Does “Staff to Dog Ratio” Really Matter?

a corgi next to a woman on a turf field.

When shopping for the right place to provide care for your pet, it can be easy to get bogged down in all the language and technical terms that may be thrown at you. The process of finding the right facility can be stressful and time-consuming. One example of the type of language you’ll hear often is when daycare and boarding facilities talk about their “staff to dog ratio.” As a consumer, it can be easy to wonder, what does this mean? And how much does it really matter?

Thinking about it simply, one would assume that a facility that has ten dogs per one person will provide better care for your dog than a facility that operates with a fifteen-to-one ratio, but, ultimately, it’s much more complex than that. Those numbers are often arbitrarily chosen to make the facility sound safer. Ultimately, staff-to-dog ratios depend on the temperament of the dogs and the qualifications of the handlers monitoring the groups. For example, one person with just five dogs sounds great. But, if those dogs aren’t suited for a group play environment, the handler will end up dealing with a much more chaotic space that contains a much higher risk of incident. Oppose that to a well-trained handler who is monitoring 100 dogs, all of whom have been carefully assessed, and have an appropriate temperament for group play. That yard, despite having a larger ratio of dogs to handlers, will be under control and filled with dogs who are playing and interacting appropriately.

Often facilities will utilize this type of language as a marketing ploy to disguise their staff’s lack of training and certification. A handler who has been well trained in observing body language and proper preventative and intervention techniques, who has a group of dogs that have been carefully curated and assessed by qualified trainers, will be able to safely monitor and control a much larger group of dogs.
At Bark U, every dog that comes into our facility is first assessed by one of our Certified Professional Dog Trainers in a carefully controlled environment. This is to see how well they respond to corrections from other dogs, what type of energy they bring into a space, and how responsive they are to verbal and physical cues from our handlers. Our handlers are also incredibly well-trained in play management, prevention, and intervention. Each of them understands how to diffuse a conflict in the yard before it starts by reading the body language, listening to audible cues, and being proactive in how they are organizing and controlling the space. This combination of well-curated dogs and well-trained staff is ultimately more important than any randomly chosen ratio and should be more what you are looking for when choosing a dog care facility.

If the place you are boarding only boasts about the number of staff members and not about the qualifications of their team and the thoroughness of their temperament assessment process for group play, that should be a big red flag for you to keep shopping. In the true spirit of “quality over quantity,” what you should be looking for is a facility that has well qualified trainers and handlers who will put the time and energy required into getting to know your dog, their individual needs, and their behaviors. Our incredibly well-trained staff is why we can provide the level of care that we do. How many of us are here at a time won’t, and shouldn’t change anything about the quality of care your pet will receive!
Be sure to schedule your Temperament Assessment with one of our certified trainers today!

If you’re interested in having your dog enroll in Bark U – Register here and request a temperament assessment. To learn more about our other services, visit us online or call us at 215-486-2200 today!

By Alex Cost
Bark U’s Kennel Supervisor