Dog Park vs. Doggy Daycare: Which is Best for Your Dog?

An active dog is a happy dog, and the best way to provide healthy, robust exercise is for him to play with other dogs. Dog parks and dog daycares are two of the most popular places where dogs can play with other dogs. But is one better than the other for dogs? Read on to see what I think.

Doggy Day Care

Exploding in popularity since the pandemic, a doggy daycare provides your dog with the mental and physical stimulation he needs to be healthy and happy. Playing with other dogs in this setting is generally supervised by trained and experienced handlers.

Here are some facts about the dog daycare business that may surprise you:

  • New York state was the home of the first doggy daycare, which was opened in 1986
  • Approximately 19 million dogs attend doggy daycare every month.
  • A major growth industry, this segment of the pet care services industry accounts for $4.5 billion in yearly revenue. Compare this to a total of $6 billion spent on all dog services each year.
  • The cost of doggy daycare ranges from $29 to $46 per day.
  • More than 4,000 doggy daycare businesses exist in the U.S. today.

Why Doggy Daycare?

So, if you are thinking of daycare for your dog, here’s why it’s a great choice.

  • Socialization: It’s important for their well-being and overall confidence for dogs to play with other dogs.
  • Mental stimulation: A busy mind keeps dogs out of trouble.
  • Activity: Staying active is an antidote for anxiety and boredom.
  • Exercise: Exercise keeps dogs healthy.
  • Affection and attention: If you have indeed chosen the right daycare your dog will be well taken care of with plenty of affection and attention.
  • Professional handlers: A quality daycare hires only well-trained handlers.

Why Wags to Rich’s?

However, what’s the most important feature of doggy daycare is the expert monitoring, supervision, and planning that goes into making sure that not only dogs have fun, but that they also stay safe. And, as with any exponentially exploding business sector, such as dog daycare, there are the great ones and the not-so-great ones. Here at Wags, we pride ourselves on being one of the great ones!

We welcome you to come see why.

Take a Tour

Arrange an appointment to tour our facility. You’ll be greeted by a friendly, positive staff member who will take you around and show you everything. Any competent daycare should include the following, and at Wags, you’ll find outstanding examples of:

  • Cleanliness: Everything is sparkling clean and fresh smelling – no offensive odors
  • Safety: Electrical devices, cords, and wires are well out of reach
  • Air and ventilation: There are plenty of windows and a clean-air ventilation system
  • Staging area: The entrance/exit is set up so that only one dog can enter and exit at a time
  • Floor surfaces: The floor surfaces are safe and sturdy

Dog Grouping

Dogs in any group situation should be matched according to ability and temperament. Here at Wags, we use a full behavioral assessment to determine the best and safest placement for your dog. Not only do competent daycare facilities do this, but sometimes they may decide that a dog is not ready for the rigors of daycare.

This is one of the strengths of our program. If a dog doesn’t appear to be able to handle our program, we will suggest he undergo some training before going through another assessment.

Health Requirements

All customers are required to show that their pet has been fully inoculated with papers from their respective veterinarians. If any dog shows symptoms, such as diarrhea or vomiting, they can’t come back to daycare until they are fully healed. The same is true for any injuries that prevent them from being able to fully participate in regular playing with other dogs.


Proper staffing is a must for a well-running daycare and a positive experience for your dog. Here are the key questions about staffing. When you tour our facility, check out:

  • How many staff are on duty and watching dogs?
  • Ask about our comprehensive staff training.
  • Ask about it and check out our first aid kit.
  • Talk to some staff members about their passion for dogs

Emergency Plans

No one likes to think about an emergency that puts their precious friend in danger, but the fact is, danger is always a possibility, and a daycare under consideration needs to have a solid emergency plan in place. Beyond basic first aid, the daycare should also have an emergency medical plan for serious injuries and illnesses. It should also have an evacuation plan in case of fire, earthquake, or other natural disasters. In addition, find out how they will contact you in case of any emergency.

Here at Wags, we do indeed have emergency plans in place including our 24/7 security cameras that are always on inside and out. In addition, the staff is well-versed on exit procedures should the need arise.

Behavior Handling

You certainly want to ask, but here is also where your tour comes in with valuable information. Our training and handling techniques are based on rewarding good behavior and avoiding any aversive techniques.

After you’ve gone ahead and enrolled your pup, you’re about to get a highly socialized, physically fit, and boredom-free member of your home.

Dog Park

Now for a discussion on dog parks and how they compare to doggy daycare.

The concept of the dog park sounds wonderful – a place for dogs to run, romp and play with other dogs, and return home exhausted. Good for the owners, and good for the dogs, right? Let’s just say not so fast.

Some facts about dog parks:

  • Everyone thinks that the east and west coasts are the most dog-friendly areas of the country, and it’s true they are the home of many dog parks. However, the parks in this area have been shown to be the dirtiest and most dangerous in the U.S.
  • Like doggy daycares, dog parks have also grown by leaps and bounds. Since 2009, there has been a 40% increase in the number of dog parks across the country.
  • More than 1 in 7 dogs have been attacked in a dog park

Why Not Dog Parks

With the tremendous growth of dog parks comes the ever-growing caution against them by professional trainers. I am one of those trainers. Here are a few of the reasons I am not a fan (to say the least).

Irresponsible Owners

When you come to our daycare, you can bet on the fact that your dog will be cared for by a trained and professional staff who always keep their eye on the dogs. At the dog park:

  • All it takes is one owner with a wild, untrained dog to wreak havoc with the other dogs and set the pack mentality into a dangerous frenzy.
  • Owner social time: at some parks, it’s all about a social gathering for the owners – another instance where dogs are potentially being ignored and serious trouble can ensue.

Socializing, or Not

The big hype about dog parks is that they provide exercise and socialization for dogs. All good, right? Consider this: a young pup or fearful dog is suddenly thrust into a situation with some aggressive dogs. You can bet this puppy or fearful dog just had his socialization quotient destroyed around other dogs.


Most dog parks only have one big area for the dogs to play, which means small dogs, big dogs, timid dogs, young dogs, bully dogs, and old dogs are all in together. At our daycare, scrutiny is paid to which dogs should be grouped with which others, and if any changes need to be made, our pro handlers can make an immediate change.

Injuries and Illnesses

Because dog parks typically don’t have separate enclosures, injury is a constant problem, ranging from relatively minor bite wounds to dogs actually being killed. Chances are most owners are unequipped to deal with a serious injury.

Disease is another major problem. Most parks require all dogs to be immunized, but there is rarely anyone around to check. Kennel cough is a common issue that quickly spreads among dogs. New illnesses are also springing up, such as the gastrointestinal illness that recently started in Michigan and rapidly spread to other states. At Wags, we require immunization records, and we study them to ensure their currency.


Finally, dog parks lack the other professional features of doggy daycare. These include:

  • No staff
  • No behavioral assistance
  • Questionable facilities
  • Often inappropriate handling of dogs by owners


Although I am the owner of a reputable doggy daycare and training facility, Wags to Rich’s, I think I’ve presented enough factual information here so you can make your own decision on whether it’s a daycare or a dog park for your pet.