Think About Day Care Before You Get A Dog

One key thing you must consider before you get a dog is proper care for it during the day.  This leads on from a previous article about quality of life for your dog.  Working households need to plan and budget for this before they get a dog, not worry about it afterwards.  Leaving a dog for long periods alone is never recommended because dogs are social companion animals.  They need us humans to be happy.

This article about day care was inspired by a nice greyhound I met on the canal bank – and his dog-carer.

Paddy is a handome black greyhound.  His owner works long hours during the week and often across different parts of the country.  However he had wanted a greyhound for many years.  He got Paddy only after his father agreed that he would care for Paddy during the week.  The son has Paddy full time at weekends.

During the week, Paddy is walked twice and day and fed breakfast and supper by the owner’s father.  In between he stays at home on his own, until his owner gets back from work.  Paddy is a very laid back dog so this arrangement works.  The owner did think about what day care arrangemens he made before getting a dog, and chose a very mellow, low activity breed.

Working households can make good environments for dogs or puppies if they invest properly in day care while they can not be at home.  As most people now work for all or some of the day, you should only get a dog if you have planned their stay at home properly.

Day care does not have to mean paid dog-sitting and dog walking, as Paddy’s example shows. 

Planning dog care properly – some tips.

Here are some tips to help you plan your dog’s stay at home so it can be safe, hygienic and un-stressed if you have to go out to work during the day.  You can use them all or choose just a few:

First, consider an older dog

Now this is where a lot of people go wrong.  Getting an older dog (7+ years) is usually better for a working household.  Older dogs (often adopted from rescue) are often used to being alone at home.  Many are already housetrained, especially if they have come from a previously good home that can no longer care for them properly.

Consider adopting a low activity dog

Many dog breeds adapt well to life at home if they are already low activity breeds or cross-breeds.  Toy companion breeds such as the Miniature Poodle and Bichon Frise (pictured) are often happy with low exercise and lounging in comfort.  The same can not be said for terriers, gundogs and many working breeds.  A lonely Welsh Terrier for example is likely to become very destructive and you might find your carpets dug up repeatedly. If you are a working household please check your possible dog’s activity level very carefully.

Place your dog’s ‘day basket’ somewhere pleasant but not easily damaged.  
  1. Garages can make good ‘day areas’ for your dog by making sure it they are properly lit, properly ventilated, have light from windows, and have food and water bowls down.  They are even more useful if you can leave a door open to the garden.  Garages can be places not easily destroyed or damaged, but take care not to leave important electrical items and tools where they can be chewed. 
  2. A well designed, well insulated back garden kennel is also a good option for some breeds, though often not in winter for some breeds or in summer for others.   Do check your dog’s tolerance to heat/cold.
  3. A basket in a watertight roofed shelter such as a verandah/decked area or watertight roofed summer house (with doors open) can also work, but check your dog’s tolerance to heat/cold again.
  4. Kitchens can also be good because of the sealed floors. 
  5. Conservatories are not usually recommended in summer because of the heat.  Though there are air conditioners which can be set to ‘cool’ these can fail, often with fatal results.
Install a pet door. 

If you have a securely fenced garden or yard area, install a properly sized pet door to the outside world and teach your dog how to use it.  You can then have the dog in the house, which is more secure and prevents theft more easily. Your dog can get outside to lie in the sun, play, sniff and relieve themselves instead of having to ‘hold on’ for 8 hours.  This is a great option for working households, and also a good reason to fence your back garden.  It will be so much nicer for your dog, and for you, if he or she can use the garden while you are out.  There are some great pet doors on the market which can be installed into glazing and even built into brick walls. 

Train to a litter box

Yes, dogs as well as cats can use a litter box or tray lined with cat litter or just left over newspaper that’s been read and heading for the bin.  This strategy can be especially useful for toy/miniature breeds many of whom hate going out in wet weather (even if they have a coat on).  Some of these will choose to pee and poo in the house rather than use a pet door or an open door when it’s raining outside.   This concept also isn’t restricted to small dogs.  Medium sized dogs can be trained to use a litter tray – you’ll just need a bigger tray if there is space to put one down.  Long rectangular storage boxes which are designed to slide under the bed can do the job just fine – just don’t get one with wheels!

Can relatives or friends commit to help you?

You might have relatives or friends who would love to help you.  Some might not be able to have a dog themselves but would love to take one out or dog-sit.  If you can find someone or several people to share the load for free, that’s great.  Just remember that you need to be sure they are happy to make a regular commitment each day or on certain days of the week.  If your agreed dog-walker suddenly doesn’t arrive one day, you will probably have soiled carpets if your dog if left indoors.  That’s one of the problems of leaving dog-care to unpaid volunteers rather than paid professionals.  It’s not a contract, so they don’t have to come.

Use professional dog-sitting and dog walking services

Unlike friends and family, this is a formal paid-for arrangement.  You contract with ‘David’s Dog Sitting Service’ for 5 mid-day walks and 2 hours per day at-home company for your dog and that’s what you are going to get.  It’s a service you can rely on.  It’s regular, scheduled and your dog will come to really enjoy seeing your day-carer.  The cost of most of these services is far outweighed by your peace of mind, the dog’s happiness and the cost of you putting right any damage to the house or garden whihc would otherwise happen!

There are also professional dog day care centres.  Some of these are run in people’s homes.  Others are larger purpose-built centres where many dogs are free to mingle and play together under careful supervision.  You drop your dog off in the morning and collect it in the evening.

Give your dog lots of toys.

If your dog likes toys, to play with or chew things, leave it with lots of toys to amuse itself while you are out.  That way it is less likely to amuse itself by chewing the legs of your 17th century mahogany dining chairs/expensive persian rug/Jimmy Choo shoes.

Happy Dog At Home Programme

My friend Catherine Potin has just released a series of FREE training videos as part of her Happy Dog At Home Programme.  I’ll tell you more about that in the next article.  This will also really help with your day care routine when you get a dog.

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