What to Look for in a Boarding Kennel
If you’re going on vacation, a boarding kennel provides excellent care for your pet. Today's kennels provide on-site veterinarians, dog runs, and grooming. Many boarding facilities have suites for pets instead of cages.
Luxury dog resorts include large play yards, doggie beds and rooms with TV, radio and room service. Your dog may not care about luxury amenities – and you may not want to pay for them.
Most cities and metro areas offer many boarding kennel options, with over 9,000 facilities throughout the U.S. and Canada. Approximately 30,000,000 pet owners board their dog, cats or other pets each year. You can locate kennels in your area through Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, or recommendations from friends and family.
Contact boarding kennels well in advance of your vacation or trip. During the summer, Christmas and other busy times, kennels may be full and unable to accommodate your pet.
Questions to Ask Before Boarding Your Dog
Before committing to board your dog, even for one day, be sure to check out several boarding facilities.
Some kennels may not allow you to visit the animal boarding area unless it’s empty. The facility’s management may do this to prevent animals from becoming agitated or fearful at the sight of strangers. If a kennel won’t allow you to walk through the housing area, ask if they have a viewing window where you can see the room where your pet will stay.
Ask lots of questions when you visit a boarding kennel. Some facilities won’t accept aggressive or ill-behaved pets, or animals needing medication more than three times per day.
- Are cats and dogs housed in separate areas?
- How often are dogs let out for exercise and elimination?
- Are expected to eliminate in their enclosures instead of outdoors?
- How many pets does one employee care for?
- Will your dog have his own room or suite, or be housed in a crate?
- How big are the suites or crates?
- Are dogs housed by size, medical needs, and temperament?
- Who will administer your dog’s medication?
- Does the kennel offer grooming services?
- Are cats and dogs housed separately?
- Is there a vet on site or on call?
- How often are pets feed? Can owners bring dog food, toys, and treats?
- Is the facility well-lit, spacious and clean?
- What services are included with basic room and board? Which ones cost extra?
Look for an Attentive, Professional Staff
Watch how the employees act when feeding or exercising the dogs. If they seem uninterested or unknowledgeable about their duties, look for another kennel. It's important to have your pup looked after by professional who care about animals. Ask them how they handle emergency situations, or what they'll do if a dog won't eat.
Kennels with a proactive staff should get top priority. A basic but clean boarding kennel with friendly, dedicated people is better for your dog than a fancy pet hotel with a lazy staff.
Let kennel staff know if your dog is high-strung or has special medical needs. Responsible kennels will interview you or have you fill out a questionnaire before boarding the dog. This vetting process eliminates confusion regarding how the dog should be cared for in your absence.
If you want to board more than one dog, ask if the facility can board the dogs in the same area. If that's not possible, ask if the dogs will be in the same group during play or exercise time.
The International Pet Boarding and Services Association (IPBSA) offers a downloadable PDF of questions to ask boarding facility staff during the interview process.
Pros and Cons of Boarding Your Pet
- Will be in a safe, comfortable environment
- Trained staff to take care of medical emergencies
- 24/7 monitoring to prevent accidents and escape attempts
- Food, water, and exercise provided
- Proximity to other dogs, who may have health problems
- Stress of being in an unfamiliar place
Make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations before boarding. Most kennels require all dogs in their care receive vaccinations for canine distemper, rabies, and bordetella at least a week before boarding.
The Physical Layout of the Kennel
Your dog should know basic commands and be somewhat social for a better boarding experience. Most kennels separate dogs from each other to minimize the chance of injury or accidents. Active and social dogs will get a chance to play during daily, supervised outdoor exercise. Socialized kennels, which have an open play and sleeping area, are an option for friendly dogs.
Some kennels offer individual dog runs where your pet can exercise at will. If your dog needs a certain amount of exercise a day, let the staff know. Alternatively, if your dog has a heart condition or other medical conditions that limit his exercise, make arrangements to limit his play time.
Aggressive dogs should have their own area (or atrium) in the boarding kennel to reduce the chance of fights. Nervous or timid dogs should be made as comfortable as possible, with toys, treats and a living space that reminds them of home. If your dog rarely sees anyone but your family and isn't used to seeing or hearing other animals, some kennels can put him in a separate area.
Dropping off Your Dog at the Kennel
A hassle-free transition from home to the kennel reduces stress. Avoid a dramatic, out-of-the-ordinary farewell. Your dog senses your vibe, so remain cheerful. If you have a nervous dog, calming treats with magnesium and chamomile help relieve anxiety.
Check with the staff before you leave to make sure they have your contact information, including your cell, vacation home or hotel phone. Go over any special instructions regarding your pet’s health or medication.