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Overnight stays away from home can be stressful for your dog — and for you. The right boarding facility can make all the difference; a good kennel not only allays everyone’s anxiety but can also turn your dog’s stay into an enjoyable experience for pets and people alike. Finding the right kennel is as simple as asking the right questions. There are a few crucial things to know before you leave your dog overnight — or longer. Here’s what I look for in a good kennel.
Start your inquiry into any new boarding facility by asking about vaccinations. The kennel should require appropriate vaccinations, including Bordetella (kennel cough), for all dogs. (Make sure, as well, that your dog’s vaccinations are up-to-date before you drop him off for his stay.)
Next, ask to see the physical layout. A facility with indoor/outdoor dog runs allows your dog to be outside periodically during the day, but also offers protection from heat and cold. A boarding facility with only indoor kennels should provide access to outdoor runs or offer ample walks during the day, while outside areas should provide shade and protection from rain and snow. Air conditioning is a must in warmer climates, especially for heat-intolerant dogs such as Bulldogs. In cold weather, the facility must be adequately heated; this is especially important for small dogs, shorthaired dogs and elderly dogs who may be more affected by cooler temperatures.
The facility should be disinfected daily and should have proper ventilation to promote airflow and discourage odors. The dogs should always have a place to lie down, either on a raised bed or on clean, soft bedding. Ask for a tour of the facilities, so you can evaluate overall cleanliness and comfort of the pets currently boarding. If the management hesitates or refuses, walk away.
Dogs need mental and physical stimulation throughout the day. A good boarding facility will provide opportunities for dogs to engage both mind and body in different activities, including food puzzles, walks and playtime with staff and other dogs. If your dog is mainly people oriented, it’s important that he receive individual attention from the kennel’s staff. Talk with the staff about the different types of interaction your dog will have during his day.
Dogs who enjoy playing with other canines do well in a boarding situation with opportunities for doggy play during the day, but this playtime should be segregated by dog size. Although some big and small dogs can get along together, there is a risk of predatory drift or inadvertent injury when larger and smaller dogs share space. Ask about how dogs are grouped together in communal living spaces or for playtime.
It’s also important to ask whether the facility is staffed at night. Many facilities will leave dogs unattended at night; for some dogs this may not be a big deal, particularly if each dog is in an individual kennel — however, medical emergencies can arise during the night. For dogs with special needs or serious medical conditions, being left unsupervised is not an option; dogs with certain medical needs or severe separation issues require constant supervision. When available, it is always best to choose a kennel that has staff on site around the clock.
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