Downtime

I Can’t Afford Doggy Day Care Anymore

What will my pup need if I cut back?

Two smiling dogs.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by GlobalP/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Beast Mode is Slate’s pet advice column. Have a question? Send it to beastmode@slate.com.

Dear Beast Mode,

I have a very sweet 9-month-old dog who has been going to day care five days a week while I’m at work. He loves day care, but I need to tighten my budget a bit. I have some major unplanned expenses coming up, and the $600-a-month fee is steep.

My ideal situation would be to have him do two to three days a week of day care and then stay home alone for the other days. I’m not sure how to transition him from the bathroom-break-every-two-hours routine he gets at day care to having a walker once a day. Additionally, I am worried that reducing his contact with other dogs when he’s still young will inhibit his social development.

Am I wrong to wean him off day care like this?

—Barking on a Budget

Dear Barking on a Budget,

Like moving apartments or renting a jet ski, dogs come with some hidden costs. Whether it’s treats, vet bills, or day care, a furry best friend can set you back a bit. I’ve long tried to find a way to monetize my own dog to offset this, but among her few marketable skills, so far we’ve only been able to capitalize on her ability to provide fodder for this pet advice column. I don’t hold it against her, though, especially considering that writing said column is one of the few marketable skills I can offer myself.

The good news is that dogs are flexible. They may not understand the concept of bills or budgeting, but if they did, they would be happy to make the occasional sacrifice for their humans. (If dogs understood the concept of budgeting, we could also give them little plastic visors and have them crunch numbers for us come tax time. It’d be adorable.) You shouldn’t feel guilty if you have to cut back on doggy day care. Your pup will be just fine.

It’s great that you’ve given your dog plenty of socialization during his most formative years. You’ll still want him to play with other pups, but at 9 months, his behavior and personality are going to stay pretty solid in this regard. A trip to the park before or after work (or both!) should be enough to fill his social schedule, especially when you add in daily group treks with a dog walker.

As long as he’s getting that walk in the middle of the day, you shouldn’t fret about your dog’s bathroom breaks either. Every two hours is amazing (and generous) for young pups, but a 9-month-old will be able to hold it for longer without issue.

It’s admirable that you want to provide him with as much day care as possible, but don’t put yourself in dire financial straits over it. Besides the park and daily walks, there are plenty of other ways to get your pooch to burn off some energy with his peers. Dog training classes aren’t free, but they’re cheaper than day care and will get you involved too. Many training companies also offer group play date sessions (often for a fraction of what a class costs), and these will offer him a day care–like environment at a different time of day.

You’re doing great, and your pup is lucky to have such a considerate human. He will be thrilled to see you after work, wherever he may be. That’s his full-time job.