Introducing A New Dog Into Doggie Daycare

profile image 2021-03-19
By: Tails-A-Wagging
Posted in: Dog Kennel and Dog Daycare

This blog post was created by Tails-A-Wagging, an award-winning daycare and training facility with over 24 years experience!


As a doggie daycare provider, our goal is for all our canine interactions to go as smoothly as possible with predictable behaviors from all the dogs involved.  Let’s talk about the best ways to make that happen.

1) Phone/email consult.  When a client reaches out to you to ask about day care, this is a great opportunity to learn some basic information about the dog. Beyond asking age, breed, gender and why they are thinking about day care, consider working into conversations questions like:

  • Has your dog ever been to the dog park? 
  • Have you ever had to leave the dog park because of your dogs’ behavior or the behavior of another dog? 
  • Does your dog have friends now? 
  • How does your dog do meeting human strangers?
  • Does your dog bark or lunge on their leash? At people? At other dogs?
  • Has your dog ever been in a training class before? How did that go?
  • How does your dog respond to meeting puppies?

Answers to the questions above may lead you to more questions but none of the above have only one right answer nor do they conclude the true temperament of the dog, but starting here can encourage a conversation if moving forward to the next step is a good idea.

2) Sign up process.  How elaborate is your new dog questionnaire? Ours is LONG for a reason.  Yes, its asks questions like how does your dog take to having their toe nails trimmed? and Do you brush your dogs teeth?  Neither of which has any affect on if that dog will do well in day care, but its DOES give you a good understanding about their own husbandry and the dogs overall handling at home, which CAN make a big issue in day care. Check out our Pet Personality Profile and see how it compares to yours. 

"Tails-A-Wagging Doggie Daycare & Canine Training Center, Pet Personality Profile"

