Not everyone is a dog person, but people who have dogs tend to spoil them rotten. Food, toys, beds, and grooming can all get expensive. Not to mention boarding, dog walkers, and daycare for those who work long hours and feel like their dog needs extra exercise and stimulation.
Despite all the love, energy, and devotion you pour into making your dog’s life as enriching and full-filling as possible, do you ever feel like they act weird after daycare? Whether they are mad, sad, distant, quiet, or ignoring you, it is frustrating when your best friend does not seem as happy to see you as you are to see them.
So why is your dog acting weird after daycare?
The most likely reason your dog acts weird after daycare is because they are tired and they missed you. Doggy daycare can be incredibly overstimulating for dogs, both mentally and physically. They also might act weird because they do not like daycare, have outgrown it, or had a bad experience.
So let’s figure out what exactly is making your dog act weird after daycare and if you should be worried about their strange behavior. You can decide whether or not daycare is a good option for your pooch or if you need to look into other solutions to help keep your dog happy and fulfilled without using daycare.
Why Is My Dog Acting Weird After Daycare?
Are you expecting your dog to be incredibly excited to see you after you pick them up after a long day at daycare? Maybe like this dog greeting their owner after they were gone on vacation?
However, despite your expectations of a grand reunion at the end of the day, instead, they act weird around you. They might be quiet, sad, distant, mad, or ignore you. For the most part, dogs are probably acting dramatic after daycare because they are as tired as you are after a long day at work.
I used to own and manage a dog daycare and I can tell you how physically and mentally exhausting it can be for dogs. While some dogs seem to handle the experience with grace, others might play incredibly hard and come home exhausted. Although exhaustion is not the only reason your dog might act weird after daycare. Let’s look at 7 reasons why your dog acts weird after daycare.
Reason 1: Your Dog Missed You
Your dog could be acting weird after daycare because they missed you. They might manifest that feeling by seeming quiet, sad, or mad after you pick them up after a long day. In reality, they are quietly relieved to be with you, not suddenly ignoring you.
Some dogs might miss you more than others because they have separation anxiety. Your dog will probably show other symptoms of separation anxiety at daycare and a knowledgeable employee should share any concerns with you. Besides acting weird after daycare, other symptoms of separation anxiety include pacing, excessive howling or barking, destruction, and accidents.
That being said, for those who work full time and have dogs that have separation anxiety, sometimes daycare can be a good choice if your dog cannot be left alone all day. But only if the dog enjoys other dogs and strangers, otherwise daycare can cause them to be more stressed.
Reason 2: You Are Reinforcing It
Anyone who has an overexcited dog understands the need for training good relaxation protocol. By starting to reward your dog when they are already relaxed, they are conditioned to automatically want to be calm. This is a great training tool for dogs that are easily excitable and display undesirable behaviors like jumping or getting into the trash.
Here is a great video to help get you started on reinforcing relaxation.
If your dog acts weird after daycare by seeming distant or sad, you might have done a really good job training them to act calm instead of overly excited. They have been thoroughly reinforced for being relaxed and do not act wild when you pick them up after daycare.
Reason 3: Your Dog Is Tired And Needs A Nap
On average, dogs sleep 12-14 hours a day and generally take a lot of naps throughout the day. However, at daycare, they might be playing with other dogs all day. Physically that wears them out and they act weird after daycare because they are too tired to act normal. After a long day of visiting new people and playing with new dogs, they are exhausted.
Furthermore, a lot of dogs, especially young dogs, and puppies, have a hard time learning when to nap. It is the same reason puppies can be so difficult sometimes. They will keep playing allowing themselves to get cranky and tired. Think of it like a human toddler who refuses to nap and will throw a tantrum instead of sleeping.
However, eventually, your dog will need to crash, and where is the fun of sleeping at daycare when there are dogs that want to play? If your dog seems quiet or sad after daycare, they probably might miss their canine buddies and are in desperate need of a nap. Playing all day physically wears them out and the best way to recover is to be weird and go straight to bed after daycare.
Reason 4: Your Dog Is Overstimulated
Daycare does not only physically wear out dogs, but mentally wears them out. Your dog’s weird aloofness or moodiness after daycare could be a result of them simply being mentally frazzled.
Anyone who has ever traveled with a dog before probably knows how new situations, dogs, and people can be mentally taxing on even the most well-socialized dog. A dog who was well socialized as a puppy is going to have the confidence to handle daycare, but despite this, the new experience of navigating and meeting new friends can cause them to be overstimulated.
If your dog gets overstimulated easily, this video might help you with some tips to help redirect and calm them down.
A good daycare should give your dog proper breaks from playing too much as well as know when they are starting to become mentally fatigued. Proper dog daycare management will make sure your dog does not get too tired, mentally or physically, so they do not act weird after daycare.
Reason 5: Your Dog Has Outgrown Daycare
When I ran my daycare, I noticed some of the more mature dogs seemed to age at daycare. They did not have the crazy energy that younger dogs had and were cranky when younger dogs pushed their boundaries. This dog might be acting weird after daycare because they are grumpy about going to daycare.
Compare daycare to nightclubs. In your early 20s, it might be fun to go out every single night. By your late 20s, it might be a weekly occurrence. By the time you are in your 30s or have a family, going out to nightclubs is a special occasion thing. Some dogs feel the same about daycare.
