Overnight stays away from home can be stressful for your dog — and for you. The right boarding facility can make all the difference; a good kennel not only allays everyone’s anxiety but can also turn your dog’s stay into an enjoyable experience for pets and people alike. Finding the right kennel is as simple as asking the right questions. There are a few crucial things to know before you leave your dog overnight — or longer. Here’s what I look for in a good kennel.
Start your inquiry into any new boarding facility by asking about vaccinations. The kennel should require appropriate vaccinations, including Bordetella (kennel cough), for all dogs. (Make sure, as well, that your dog’s vaccinations are up-to-date before you drop him off for his stay.)
Next, ask to see the physical layout. A facility with indoor/outdoor dog runs allows your dog to be outside periodically during the day, but also offers protection from heat and cold. A boarding facility with only indoor kennels should provide access to outdoor runs or offer ample walks during the day, while outside areas should provide shade and protection from rain and snow. Air conditioning is a must in warmer climates, especially for heat-intolerant dogs such as Bulldogs. In cold weather, the facility must be adequately heated; this is especially important for small dogs, short haired dogs and elderly dogs who may be more affected by cooler temperatures.
The facility should be disinfected daily and should have proper ventilation to promote airflow and discourage odors. The dogs should always have a place to lie down, either on a raised bed or on clean, soft bedding. Ask for a tour of the facilities, so you can evaluate overall cleanliness and comfort of the pets currently boarding. If the management hesitates or refuses, walk away.
Dogs need mental and physical stimulation throughout the day. A good boarding facility will provide opportunities for dogs to engage both mind and body in different activities, including food puzzles, walks, and playtime with staff and other dogs. If your dog is mainly people-oriented, it’s important that he receive individual attention from the kennel’s staff. Talk with the staff about the different types of interaction your dog will have during his day.
Dogs who enjoy playing with other canines do well in a boarding situation with opportunities for doggy play during the day, but this playtime should be segregated by dog size. Although some big and small dogs can get along together, there is a risk of predatory drift or inadvertent injury when larger and smaller dogs share space. Ask about how dogs are grouped together in communal living spaces or for playtime.
While you hate to think that anything would go wrong while your dog is staying at the kennel, it is crucial that you ask how the facility handles medical emergencies. Does the kennel have a veterinarian on call, or are sick or injured pets taken elsewhere for care? If you want your dog to see only his veterinarian, look for a kennel that will take your dog to your specific vet if an emergency arises during your vet's office hours. If you may be unreachable during an emergency, make sure to leave the name and number of someone you trust to make decisions about your dog's medical care. It’s also good to ask about the facility’s insurance — some places do not carry any, and you will be asked to sign a waiver agreeing to cover any needed medical care that results from an incident at the facility.
If your pet has ongoing medical needs, be sure that the facility has an organized system for delivering medications or treatments at the proper time. Certain facilities will charge for extra care, so be sure to ask beforehand to avoid surprises when you return. In the same way, if your pet requires any other extra services, such as training, bathing or grooming, opt for a boarding facility able to provide for these needs while you’re away.
Finally, take the time to do a background check. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been complaints against a kennel, and find out how it has done on any required city or state health inspections. Online customer reviews can also be helpful if you are interested in other pet owners’ experiences with a facility.