Daycare or DIY? A COVID Pet Owner's Guide

Daycare or DIY? A COVID Pet Owner's Guide

As we navigated the challenges of easing our COVID-adopted pets into a post-pandemic life in our previous article, a pressing question arises: should we opt for daycare services or rely on do-it-yourself activities to keep our pets engaged? Each option has its pros and cons, and the ideal choice often depends on your pet's personality, your lifestyle, and, importantly, your budget. This comprehensive guide aims to help you make that decision with ease.

Pros and Cons of Day Care

Choosing daycare for your pet is not a decision to take lightly. There are numerous factors that can make daycare either a great choice or potentially a bad one for your furry friend. Here, we'll break down some of the most critical pros and cons.



  • Exposure to Different Pets: Being around various breeds and personalities can help your pet become more socially adaptable, which is especially beneficial for puppies and younger animals that are still learning social cues.
  • Human Interaction: Daycare isn’t just about pet-to-pet interaction; it's also about human-to-pet interaction. Staff members can provide additional social enrichment that helps your pet feel more secure and loved.


  • Risk of Negative Interactions: Not all pets are friendly or well-socialized. Negative experiences can result in stress or even trauma for your pet.
  • Overstimulation: Too much interaction can be overwhelming for some pets, leading to potential anxiety and stress.



  • Supervised Play: Trained staff constantly monitor activities, which minimizes the risk of accidents or aggressive behavior among the pets.
  • Structured Environment: Most daycare centers have rules and schedules, providing a structured environment that can help your pet feel more secure.


  • Risk Factors: Even the safest daycare centers can't eliminate all risks. There could be incidents of pet conflicts, accidents, or, in unfortunate cases, outbreaks of diseases like kennel cough.
  • Stress from New Environment: Some pets might find the daycare environment, with its new smells, sounds, and people, to be stressful or unsettling.

Exercise and Mental Stimulation


  • Physical Activity: Most daycare centers have play areas, agility equipment, and scheduled playtimes, ensuring that your pet gets plenty of physical exercise.
  • Mental Challenges: Activities like treat puzzles or basic training sessions can offer mental stimulation, keeping your pet's mind sharp.


  • Overexertion: There's such a thing as too much exercise, especially for older pets or those with health issues. Overexertion can lead to fatigue and potential injury.
  • Lack of Individualized Attention: Daycare centers often cater to multiple pets at once, meaning that activities may not be tailored to your pet's individual needs or preferences.



  • Time-Saving: Daycare can free up a considerable amount of time for pet owners, making it a convenient option for those with busy schedules.
  • Peace of Mind: Knowing that your pet is in a safe, supervised space can give you the peace of mind to focus on work or other responsibilities.


  • Cost: High-quality daycare services can be expensive, especially if used regularly.
  • Limited Availability: Many daycare centers have limited spots and may require advance booking, which could be inconvenient for pet owners with unpredictable schedules.

What to Look for in a Day Care

So, you've weighed the pros and cons, and you're leaning towards sending your pet to daycare. The next big question is, "Which daycare?" Here's a comprehensive list of factors to consider when making this crucial decision.


  1. Play Areas: Inspect the available play spaces to ensure they are clean, safe, and adequately fenced. Ideally, the facility should have separate areas for dogs of different sizes or temperaments.
  2. Shelters and Rest Areas: Check for designated spaces where pets can rest, nap, or take a break from social interactions. These areas should also be clean and comfortable.
  3. Sanitation: Look for signs of regular cleaning such as absence of unpleasant odors, clean food and water bowls, and sanitary waste disposal methods.
  4. Climate Control: Make sure that the facility has climate control to keep pets comfortable in all seasons, especially if your pet has special temperature needs.
  5. Outdoor Access: While indoor play is excellent, having access to an outdoor area is a plus for most pets. Make sure these spaces are secure and well-maintained.

Certifications and Staff

  1. Trained Staff: Ask about the training that staff members undergo. They should be trained in pet first aid, behavior assessment, and conflict resolution among pets.
  2. Staff-to-Pet Ratio: More staff means more eyes on your pet. Check to see if there's an adequate number of caregivers relative to the number of pets.
  3. Licenses and Certifications: Ensure the daycare is licensed to operate and holds any relevant certifications. Some daycare centers are also members of pet care associations, which often have high standards of care.
  4. Veterinary Access: It's a bonus if the daycare has a veterinarian on-call or a close partnership with a nearby vet clinic for emergencies.

