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Tips for Choosing a Dog Boarding Kennel

Going out of town these winter holidays and unable to take your furkid with you? 

A recent study revealed that Australian pet owners shy away from leaving pets with friends and family? The reasons given range from worries about their lack of time to perform the task properly (40%) and an inability to cope with their pet (28%).

Your dogs depend on you to take good care of them —even when you have to be out of town. A boarding kennel or a reliable pet sitter can offer your dog quality care whilst providing you with peace of mind.

PROS AND CONS OF BOARDING YOUR DOG IN A KENNEL

Sometimes, it is best to leave pet care to the professionals, such as a boarding kennel. Keep in mind that long week-ends and school holidays are very busy times for kennels with some facilities booked out 12 months in advance so try to get organised early.

A facility specialising in overnight boarding allows your pets to:

  • Avoid the stress of a long car or airplane ride to your destination. 
  • Stay where they will be welcome (too many places promoting themselves as "pet-friendly" have so many conditions and exclusions in place that we wonder why they bother mentioning it).
  • Receive more attention, supervision and exercise than your dog would if left alone for most of the day.
  • Be monitored by staff trained to spot health problems. 
  • Be secure in a kennel designed to foil canine escape attempts, not to mention the possibility of your pet being stolen if you leave him unattended in a backyard whilst on holidays.
    Photo Credit: Akuna Pet Resorts (Hunter Valley)

    Potential drawbacks to using a boarding kennel include:
    • The stress related to staying in an unfamiliar environment. 
    • The proximity to other pets, potentially exposing your pet to health problems such kennel cough, fleas etc.
    •  The difficulty of finding a local kennel that will accept larger or multiple dogs, or dogs who suffer from a specific physical or behavioural issue.
    •  The inconvenience of the drive over if your dog is easily stressed by car travel.

    Ariel Endean from Akuna Pet Resorts warns that "dog stacking” is a common practice in the pet resort business where multiple dogs from different homes are put into the one accommodation area together. So what may seem like a good idea in terms of company can in reality create a lot of problems. 

    The main issue is that when two stranger dogs are suddenly forced to sleep and live together 24/7 the more dominant or bossy "top dog" will most likely take most of the food, bedding, toys and treats available whilst the more gentle natured dog will be lucky to get leftovers and a spot on the floor to sleep. 

    There is also the very real risk of injury as dogs sleeping together are left unattended for up to 12 hours during the night, meaning that if a fight does break out, there are no people or staff to break it up and/or seek emergency veterinary care".

    HOW TO FIND A GOOD KENNEL FOR YOUR DOG

    PetStayAdvisor (PSA) believes that there are quite a few important steps in finding the best boarding kennel solution for your dog. Your first port of call should be to check online review sites that are listing kennels near you and find out what other pet owners are saying.

    PSA lists dog/cat boarding, pet sitting and doggy daycare and will return searches by “highest paws ratings first” so you can really see the best independently rated pet boarding facilities near you.

    If you are unable to find any reviews online, you can also ask for recommendations from friends, your local vet or dog trainer or use word of mouth (for example ask other pet owners at your local off-leash dog park). Once you have narrowed down your search to a few facilities, we believe it is important to do a little background check.

    1) Find out whether your state requires boarding kennel inspections. If it does, make sure the kennel you are considering displays a license or certificate showing that your chosen kennel meets these mandatory requirements.

    2) After selecting a few kennels, confirm that they can accommodate your pets(s) for specific dates and can address your pet's special needs (if any). If you're satisfied, you should schedule a preliminary visit.


    Dog Boarding - Cottage Kennels Victoria - Exercise Runs
    Photo: Cottage Kennels & Cattery (Victoria)

    WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A BOARDING KENNEL

    On your visit, ask to see all the places your pet may be taken to and pay particular attention to the following:
    • Does the facility look and smell clean?
    • Is there sufficient ventilation and light?
    • Is a comfortable temperature maintained? 
    • Does the staff seem knowledgeable and caring?
    • Are pets required to be current on their vaccinations, including the vaccine for canine kennel cough (Bordetella)? 
    • Does each dog have his own adequately sized indoor/outdoor run or an indoor run plus a daily schedule for exercise?
    • Are outdoor runs and exercise areas protected from wind and rain? Is bedding provided to allow your dog to rest comfortably?
    Photo: DOGUE Country Retreat (Southern Highlands) - Suites for small dogs

    • How often are dogs fed? If you’re used to feeding your dog smaller quantities 2 or 3 times a day, will this facility be able to accommodate your request?
    • Is there an extra charge for feeding your dog’s normal diet?
    • What veterinary services are available? 
    • Are additional services available such as a free pet shuttle service to check in and out, grooming or training packages?
    • How are the rates calculated?
    • Will you receive a daily update on your pet’s wellbeing via an email or Skype? 
    Hanrob Pet Hotels for instance offers a “Staying Connected Package” that includes photos, videos and Skype sessions, where you can see your pet in real time and speak to their carer.

