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Group walking/doggy daycare - Do dogs enjoy them?

'I want my dog to be sociable'

'My dog loves going out with doggy friends'

'He comes back tired but happy'

'He plays all day long'

These are some of the things I hear from my clients.

But, are our dogs really having the best time ever?

I was out walking my dog the other day and I came across 2 professional dog walkers walking together and it worried me.

Between them, they had 12 dogs.

Now every dog owner knows it can be difficult to keep an eye on one or two dogs, before you know it they've rolled in something stinky or spotted a squirrel in a tree, so keeping an eye on several is near impossible. It's not just keeping an eye on the environment that's difficult with that many dogs, it's also about pack dynamics. Bullying and fights become more likely, subtle body language signals are hard to spot in a group of dogs and what may look like fun may be avoidance or chase behaviours. Some dog walkers are well versed in canine body language but watching several dog interactions, plus keeping an eye on the environment is a big ask for even the most adept.

Now I'm not vilifying all dog walkers and all group walks. Groups of up to 4 dogs who walk well together and meet each other regularly, can have a wonderful experience, with great play time together and enjoy meeting up with their friends.

As with most things in life less is more.

Let's look at doggy daycare. This industry has blown up in the last few years, mostly due to dog owners having to work full time which means dogs have to be left for many hours a day. Another reason owners often give for using daycare is that owners want their dogs to be social, have lots of doggy friends and be good around other dogs.

Both reasons are valid, but it's crucial to ensure that there aren't too many dogs and that the ones present are grouped in small, suitable groups based on their size, age, and breed. Questions to ask; Is the facility adequately staffed? Do the dogs have a place they can go to relax away from the other dogs? Are the staff knowledgeable and proactive? Is it a free-for-all or is their management and structure in place?

Choosing the right dog walker or daycare for your dog is paramount to their mental and physical well-being. Find out how many dogs your dog will be with and if they will mix with the same ones each time, don't be afraid to go for a walk with the group or inspect the daycare and meet all the people who will be caring for your dog. Reliable, trusted, and knowledgeable professionals can be invaluable and indeed improve your dog's quality of life through play and socialisation. Preventing loneliness and boredom while giving you peace of mind that your dog really is in the best hands.

For any tips and advice please do get in touch.

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