When going on vacation it is a good idea to keep your pet’s boarding needs at the top of the list if Fido of Fluffy isn’t making the trip. Some owners opt to take their pets with and find a facility nearby, but it is best to do your research in advance and book ahead! Others hire in home pet sitters or opt to have a friend or relative take the pets into their own homes. This can be especially good for pets with separation anxiety or larger or older dogs which would be more comfortable in their own surroundings. There are some wonderful kennels who charge a hefty price but owners can live view their pets online for peace of mind anytime! There are lots of boarding options across the USA and for boarding your pets when you leave for some R&R. But how do you know what to look for when choosing a boarding facility for your furry family members? Here are some tips we’ve compiled to get you started on your search!
The facility should require vaccines, especially Bordatella! You don’t want your dog getting sick while you’re away, so your dog’s destination would require all boarding pets to be up-to-date on vaccinations!
Look for a facility that is clean, sanitary, and organized. Before you board your pet, ask to take a tour of the facility. A good tip we received was to just stop in and ask without notice. Look for the cleanliness of where your pets will be sleeping, as well as any common areas where they will be exercised. Bedding should be clean and dry. Pet poop should be picked up often (and litter boxes cleaned) to prevent the spread of disease. And check to make sure there is sufficient ventilation as some diseases are airborne.
Is the staff knowledgeable and able to answer your questions? The staff should be able to spot potential health issues and understand animal behavior. A professional facility should have protocols in place and all staff should be able to explain those to any person looking to board their pet. For example, what if a medical emergency happens with your pet? What if a fire occurs? What if a pet escapes?
Have staff handle your dog while you are there, especially if your dog is …”hard to handle”. How do they react to being jerked or jumped on? Are they sincerely interested in your pet? Listen for loud voices and watch for anything that makes you feel “iffy”. Boarding can be scary enough for a pet without having stressed out or angry strangers in charge of them.
Ask what the staff to pet ratio is? How many wings or boarding areas are there? How many kennels when full? How many animals on a given day? And how many people to care for them during a shift? 10 dogs per person compared to 50 dogs per person is big in determining how much actual attention your pets will get!
What is the maximum time your dog will be left alone and unable to get outdoors to potty? 8 hours? 14 hours? ASK!
Your pet and all the others should have individual kennel space. Is the kennel size adequate for your pet? Are they able to get off the floor and onto a raised bed? Playgroups should be supervised by trained kennel staff that understand animal behavior and use positive methods to deal with the dogs. Ask to see the area where play groups hang out. Ask to see the variety and type of toys? Is the play time stimulating for your dog. If dogs get to play as a group outside, are their adequate covered areas to protect the pets from the snow, sun or rain? IS there a chance for individual play time if your dog prefers that to group activities?
During your kennel visit, look for sturdy, well-maintained fencing and gates, and dividers between runs. If your dog is a climber, digger, or some other type of “escape artist,” tell the kennel operator so that extra precautions can be taken (wire covered runs, locks on gates, etc.).
Kennel areas where your pet will stay should be free of sharp objects, harmful chemicals, and objects your pet might swallow. Primary enclosures (sleeping quarters) should provide solid dividers between your pet and the other boarders, both for reasons of safety and for your pet to be able to relax and sleep without feeling challenged by his or her neighbors. Duct tape holding guillotine doors in place, screws missing, rusty fencing or fencing that allows for a dog to get its head stuck under it all deal breakers! Exercise areas should include barriers between runs high enough to prevent male dogs from urinating into adjacent runs. Surfaces should offer good traction even when wet. Firefighting equipment should be readily available.
Proper supervision is the key to successful boarding. Will your dog be checked frequently during the day by someone who is trained to recognize the signs of illness and distress? Experience and practical knowledge are required to detect or interpret such symptoms as lethargy (“I thought he was just sleeping”), severe intestinal disorders (are they checking for bloody stool), urinary problems (it is almost impossible to detect blood in urine when pets urinate on grass), loss of appetite, coughing, sneezing, or discharges from the eyes or nose. Yet, all of these signs can be significant. Competent kennel personnel are trained to recognize and evaluate such signs and to seek veterinary assistance when needed. Therefore, you should try to evaluate the competence of the kennel personnel.
Ask about the following …
Water: Individual containers filled with clean drinking water should be available to each animal.
Food: Feeding procedures vary from kennel to kennel. Some kennels supply preferred brands of feed, which they serve to all boarders. However, they usually allow you to bring your pet’s favorite food, if you wish. Other kennels maintain a stock of the most popular brands and feed whatever you request. Still others require that you bring your pet’s food when you check in. Determine the kennel’s policy and whether there are any additional charges for special feeding arrangements.
Veterinary services: Ask about the procedure for obtaining veterinary service, if required. Some kennels retain a veterinarian on the premises. Others prefer to use your pet’s veterinarian so that there will be a continuity of care. Remember that it is customary for you to be financially responsible for any veterinary care required for your pet while it is being boarded.
Medication policies and procedures: If your pet is taking medication, advise the kennel owner/operator of the nature of the problem and the type and frequency of medication. Many kennels will not accept animals requiring excessive medication (more than three times per day or nighttime medication, for example) or animals requiring potentially dangerous medication (diabetes shots, for example). Remember, it is essential that heartworm preventive medication be continued during boarding, if your dog is presently taking such medication. Inquire whether the kennel provides such medication or if you should bring a supply. Ask if there is an additional charge for medicating.
Parasite control: In our area fleas and ticks are a problem. Does the kennel utilize procedures for controlling these parasites (pre-entry examinations for boarders, sprays, dips, etc.)?
How do you feel? Trust your gut. You should feel good. When you walk in to the facility, what kind of vibe do you get? If you do not feel comfortable, then do not leave your pet there! If you like the place consider doing a trial-run while you are still in town (just overnight or for the weekend) to get your pet comfortable with the staff and facilities.
The big thing is this: your dog cannot call you if things aren’t good. YOU are the pet parent. Spend as much time planning their getaway as you do planning your vacation! And remember to send us a postcard! J