Not all of us have the luxury of working from home, and dog daycare may seem like a great way to make sure your Boxer has company.
Despite its popularity amongst some city dwelling owners, a host of problems from aggressive dogs to poor supervision may make doggy daycare a poor choice for your Boxer.
Here are a dozen reasons to think twice before sending your Boxer to daycare:
- Unnatural social pressure
- Overstimulation and stress
- Low quality staff
- The threat posed by other dogs
- Inappropriate activities
- Lack of control
- Inadequate access to water
- Unhealthy treats
- Poor structure
- Lax hygiene
- Ineffective regulation and oversight of the industry
If you do decide to place your Boxer into daycare, it’s imperative to thoroughly vet the one you choose to make sure they are not engaging in any unsatisfactory practices.
I am not a vet. This article is intended for general informational and educational purposes. I encourage readers to view my full disclaimer.
1. Doggy Daycare Doesn’t Come Naturally To Your Boxer
Though we love them just as much, our Boxers are not human children.
Nor do they socialize in the ways toddlers do.
To think otherwise is to anthropomorphize (attribute human qualities to) your Boxer.
Dogs in natural settings go to great lengths to avoid interfacing with members of other packs.
Daycare thrusts your Boxer into the midst of this completely unnatural situation.
He may learn to cope — or he may not.
And the same applies to every other dog in the facility.
When you leave your Boxer at a daycare center, you’re rolling the dice.
One thing is for certain: conflict is virtually inevitable.
It’s just a matter of time, and severity.
Note, the same problem is created by that other phenomenon of modern dog ownership: off leash dog parks — except at least you are present at the park and may have the chance to intervene to protect your Boxer.
What goes on at dog daycares happens behind closed doors and you may never hear about it if something goes wrong — unless there is a full blown fight and your Boxer comes home with obvious physical wounds.
2. Overstimulation And Stress
You may assume your Boxer comes home tired from daycare because he’s had such a blast with all his doggy friends.
The truth may be that he’s totally exhausted as a result of a largely stressful experience.
Many dogs spend most of their stay at daycare in a state of high arousal, whether because of the types of games being played at the behest of staff, or simply because of the complex canine dynamics that have him on high alert.
Dogs need down time, and when they’re denied it for extended periods it will take a toll on their psychological wellbeing and have an impact on their physical health and wellbeing.
Dogs that are “overthreshold” are also much more prone to misbehavior, and to aggression.
As well as when picking their dogs up, owners have a tendency to misread their dogs’ reactions upon arriving at daycare.
What you interpret as excitement may actually be hyperarousal in anticipation of the social onslaught your Boxer knows is coming.
3. Low Quality Staff
Staff that are untrained and inexperienced populate many a dog daycare.
Dog lovers are cheap and easy to come by.
But it takes more than a love of dogs to manage canine dynamics, which can be subtle and complex.
Only consider entrusting the care of your Boxer to a daycare that employs staff with qualifications in dog behavior and management.
At a reputable dog daycare you will not see staff playing with dogs or revving them up.
Rather, handlers will be focused on setting the tone, maintaining a calm and orderly dynamic and moderating interactions between dogs.
Look for low key arrivals and departures, not lots of color and movement and high pitched voices.
4. The Threat Posed By Other Dogs
Other people’s dogs are one of many unknown quantities at any dog daycare, no matter how well run.
A dog that’s perfectly friendly in one situation may exhibit aggression in different circumstances.
Even your own normally placid Boxer may surprise you with an outburst of aggression if the right (wrong!) combination of factors happen to come together.
A lot has to do with the particular combination of dogs in any given moment.
Some of the better dog daycares will insist that dogs attend on the same days each week so they can establish consistent groups of dogs that get to know each other.
This kind of approach may reduce the chances of conflict which are higher each time new and untested dogs encounter each other.
Don’t be fooled by daycares that separate large dogs from small ones — this is the most arbitrary means of grouping dogs and will do little to prevent fights.
A Boxer, despite his tough appearance, may do much better with dogs smaller than himself than with other large, rough-and-tumble breeds like Staffordshire Terriers or even Labradors.
It makes far more sense to match dogs according to personalities, play styles and a range of other factors only discerned by an experienced eye paying close attention to the particular combination of dogs.
How are dogs evaluated for temperament before being accepted into the daycare you’re considering?
Are all possible steps taken to identify behavioral problems and to screen out clearly unsuitable dogs?
Dog daycare is a business.
The profit motive can trump ethics, driving proprietors to book in more dogs than they can safely manage.
Always check the staff-to-dog ratio to get a sense of how much actual supervision your Boxer will receive.
