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Dog Needs Exercise? Try Doggie Daycare
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Your dog's most important needs are good nutrition, regular exercise, and tough-love (discipline with plenty of lovin'). Today I want to talk about dogs and exercise.

It's great if you walk your dog twice a day or more, but most breeds will develop nervous habits if that's all they get. They also get fat, which leads to health problems like heart disease and arthritis. Goldens, dobermans, labs, jack russells, shih tzus, lhasas, dalmations, scotties, westies, wheatons, collies, cockers, bulldogs... every breed needs a different amount and kind of exercise, but don't kid yourself, they all need some!

Time after time people tell me their dog gets plenty of exercise - "she can go out in the back yard anytime she wants" (people with dog doors, or whose kids let the dog out). First of all, make sure she's fenced in. Some people like invisible electric fences; I hate them with a passion. But that's another article. The point is PLEASE don't let your dog outside if you don't have a fenced in area for her. Even if you live in the wilds of Australia. Encounters with wildlife always go badly for somebody, and usually it's your dog. Here in New England, we live side-by-side with hungry coyotes and foxes, as soon as you get out of major metropolitan areas. Even in cities, fights with racoons (who can be very aggressive), and chasing squirrels are activities that harm pets all the time.

Even supposing your dog is safe in your yard, you really don't know what she's doing out there unless you supervise her. So, go ahead, let her out to pee if you're in a rush and there's a fenced-in area. But don't be lazy all the time! Go out with her, encourage her to do her business and praise her. Then throw a ball or a frisbee a few times, or even just play with her. That way you know she's getting the elevated heartbeat and mental stimulation she craves. A few dogs can be depended upon to play by themselves, but they're the exception. Most will come back inside as soon as they can, 'cause they're gregarious. They want to be with their pack (you and your family). Run around with her, play tug of war, whatever. Both of you, go ahead, get off that couch!

But you're exhausted when you get home at night, right? Me too! So who wants to throw a ball for Benny (whose a ballaholic - doesn't want one throw, wants twenty). The answer is... DAYCARE!!!! Dog daycare is the best thing since sliced bread, providing that you find a place that is clean (no smells!) and has high standards around supervision, handling, and the health of each guest. Doggie guests should play in large indoor areas under constant supervision all day long. You don't want to pay for your dog to vegetate in a crate for part of the day. Play areas and the outdoor area where the guests do their business should be washed down with a high quality animal quarters disinfectant, like Cherry 256. It should be one that kills parasites, bacteria, and virii that make doggie daycare dicey in less fastidious places. Vets will tell you they're not crazy about daycare 'cause it spreads disease. So any place that local vets "ok" is a good bet. But ask if they send dogs with a cough or diarrhea home, even if it means less income that day. The whole staff should be trained in doggie first aid, and in the basic symptoms of the most common ailments. The owner should provide evidence that customers are grateful that the staff will signal any problem right away and recommend a trip to the vet's office. They should not let dogs associate with others if they suspect a communicable disease.

The other thing you want to know about your potential play group or day care is: how much exercise does pup pup really get? Be sure to ask if doggie guests are crated or restrained for any part of the day. Do they get constant 'thank you's' from customers whose dogs come home exhausted. Because that's what you want: supervised play for extended periods of time. And there should be comfy bedding available in the play areas so the pups can rest when they want to.

All in all, when you're considering doggie daycare, think of the kinds of questions you'd ask when shopping for child care. You want to make sure your dog is safe and happy; and that he's getting the right kind of healthy stimulation all day long.


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