How Long Have You Been Your Pet’s Guardian? (Provide Date If Possible)
What Is Your Dog's Date Of Birth And Where Did You Get Your Dog From?
What Is Your Dog's License Number? (We Require All Dogs Over 8 ½ Months Of Age To Be Licensed. This Will Be License Tag Issued To You From The Whatcom Humane Society)
Age When Spayed/Neutered: (Puppies Are Required To Be Spayed/Neutered By 8 ½ Months Of Age)
How Does Your Dog Behave Around Children?
Does Your Pet Get Along With Resident Pets?
Any Disabilities Or Diseases?
Is Your Dog Currently On Any Medications?
Is Your Pet Currently On A Flea Preventative? (This Is Required May To Oct)
Hip Dysplasia ? (Or Any Joint)
Are There Any Restricted Movements To Be Placed In Your Dogs Activities?
Food Allergies? Please List ALL That Apply. (I.E. Wheat, Corn, Beef, Chicken, Soy, Other)
Inhaled Allergies? List ALL That Apply (I.E. Dust, Pollen, Mold, Other)
Do You (Or Anyone In Your Immediate Family) Have A Peanut Allergy? (*We Provide Small Amounts Of Dog-Safe Peanut Butter In Our Kong Snacks. If Yes, We Will Not Use Peanut Butter With Your Dogs Snack Time)
Does Your Dog Enjoy Being Brushed?
How Often Is Your Dog Groomed?
Who Is Your Groomer?
How Does Your Dog React To Having Their Toe Nails Trimmed?
Do Your Brush Your Dog’s Teeth?
Has Your Dog Ever Climbed A Fence?
Has Your Dog Ever Had Any Formal Obedience Training? If Yes, Where?
What Commands/Cues Does Your Dog Know? (List ALL That Apply: Sit, Stay, Come, Down, Off, Wait, Leave It, Stand, Heel, Quiet)
Does Your Dog Know Any Tricks?
Has Your Dog Ever Been To A Doggie Day Care Facility Before? If Yes, Where?
What Kind Of Collar Or Harness Do You Use When Walking Your Dog?
Is That Collar/Harness Effective In Keeping Him Under Control?
Is Your Dog Crate Trained? (*This Is Required By Your Dogs Final Evaluation With Us, All Dogs Must Be Able To Rest Quietly In A Crate For 45 Minutes For Nap Time)
Does Your Dog Spend Time In The Crate When The House Is NOT Quiet And Dark?
Where Is The Crate Located In Your Home?
Is The Crate Wire Or Hard Plastic?
Does Your Dog Know How To Use A Stuffed Food Puzzle, Like A Kong?
Has Your Dog Ever Snapped Or Bitten Another Dog? If Yes, Did Your Dog Break Skin?
Has Your Dog Ever Growled At Another Dog? If Yes, Please Explain
Has Your Dog Ever Growled Or Snapped At A Person? If Yes, Did Your Dog Break Skin?
Has Your Dog Ever Growled, Snapped Or Bitten Someone Taking Food Or A Toys Away From Them?
Do Any Visitors Bring Their Dog(S) Over For A Visit? If Yes, How Do They Get Along?
Does Your Dog Ever Share His Toys With Any Other Dogs?
How Does Your Dog React To Strangers Coming Into The House Or Yard?
Are There Any Type Of People Your Dog Automatically Dislikes Or Fears?
Are There Any Kinds Of Dogs Your Dog Automatically Dislikes Or Fears?
How Does Your Dog React To Puppies?
Is Your Dog Frightened By Noises? If Yes, What Types?
Do You Take Your Dog To The Dog Park?
Has Your Dog Ever Needed To Leave The Dog Park Due To Their Behavior?
What Does Your Dog Do When You Are Not At Home?
How Does Your Dog Act When You Get Home From Work?
How Much Exercise Does Your Dog Get Each Day?
Have You Ever Been Able To “Tire Out” Your Dog?
Does Your Dog Have Trouble With Jumping Up, On People?
Does Your Dog Have Trouble With Nipping/Biting People?
Does Your Dog Have Trouble With Barking?
Does Your Dog Have Trouble With Digging?
Does Your Dog Have Trouble With Ignoring Commands?
Does Your Dog Have Trouble With Potty Issues?
How Does Your Dog Behave When Meeting A New Dog ON Leash?
How Does Your Dog Behave When Meeting A New Dog OFF Leash?
What Kind Of Toys Does Your Dog Play With?
What Kind Of Games Does Your Dog Enjoy Playing With People?
Why Are You Bringing Your Dog To Day Care? (List ALL That Apply): {Just For Fun, Socialization, Exercise, My Work Schedule Is Crazy, Help With Manners/Training, Anxious At Home When Alone, Need Help During The Day When We Are On Vacation, My Dogs Needs Friends, Senior Dog, Needs More Attention During The Day, Or Other}
I Understand That Tails-A-Wagging Is A Training-Based Daycare And Basic Manners Will Be Required Of My Dog In Order To Attend. I Know That Tails-A-Wagging Does Not Expect My Dog To Be Perfect, Especially On Their First Few Visits, But I Understand That We Will All Work Together To Help My Dog Be The Best That They Can Be. (Yes Or No)
Any Other Comments/Information About Your Dog That You Think We Should Know?
Where Does Your Like And Not Like To Be Touched? Please Be As Specific As You Can Be For Areas Your Dog Does Not Enjoy.
How Did You Hear About Us?

3) Confirming the dogs first day.  All the vaccines and health information are in, you have verified everything you need to and your service agreement is signed!  Great! Now its time to confirm their first day. I encourage you to send an email with the subject line: Buster’s First day of Day Care. PLEASE READ.   Welcome them, let them know what to expect on their dogs first day.  What time  are they are supposed to drop off? What should they bring (and not bring)? anything special to do due to COVID restrictions? Will you be calling them with an update mid-day or do you want them to call and check in? Do you have web cameras and do they know how to log in? Do you want them to potty their dogs before coming inside?  Here is a sample of our “first day” email confirmation.  

4) Once the dog has been dropped off, what’s next. At Tails-A-Wagging we use our intercom and call back letting staff know the new dog has arrived. Then, we typically walk the dog directly to one of our outdoor yards, keeping their harness on dragging a light leash. At Tails-A-Wagging, we “play naked” but for a new dog we don’t have any concrete evidence of their manners yet, so a dragging leash we can step on to halt any behavior is a preemptive process on our end.  The yard is empty to allow the new dog to take in the sights and smells of the yard.  At this point, senior staff watches the dog for normal behavior (walking around, going potty, sniffing play equipment etc.)  but also, is mindful of anything abnormal (excessive marking, spooky barking, reactive behavior, drooling, calming signals, too much focus on the fence etc.) As a Fear Free facility, the first introduction is done when the new dog is emotionally ready. We know they are ready because they are taking treats from us and are interested in what we are doing. Anything less than that or if stress signals are seen, WE STOP and move the dog to another area to relax. This might be another area of the yard or a manned office, but the dog is the #1 dictator of this process, not us. If we want this to go well, we need to know that dogs have the right to their emotions and the right to say no. 

