Dog Kennels: When You Can’t Bring Them With You

Large group of dogs (about 15) milling around in outside playlot of doggie day care facility. Some dogs are looking in the camera. Breeds: "Brittany Spaniel" center looking in camera in center; "Beagle" on left; "Labrador" in middle

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As much as you might like to bring your dog on your travels, sometimes it’s just not possible or practical. And you may have used up all your pet-sitting favors from family and friends. It might be time to go shopping for dog kennels.

As with other travel arrangements, planning in advance is the key to success in making sure the kennel is a good fit for your best friend. The options and prices vary from spa-like to spartan, so take the time to get references and visit the place.

Here are a few things to do and think about when choosing a dog kennel for your best furry friend.

Go On A Dog Kennel Tour

Dog daycare owners playing with dogs

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Looking at pictures and online reviews can help you narrow down which kennels you want to consider, but that’s no substitute for an in-person visit.

Take a tour of the facilities at the kennels you’ve got on your shortlist. You’ll be able to better evaluate how things run there on a day-to-day basis, and that will help you determine if it’s somewhere your dog would be comfortable staying for the duration of your trip.

Here are a few key signals to look for that separate good kennels from bad:

  • Cleanliness. It must smell and look clean–not just in the areas where your dog will stay, but also in play areas and other places your dog will go.
  • Ventilation. Is the air fresh, or is there a stale-air smell?
  • Roominess. The play area should be large enough for many dogs, since too little space can cause dogs to behave aggressively.
  • Comfortable bedding. The kennel may ask you to bring your dog’s own bed, but make sure they also have enough bedding if they need to change it due to spills or accidents.
  • Interactions among dogs. Watch how the staff handles dogs of varying sizes; some kennels separate smaller dogs from larger ones so the small ones won’t feel overpowered. This is usually a good thing. Observe how the dogs staying at the kennel interact.
  • Your dog’s response. Just like people entering a not-so-clean hotel or an uncomfortable room, dogs can show their displeasure through agitation or restlessness. Bring your dog on the tour and see how they handle it. Trust your own gut instinct, and your dog’s, too.

Evaluate The Contenders

Young woman in dog shelter playing with dogs an choosing which one to adobt.

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Now that you’ve toured the facilities and narrowed the decision to a few prospects, there are a few other things to consider that will help you decide on the dog kennel that’s right for your pooch.

If a couple of kennels seem to be in tip-top shape, here are several other factors can help you make your choice:

  • Ask for references and call them. Get the opinion of several dog owners, preferably those whose pets vary in size and personality. Also, you might want to request recent inspection records to make sure the kennel regularly meets state standards for safety and hygiene.
  • Make sure the kennel has a relationship with a veterinarian. Alternatively, see if the staff is willing to work with your own vet, particularly if you have a dog with special medical needs.
  • Observe how staff members interact with and talk about the dogs. Warning bells should sound if they speak in a negative way about any of the dogs or handle the dogs roughly.

What A Good Dog Kennel Must Provide

Saint Bernard dog lying in breeding kennel, Martigny, Switzerland

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There are a few things that all good kennels will provide to the dogs in their care. These are absolute bare minimum requirements, but you should still ask about them as you finalize your decision.

Here are some basics you should expect from any reputable kennel:

  • The dogs are fed on a regular schedule, which varies according to owner instruction but typically is once or twice a day.
  • The dogs get regular daily exercise; this varies according to kennel but usually consists of four to six hours per day, and can involve off-leash open space, supervised walks, or kennel runs.
  • The staff will give any medications needed, on your requested schedule.
  • Bathing and grooming is usually available if requested.

What A Dog Hotel Provides

Japanese Inn at Yagen,Mutsu City,Aomori Prefecture,Japan,June20,2011

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Let’s say your dog demands the best, and you want boarding to be as luxurious as possible. If you’ve got the extra cash to spend, you may want to consider a dog hotel. Many offer private rooms for pooches and lots of amenities, though they can vary a lot.

These are the kinds of services some “doggy hotels” offer:

  • Swimming pools
  • Wilderness walks
  • Heated floors
  • Soundproofing
  • TVs set to Animal Planet
  • Fresh-baked treats
  • A staff bedtime partner and/or music to reduce the chance of separation anxiety

Preparing For The Dog Kennel Stay

Another Sugar Sundaze for the books

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Before sending your pup on their extended sleepover, you’ll need to get them ready. No matter how great the dog kennel you’ve chosen is, staying in an unfamiliar place without your family is stressful.

Here are a few steps you can take to prepare yourself and your pup:

  • Be ready to meet the kennel’s requirements. Bring everything requested: proof of current vaccinations and other health documents, prepayment if required, your contact information, and any needed medications. Many kennels request that you bring your dog’s own food to avoid any stomach upset, so bring enough for the entire stay, plus a bit extra in case of delays at pickup time.
  • Bring familiar objects from home. Many kennels recommend that you bring a familiar object or two, such as your dog’s bedding or favorite toy, because it keeps them  calmer in your absence. Note that kennels can’t always guarantee the toy will come home again; it may get lost during play or cleaning.
  • Make it a quick leave-taking. As difficult as it might be, experts recommend that you hand your pet to a staff member, say goodbye, and walk away. Emotional farewells can be upsetting to dogs, and they’re not so easy on owners either. With so much homework done in advance, you can leave knowing your dog is in good hands and save the emotions for a happy reunion.

Keep Special Considerations In Mind

Homeless dog puppy behind dog shelter bars

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Discuss any unusual circumstances with the kennel staff in advance. For example, if you’re boarding a young puppy, get as much detail as possible about how they’ll be handled and socialized around the other dogs.

Find out the kennel’s methods for dealing with any unusual behaviors your dog may have, such as aggression toward other dogs, excessively submissive behavior, or separation anxiety.

If your dog has special medical needs, consider boarding them at your veterinarian’s office. Although they might not get as much exercise or interactive playtime as they would at another type of kennel, they’ll receive more medical supervision.

Both you and your dog should feel comfortable with the kennel before the stay even begins. Before you drop your dog off, check the kennel’s references; go on a tour; and ask about details regarding exercise, feeding, and other care.

Has your dog ever stayed at a kennel? What was the experience like? Let us know in the comments below!