Operational Aspects

  1. Hours of Operation: Make sure the daycare’s operating hours align with your schedule. Some daycares even offer after-hours or weekend services!
  2. Trial Period: Many reputable daycares offer a trial period or a "temperament test" day to see if the environment is a good fit for your pet.
  3. Security Measures: Check what security measures are in place. Cameras and secure entry and exit points are crucial for your pet's safety.
  4. Policies: Read through the daycare's policies on food, treats, medication, and emergency situations. Make sure you are comfortable with their guidelines.

Reviews and Recommendations

  1. Customer Reviews: Online reviews can provide a glimpse into others' experiences. Look for patterns in reviews, either positive or negative, to get a more rounded view.
  2. Word of Mouth: Personal recommendations from friends, family, or your veterinarian can often be the most reliable source of information.
  3. Visits: If possible, visit the facility without your pet first, so you can focus on evaluating it. Many facilities also allow for an initial visit with your pet to see how they react to the environment.

Costs Involved

Pet daycare can be a significant financial commitment, especially if you intend to use the service regularly. To avoid unexpected expenses and to ensure you're getting the most bang for your buck, consider the following aspects:


  1. Daily, Weekly, Monthly Rates: Most daycares offer a variety of pricing options based on how frequently you plan to bring your pet. Some facilities provide package deals for weekly or monthly commitments, which can offer savings compared to daily rates. Prices can vary widely depending on your location and the services provided, ranging anywhere from $20 to $50 per day.
  2. Special Services: Some daycares offer additional services like grooming, training sessions, or specialized care for pets with medical needs. These will come at an extra cost, so inquire beforehand.
  3. Holiday and Weekend Rates: Some facilities charge higher rates for holidays or weekends. Make sure to ask if the standard rate applies seven days a week or if there are exceptions.
  4. Peak Season: Just like hotels, some pet daycares have peak seasons where the prices might be higher, particularly during school holidays when more families are likely to go on vacation.

Hidden Costs

  1. Registration or Membership Fees: Some daycares charge a one-time registration or membership fee on top of regular service rates.
  2. Late Pick-Up Fees: Many daycares have strict operating hours and charge extra fees if you pick up your pet late. These can add up, so be aware of the facility's policies.
  3. Food and Medication: While some facilities include food in their daily rate, others don't. Similarly, administering medication may come at an additional cost.
  4. Cancellation Fees: Some daycares have cancellation policies that require you to pay a fee or forfeit a deposit if you cancel after a certain point.
  5. Add-Ons: Amenities like one-on-one playtime, special treats, or photo updates could be extra. While these can enhance your pet’s experience, they can also quickly inflate your final bill.

Financial Planning Tips

  • Compare Facilities: Prices can differ significantly between facilities, even in the same region. Don't hesitate to shop around and compare services and costs.
  • Inquire About Discounts: Some facilities offer discounts for multiple pets or extended stays. If you plan to be a regular customer, see if there are loyalty discounts available.
  • Budget Accordingly: Once you understand all the costs involved, budget for your pet’s daycare just as you would for any other recurring expense.

Emotional Aspects

Sending your pet to daycare can be a mixed bag of emotions—for both you and your furry friend. It's essential to also weigh these emotional factors when choosing a daycare facility.

Stress Factors

  1. New Environment: The change from a home setting to a daycare facility can be overwhelming for some pets, especially if they are not accustomed to being around other animals or unknown humans.
  2. Group Dynamics: Not all pets play well with others. Some might feel stressed in a group setting, which could result in aggressive or withdrawn behavior.
  3. Noise Level: Facilities that house a large number of pets can be noisy, which might induce stress in pets who are sensitive to loud sounds.
  4. Separation Anxiety: Some pets, particularly those adopted during the pandemic who are used to having their owners around, might experience separation anxiety.

