat out there all day and did nothing, no toys allowed, no interacting with 'one' dog because it made the others jealous. The owner of the kennel was a nasty man, and always screamed and kicked kennels because the dogs were barking. Two dogs got in a fight one day, I broke it up, everything had chilled-he came running out with a lead and a broom, grabbed the instigator, hung it up on the leash, and started beating it with the broom. He walked from the yard through the kennels with the dog hanging on the leash. I walked out.

Worked at two vet offices, the kennels were fine, 'business as usual'. Nothing too extraordinary, or extravagant, but the dogs were taken care of well. Both had indoor kennels only, dogs were walked or went out in a yard. One of the clinics WAS a horrible clinic from a veterinary standpoint, but the boarding dogs were fine.

When I moved up here, I started in another boarding kennel. Kind of an old fashioned owner, it was cheap. It wasn't that bad but I didn't notice when I interviewed that kennels did not have drains . We picked up the solids, flushed them in a toilet ?? and then MOPPED the kennels. Gross. The owner did put dogs from different families in kennels together sometimes (I disagree with this). Owners could pay for 'playtimes' which we did not do. Dogs were in kennels 24/7 and did not go out to yards. I guess it wasn't a horrible place but it could have been better...it got slow and I was given NO hours for a few weeks, so I left.
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Old 12-08-2013, 08:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by meepitsmeagan View Post
May not burn everyone out, but it does for me personally. It's loud, dogs are obnoxious with jumping and stuff. It's basically just stressful in that way for me.
Definitely this.

You can for sure get burned out. Most of my co-workers all have other jobs too, just because they get SUPER burned out if they're there every single day. I'm down to two days/week since I'm in university full-time, which is perfect for me. I used to do 30 hours/week on top of school work which was way too much. It's not necessarily stressful in the sense that you have deadlines to meet, etc., because you don't. It can just get .. boring and massively repetitive. It's kind of romanticized in way I think. When I tell my friends they're all, 'OMG YOU'RE SO LUCKY YOU GET TO PLAY WITH DOGS ALL DAY.' And yeah, I do love my job, but it can be really, really repetitive too.

Our daycare is super busy and we can have up to fifty dogs a day (we have about a ten dog/person ratio). We have a large indoor area and an outdoor relief area, too. We don't offer boarding, but my coworkers will sometimes take a client's dog home if they're going on holiday or something -- we work something out. We offer half-days, full-days and two hour 'work out' sessions. Most of our clients buy packages, though. We mostly cater to 'pet people,' not really 'dog people.' I bring Seamus with me sometimes, but I find that he, along with many dogs, just isn't really suited to a hectic daycare setting. It can be too much for him, so I bring him on quieter days (which he does seem to like ). I think the crappy part is watching some dogs get stressed out and anxious. I think a lot of people think that just because their dog does great at the park means that they'll automatically LOVE daycare, which isn't always the case.

Fights are pretty rare because we do a behavioural assessment before dogs are allowed into daycare, so they're mostly super-friendly. We offer baths, nails, brushing, just not actual 'grooming' (basically, we won't cut a dog's fur). We charge baths based on size basically. Yeah you can deal with nutters, but most of our clients are really awesome. We feed dogs at around noon, and if owners have specific feeding requests or requirements we do our best to be accommodating! We let the dogs out pretty often, probably every twenty minutes or so.

All in all, I really do love my job. It can be tiring and sometimes I just want to come home and .. not be around dogs. I would recommend maybe trying to work part-time in a pet-related field for a bit first before taking a plunge if possible, though!
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Old 12-09-2013, 10:07 AM
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I work at a small training facility that introduced daycare a year and a half ago. We started offering daycare once a day to see if it would be profitable and are now offering daycare 5 days a week.

To answer your questions...

Routine:
7:30 - 9am: Full day dropoff. Dogs are crated as they arrive until everyone gets there.
9am - 12:30: Supervised playtime, with an outdoor potty break halfway through.
12:30 - 1:30: Naptime in a crate (or tethered, for those who do not crate well).
1:30 - 6pm: Playtime with two outdoor breaks.

