It all starts with an adorable puppy. You decide to bring them to a dog daycare facility, and they love it! They enjoy playing with the other dogs, are always eager to get there and come home tired but happy. You continue to bring your dog to daycare as they age and grow, but is there a point where your dog may “age out” of the daycare environment?
Daycare should be an overall fun and rewarding experience for your dog. The question many clients ask is, when does daycare stop being fun for an older dog? It’s important to remember the structure of daycare as a whole, that your dog is given time to play in a room with other dogs. When your dog is a puppy or youthful adolescent, they want to play with everyone. The idea of having so many other dogs to play with excites them. At this point, new dogs mean new playmates and they love and crave time spent in their company. However, as your dog grows from a puppy to an adult dog, things can slowly begin to change.
As they age, your dog might still love playing with other dogs, but daycare can start to get slightly overwhelming. Your mature adult dog is now in a room with energetic youths who are looking to bounce around and play for hours. While your adult dog might enjoy being there, countless hours with rambunctious younger playmates can become overwhelming and not as fun as it use to be.
Picture it this way: to us, adult dogs playing with adolescent dogs would be equivalent to a 35 year old being invited to a 15 year old’s birthday party. According to WebMD Pets, a one-year-old dog is about 15 in human years and a four-year-old dog is about 36. In that time period, like us, dogs mature and start to play differently.
The Dog Guru’s Susan Briggs and Robin Bennett recently published an article called “Ask the Experts – Is my dog happy in off-leash play?”, where they address the issue of age in daycare dogs. They say, “Generally speaking, dogs over 5-6 years of age will have a shorter tolerance level for off leash play with other dogs. This is true even if your dog grew up playing in dog parks and attending daycare. This doesn’t mean that older dogs shouldn’t play off leash with other dogs, but it does mean that shorter periods of play may be more fun for your older dog. If your dog (of any age) attends a dog daycare, make sure he gets some down time where other dogs allow him to rest or he is separated so he can sleep.”
It is important to remember that dogs do change as they get older. It is normal for you or staff at a dog daycare to notice a change in your dog’s behavior as they age. If daycare staff informs you that they have noticed a difference in your dog’s behavior, it should not be cause for concern. Instead, listen to what they have to say. They have your pet’s best interests in mind! Maybe your pet isn’t enjoying daycare like they used to, or the environment seems like too much for them. This does not mean that they dislike playing with other dogs, (they probably still love it!) but it does mean that your dog may be ready for a different environment.
At Morris K9 Campus, our goal is to make daycare a fun and engaging environment for all of our pets. Our visitors are all given down time to rest between play sessions, but for those aging pets who might prefer a lower key environment, our sister company Morris Animal Inn offers private daycare dedicated to personal one-on-one play. Each dog receives play sessions with a person, who can cater their playtime to whatever activities they like best. This could be a suitable alternative if your dog begins to tire of the daycare environment but you still need a place for them to visit.
If you get to a point when your dog’s daycare facility no longer recommends daycare for your older dog, remember that this is normal. Not every dog will like this type of play forever, and every dog will be different. Some older dogs can still enjoy their time in daycare. It’s up to you and your daycare to devise a plan that would work best for your older dog.