By Sharon Gomes Thomas
When I was looking for the right daycare for my dog Darby, I scribbled down a checklist of requirements – some I definitely wanted fulfilled, while others I was willing to compromise on. After weeks of research, phone calls and visits, I finally found Pets At Play (www.nycPetsAtPlay.com), a doggie daycare that far exceeded everything on my checklist.
Make a list, check it twice
Make a list of what you want for your dog. Not everyone has the same priorities. Similarly, every daycare has its own set of positives and negatives. Having a checklist makes it easier to compare. After visits to different facilities that were weeks apart, it also helped me remember between them.
Find out who is naughty or nice
Ask your friends, neighbors and vet for their recommendations and more importantly, if they’ve heard of any horror stories. Message boards are also a great resource. I only found out about Pets At Play from several different people on message boards, since the daycare doesn’t advertise and rely on word of mouth for getting new clients.
Location, location, location
Pets At Play is close to my office as well as being in midtown — very convenient no matter where I am headed before or after work. They also can pick up and drop off your pet at your apartment. And if you are driving or in a cab, they will come curbside – all you have to do is call them.
Not all dogs are created equal
A daycare may be great but it may turn out to be the wrong one for your dog. A highly recommended daycare that caters to mostly small dogs wasn’t the right choice for my active Irish Setter who needed lots of space to run. Pets At Play has both indoor and outdoor areas that are perfect for my active girl. They organize the play sessions into different groups depending on size and temperament. Also, they will mix the groups throughout the day so no single dog becomes the dominant alpha dog. You can also request for walks if your pooch loves to sniff out the city streets.
Let sleeping dogs lie
Just as important as having areas for play is having rest areas – Pets At Play has two rest areas depending on dog size. They also have individual rooms where dogs can have alone time either to sleep or eat. These rooms are also used for boarding overnight, and are large enough for the staff to enter with the dogs. Maybe your pooch likes to have “people company” when she eats. One particular room, the Penthouse, has two levels and is big enough for several dogs, if you have more that one pet and would like them to all board together.
Cleanliness is next to godliness
As much as we may love our pet’s “dogginess”, we don’t really want to put her in a daycare that reeks. A fresh smelling facility is a sign that a daycare actually cares. Pets At Play keeps the indoor playroom at a constant 75 degrees and continuously refreshes the air with a HEPA/HVAC system.
Pets At Play has a high person to dog ratio. They require you to call them the day before dropping off your pet, and at least a week before a full week’s booking. This is to ensure they schedule their staff accordingly. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and they did a thorough check on all of Darby’s health documents, including calling my vet when they saw a couple of things missing. They also know each of the dogs really well, from their personality to their eating habits. Each pet has its own cubbyhole, for dog food, toys or its blanket.
The first time I walked into Pets At Play, I didn’t have an appointment and they wouldn’t let me take a tour of the facility in the afternoon. At first I was a little miffed, but the manager explained that they discouraged strangers from walking through when there were dogs in the playroom, as it could disrupt the social dynamics of playtime. I finally met the owner Brandon after making an appointment, and he gave me a thorough tour of the daycare in the evening after most of the dogs had gone home. A tour of any daycare is extremely important, no matter how many recommendations you hear. You have to see the facility as well as personally meet the caregivers. Brandon is also a certified animal behaviorist, and conducts dog training sessions. Pets At Play has grooming services as well as selling a great line of food called Nature’s Variety Prairie Brand. I picked up a bag of patties for Darby and she loves it — she is a bundle of energy after breakfast.
Darby has been going to Pets At Play for three weeks now and she comes home a happy and tired puppy.