As much as we like to take our furry pals everywhere with us, there are times when they just can’t come along. Choosing the right kennel for your dog is important, as you want the most stress-free situation for both you and your dog. After all, you can’t enjoy your vacation if you’re worried that your dog is stressed or upset.
Here are a few basic guidelines for choosing the right boarding kennel.
At-Home Pet Sitting
How long will you be away? Is your dog housebroken? Do you want to hire an in-home pet sitter or would you rather take your dog to a boarding facility? Every dog is different, and will react differently to a new situation. If you’re planning to be gone for a quick overnight trip, one of the best choices is to have a friend or family member stay overnight at your house and keep your dog company. Another option is to hire a licensed, bonded pet sitter to drop by and feed and walk your dog.
Make sure your house has been “puppy proofed” and there are no unsafe areas for your dog to get into. We only allow our dog access to the dining room with his bed and food/water, which also has a pet door to go outside to the bathroom. This way he can sleep indoors on his bed, but doesn’t have full run of the house while we’re gone. If choosing a licensed, bonded pet-sitter, make sure to check their references and have them drop by for a supervised “meet & greet” between the sitter and your dog, just to make sure they will get along well.
Boarding Kennel Evaluation
When selecting a boarding kennel, make sure you take a tour of the facility without your dog first. If the kennel refuses to give you a tour, turn around and walk out. A good boarding kennel is well-lit, and should not have a heavy dog odor. Look around at the dog runs to see if they are dry, clean, and free of waste. Do the dogs have access to water at all times?
Does the kennel offer “playtime” or walking? We pay the extra $5 a day to make sure our dog gets out to run around in the large grassy area instead of being in the dog run the entire stay. This way he gets a little bit of extra interaction, and peace of mind for us.
Dog run or “suite”? Our dog is loyally potty trained, and has never had an accident in the house. Many of the boarding facilities we looked at were indoor-only “doggy hotels” where the dog stayed in a room the entire time. The dogs are expected to go to the bathroom in that same room, which I knew would make our German Shepherd stressed and uncomfortable. Instead we chose a dog run where he would be able to get outside to potty when he needs to.
Your Food or Theirs?
In searching for a kennel, I was surprised at the number of places that would not feed your dog’s current food. Instead they say something like, “Your dog will eat our high-quality kibble during his visit.” It’s better to find a place that will feed your dog’s current food. Boarding is already a stressor, and the last thing your dog needs on top of that is stomach upset from switching food without a transition period. Some facilities will charge a fee for feeding your dog’s food. What? I’m providing his food AND I have to pay you for that extra? We were lucky enough to find a great boarding kennel that requires you bring your dog’s food with you for his stay — and no extra charge for feeding him his own food.
Keep the First Stay Short
If you’re trying out a new boarding kennel, try to arrange it so your dog can do an overnight “trial run” before booking the kennel for a longer stay. This gives your dog a chance to get accustomed to the new environment in smaller steps. Years ago I knew I had found a great kennel when on our next visit, my dogs immediately ran through the swinging door in their office and didn’t even bother to say goodbye to me!
Make It Fun!
Speaking of goodbyes, don’t make yours a dramatic, teary event when it’s time to drop your dog off at the kennel. All goodbyes, even when leaving the house for work in the morning, should be simple, non-excited, and short. I use a “see ya later, pal” with little emotion, and head out the door. While this sounds a bit cold, it really is a good way to keep the stress level down for your dog. Remember to use a happy, cheerful voice – after all, you’ve found a great kennel or sitter, right? Relax!