Choosing a Boarding Kennel for Your Dog

Your guide to finding a boarding kennel that will provide the best possible care for your dog.

Whether you travel for business or pleasure, it’s sometimes necessary to leave your dog behind. Hiring a pet sitter or asking a friend or family member to look after your companion while you’re away are both common solutions — but you can also opt to have him stay at a boarding kennel where he’ll get round-the-clock care. Before going this route, it’s vitally important to choose a reputable, well-run facility where you know your companion will be comfortable and properly looked after. What follows is a guide of factors to consider and questions to ask before selecting a boarding kennel for your dog.

TAKE A TOUR OF THE KENNEL

Call and ask if you can tour the facility before making a commitment, and see if they will allow your dog to tag along. Responsibly-operated businesses should be willing to let you see their kennels before you make a decision about letting your dog stay there.

Red Flag: If the owners are reluctant to let you take a preliminary tour, they may have something to hide. Look elsewhere.

While touring the kennel, here’s what to look for to ensure your dog will be cared for in an acceptable manner:

Adequate living space. Boarding kennels will make sure all dogs staying there have their own accommodations where they can sleep, eat, and relax on their own terms, without the interference of other animals. Ask the owners what their policies are on dogs being walked together, and/or what periods for play and socialization look like. Make sure there aren’t too many dogs being allowed to interact at once — two or three is optimal. Also, if your dog doesn’t play well with others, ensure there’ll be an option for him to be walked alone.

Cleanliness. As you can imagine, a lot of dogs in a confined space means it can be difficult to keep the environment clean. Nevertheless, a quality boarding kennel will have strict policies surrounding cleanliness and hygiene. While it is impossible to keep the place totally sterile, it should look, smell, and feel clean when you go to visit.

Red Flag: Bare cages that are dirty and smelly are a bad sign. Accommodations should include plenty of items for the dogs’ comfort and enrichment, such as clean dry bedding, bowls of fresh water, and toys.

ASK THE KENNEL OWNER/MANAGER THESE QUESTIONS

  1. “Can I bring my dog’s food?” Suddenly changing a dog’s diet, even for a short while, is ill-advised. It can cause digestive upsets, and because your dog will probably already experience some stress from the change in environment, an attack of diarrhea will only make him feel worse. Ask the owners of the boarding kennel what they feed their four-legged guests. If it’s not the same as what you are already giving your dog, ask if you can bring your own. It’s a good idea to take more than enough — you can always take any leftovers home. Be sure to let staff know how much to feed your dog, and when.

Red Flag: What if they won’t allow you to bring your own food? Find another kennel, especially if the food the current one provides is very cheap or low-end.

  1. “Do you have an indoor and outdoor play area?” Dogs should have access to both inside and outside play areas. They can get stressed if they don’t have any access to outdoor spaces for a prolonged period. If your dog is particularly active, ask if it’s possible to give him multiple walks and playtimes per day.
  2. “Can you administer my dog’s supplements/medications?” Lots of dogs rely on daily supplements or medications. You need to be sure that your chosen boarding kennel has staff who are knowledgeable and experienced enough to administer pills or remedies correctly on your behalf.
  3. “What is your policy for emergency care?” Find out what the kennel managers would do if your dog fell ill or got injured. Are they aware of the nearest animal hospital and what their emergency hours and procedures are?

Red Flag: Do you live in a state or province where boarding kennels are required to be regularly inspected? If so, and there is no current inspection certificate on display at the kennel you’re considering, move on.

  1. “What are your criteria around vaccines?” Any kennel that places a high value on the health of the dogs in their care will most likely insist that vaccinations are up to date. Ask the owner or manager if proof of titer testing is accepted in lieu of annual boosters.

This guide to choosing a kennel will help ensure you’ve done everything necessary to provide the best possible care for your dog, so you can enjoy peace of mind on your travels.


Brian Marshall has won numerous writing awards during his 30-plus year career in journalism. The Detroit native and Western Michigan University grad has owned two dachshunds and currently works with a mixed hound in need of obedience training.


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