Choosing a dog boarding kennel

No matter how much you love Fido or Fifi, sometimes you have to travel and you can’t take your dog with you. These are dog boarding kennels where your dog can stay overnight, and they may also provide day care, too.

Since pet lovers spend nearly $40 billion annually taking care of their pets, it’s no surprise that boarding facilities are becoming more and more upscale. But just like hotel chains, the level of service the visitor receives and the quality of the facility vary widely.

Many boarding facilities are single owner-operated establishments, but increasingly there are companies with multiple locations, again much like hotel chains.

Many veterinarians offer dog boarding, but because their focus is on providing care to dogs that are sick or injured, the facilities they offer may be simple and sparse, often just a cage type arrangement with a concrete floor. They also do not necessarily have the time give your dog the play time and attention he needs, and social interaction with other dogs will probably be minimal.

The advantage to using your own vet is that your dog will be familiar with the facility and perhaps the staff members, so it will cut down on potential separation anxiety. And of course you don’t have to worry about his receiving medical attention if he needs it.

It is advisable that you visit the dog boarding kennel before making the decision to board your dog. Ask to see the area where your dog will sleep. Your senses will tell you if this is a place you want your dog friend to stay. Is it clean? How does it smell? How noisy is it? Does it look to be overcrowded with constant barking?

Other considerations are the size of the kennel where your dog will sleep. Find out policies such as how often your dog will be fed, how often he will be given fresh water, how often will he have an opportunity for potty breaks or other exercise outside the confines of the kennel space. Find out how large the exercise area is. Look for signs that the staff cleans up frequently after the dogs. You need to observe and interact with the staff, to see if these are individuals who genuinely love caring for dogs, or they are people who are just there because they needed a job.

You should find out if the facility is accredited with the American Boarding Kennels Association, and whether it is licensed or bonded. And make sure the facility has a relationship with a veterinarian. They may ask you to sign a form allowing that vet to treat your pet rather than having to call the vet you normally use. An important consideration is whether the facility is staffed 24 hours a day. If you wouldn’t leave your dog all alone at home overnight, you don’t want him to have to endure that at a boarding kennel that will probably feel strange to him anyway.

Cost is also a consideration. Many facilities have a base fee, but lots of add-on amenities that taken in total can run into a lot of money. These are extra services such as individualized play time with a staff member, extra walks, extra treats, etc. It’s best to find out these costs up-front rather than returning to a nasty surprise when they give you the invoice upon your return.

Boarding facilities are becoming so elaborate that in some cases they rival human resort spas: the question is whether you will be having as much fun on your vacation as your dog is. Televisions, swimming pools, massage, ice cream treats, nature walks, and being read to at bedtime are all part of the services offered these days at upscale boarding facilities.

All these amenities may sound wonderful, but your primary considerations when choosing any dog boarding kennel facility are: will your dog be safe, comfortable and well-cared for.