Comfort Indicators

  1. Playfulness: One of the best signs your pet is comfortable in daycare is their willingness to play and engage with other animals or caretakers.
  2. Eating Habits: If your pet eats normally while at daycare, it's a good indicator they're adjusting well to the new setting.
  3. Relaxed Body Language: Watch for signs like a wagging tail, relaxed ears, and a calm demeanor. These are good indicators that your pet is comfortable.
  4. Feedback from Caretakers: Most daycare facilities will provide reports or some form of feedback about how your pet is adapting. If they note that your pet is actively participating and seems content, it's a good sign.

Mitigating Stress

  1. Trial Period: Consider a trial day or short stay before committing to a long-term arrangement to gauge how your pet responds to the new environment.
  2. Personal Items: Bringing a favorite toy, blanket, or even an item of your clothing can offer comfort to your pet.
  3. Visit in Advance: Touring the facility with your pet before their stay allows them to get used to the new sights, sounds, and smells, which can help in reducing stress.
  4. Talk to the Staff: Discuss your pet's likes, dislikes, and any known stress triggers so they can make the experience as comfortable as possible for your pet.

DIY Options

Not everyone is comfortable sending their pet to daycare, and that's okay. Fortunately, there are many ways to keep your pet entertained, safe, and emotionally secure within the confines of your home.

Indoor Activities

  1. Puzzle Toys: Engage your pet's mind with puzzle toys that hide treats. This stimulates their problem-solving skills and keeps them busy for hours.
  2. Tug-of-War: A simple game of tug-of-war can provide physical exercise and fun for both you and your pet.
  3. Fetch Indoors: If you have a long hallway or a spacious room, a game of fetch can be just as fun indoors as it is outside!
  4. Hide and Seek: This game isn't just for kids. It can be a fun way to engage your pet mentally and physically.

Technology Aids

  1. Automated Feeders: If you’re concerned about feeding your pet on time while you’re away, automated feeders can schedule meals down to the minute.
  2. Interactive Pet Cameras: Devices like the Furbo or Petcube allow you to watch, speak to, and even dispense treats to your pet via a smartphone app.
  3. GPS Collars: Though more for outdoor use, GPS collars can be comforting for the owner to know the pet’s exact location in real-time.
  4. Smart Toys: Toys like the K2 ball launcher for dogs or a laser pointer toy for cats can keep your pet entertained without human intervention.

Creating Your DIY Pet Care Routine

  1. Schedule: Consistency is key. Try to maintain regular meal, play, and potty times, even when you're not home.
  2. Engage Different Senses: Mix and match activities that engage various senses—sight, smell, hearing, and touch—to keep your pet fully stimulated.
  3. Safety Checks: Make sure any DIY games, toys, or activities you arrange are safe. Double-check for small parts that could be swallowed or materials that could be harmful if chewed.
  4. Human Interaction: Remember that while toys and games are great, they can’t replace human interaction. Make time for snuggles, belly rubs, and other forms of affection as well.

Opting for DIY pet care allows you to be in full control of your pet's environment. It’s especially convenient for pets that have special needs or for owners who are not comfortable with external daycare options. A well-thought-out DIY care routine can ensure your pet stays happy and healthy, both mentally and physically.

Choosing between daycare and DIY activities for your pet is not a one-size-fits-all decision. Take into account your pet’s socialization needs, your budget, and the quality of daycare services around you. Ultimately, the best choice will foster a healthy, happy relationship between you and your pet.

As we explore the upsides and downsides of pet ownership during these unique times, our next article will tackle a rather somber but crucial topic: the increase in pet abandonments during the COVID era.

Thank you for diving into this installment of our in-depth series on pet adoption during the COVID-19 era. At Fluff n' Stuff, we go beyond offering quality products for your furry friends. In fact, you can check out our shop to see what we mean! Our philosophy isn't just a catchy slogan—it's a way of life. "Spoiling Your Pets While Saving Lives" is more than words to us, it's a heartfelt commitment. We're as passionate about pet adoption as you are, and we believe that we all have a role in enhancing animal welfare. When you choose to shop with us, you're doing more than just pampering your pet; you're part of a bigger picture. We contribute 10% of every purchase you make to a pet charity of your choice. It's our way, and yours, of supporting life-saving initiatives for the animals who need it most. 

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