A Boarding Kennel Checklist

Playing with friends, watching TV, lounging on a comfy cot and eating well were all on Jinx’s “to do” list. Jinx, a beautiful Norwegian Elkhound, enjoyed these activities and more at a boarding kennel while his owners were on vacation. Their good planning turned the oft-dreaded kennel situation into a doggy vaycay.

Jinx’s human mom, Lisa Peterson, chief spokesperson for the American Kennel Club, knew precisely how to plan for her dogs’ boarding. A little diligence on your part can help your dog enjoy his or her kennel experience too, agrees Nikki Ianni of the Humane Society of the United States. Here are their tips on finding dog boarding facilities — and what to do once the big day arrives.

How to Find a Good Boarding Kennel
A simple online or phone book search for a boarding kennel provides no assurance of quality. Since the health of your dog is at stake, it’s best to rely upon trusted word of mouth.

Another reliable resource is the Pet Care Services Association, a Colorado-based nonprofit “dedicated to the betterment of the Boarding Kennels Industry.” Member facilities agree to uphold the PCSA Bill of Rights for Boarded Pets and the PCSA Code of Ethical Conduct. Both of these statements provide owners with a pledge of quality care for your pet.

Your veterinarian might also be a tremendous resource. “Boarding kennels often work with vets in the area,” explains Peterson. This tactic is doubly useful, since your vet can recommend not only a kennel, but also any vaccinations your dog requires before the stay.

What to Do When Researching a Kennel
Once you’ve selected one or more kennels, be sure to visit them in person. The Humane Society urges you note the following:

  • Cleanliness
  • Amount of light and ventilation
  • Temperature
  • Spaciousness
  • Expertise and consideration of staff
  • Available services

If the facility has cats, make sure they’re housed away from dogs. And even if the business caters exclusively to dogs, Peterson advises to ask if they’re kept in separate areas based on age. “Geriatric dogs, in particular, tend to be more sensitive, requiring their own quiet area,” says Peterson.

Preparation Before Your Dog’s Stay
Both Peterson and the Humane Society recommend arranging a “test visit” to the kennel. “This is a half- or whole-day visit, just to see how your dog reacts there and without you,” explains Peterson. “Issues such as separation anxiety can crop up at this time.” That’s important, as some dogs simply don’t handle boarding well: They stop eating, bark incessantly, pant or exhibit other signs of stress. In those extreme cases, you’re better off hiring a pet sitter.

Assuming your dog is fine after the test run, you can begin other preparations. At this point, you should have already ensured your dog has had your vet’s OK, as well as the necessary vaccinations. If your dog is “a bit stinky and dirty,” Peterson says it’s best to bathe your pet beforehand (although many boarding kennels can take care of cleaning and grooming).

Also determine what goodies to leave with your pet. Some owners provide the kennel with the dog’s kibble, while others rely upon the food the kennel provides. Even if you opt for the latter option, advises Peterson, “It helps to bring some of your dog’s regular food, so that your pet can easily transition from it to the new diet.” Also pack your dog’s favorite things, such as his bed and toys that require little to no supervision.

On the Big Day and throughout Your Dog’s Visit
When you drop off your dog, try not to get too upset. “A lot of owners cry or otherwise make a scene in front of the dog, which could affect how your pet feels about the situation,” cautions Peterson. “Instead, make it a happy thing.” Good kennels usually have one or more cheery staff members on hand to welcome your dog.

Many kennels permit you to keep in touch with your pet throughout the stay — from daily calls to 24/7 webcam monitoring. After the visit, when you’re ready to pick up your dog, boarding kennels often provide a “report card” discussing how he fared. This can help you focus on any problem areas before next year’s vacation — and the need for doggy boarding — comes along.

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