Zeus, sinjin, Paris and Mika they go from one side of the compound to the other without rest. They go up the stairs, get comfortable on the beds, play chase. They are “the boys of Wednesdays”, as her caretaker, Lis Luna Victoria, 38, and owner of DogHouser, an urban dog daycare she opened just four months ago, calls them. The space, located in a commercial premises in the El Salvador neighborhood in Madrid, consists of about 75 square meters divided into three floors, through which the four dogs move freely agitated by the presence of people outside the center. They come here one day a week to socialize and be accompanied during the hours that their owners work outside the home. A solution to loneliness that in many cases serves as support to solve some behavioral problems and whose demand has only increased in recent years.
“Can you pass me the little fish of sinjin?” asks Luna Victoria. “Here we always use snacks natural and always with the purpose of educating”, clarifies the entrepreneur, who runs the business together with her sister Leny, 36 years old, and Yunny Peláez, 19 years old and a sporadic helper. Catalan shepherd crossbreed with snow breed, sinjin It has been one of the last dogs to arrive and in just three weeks both they and their adopter and owner, Cathal Daynes, have already seen an improvement in their behavior. “When you pick him up he is very calm and he has a puppy best friend that he is very careful with. In addition, we see that it is very important for him to go to daycare to train him to stay home alone. It is a way for him to have an experience without our presence, ”says Daynes, 45, who adopted sinjin recently and which he defines as a dog “with difficulties, but with a lot of potential”.
The doors of DogHouser open at eight and the morning passes between games and rest in the enclosure —divided into three areas, to be able to separate the dogs by size and character— and walking outdoors in a nearby park or open field. At lunchtime, the “dads” come to pick up their dogs – as Lis Luna Victoria refers to them – who have chosen part-time as their regimen, at a cost of 220 euros for 20 days. Around eight in the afternoon, those who have opted for the full day will do it —350 euros for 20 days. Many businesses, like this one, also offer the possibility of sporadic walks, accommodation during the weekend and night care, this “always limited to one or two dogs”. Added to this are complementary services such as the sale of food and care products and individualized training services.
Dog owners, daycare owners and dog educators are clear about what has changed in recent years to make this a service in demand. In Spain there are more and more dogs —9.3 million in 2021, 38% more in the last three years, according to the National Association of Pet Food Manufacturers— and there is a “greater sensitivity” towards their needs. This is the opinion, for example, of Lucía Aragunde, owner of Txakur Etxea, an urban dog day care center in Bilbao. “People who have dogs are very focused on giving them everything they need,” she says, before listing the main reasons why, according to her experience, these services are in demand: “So that he is not alone and bored ; due to socialization problems and separation anxiety”.
This latest behavioral disorder has skyrocketed after the pandemic and pushes many owners like Laura Raijenstein, 42, to seek solutions given the impossibility of the animal being left alone at home. She works at her home, but leaving only ray even for a moment “it’s crazy,” he admits, which is why he turned to DogHouser and his team. “We are very happy because it is helping him a lot,” he adds, while pointing out that this barely two-year-old mix of hound and dachshund goes to the center one or two days a week “depending on needs” and also on sporadic occasions. for social commitments. Raijenstein’s satisfaction is such that he has already looked for a nursery in the Puerta de Toledo area, in Madrid, where his brother lives, for when the animal has to stay with him.
In cases like that of ray, experts point out, this formula can help reduce the stress caused by separation, although it does not eliminate the problem by itself and requires individualized work with a canine educator. “The nursery is an effective measure so that anxiety can be worked on, but it is not the solution. It helps them in therapy to overcome it because they are not alone at home, they do not have a bad time, they are entertained with dogs and they are not so aware of their tutor, who is the one they are attached to”, explains Juan Carlos Castilla, director of Noblecan Canine Training and with 18 years of experience as an educator.
Castilla places the beginning of the boom in dog daycare approximately three years ago, before the pandemic, and defends this option as a way to “avoid behavioral problems” derived from loneliness. Among the advantages, he lists the socialization with dogs and the correct consumption of their energy, although he also names some disadvantages to take into account. “They can catch diseases. It’s no one’s fault, but there is more risk. They can also injure themselves or inadvertently injure themselves,” he says. The educator also believes that a handicap is the “possible staff turnover” of the center.
Forced adaptation to the group
Saving the distances, and with some differences between establishments, when one asks about the operation, it is inevitable to see a parallelism with nursery schools. Before being accepted in the centers, for example, the animals must undergo a period of adaptation to ensure that they integrate perfectly into the group. Being neutered in the case of males and having up-to-date vaccinations are also some of the requirements that, according to the establishments consulted, are established to guarantee safety and well-being. “Sometimes we reject the dog because the owner is not committed. For example, if he has separation anxiety and does not commit to complete therapy with an educator, ”says Lis Luna Victoria.
Throughout the day, the exchange of information, photos and videos with the owners is constant. “Here we make a border for the end of the course. We take ID photos of them and we even put together those who are the closest friends”, explains Paula López de María, 39 years old. With a degree in veterinary medicine, López de María imported the idea of urban day care centers in 2016 after learning of their existence on a trip to New York. “There was no such thing in Spain,” she says on the other end of the phone. In September of that year, she opened the first WagWag store next to Parque de Berlín, in Madrid, and now she has a second space in the capital in front of Parque del Retiro. In total, he has about 100 dogs as clients and rates ranging from 200 euros per month for a half-day to 305 euros for a full day. As an extra, the possibility of a home collection and delivery service is offered.
“Before, many dogs came regularly every day of the week; Now the most common thing is that they attend single days ”, he points out, while explaining the change due to the emergence, after the pandemic, of teleworking. It is not by chance either that all the WagWag staff are made up of women —except “the boy who does the transports”—. “It has been shown that dogs get along better with them, especially those that are fearful,” she reasons, while warning that when choosing daycare it is important to find out about the training and trajectory of caregivers. “I see many people who have no experience in the animal world and, just as you can do them a lot of good, you can also do them harm.”
How to choose dog daycare
Dog daycare centers are an excellent option to avoid behavioral problems derived from loneliness or as a socialization tool. So says Juan Carlos Castilla. The director of Noblecan Canine Training also points out the following guidelines for choosing a center:
- That it is directed and carried out by qualified professionals. They must have knowledge in canine education, food and health care.
- The facilities must be hygienic to avoid diseases and parasites; safe and have a camera through which guardians can observe their dog.
- Make sure that the dogs will have environmental enrichment: stimulation with toys and that the handlers interact with them.
- Outdoor walks are essential. The more, the better, and adapted to the circumstances. This causes them to release endorphins and be more relaxed.
- Space to play. That it has a sufficient surface for the places it has.
- The nursery must be legalized and have the relevant permits. The National Association of Canine Trainers points out that they must have the Municipal Activity License granted by the City Council; have the number of the Zoo, which is granted by the Department of Agriculture of each community; be registered as a company, center or self-employed, registered with Social Security, and have civil liability insurance. Keep in mind that each region usually has different regulations and requirements may vary.