There have been cases of dogs being lost and running away from daycares, unnoticed.
Pay attention, too, to how much space the dogs will have access to, as overcrowding is another stressor that increases the odds of conflict.
Find out where your Boxer will be housed — some daycares promote large play spaces, but actually keep dogs confined in small pens for much of the day.
6. Inappropriate Activities
A look at the Instagram feed of your proposed daycare may give you pause.
While it might make a great photo to have dogs running and jumping and leaping high in the air to catch balls, zoom in and take a good look at the floor.
Is it grass? Or is it concrete or another hard and possibly slippery surface?
This will be murder on your Boxer’s joints.
Another example: do staff throw down handfuls of treats for the dogs?
It might be well intentioned, but competition for food between keyed-up dogs is a sure way to incite a fight.
7. Lack Of Control
Pay your daycare a visit before enrolling your Boxer.
Ask for a tour.
If they won’t show you around, this is a red flag.
Many daycares provide live feeds so owners can check in on their dogs.
Do the cameras show all areas or just the playpen where dogs spend an hour or two of the day?
What is the layout of the facility?
Are all dogs visible to the handlers at all times, or are they unsupervised in certain places?
Do staff wear ear muffs to block out constant barking or zone out by listening to music through ear buds?
If this is allowed, end your inspection right there and move on.
How is difficult behavior dealt with?
Are “time out” pens safe for agitated dogs?
Will your Boxer ever be taken off-site for excursions or walks?
How many dogs are walked at once?
Are they allowed off leash in public spaces?
Has a dog ever been lost from the daycare?
8. Inadequate Access To Water
This might seem like a no brainer, but check.
Make sure dogs have constant access to fresh, clean water — no exceptions.
While you’re at it, take a look at the ventilation.
Is there good flow-through of air?
Is there air conditioning in summer and heat in winter?
What experience do the owners and handlers have with the Boxer breed?
9. Unhealthy Treats
You can bet your dog daycare does not hold itself to such high standards.
Are you okay with your Boxer’s diet (and therefore his health) being undermined?
10. Poor Structure
Find out what a typical day’s timetable looks like at your potential dog daycare.
Any center worth its salt will ensure regular periods of rest in which dogs are given space, both from each other and from handlers, and allowed to sleep.
If your Boxer is able to relax enough to snooze on and off throughout the day like he does at home, this will offset the stress and overstimulation of the daycare environment.
11. Lax Hygiene
Hygiene becomes doubly important when you have large numbers of dogs inhabiting the same space.
But are harsh chemicals being used in the name of cleanliness?
Do staff mop while dogs are present?
Does the place always smell of bleach?
If so, your dog is inhaling these toxic chemicals.
12. Ineffective Regulation And Oversight
How is the dog daycare industry regulated where you live?
Are centers required to comply with high standards of care?
How are unscrupulous operators brought to book?
Make sure you seek out independent reviews for any daycares on your shortlist.
Alternatives To Dog Daycare For Your Boxer
Instead of doggy daycare, you may like to:
- Hire a dog walker
- Come home at lunch or arrange for a partner/relative/friend to drop past
- Leave your Boxer home alone with proper arrangements in place — Here are 15 ways to leave your boxer home alone (and happy)
- Drop your Boxer off with his “grandparents” for the day
While it’s possible to have a Boxer and a job, you shouldn’t be leaving any dog in a crate all day long — let alone a dog with the temperament of a Boxer.
Crate training can have a valid place in your Boxer’s life, but more than three to four hours is too long to keep him confined.
Alternatives to crating a Boxer include:
- Dog proofing your home so your Boxer can safely have the run of the house
- Using baby gates, pens and closed doors to cordon off part of the house for him
You will find a wi-fi camera invaluable for monitoring your Boxer while you’re at work, both for your own peace of mind and so you can troubleshoot any issues.
Should You Board Your Boxer At A Kennel Or Dog Hotel?
All the same concerns associated with doggy daycare apply to leaving your Boxer at a boarding kennel.
Having a friend live in while you’re away may be a better approach.
Or you could hire a dog sitter.
Both allow your Boxer to remain in the environment he knows and ensure one-on-one supervision and direct accountability.
While increasingly normalized, dog daycare exposes your Boxer to a number of risks that you may find unacceptable.
If you are going to put your Boxer into doggy daycare, make sure it’s only after doing some solid due diligence.
Remember, your Boxer doesn’t “need” to socialize with other dogs in order to live a full life.
While social creatures, pet dogs consider their human household their pack and are more than happy as long as they’re getting plenty of interaction and fun times with their owners.