Finding the right kennel

Vacations, business trips, or personal emergencies will happen…and when they do, you need a good boarding kennel, sometimes called a pet hotel, to park your pooch! A quality kennel can offer your buddy a safe and secure home away from home.

Boarding Kennels–The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Taking care of your dog doesn’t stop when you’re away, but let’s face it; talking to your furry friend over the phone isn’t going to put food in her bowl or give her the attention she needs. You will need help. Family or friends might not have the time or inclination to watch after your dog beyond a walk, water, and food. For long vacations, they may not want the responsibility of caring for your dog at all. A professional kennel or pet sitter may be the answer to both you and your dog’s needs.

Using a boarding kennel will let your pet:

  • avoid the anxiety of airline travel or a long, cooped up ride in your car.
  • have a place where she is welcome and expected (unlike many inns, hotels, and motels that shun or charge exorbitant fees for pets).
  • receive more care and interaction than a friend or neighbor could provide during the day.
  • be watched by staff trained to look for potential medical problems.
  • be safe and sound in an area designed to prevent runaways–even those dogs who are “Houdini” back home.

Kennels can have downsides. These include:

  • stress and anxiety from staying in unfamiliar surroundings.
  • being around other animals that may transmit disease.
  • overcrowding, lack of cleaning, and an untrained staff.
  • inconvenient locations or hours.

Where Are the Good Kennels?

Family, friends, your vet, groomer, or trainer are always a good place to start. Look on the Internet or through the Yellow Pages under “Kennels & Pet Boarding.” The Pet Care Services Association (formerly known as ABKA) may also be able to help steer you to one of their members. Once you have names–even ones you got from dependable sources–don’t forget to do a thorough check of the kennel’s background.

First, find out whether your state, county, or city requires boarding kennel inspections. If so, you should look for or ask to see a current certificate or license.

The Pet Care Services Association (877-570-7788) is a trade association for kennel owners to encourage professional standards in pet care. They require members to subscribe to a code of ethics, and PCSA offers accreditation for facilities that voluntarily agree to an inspection that meets PCSA standards of professionalism, safety, and quality of care.

It’s also a good idea to check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints about a kennel you are considering.

When you have whittled your list down to a select few, call them to see if they have space for your dog to meet your schedule. Pay them a visit and if possible, have your pet spend the day there or even sleep over, especially before a long trip. This could be the best test of whether this kennel (or any kennel) is right for you and your dog.

What should I look for?

When visiting, be sure to see all the places your dog may spend her time, including play areas, walk routes, and of course, kennel space. Your essential checklist should include:

  • Is the kennel clean in both appearance and odor?
  • Are the kennels well-lit and ventilated?
  • Is the temperature controlled in hot or cold weather?
  • Are the employees caring and professional?
  • Is proof of current vaccinations required (rabies, kennel cough, etc.) to protect your dog and others?
  • Does each dog have his own adequately sized indoor-outdoor run or an indoor run and a schedule for exercise? Will your dog’s stay include an individual run (indoor/outdoor or indoor only with scheduled play and exercise time)?
  • Are outdoor-exercise and play areas protected from the elements?
  • Does the kennel area have bedding and raised areas so your dog can rest off the concrete?
  • Are animals boarded separately according to species? (i.e. cats and dogs kept in separate areas)
  • Are the kennels spacious enough for your dog’s size?
  • What is the feeding schedule and are you allowed to supply your dog’s own food?
  • What emergency veterinary services are available?
  • Do they offer grooming, training, bathing or medication administration?
  • What are the fees and how are they determined?

How do I help my dog prepare for boarding?

Does your dog know basic commands like sit or stay? Is he well socialized around other people and pets or does he tend to be aggressive or skittish? These are questions you should be able to answer before deciding to board your pet.

Be sure your dog is up to date on all vaccinations. Order any medications or special-diet food, if needed, and be sure to write out instructions for taking them. Include your vet’s phone number and emergency contact information for you and a local friend or family member. Also let them know of any special concerns, such as epilepsy or fear of loud noises.

When you drop your dog off, review the instructions and contact list with them. Make your goodbyes short and sweet. Long, drawn-out goodbyes could distress your dog. Have a wonderful trip and be secure in knowing your furry friend is in good care and look forward to that wagging tail upon your return.

Source: Adapted from the Humane Society of the United States