We do half days (four hours or less - dropoff is pretty flexible for these visitors) and full days (over four hours. Morning dropoff, and pickup any time). Half days are great for very young or old dogs, shy dogs, or dogs that otherwise would get overwhelmed and overstimulated for a full day. We have the morning shift (7:30 - 1) and afternoon shift (12:30 - 6). The half hour overlap while dogs are napping allows the morning staff to let the afternoon staff know how things have been going, who to keep an eye on, how a new dog has done, etc.

We also have a day reserved strictly for small dogs, 25lbs and under. Larger facilities usually have the space to have a small dog area every day but we only have the training hall and a few barriers to put up. There was enough demand, so every Thursday is little dog day only. It's a smaller group and a great intro for puppies. If the tiny guys want to come on another day of the week we will divide off a section of the hall so they don't get spooked or stepped on by the big rowdy guys.

We do not have a huge space, maybe 2000 sq feet? We initially capped ourselves at 10 dogs but as things became more routine and the core group of regulars got to know eachother better, we can take as many as 16 or 17 dogs. 1:10 is a good staff:dog ratio if most of your attending dogs are already very social and good players. Pia Silvani is adamant that 1:5 is best to ensure play is always positive and appropriate. A lot of it depends on the group dynamic. There have been days where I have had only 7 dogs and it is absolute CHAOS and I need to crate and rotate or split the group three ways. There have also been days with 14 dogs where I basically sat there and twiddled my thumbs because the dogs were so laid back.

The daycare is far from perfect and there are a lot of things I would change if I could. The number one most important asset is well trained, competent, compassionate staff. As has been mentioned, it is very easy to get burned out and can be a high-stress environment. We are pretty lax on our requirements compared to some places. We need a current copy of the dog's health record but don't require bordetella, and we accept titers in place of vaccines. We assess most new dogs as individual cases. We clients fill out an initial application including the dog's basic info as well as questions about their behavior and needs (have they played offleash with other dogs before, do they resource guard towards people/dogs, have they ever bitten and caused damage, can they have treats, etc). Our 'behavior assessment' is a half day with a small group of dogs.

Honestly, the vast majority of the dogs who we end up turning away are not aggressive, or trouble-makers, or inappropriate players... they just hate daycare. I only bring my own dog with me on very quiet days because she hates daycare. It can be loud, it can be hectic, and it is just plain stressful for a lot of dogs despite management. The owners often have a tough time accepting that their dog isn't having fun here. That he'd honestly be happier at home in his crate or on the couch for 9 hours.

Naptime is super important, I find. A good nap (1 hour at least) part way through the day seems to really help keep the dogs playing appropriately well into the afternoon. We have a few regulars that need extra naps because they get frustrated when they are tired and their play style just deteriorates.

Dividing the group is going to be your best friend. Whether they are in different rooms or if you have one big hall/warehouse that you use and have a solid, tall barrier, splitting the dogs into two (or three or four...) groups can be crucial, especially if you are taking a lot of dogs (10+). Splitting so that dogs of similar size/playstyle can have their own space really reduces stress on the dogs and will help you avoid inappropriate interactions. Having little tiny dogs share space with big dogs that are racing around and wrestling can also be extremely dangerous, so dividing by size is important - one misplaced GSD paw could mean a broken spine or crushed ribcage on a little Chihuahua.

That being said, I do love it. I do two daycare shifts a week which is plenty for me nowadays - winter is busier for daycares and it means the days are busier, louder, and a little more hectic. As someone who is fascinated by behavior, in particular dog-dog interactions, it is a wonderful opportunity to observe and film the dogs playing. I have my regulars, and out of those regulars I certainly have favourites. I have gotten my hands on different temperaments and breeds and that is really invaluable to me. Forming a relationship with the owners (Some you will want to strangle and some you will form great friendships with) is also rewarding. I used to have very few friends with dogs but now know a whole bunch of people who I can schedule playdates with, or meet up for walks, or could feel comfortable leaving my own dog with.
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Old 12-09-2013, 01:58 PM
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I've been working at a dog daycare for a few years now. Once we get our power back and I have time to sit and type out a lot I will definitely chime in.
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