5) The first dog we choose for the new dog is KEY! Proper pairing (PP) of the first dog they meet can set their tone for the whole day or their whole day care experience.  Based on what we know about the new dog, here are some examples of Proper Pairings for new dogs. 

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With the new dog in the yard, the proper pairing dog is added to a transition area. At first, we just watch. Is the new dog curious? Do you see any reactive behavior? Do you see an increase in stress signals? Is the new dog still taking treats?

If you choose to go ahead,  have one staff member at the far end of the yard and either recall the new dog or lead the dog with the light leash. Ask another staff member to release the PP dog, while making sure there is no restraint on the new dog (drop the leash if you are holding it) When the dogs greet, be sure to use a happy voice and use lots of “good dog” phrases. Try to follow the 3 second rule: after 3 seconds of sniffing recall the PP dog or quietly step on the dragging leash, pick it up and lure the new dog away (no tugging to pulling the new dog) allow space between both dogs and greet again. Repeat this a few times until you are confident in the new dogs reaction. 

We are a training-based day care, so staff are clicking and treating both dogs for all appropriate behavior, we are talking and verbally rewarding the dogs for their greetings. We use our normal speaking voice, with a higher pitched tone. 

When dogs first meet, typically one of three things happens:

  • Dogs sniff and ignore
  • Dogs sniff and ignore
  • Dogs sniff and one or both postures, reacts, or bullies. (This is NOT to be confused with normal, natural maternal corrections) 

Sniff and Ignore:  This is a great interaction!  This means both dogs respect what the other has brought to the table.  If we know both dogs are playful, then its just a matter of time until the new dog finds a playmate.
Sniff and instant play:  Nothing wrong here but know that this dog may be prone to pushy or rude behavior and tend to play first, read body signals later. 

Sniff and uh oh: If you are seeing posturing, stiff body language, hackles up, stress signals. STOP. Remove the new dog to a safe area and re-evaluate the situation. Was the dog matched well with a Proper Pairing? Was the dog stressed? Did the dog have time to de-escalate from arriving? If you choose to try again, choose a neutral female.  If you get the same result, reconsider day care for new dog. 

Here is a video of our process:

Click Here For Video

Continue to add dogs to the new dog, at the pace the new dog chooses.  For us, this can take anywhere from 1 to 8 hours.  Its important that this go at the new dogs pace, not yours.

If you think the dog just needs more time (they are doing ok, but you are seeing subtle signs of stress), try to relocate the dog to an area where he can see the other dogs but can’t participate in their group. Then add a dog to the new dogs area, one at a time, until he has met everyone. Then repeat the transition integration as above, from the beginning. 

By taking things slow and purposeful we give more opportunities for the dogs to behave with relaxed but confident behavior.

Things to remember:


All greetings should be off leash.  (a dragging leash is ok, as there is no tension) When dogs are on leash, they know they are restricted and this can lead to offensive behaviors.  Dogs are 60% more likely to be reactive on leash then off.

Check yourself.  If you and your team are not in the mindset to be focused and purposeful, make a plan. Move the dog to a crate/kennel or an office and try again later.

We do 90% of our meet and greets outside, but some dogs (usually puppies or toy breeds) might be overwhelmed being outside- its ok to do this process indoors.

Never have your PP be a rude dog. That 8 month old lab may seem to love everyone and get along with all the dogs, but you are not going to want to meet him on your first day of school. Ease into those type of dogs.

Be careful about using the same PP dogs over and over.  Just because you have a regular day care dog who is great at meeting new dogs, does not mean she wants to have it be her “job”. Using the same PP dog is a sure fire way to create a dog who no longer likes day care.

Hope it helped to see our process.

Angela Lenz, owner and lead trainer

Tails-A-Wagging Doggie Daycare & Canine Training Center

Making Dogs Lives Better Since 1997

Austin Thelen
Austin Thelen @ 03/19/21 04:33:01PM
So much good info, thank you Angela! You have such a wealth of knowledge we all can learn from!
Mason Barkhurst
Mason Barkhurst @ 04/14/21 08:35:53PM
Boy Tails, do you ever have mine wagging right now! Your so very generous blog has provided answers to several big questions I have been juggling for at leashed a year, as well as several I didn’t realize I even had yet. You have contributed greatly to the safety and well being of the dogs here at Loving Dog Care as well as my peace of mind and confidence in my own abilities. Thanks! Here’s to Ya’!