It's always hard to leave our furry children behind when we need to travel, for business or for pleasure. At some point in our dogs' lives, however, it is usually necessary to board them at a kennel. For their comfort and safety, and for your peace of mind, be sure to shop around ahead of time for the best kennel for your dog.
Just like that blind date, the first impression a kennel gives you really does matter. Listen to your instincts.
* What does the building look like as you approach? Is it well kept? If care has been taken to present an attractive front, chances are the owner is serious about his or her business.
* Does the staff greet you with a smile on their face? These are the people who will be caring for your pet. While they can't be expected to fall over themselves whenever a person or animal walks through their door, their attitude can tell a lot about the atmosphere of the place. Happy employees mean they perform their jobs well – and that's good news for your pet.
* How does the staff interact with your pet? Again, the staff sees many dogs coming through the door every day, but if they greet your dog and handle her confidently and gently, you can feel secure that they will treat her professionally and kindly.
* What does the entry smell like? Even the cleanest kennel will have a slight odor of bleach or that unmistakable "doggie" smell to it, but the reception area needn't smell like every dog in town just left his calling card at the front desk. A conscientious kennel will take pains to clean up after any "accidents."
Ask to see the kennels themselves. Be wary of any kennel that will not let you see the actual runs. Sometimes they will claim that visitors "upset the other dogs." Go forward with extreme caution if this is the case, perhaps inquiring to view the kennels while they are being cleaned instead to lessen the stress on the dogs. You might be better off finding another kennel if they refuse to let you view the property.
A good kennel will be well ventilated and well lit, preferably with natural light. There will be a slight odor of cleaning solution and "dog," but nothing offensive. The temperature will be neither excessively cold nor hot, and bedding will be off the ground, possibly on a "cot" suspended a few inches off the ground. Water should always be present. Don't be alarmed if there is a din from the rowdy canine visitors; any time many dogs are together, a little chaos will ensue. As long as it is controlled chaos, and there is no evidence of stressed dogs – pacing, excessive panting, drooling, or fearful eyes – barking is to be expected.
Safety and Health Considerations
* If your dog is a chewer, be sure the kennels are free of anything that could be destroyed -- or ingested and choked on. Bowls should be stainless steel; if not, perhaps you could provide your own.
* A fire alarm system ought to be in place, and sprinklers would certainly be an added bonus to look for.
* The kennel should require, at minimum, the Bordatella, or "kennel cough" vaccine. To protect your dog, she should be up-to-date on all her vaccines in addition to the Bordatella.
* If your dog is a jumper, be sure the runs are of appropriate height to prevent your dog from escaping.
Don't be afraid to ask any questions that pop into your head. Some good ones to consider:
* Is anyone available 24 hours in case of an emergency? While not every kennel has someone on-site around the clock, it can't hurt to find this out, and if not, find out how often are the dogs attended to during the day.
* If your dog needs special care or medicine, will his needs be addressed promptly?
* What food will be provided, or do you need to bring your own? Sometimes your dog will adjust better with his own show. This will also reduce your chances of his digestive system becoming upset at the sudden change in diet.
* Can you leave a "security" item with your dog? Some dogs are comforted if you leave them with an old T-shirt that you've worn and not washed, retaining your scent. Some kennels, however, will not allow anything to be left with the animals for health and parasite reasons.
* If you have two or more dogs, can they be kenneled together? Be sure the size of the kennel is appropriate if you want to kennel your dogs in the same run; otherwise, request adjacent runs.
Do you really need Deluxe Accommodations?
If you're very lucky and willing to spend some money, you can locate one of a growing number of kennels who cater to their canine guests. Couch potato time, pool time, cuddle time, and even TV time can be had for the asking at these establishments.
With a little planning and some leg work, your dog will have a safe, stress-free stay while you are apart. And who knows? Your dog just may return from his vacation even more rested than you do from yours.