The Doggy Daycare Effect

00:58, Nov 17 2011

As I type this, on Thursday afternoon, my dogs lie snoring on a couch. Unusually, I've hardly seen either of them today and the house has been silent. This is the Doggy Daycare Effect.

Phoebe and Connor spent nine hours yesterday at a suburban doggy daycare centre while my partner and I did our respective jobs. The dogs shared a room with five others, apparently making friends with a lively poodle named Thomas.

(They didn't strictly have to go: I worked from home yesterday, as I do most days. But we have other reasons for taking them, which I'll get to.)

Late in the afternoon, when my partner came to pick them up, Phoebe and Connor were in good spirits, but uttered not a peep from their crates during the drive home. Last night, they ate their dinner but otherwise slept laxly on a lap or cushion, flat on their sides because they were too tired even to curl up.

They needed no walk, of course. Which I kind of regretted because it's a high point of my own day too - but it was great to see them in the rare position of having spent all their energy and still processing several days' worth of stimulation. The fun and interaction they must have had!

And this is the main point. Our dogs have become like a self-sufficient couple, keen to play with each other but cool toward other dogs. Connor's attitude to other dogs has gone from uncontrollable anguish to manageable jumpiness, but doesn't yet approach friendliness. The one hour a week they spend at the small dogs' playgroup has been a huge spur to their sociability, especially Connor's, and now the occasional day-long session at doggy daycare will, we hope, help polish their manners.

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It's like a finishing school, I suppose. A relaxed, uncrowded finishing school where they have to get on with the other boarders.

And another thing: our finished, polished dogs will be better prepared for stints at a kennel. Which means their dads can actually plan for a holiday together without packing leashes (unless for ourselves).

So the Doggy Daycare Effect is a pretty positive one. Have you experienced it?

Check your phone book or the internet for dog daycare businesses in your area. They range in size. Fees vary but be prepared to pay about $30 a day, per dog.

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