The holidays are approaching, and you're sad that you can't take your beloved pet with you on a planned get-a-way. Or maybe you're expecting overnight holiday guests, one of whom may be allergic to animals. Either way, you need a temporary and loving home for your pet where you know he'll get good care and plenty of TLC.
Some General Things to Consider
One option many pet owners use when they go away is a boarding kennel. Boarding kennels come in many shapes and sizes, and there are definite things to look for to ensure your pet gets the best possible care. Be forewarned that looking for and deciding on the best facility for your pet can be a stressful experience for you.
To combat that stress, we have identified 10 things to look for when deciding where to board your pet, but first and foremost is to visit the facility. By doing so, you'll get an eye, nose, and ear full of what the kennel is all about.
But before you make a final decision, do consider your pet's personality. If your pet is shy and not especially social, his time in a boarding facility may be too stressful for him. On the other hand, a social, fun-loving pet would probably love all the interaction and commotion inherent in a kennel.
10 Things to Look For
Size and Staffing:
The more staff on hand, the safer the facility is bound to be. Imagine a play yard filled with 20 dogs and just 2 attendants supervising them. Imagine that a fight breaks out between 2 dogs, and all the other dogs then join in. This is not outside of the realm of possibility, and if it happens, someone's dog is bound to be hurt and, hopefully, it won't be yours.
When you visit the kennel, meet with the director, and ask the following:
- How many dogs are there in the facility daily – boarding and daycare?
- How many kennels are filled on an average day?
- Is there a trainer on staff? How often are they onsite?
- If a trainer is not on staff/onsite, is there one available if need be?
- What training and background do staff have? Do they know how to handle rough playing or fighting dogs?
If a facility doesn't have the following safety measures, it is not a boarding facility for your pet. Make sure of the following:
- Does the establishment appear to commit to safety? Are there signs instructing visitors and staff to conduct themselves safely?
- Are there features such as double gates, tall fencing, or other devices to ensure that dogs can't escape?
- When in the playground, are dogs' tags and collars kept on or removed? Keeping them on can result in injury or worse.
- Is there a staff member onsite at night?
- Are there active fire alarms, and what is the procedure for removing dogs from the facility in case of emergency?
- Does the kennel have security cameras installed and secure locks to prevent illegal entry?
You want to be sure your pet is in a clean, pleasant-smelling environment, another place where your eyes, ears, and nose come in. It's not realistic to expect perfection because, after all, this is a home-away-from-home for animals. However, there should be a clean, fresh odor, and the kennels should look reasonably clean. Here again, is a time to ask questions.
- How often are the kennels cleaned?
- Are they sanitized between dogs to ensure a dog can't pick up anything bacterial or viral from a previous tenant?
- If the place has a heavy smell of feces or urine, the dogs are probably not getting out the way they should be.
You know how it is when you go to someone's house, and it just doesn't feel comfortable in some way? The same is true for a boarding facility. If it doesn't feel right to you, then it won't be suitable for your pet. But some things to consider include:
- Is it too hot? Too cold?
- Are dogs let out to play when temperatures are extreme?
- Is it too loud?
- Are dogs constantly barking?
- Are cats located close to the dogs?
Cats need to be housed in a separate area far enough from the dogs to avoid becoming traumatized by the barking and related noises. If your pet is a cat, make sure this is the case.
Health Care Facilities
Whether you decide to board your pet, you need to ask if an in-house veterinarian can care for sick or injured animals. If there is not, find out where they take an animal who needs emergency care.
Some boarding facilities offer pets star treatment, so if that's what you're looking for, be sure to ask. It's no surprise that you will pay a premium for care at such kennels. Some of the things they may offer include:
- Swimming pools
- Story times
- In kennel, 24/7 camera
- Television in kennel
- Special playgroups
Not many facilities offer these kinds of amenities, so your search will narrow quickly if you are looking for a luxury package.
In addition to learning about staff members' background, education, and training, take a close look at the ones there when you visit. Are they warm, smiling, and friendly? Or do they rush by you without speaking or acknowledging you? See if you can get a handle on staff and management relationships. An apparent positive employee situation will translate to a positive environment for your pet.
The short word on this is: dogs need exercise. Your dog needs bathroom breaks, time to stretch, and interaction with humans. Make sure you ask how playgroup is handled:
- Are there guidelines for how playgroups are handled, and if so, what are they?
- Does staff evaluate a dog before allowing him into a playgroup?
- Can you request that your dog be walked individually by a staff member?
We recommend a boarding kennel that allows you to bring your pet's own food. You want to divide the food out into servings. If he requires medication, be sure to alert a staff member.
Most boarding facilities have very firm requirements about what vaccinations are needed before a pet can be accepted. Be sure you learn what these requirements are, and if he needs any vaccinations, you'll need to make sure he gets them.
Ensuring your pet is properly cared for and comfortable in his home-away-from-home is essential for his health and happiness. In addition, knowing he is in good hands is a giant step of relief for you so you can enjoy the holidays.