As a working dog owner, the struggle of leaving your dog home alone for lengthy stretches can be trying on both you and your canine. Regardless of the reason, it’s not easy to meet all of your pet’s needs without some type of assistance. “A dog that must endure long days (six or more hours) without appropriate exercise can suffer quite a bit of stress,” says Aïda Muñoz, a dog walker and pet sitter for Precious Paws Pet Sitting LLC in Royal Oak, Michigan.
Thankfully, when it comes to providing care, there are a variety of options to consider. By having professionals to turn to, owners can breathe a sigh of relief and alleviate some of the guilt felt when leaving their pup.
Because each dog’s needs are different, it’s up to you to determine which type of care they’ll benefit from the most. Will your canine companion flourish in a day care environment, or is he best suited for an in-home dog walker? A more senior dog that needs bathroom breaks or the opportunity to stretch his legs during the day would most likely respond better to the one-on-one attention a dog walker can provide, as opposed to being surrounded by younger, more active dogs in a day care setting. “It all comes down to the client and what her objective is,” says Bethany Stevens, owner of On the Move Pet Care in Rochester, New York.
Just like people, dogs have different temperaments and personalities, and what works for one might not be best for another. Some adapt to a larger and more energetic group, while others feel more secure in their own home. Choosing which path to take is no small feat, so here are some pros and cons of each to help you make an informed decision.
- Personalized and customized to the needs of the dog — does your pup need a walk or just a bit of playtime?
- Daily exercise, which is important for both mental and physical stimulation.
- A good option for dogs that exhibit aggression or fear issues and are overwhelmed in a larger setting.
- Guaranteed one-on-one attention.
- Avoid the stress of a new environment.
- A daily walk can be less expensive than a full day at day care.
- Less risk of being exposed to illnesses and parasites that may be present at a day care.
- Consistency with behavioral training; dog walkers can adhere to your rules and help reinforce training.
- Convenient for an owner who has transportation issues.
- Young or high-energy dogs often need more exercise than they’ll get during a limited visit with a walker.
- Your canine partner is still home alone for the better part of a day.
- Owners must ensure their walkers are trustworthy. They have a key to your home and they’re responsible for your dog’s well-being while he’s in their care.
- Lack of socialization with other dogs.
- A chance to meet and play with other dogs — a good option for those that do well in an active playgroup.
- Provides the mental stimulation and physical activity dogs need for hours on end.
- Establishes a routine and relieves separation anxiety and boredom.
- Great exercise — a tired out pup will be relaxed and exhausted by the time he comes home.
- Lots of TLC.
- Strangers will not be in your home.
- Potential for bad behavior — if you’re in the midst of training, the freedom given at day care might derail your work and/or create new issues.
- Though most day care facilities require all shots be up-to-date, there is still a chance of exposure to different illnesses.
- Possibility of under-qualified staff — while we hope the people taking care of our dogs are trained, we never truly know how someone will act in an emergency.
- Transportation — the lack of flexibility in an owner’s schedule can make it difficult to comply with specific drop-off and pick-up times.
Regardless of the option you choose, do your research. When hiring an in-home pet service, Stevens suggests finding a business that is licensed, bonded, and insured. If you decide to utilize a day care facility, observe the staff and the program ahead of time. “Make sure they have a good reputation and that they offer webcams as part of their service; that way you can check in on your dog,” says Alexandra Bassett, lead dog trainer and behaviorist at Dog Savvy Los Angeles.
And remember, a tired dog is a happy dog!