Successfully boarding a beloved pet can be easy with proper preparation followed by a positive drop off and a smooth pick up.

The dog owner has carefully selected a kennel for the animal that must be boarded. The next step is to ensure the kennel has vacancy for the time the dog will be boarded. Owners should keep in mind that holidays tend to book quickly, especially with reputable and well known facilities.

To ensure the animal has a spot, reservations should be made in advance. Many kennels suggest at least a month or two notice for big holidays such as Christmas and New Years. Owners should note that kennels require that dogs be at least four months old, spayed/neutered to avoid aggressive behaviors and that animals be vaccinated with at least Rabies, Bordetella, and Distemper vaccines. It is recommended to check with the kennel about their vaccination requirements, as some require more than just the three previously stated vaccines. Reputable kennels will also require that dogs be flea and tick free as well.

It is important to note that free range kennels require an interview with the animal prior to admittance. Make sure to arrange these types of interviews well in advance, in the event the animal does not respond to this environment and another kennel may be required.

Medical and emergency services for the animal should also be discussed with the kennel. Owners should make it clear what should be done in the event the pet becomes ill or injured. Provide valid phone numbers for the kennel to call in case of emergency. Also provide the contact information of at least one person not traveling with you in the event you cannot be reached and assistance is required.

How to Choose a Good Boarding Kennel

Most dog owners will settle for nothing less than the best of care for their pet while they are away. Understanding the options makes that decision easier.

Neighbors, friends or relatives are sometimes willing to take the dog in temporarily. Advantages are that they are usually trustworthy and don’t charge much or they do it assuming the favor will be returned at a later date. Disadvantages are that they may not admit they are too busy to provide proper care for the animal or they may not be knowledgeable enough to make good decisions if the dog becomes sick or hurt.

Home boarding businesses are increasingly popular. Many of these are run by animal lovers with considerable knowledge in pet care who offer cageless, free run of their home and plenty of individual care. However, they often have strict requirements for the clients they accept including a temperament test and reliable house training. And not all home boarding businesses offer any kind of accountability.

Pet sitters who go to the home several times a day to take care of pets, plants, mail and other domestic chores are also an option that can provide convenience. However some dog owners worry about a stranger in their home as well as their dog spending long hours there alone.

Public boarding kennels are another option but they can range from a cheap, crowded facility providing only the bare minimum of care to the ritzy, luxury doggy daycare that caters to the pampered pooch with entertainment, massage, and an orthopedic bed.

Since dogs cannot tell their owner how they’ve been treated, it is very important for owners to choose boarding for pets very carefully. Cost may be a consideration but proper care and kindness is most important and will ensure the dog a safe and happy stay.

A good boarding facility will:

  • Be accountable through accreditation, licensing or certification
  • Have no unresolved complaints listed with the Better Business Bureau
  • Look and smell clean and appear well kept
  • Be temperature controlled
  • Require pets to have up to date vaccinations
  • Provide pets with plenty of exercise and enrichment time
  • Provide safe and secure indoor areas as well as outdoor areas
  • Provide comfortable bedding and follow the dog’s usual feeding routine
  • Employ kind, compassionate workers who are knowledgeable about pet care and about providing for any special needs the dog may have.
  • Have adequate veterinary services available in the event of illness or accident.
  • Provide references.
  • Provide clear, written policy including pricing, hours, emergencies, and delays in return
  • Require complete emergency contact information
  • Be happy to show the facility without appointment

Dog owners who choose a good pet sitter or boarding kennel can have peace of mind and a guilt-free trip. Knowing a beloved pet is happy and in good care makes leaving him or her a little easier.

Preparing the Owner and the Dog

Most kennels employ the use of wire cages or crates either full time or just at night. If the dog is not accustomed to crating, the experience can be overwhelming and stressful. The best way to ensure the dog is carefree and enjoys its boarding experience, is to prepare it for this environment. Purchase a crate and begin crate training. Allow the dog to sniff the crate and then lead the animal into it with a treat or favorite toy. Slowly follow that by shutting the crate door and leaving the animal there for five minutes. Before long, the idea of a crate will be less stressful and scary to the animal.

Many kennels also offer doggie daycare. Doggie daycare allows individuals to drop off their animals during the day to play. It is a great means to socialize dogs and also prevents them from being cooped up all day while owners are away. Doggie Daycare is also great to prepare the animal for boarding. Taking the animal to the facility at least once prior to boarding will allow the dog to become familiar with the environment and the staff. This in turn, makes the experience more pleasant for the dog. If the facility does not offer doggie daycare, such is the case for many veterinarian offices that offer boarding, talk to employees about bringing the dog in for a tour. Again, this allows the dog to meet the staff and also introduces the animal to the space he or she will be staying.

Dropping Your Puppy Off

Most owners, especially those boarding for the first time, feel a little apprehension about leaving their animals. This is completely normal, but knowing that the right kennel has been selected will ease most nerves. When dropping the animal off, most kennels require the dog be on leash when entering the facility. Whether the staff keeps the leash and collar depends on the facility.

Owners should remember that dogs easily pick up on human emotions. If the owner is emotional and apologetic, the animal will sense that and may develop signs of anxiety as well. It is for this reason that a short, positive goodbye is recommended. Owners should remember that the experience can be likened to a mini-vacation for the animal and leaving on a good note will ensure the best possible time. Most kennels do prefer animals be dropped off a few hours before closing time. This allows the animal to become familiar with the environment and also ensures they either receive play time or a good walk before bed. Always double check with kennel employees, however, to see what time is recommended for drop off.

Separation anxiety is normal for both dog and owner. Kennel staff and employees recognize this and most are more than happy to update owners over the phone. Before leaving, remember to ask what times are best to call to check in on pets.

Bringing Your Puppy Home

Vacation or business is concluded and the owner must now bring his beloved pet home. It is best to check in with the kennel and let them know the approximate time of pick up. Also, owners should remember that dogs should be picked up during business hours. Asking kennel staff to stay late prevents them from caring for the other animals and is frowned upon.

Once at the facility, feel free to ask how the stay went. Inquire about any needs the dog had while there or any issues that arose. This information will be useful later if the owner should choose another kennel. Once the dog is happily at home, food and water should be withheld for at least four hours. Many times the over excitement will cause dogs to eat and drink too quickly or too much, resulting in vomiting and diarrhea. If the dog seems thirsty, provide an ice cube or two.

Reactions to the boarding experience will vary based on the dog. Some dogs will sleep for days after kenneling, while some appear completely normal. If the owner is concerned about the dog’s behavior, he or she should contact either the kenneling facility or the veterinarian. Occasionally dogs will contract kennel cough while boarded. Usually this occurs in dogs that have an immune deficiency or are not vaccinated with the Bordetella vaccine. Symptoms include dry hacking and watery discharge from the nose. Similar to the human Cold or Flu, most cases of kennel cough must run their course. Depending on the severity, however, the vet may choose to administer some medication. If an owner suspects the dog has contracted Kennel Cough, it is best to consult with the vet and follow his or her course of action.