At some point in your dog’s life you’re going to find yourself looking for a boarding kennel because, unfortunately, dog’s aren’t good travel companions for trips to Cabo or a Mediterranean cruise. I know I would love to be that person who has photos of their dog in front of the Eiffel Tower and on the Great Wall but in reality Wally (and your dog) will sometimes have to take a staycation.
However, all boarding kennels are not created equal, so here are some tips I’ve come up with as both a dog owner and someone who has worked in a boarding kennel.
1. What’s the best boarding scenario for your dog?
When it comes to boarding you have a lot of options: house sitter, family/friends, Vet clinics, and commercial kennels ranging from 10 to 250 boarders. The ideal solution is to have someone come to your house to care for the dog and second best would be to leave them with a friend or family member you trust. If those aren’t viable options you could board at a Vet clinic or commercial kennel, but these are the most stressful options for your dog.
2. If you choose a kennel, choose one that will be the least stressful for your dog.
Some dogs have no problem adjusting to the cacophony and chaos of strange barking dogs. They are laid back enough that an aggressive dog lunging at a kennel door won’t ruffle their feathers. On the other hand if your dog would become stressed to the point of cracking (possibly biting or developing a behavior problem) in a situation like this, you don’t want to board here. If your dog tends to be fearful it would be a better idea to place him in a smaller kennel with less noise and chaos. This is both better for your dog and better for the kennel employees, because a fearful dog having a meltdown is much more likely to bite someone.
3. Whatever you choose, inspect it!
Don’t just rely on Yelp or a friend’s personal experience (although those are great places to start). Visit the kennel during working hours and request a full tour. If they aren’t willing to provide you a tour then look somewhere else. The kennel should be clean, well-maintained, and well-lit. Observe the staff with the dogs to make sure they interact with the dogs in a manner with which you are comfortable. If you’re all about operant conditioning but the kennel has a Cesar Millan philosophy you may not like how your dog is treated. Obviously the dogs should never be hurt or abused in any way and they should appear to be in good condition, mentally and physically.
4. Make sure your dog is UTD on shots, especially rabies.
Most kennels will require this anyway, but the last thing you want is for your dog to bite someone and be threatened with euthanasia.
5. Provide your own dog food and dog bed.
The less things change, the better off your dog will be. His own food means less chance of diarrhea and his own bed means he’ll be more comfortable and comforted. Most dogs won’t play with or chew on toys (environment is too stimulating), so don’t bother to bring those. Also don’t bother with treats since most kennels are too busy to remember a non-crucial item on a daily basis.
6. If your dog requires medication, provide explicit instructions.
Kennel employees are not Veterinarians, and in come cases they may not have a strong grasp of the English language. Keep it simple and straight forward. If you have provided the medication in the form of a treat make sure they know that it is medication and not simply a treat. Treats are not a priority when you have to care for 100 dogs, but meds are always a priority.
7. If your dog requires supplements, pre-mix them with his food.
This makes life a lot easier for the employees and ensures your dog gets exactly what he should. Make one baggie per meal with the food and supplements mixed in, label with “Breakfast” or “Dinner” and indicate if water should be added.
8. Make sure you got what you paid for.
Did your dog actually get walked everyday, like you requested and paid for? Did he get a Kong put in his kennel, like you requested and paid for? Obviously you’ll have to take the staff’s word for it, but it’s not uncommon for a kennel to get so busy that these things get overlooked.
9. If you and your dog didn’t love it, don’t go back!
You’re placing a lot of trust in these people to take care of your dog so if you had any doubts about their service or honesty then find a new place. You always have more options.