What to Look for in a Boarding Kennel

If you are planning a holiday, renovations or a house move, boarding your dog somewhere safe that they enjoy is a priority. There are so many boarding facilities out there, so finding one that suits your dog, budget and requirements is essential. We have put together a guide to help you make a selection that will keep your pet happy and healthy so they can enjoy their own little holiday.

How to choose

As with anything, word of mouth can be the best first step. Ask other dog owners at the park, your local vets or groomer for some recommendations. Some kennels may even offer a pick-up and delivery service from your local vet, so this is worth keeping in mind. Many vet clinics will carry brochures for local boarding kennels in their waiting room and may have a good idea as to what would suit your dog. Once you have narrowed it down, book a time to go and see the place and see what you think.

Holiday boarding

School holidays, Christmas and long weekends are very busy for boarding kennels. Some places will book out 12 months in advance for these periods. Most will charge a surcharge for public holidays and weekends. So if you are going away, try to get organised early and if costs are a concern, avoid the peak times.

Types of kennels

Nowadays the basic dog run or cage for our pets while we holiday is not the only option. There are luxury pet suites complete with TV, couch and lots of pampering, or even kennels that will train your dog while you go away. Some smaller private places will keep your pet with their family of pets, which can be a great option for very sociable animals. In many cases you can pay extra for playtimes, brushing or other services to give pets a little extra attention. Try to think about what your pet enjoys doing when you are planning the style of accommodation for him.

Dogs with special needs

If your dog needs medications, has arthritis and needs a warm, elevated bed, or is a little anxious or aggressive with other dogs, you may need to explore the options and think outside the box. If you ask at your local vet, perhaps one of the nurses might look after your dog for you, or they may allow you to put up a sign to find a local person to take your pet into your home. You can also ask at your groomers to see if they have any contacts. Some vet clinics do boarding, but in many cases this is not suitable for larger dogs or those that need lots of exercise.

Pet sitting

For many pets, staying at home can be a low-stress option. For elderly pets that love to sleep and get anxious with routine changes, perhaps arranging for a house sitter to stay with them could be more gentle than uprooting them and taking them to a kennel. Dogs with separation anxiety may also be better off in their home environment with someone staying.

These pets can often benefit from Adaptil or medications from your vet (allow at least a couple of months if you are considering the anxiety medications option). Pet sitting is usually charged at either a daily rate, or if the sitter is just popping in once or twice a day, is charged per visit. If you are having a pet sitter come in just to feed and play with your dog once a day, perhaps also consider a dog walker who can come and take him out for a run in the middle of the day as well.

What to look for

The general attitude of staff and cleanliness is incredibly important when deciding who to trust with your pet’s care. A few other things to look for include:

  • Staff that are interacting with animals and seem to enjoy their work.
  • Being allowed their own toys and blankets can be comforting to some dogs.
  • Sleeping  and relaxed dogs, rather than dogs who look anxious, are pacing or continuously barking.
  • Outdoor play areas where dogs can socialise.
  • Elevated trampoline dog beds or similar (something easy to clean and off the ground).
  • Multiple resting places for dogs (both inside and outside).

 Warning signs of a ‘bad’ kennel

  • Smelly premises.
  • Dogs that are pacing and barking rather than resting.
  • Kennels that are unwilling to give tours or show you where your dog will be kept.
  • Pens that are obviously dirty and difficult to clean.
  • Kennels that don’t require proof of vaccination.
  • Kennels that are in disrepair with jagged edges of wire, peeling paint or drains that are blocked.
  • The pen your dog is kept in should be big enough for your dog to run and should be escape-proof.

What to take

Dogs will often feel more comfortable if they have their own bed, blanket and perhaps a toy. Just check first to see if this is okay and perhaps bring a couple of spares and label everything so it doesn’t get lost if it needs to be washed.

If your pet has any health problems, typing up a history (you could ask your vet to do this), is useful. Include explicit instructions on what the kennels need to look out for and in what situations they should seek veterinary attention for your pet. Providing extra medications in case some are spilt, dropped or not taken by your pet is important. Clearly mark if some need refrigeration or special handling. Many kennels use a local vet for health checks if they are concerned, but if your vet is local, make sure they know who to contact for a proper health history should they need to.

If you use a pet sitter write down as many instructions as possible. In interactions, most people remember 10% of what is discussed, so having it all written down means your pet sitter has the information to hand should they forget what you told them. It may also be useful to leave them some money or put a credit on your account at the vet in case any extra expenses occur. Many vets have procedures in place to take note of your wishes should something happen to your pet while you are away. You can advise them what your budget is and what level of treatment you consent to and you could perhaps also leave your credit card details on file should you be out of contact for long periods of time while on holiday.

Kennel checklist

  • Is your pet’s vaccinations up to date? You will need at least a C5 vaccination that covers kennel cough and a copy of your certificate (your vet can re-print this if required).
  • Is worming and flea medication up to date and have you included any treatments that need giving while your pet is there. In many cases you can bring forward your flea or worming treatments by up to a couple of weeks to give it before you go (check with your vet first).
  • Is everything your pet is taking clearly labelled with your pet’s name in ink that won’t wash off.
  • Have you written down all specific instructions for your pet?
  • If you are taking your own food, do you have enough to cover the period, plus some extra (taking your own food makes it less likely your pet will get a stomach upset from a change in diet).
  • Do you have extra of all of your pets medications, including a script should your return be delayed (your  vet can write a script that will make it easier for the kennel to obtain medication from their local vet for your pet).
  • Have you checked the opening and closing hours for drop off and pick up times.
  • Be aware that the way you say ‘good bye’ to your pet can make him worried, stay positive and do not show him you are worried or sad. Also many places will prefer you to drop your pet off at the office rather than take him to ‘settle in’ to his kennel. This avoids your dog thinking he needs to guard the kennel for your return.

Finally, enjoy your holiday! Most pets love boarding and thoroughly enjoy their holiday away from home.