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Day Care: Who Gets to Play?

Two dogs


  • 8 - 16 weeks is the biggest window for social learning in a dog's life.

  • It's also the age of maximum vulnerability to infectious diseases. 

  • These facts create a dilemma: should you isolate to protect health, or socialize for confidence and resilience? 

We do everything possible to protect every puppy's health while providing safe exercise, care and social experiences, but it's not possible to eliminate all risks. Each puppy's vulnerability is determined by many variables. You should consult with your vet, trainer and High Tails when deciding. 

Adolescent Dogs

  • Just like kids, dogs go through an adolescent developmental period between the end of puppyhood at 16 weeks or so, until maturity.

  • Hormones play an out-sized role during this time. (Think teenagers!)

  • The current practice of spaying or neutering dogs before they are mature, once thought to be entirely beneficial, has been revealed as problematic in some ways. In the Roaring Fork Valley at this time (2020) only Red Hill Animal Health Center in Carbondale offers the more limited "gonad sparing" sterilization options of vasectomy, hysterectomy, or tubal ligation. 

  • Behavioral effects of sex hormones are most pronounced during adolescence. Most dogs never develop "problems" that affect the social group - but some do.

  • Occasionally a well socialized and cooperative puppy starts to act out with bullying, possessiveness or competitiveness that affect the safety and enjoyment of the other dogs. When this happens, we suspend day care until maturity and training improve the behavior.

  • We do not recommend - and certainly do not require - spaying or neutering as a solution to development issues. We can suggest management and training strategies to make her adolescence less stressful for everyone. 

Adult Dogs

  • Requirements for adult dogs are that they be sociable and friendly with other dogs and responsive to human direction, be healthy and fit enough to engage in physical play that may be rough and tumble, and that they not engage in disruptive behavior, such as non-stop barking, urine marking or escape attempts.

  • Due to state law, owners must provide the date and veterinarian or clinic of the dog's most recent rabies vaccination, positive titer or medical exemption. 

  • Because opinions differ among veterinarians as to best practices in immunization (other than rabies), we leave vaccination booster schedules up to you and your vet.

  • While appropriately behaved intact dogs are welcome, females cannot come during their estrus cycle (which usually lasts about three weeks). 

  • Dogs should NOT come to day care when they are unwell, recovering from surgery or affected by any other condition that may cause pain or discomfort.

  • Sometimes dogs who have loved play group as youngsters eventually outgrow them. We will tell you if we see this happening.

Older Dogs, Disabled Dogs

  • Within the limitations of our physical facilities, we will make every effort to accommodate the special needs of every dog. Please tell us about them when you make your dog's reservation!

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