The holiday season is here, and that means many of you will be heading out of town, or planning family get togethers.
This season often brings with it the need to explore options for dog boarding. While many kennels offer services to accommodate your furry family members, finding a reputable facility is crucial for ensuring their well-being and your peace of mind.
Some dog boarding facilities are incredible, whereas some may leave room for improvement. So, what should you look for when it comes to the right place for your dog? Are there viable alternatives to larger kennels, and what can you do if your animal is not vaccinated?
And how can you support your pet once you find the perfect place?
Don’t stress, we’re here to help you find the spot that best meets your animal’s individual needs!
Finding a Reputable Dog Boarding Facility
Whether you’re leaving your pet with someone else for a night or a week, you want to know they’re in the best hands.
So how can you find that perfect home away from home?
- Start by researching places near you. Ask for recommendations from family, friends, or your veterinarian. Online platforms and community forums can provide valuable insights. Check local Facebook and Instagram pages. Look for reviews and testimonials on each of the places on your list. Ask about their policy on vaccinations, or if they will accept titer testing. Review each facility’s website and check if they’re licensed, insured, and if there are any other credentials that are important to you (special needs, memberships, follow local regulations, etc.)
- Visit in person. Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a few top contenders, take the time to visit each one. Assess cleanliness, staff interactions with dogs, and the overall environment. Are the other dogs there happy, healthy, not fearful? Check out where your pet will sleep, how much time they’ll get to spend with other dogs, and who will monitor playtime/mealtime/bedtime. Will they follow your feeding schedule/menu? How are dogs assessed as far as groupings for playtime? (You want to be sure your animal is put with dogs who are similar in nature and temperament, dogs who can match their cadence and rhythm.) A reputable facility will be transparent and open to answering any questions.
- Ask if they have cameras. Many facilities now offer the technology that allows you to check in on your pet whenever you want – both in the sleeping area and the play area!! These will help you stay connected to your animal, and help you ensure that they’re getting the attention and care that you expect. It can also help ensure accountability.
- Ask about staff training and policies. During your visit, or over the phone, inquire about the qualifications and training of the staff. This can be very important, especially with large dog boarding places. Are background checks conducted? Do any of the staff have any medical training? What happens in a medical emergency? Are there protocols in place for working with special cases? Experienced and trained caregivers can provide a safe and comfortable environment for your dog.
- Do a meet-and-greet. Once you’ve made your decision, let your dog do the talking! Schedule a time for you pup to meet the people who will be looking after them while you’re away. Make sure to brief the staff about your dog’s unique character traits BEFORE the meet-and-greet to overcome those challenges right away (ex. if they’re fearful of boisterous hand movements, loud noises, certain animals – let them know ahead of time so the staff can match your dog’s needs). Pay attention to body language and assess how comfortable they are both with the people and the surroundings. See how the staff interact with your pup, and if permitted, how they allow the dogs to interact with each other. If your pup isn’t comfortable, reassess your choice.
Alternatives to Large Kennels
For some dogs, a large boarding facility will be perfect. For others, however, that just won’t be the case.
This could be for a variety or reasons. Maybe your dog is pet or people-selective, and a large group setting just isn’t comfortable for them. Maybe your animal is a senior and needs a little more individual support or care. Or perhaps you’ve chosen to forgo certain vaccines that a large kennel will require (we’ll cover those in a minute).
So, what are your options if a large dog boarding facility just won’t work?
There are several!
- In-home pet sitters: Professional pet sitters can care for your dog in the familiar surroundings of your home, reducing stress and anxiety. If you go this route, try to follow many of the same steps listed above: do your research, get recommendations and read reviews, ask questions, do a meet-and-greet. If it makes you more comfortable, ask or a background check! There are a variety of pet-sitting apps that connect pet owners with local, vetted pet sitters who can care for your dog in your absence. Again, make sure you have a vetting process of your own – even if the app has one.
- Pet-friendly hotels: If you’re traveling, consider staying in pet-friendly hotels that allow dogs. Some even offer doggy amenities and services. This will allow you to attend those holiday parties without having to worry about leaving your beloved beast at home or in a kennel.
- Ask friends or family: Trusted friends or family members may be willing to care for your dog in a familiar environment (either yours or theirs). Of course, don’t pressure friends or family – but put the feelers out!
How to Support Your Animal While You’re Away
Now that you’ve chosen the perfect spot, how can you help support your canine friend to make them as comfortable as possible while you’re away?
- Make sure to provide a list of all emergency contact info, relevant records, your veterinarian’s contact info – anything they might need.
- Let your vet know that you will be away, where your dog will be, and grant the care provider access to certain medical decisions, if absolutely necessary. Make your decisions very clear – and stated – before you leave (with everyone).
- Create a list of things they like and don’t like. This might include foods, treats, environments, other dogs (big vs. small), anything you can think of.
- If your dog is not staying in your house, pack a bag with familiar things. This might be a blanket/t-shirt/towel with your smell on it, their favourite toy, their bed, etc.
- Various supplements can help to bring a feeling of peace and calm to an animal in a new situation:
- Flower essences – Rescue Remedy
- Your Go 2
Vaccines Often Required for Dog Boarding
Many dog boarding facilities will require that your pet be up-to-date on specific vaccinations.
Commonly required vaccines include:
- Distemper and Parvovirus
- Canine Influenza
But if you choose not to vaccinate, for whatever reason, this could mean working on finding an alternative such as those listed above.
You can also discuss the situation with your vet and/or check to see if the dog boarding facility will accept titer testing.
Tip: If you do vaccinate, don’t forget to use Rebalancer afterwards!
The holidays can be stressful enough – you don’t want to add finding a boarding solution to the list of stressors! Dog boarding during the holidays can be a positive experience for both you and your furry friend when you choose the right care option. Consider your dog’s safety, comfort, and well-being by thoroughly researching and selecting a reputable boarding solution. Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions or say no. Whether you decide on a traditional kennel, in-home care, or another alternative, a little work at the beginning will lead to a stress-free holiday season for both you and your beloved canine companion.