I would be my own worst customer…in over 25 years of owning pets, I have boarded my dogs once, for 2 days, in 1999. And within those 2 days, I pulled them from the kennel for the entire afternoon to take them hiking along the Bruce Trail. When I checked them out of the kennel, I was told they were barkers and water spillers, and so loud that we must have heard them over at our Bed and Breakfast! Needless to say, they didn’t get a great report and I had the feeling the owner was glad to be rid of them. And they smelled funny, which wasn’t surprising considering the kennel was carpeted. When the owner told me she just tossed the poop over the fence, I pictured her firing piles of dog waste off her scoop and a hidden berm of poop piling up behind the exercise yards!
Seeing that kennel was a real eye-opener, as the owners certainly didn’t have any idea with respect to hygiene or customer relations. I didn’t visit the kennel ahead of time, which was my first mistake. I encourage all my new customers and their pets to visit our kennel before boarding. Often people are apprehensive about leaving their pet with someone they don’t know, and I can certainly understand this feeling, so a tour of the kennel ahead of time is often helpful in putting both the customer and pet at ease.
Whether you decide to board or use a pet sitter, here are some useful tips:
- Determine if boarding is suitable for your pet. Although the majority of both dogs and cats board very well, there are circumstances when other options should be considered. Pets with separation anxiety, an aggressive nature, major medical issues, or elderly pets may not be the best candidates for boarding. A pet sitter, who either visits your home several times a day or lives at your home, would be a better option for these pets. Even a good natured pet that can climb or jump fences would not be a good candidate for boarding unless you would want them confined to their kennel or on a tie out line their entire stay. Also, if you have multiple pets (like I do) a pet sitter may also end up being a more economical option.
- Visit the kennel with your pet before boarding. Check for the following during your tour:
- Vaccination requirements and paper work required. Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are current – if you would like to avoid over vaccinating, you can choose to have your pet titred instead, which checks that the pet still has antibodies to the diseases normally vaccinated for. You can also choose not to vaccinate every year and avoid vaccinating older pets. The kennel should take detailed information about your pet, including emergency contact information to authorize veterinary care in case your pet becomes ill. Make sure you tell the kennel as much information as possible about your pet. Leaving out the fact that your pet has seizures or eaten your garbage can end up being an emergency situation for kennel staff.
- Cleanliness. Self explanatory. (ie. no carpeted kennels and berms of dog waste!)
- Friendly and knowledgeable staff. But don’t expect your kennel owner to be a veterinarian!
- A licensed facility All towns require kennels to follow their local by-laws and are subject to inspections. A recent kennel license should be posted.
- Hours of operation. Many kennels operate on a split shift schedule to accommodate morning feeding and exercise, quiet time in the afternoon, and afternoon feeding and exercise. Some kennels are not open on the weekends, or have reduced hours.
- Feeding requirements. Do you bring your own or does the kennel feed them?
- Water source. If a well is used, is it tested frequently?
- Bedding. Does the kennel supply this or do you bring your own?
- Heating and air conditioning. Are both available?
- Exercise schedule. Is your pet kept in their kennel and run the entire time or are they allowed out into larger areas or walked? If so, is there an extra charge for this and how often are they exercised?
- Socialization. Many kennels exercise several pets together at the same time, however, there is always a risk to your pet when they are socialized. There are many triggers that can instigate a dog fight, such as food and toy protection, stress, fear, dominance, protection of kennel staff and owners – our entrance bell even triggered a fight between two dogs boarding together. No one can safely predict how two dogs will interact that have never met before.
- Cost and methods of payment. Always ask for a quote before you board. Some kennels will charge extra to administer pills and for exercise sessions, even to feed your own food!
- Schedule a trial boarding. If you have doubts that your pet will adapt to the kennel, especially if you are leaving them for the first time, schedule a stay at the kennel for a night. If you decide not to do this, make sure you have a contact person who can take your pet if the kennel cannot handle them. We have had dogs tear up chain link, jump through windows, and cause major damage to the kennel and had to call on the contact person. Also, if your pet develops medical issues, your contact person must be able to make decisions for your pet, if you cannot be reached.
- Book in advance, especially during busy holiday months. If you do need to cancel, let the kennel know in advance.
Always remember, boarding is a temporary solution for your pet’s care and before you know it, they’ll be back home with you! I hope this post has helped you find the pet care solution that is right for you and your best friend!