Though it can be hard to leave your best friend behind when traveling, a good boarding house can provide dogs with more exercise and attention than most owners have time to provide at home. Lots of play and socializing at kennels helps to minimize the stress that many dogs feel while apart from their owners.
Before choosing a boarding option, consider these questions and you’ll leave town feeling confident that your dog is in good hands. If a kennel is not the right choice for your dog, you also have the option to book a responsible pet sitter.
Does the kennel have a good reputation?
Some sites recommend checking the yellow pages for kennels, but that advice is both outdated and, well, kind of a crapshoot. There is simply no way to tell how well a kennel takes care of dogs by looking at an advertisement.
Start off by asking dog-owning friends about their experiences with boarding dogs. Your vet will also likely be able to recommend a trusted kennel. When you’ve found a place that you’re interested in, take a look at review sites to see what previous customers have had to say. Online reviews should generally be taken with a grain of salt but they can be useful for getting a quick overall impression of a kennel’s reliability.
What do the facilities look like?
Ask to take a tour of the boarding grounds. Take a look at where your dog would be sleeping, eating, and playing. Checking out the boarding facility firsthand is the best way to get a good impression of where your dog will be staying and how he will be treated. Ask yourself a few key questions. Does the kennel look and smell clean? Does the kennel staff seem caring and knowledgeable? Do the dogs look happy?
How much exercise and playtime do the dogs get?
Some dogs are content to lie around the house for much of the day with a few bathroom breaks here and there, while others are accustomed to long walks and lots of playtime. Find out how much outdoor time dogs receive at the boarding facility and how it is structured.
Are the dogs walked or just roaming around in off leash areas? Does boarding staff engage dogs in games, or are they let loose to socialize with each other? You know your dog’s needs and habits better than anyone, so don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions to make sure the kennel you’re checking out will be a good fit.
What are the kennel’s policies for boarding dogs?
At a kennel, your pup could be exposed a lot of other dogs. You’ll want to choose a place that screens dogs to make sure they won’t be a danger to others. Most kennels require that boarded dogs show proof of current vaccinations. Some boarding houses insist that dogs pass a behavior evaluation to make sure that are not overly aggressive.
Though scheduling a pre-screening for your dog in advance of your trip can be bit of a hassle, it will afford you piece of mind knowing that the kennel takes the safety of its canine lodgers seriously.
Let the boarding staff know about your dog’s regular eating habits. Many kennels will ask that you bring in your dog’s regular food to avoid digestive issues that may arise with a sudden change in diet. Your dog may feel more comfortable with its own bedding and a few of its toys around, and most kennels will be happy to accommodate that, but make sure to inquire ahead of time.
What happens in the case of an emergency?
Kennel staff should be trained to notice if a dog is acting strangely, not eating its food, or not getting along well with certain dogs. A certain amount of troubleshooting is routine and totally manageable for professional kennels.
Ask about where the boarding facility takes dogs to be treated if they become sick or injured. If you would prefer that your dog to be taken to your regular vet in the case of an emergency, make sure to provide the kennel with your vet’s contact number and your insurance information as well as a friend or relative who could serve as a local emergency contact.
If your dog takes medicine, make sure to provide the boarders with enough doses to last through the duration of the trip as well as detailed instructions about how often and when it should be taken.
What if kennel boarding isn’t right for your dog?
If you’ve looked around and you’re still nervous about leaving your dog at a boarding facility, or if you’re worried that your dog’s personality wouldn’t work in a kennel environment, there are other options to consider.
Try looking for a pet sitter. Ask around to see if you know anyone who would be able to watch your dog in your own home. Try luring your college-aged nephew into dog sitting for a week with the promise of cable TV and a well-stocked fridge. Some dog-owning friends might have no problem making room for one more for a few days.
There are also a variety of websites, like Dog Vacay, that help match dog sitters with owners. These sites often feature detailed descriptions of the sitter’s home environment, yard size, and reviews from previous clients.
When your dog is a part of the family, leaving them in someone else’s care is a decision not to be taken lightly. With some thoughtful pre-planning, you’ll return to a dog that is happy, healthy, and wagging its tail to welcome you home.