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Pet care centers come in all shapes and sizes so how do you decide which one is best for your dog?  Keep in mind the adage, “Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover” and follow our four-step process to narrow your search to find the great pet care centers.

Step 1: Know What Your Pet Enjoys: List the activities your dog enjoys.  Pet care centers offer a wide range of options and you want to make sure you find one that offers activities your pet enjoys. Your list might include things like trail walks, chasing a ball, playing off-leash with other dogs, swimming, dog sports such as agility, obedience, nosework, etc., lounging on soft comfortable bedding, or cuddling with humans.

Step 2: Know What Pet Centers are Available:  List all the possible centers in your area that offer the services your dog enjoys.  Don’t discount a facility because it might be smaller than others. Likewise, don’t focus only on large facilities that offer every amenity possible.  Right now, your criteria is whether or not the center offers activities your dog needs and enjoys. Your list may likely include a wide range of potential types of facilities such as: national brand big box stores, franchises or multi-location chains, large independent pet centers, small privately owned centers and home-based operators.


Any of these pet care centers can provide excellent pet care.  But as you move to Step 3 you will learn to distinguish good quality pet care from great quality pet care.  Great care is not a result of marketing budget, variety of amenities or money spent on a building.  High quality pet care comes down to the people that own, manage, and work with your pet.  Think of narrowing your search the same way you would if selecting a daycare for your child.  You want a licensed business run by professional staff with a passion for dogs.

Step 3: Identify Professional Pet Care Centers:  Make sure the pet care center is operating legally.  You may be surprised that there are a small percentage of pet care businesses that are not legal business operators.  You don’t want to leave your dog with anyone that is willing to cut corners.  Professional pet care centers will comply with local licensing and zoning requirements and maintain business and liability insurance.  Check with your local government offices to ensure the pet care center you want to use is a legitimate business in your county.


Legal establishment of the pet care center is only one way to identify professional pet care centers.  Because there is no standardization of care for pet care centers, you will also want to focus on the background and professional involvement of the pet care owner and staff.  Narrow your list by reviewing the backgrounds of the management team.  Review websites looking for:

--Business owners with a strong background working with pets or education in pet care  (look for information that includes more than just a love of dogs or working with their own family pets. You want someone with a wide range of knowledge or who has some pet education outside of just on the job training).

--Content that is focused on providing quality care (look for information discussing the needs of the pet)

--Information about key staff members including their backgrounds and training (the pet care industry is a service based industry and your dog’s care is only as good as the people watching him. You want to know a little about the people.  Information about continuing education for the staff is a huge plus!)

--Industry involvement through membership in trade and professional organizations (look for centers affiliated with other pet care industries and resources or who regularly attend educational events.)

Step 4: Take a Tour:  Now that your list is narrowed down it’s time to plan onsite visits.  Tour policies will vary by pet center so check the website or call to discuss scheduling a visit.  Before you go make a list of questions that will help you finalize your selection.  See page three of this handout for some questions to ask and observations to make during your visit.

Remember: Don’t judge a book by its cover! It’s easy to be wowed with chandeliers and nice amenities, but these are not as important to your dog as the people they spend time with when not at home.  In selecting the right pet care center for your dog look for quality within the pages and not just a pretty eye-catching cover.

Using this four step process you’ll be able to distinguish the good pet care centers from the great pet care centers. You’ll be able to leave your pet without worry and return home to a safe and happy dog!

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