Dogs who have grown out of their puppy and adolescence years still have the energy to burn off, but their idea of fun is a walk with their human, not playing with a bunch of strange dogs. Older dogs that act weird after daycare might not enjoy being there as long or want to go as often and could be mad or grumpy.
Reason 6: Your Dog Does Not Like Daycare
Some dogs simply do not like other dogs, so the idea of going somewhere like a dog park or daycare is not fun for them. When they get home they will have to spend the whole day stressed dealing with a situation that they did not enjoy. If your dog does not enjoy the company of other dogs, of course, they will act weird after daycare. They are so exhausted from being stressed all day, that they might ignore you, be sad, or act distant.
While socializing your dog throughout their puppyhood and adolescence helps create a happy confident adult who can easily handle new experiences, it does not guarantee your dog will like daycare or like being around other dogs. Each dog’s personality is unique and their distaste for other dogs could stem from a bad experience or they could be a breed that does not always get along with other dogs.
Plus any breed that is getting older has less patience for younger dogs’ shenanigans. Once they start disliking playing with other dogs, they will act weird after daycare like the grumpy dogs in this video compilation.
Reason 7: Your Dog Had A Bad Experience
Bad experiences come in all shapes and sizes, literally. If your dog comes home from daycare acting weird, they could have had an unpleasant experience. Bad experiences at daycare include a dog fight (even if they were not directly involved it can be traumatizing), being injured like a big dog stepping on a little dog, or running too hard and injuring themselves.
There can be a general atmosphere of chaos at dog daycare and even appropriate play with other dogs can get rough and they can easily become injured or scared. Your dog could come home after daycare acting nervous, distant, or sad.
If your dog had a bad experience at daycare and is acting weird give them time to heal emotionally. If they are showing signs of injury like a puncture wound, limping, or yelping when you pet them, make sure to go to a veterinarian. Dog bites can easily become infected and your vet can prescribe antibiotics and pain medication.
Should You Be Worried?
It is okay to be concerned about your dog when they are acting weird after daycare. Especially when their normal personality is replaced by a demure quiet, sad, distant, or mad dog.
A dog acting weird after daycare is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if they are physically or mentally overstimulated and simply need a nice nap. A good daycare will even manage dogs and give them breaks from playing and help dogs from becoming too tired or overstimulated.
However, if your dog is acting weird because they came home with a puncture wound or is limping, make an appointment with your veterinarian to make sure the injury is too serious.
What Can You Do If Your Dog Is Weird After Daycare
Furthermore, if daycare is causing your dog to act weird and affecting their general behavior because they do not like it or are aging out, daycare might not be a good fit. Daycare might not only affect your dog’s behavior when interacting with you but can also shape their behavior so they act inappropriately or weirdly around other dogs. This could include over-exuberance or fearfulness around new dogs.
If you think daycare is not the best option for your dog, please reconsider long days at daycare and explore the following options.
Do Not Take Your Dog To Daycare As Often
While it is tempting to drop your dog off at daycare for full days every day you work, your dog might not have as much fun as you think they are, which is why they are acting weird.
When I ran a daycare, I observed that the dogs that only came a couple of days a week for around 4 hours a day seemed to have the best time. They never got too exhausted or picked up bad habits. Most importantly, they always went home happy and excited with their owners.
Dogs that came every day from open to close were exhausted by the time they went home, mostly from mental stimulation. So if your dog acts weird when they come home from daycare consider taking them less.
Stop Going To Daycare
If taking your dog to daycare less does not help your dog’s weird behavior after daycare, they might just not like daycare. It is not for every dog.
Be an advocate for your dog and do not force them to go to daycare. We are our dogs’ favorite person and we do not want to betray their trust by forcing them to be unnecessarily uncomfortable or unhappy at daycare.
Make More Time For Your Dog
Dogs are a big responsibility and sometimes you have to make sacrifices to make their life a little better. This means going for walks in bad weather and understanding that they are acting weird after daycare because they do not like it.
Instead of taking them to daycare, get up early or come home on your lunch break to take them for a walk.
To help wear your dog out without going to daycare, allow them to take you on a sniffari!
Hire A Dog Walker
Daycare is very convenient for people who work long hours and do not have time to take their dogs on bathroom breaks or have long stressful hours at work.
If you are one of those people but your dog acts weird after daycare, you can still make a life with a dog work. Consider hiring a dog walker to help so your dog can get out for walks but does have to be fearful or uncomfortable at daycare.
Doggy daycare can be a great solution to dealing with the dichotomy of having a dog while maintaining a full-time job. But it is not always a good fit for every dog.
If your dog acts weird after daycare because they are mentally or physically tired, they probably need a good nap to help recuperate and get back to their normal self.
However, if your dog acts weird after daycare because they are aging out of it, does not like the chaotic atmosphere, or does not like other dogs, you might want to consider a different solution. Every dog is unique and has their personality and if they are sad, mad, distant, quiet, and weird after daycare, it could be because it is not a good fit for them.
To help your dog live their best life, reconsider if daycare is the best option for them and try making more time for them or hiring a dog-walker. Then they can be happy from puppyhood well into their senior days!