    Going away on holiday can be an exciting time for us pet owners, yet how can you be sure that your companions stay will be as happy and relaxing as your own, whilst you are away? Leaving your pet with knowledgeable and experienced pet boarding operators can be achieved by knowing the right questions to ask.

    Drawing on their extensive industry experience, PetStayAdvisor (PSA) compiled the following handy list of questions which they are happy to share with dog owners.


    10 QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE BOARDING YOUR DOG


    1. Can you have a tour of the facilities prior to booking?

    Sharon Shaw from PSA suggests that "reputable kennels will always allow a tour but may have some tour times so you should always check with the facility prior to turning up".

    Andrew Biggs from Hanrob Pet Hotels adds “you need to ensure you can take a tour of the boarding facilities and also meet the staff who will be caring for your pet. Do they make you feel comfortable and are they able to answer all your questions?”

    2. Cleanliness / How often does your pets enclosure get serviced?


    Lindsay Stordahl, the author of ThatMutt.com suggests that whilst having your tour of the facilities, always be aware of how clean the enclosures are. Are there any strong or abnormal aromas present? 

    Ask the staff what time of day and how often the pens get cleaned? 

    Does your pet have a large enough area to sleep in away from where they soil? Does the bedding look clean?


    3. What level of care can be expected from the business?

    Will your pet be boarded with others? For dogs being pack animals, this may be a good solution if your dog is sociable. 


    According to PetMD.com, dogs should have enough room to allow them to break into a run. Ask how often your pet will be fed each day. During your tour, check that there is plenty of access to clean water at all times. The NSW Animal Welfare Code of Conduct sets standards to ensure that owners or managers of facilities maintain appropriate food and water, and protect animals from disease, distress or injury wherever possible, whilst in their care.

    4. What type of supervision is to be expected?

    How many animals are boarded at any one time and what is the ratio of pets to carers? 

    A good rule of thumb is that the dog boarding facilities should have at least one staff member for every ten dogs.

    5. How safe will your pet be within their pen?



    It’s important to check the enclosures to ensure that your dog or cat can stand, move around freely, stretch and fully rest.
    The enclosure itself should be a safe and sheltered structure, free from any protrusions or dangerous objects.

    6. How will your pet be identified among others by the business?

    This may seem like an odd question to ask, when as pet owners we can easily identify our own pets? However Lindsay Stordahl, who has worked in the industry for many years, has seen first-hand that dogs can be mistaken for other dogs by boarding facilities staff. She advises that pets should be identified in some way, so that you as the owner, can be sure that your pet is getting the correct care, diet and exercise that you expect and therefore receive the service that has been paid for and agreed upon by the business.

    7. What type of security is to be expected?

    It’s not only important to check the enclosures for safety, but also to check if the enclosures and exercise yards fencing and structures are secure to eliminate the possibility of any 
    escape routes.
    Cottage Kennels & Cattery - Rottweiler and Staff - Safe Enclosures
    Photo: Cottage Kennels & Cattery (Victoria)


    8. What would happen in an emergency situation?

    Ask your chosen facility how they will handle an emergency situation? Do they have a vet on site or nearby in case of emergency health issues? How and who will they contact in this situation?

    9. What exercise will your pet receive?


    Akuna Pet Resorts Water Fun Park - Hungarian Viszla having fun
    Photo: Akuna Pet Resorts - Water Fun Park

    What type of exercise and for how long each day is this included in your pet’s stay? 

    Is there a play area or run and will your dog be sharing this area with other dogs? Inspect the area, make sure you are happy with the size, cleanliness and its security. 

    Also notice whether there are any dogs or cats in the play areas, whilst you are touring the facility.


    10. What is the price of the stay and the inclusions?

    Finally, you should always be aware upfront of what your boarding fees will be and what their inclusions are. 

    Will you be charged extra for special dietary requirements, or for administering your pet’s medication? Can you negotiate a better rate for a long-term stay and does the fee include the day of drop off and the day of pick up? 

    Are there any cut-off times when you may be charged an extra day's stay?
    DOGUE Country Retreat, Southern Highlands (NSW)
    HOW TO PREPARE YOUR DOG FOR BEING BOARDED

    Be sure your dog responds to basic commands and is well socialised around both other people and pets; if your dog has an aggression problem or is otherwise unruly, he/she may not be a good candidate for boarding. 

    Andrew Biggs from Hanrob Pet Hotels recommends that “you ensure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations before taking him to the kennel. It is a measure of a quality service if companies do ask for vaccination proof as it guarantees your pet stays in a hygienic environment."

    If you pet has never been in this type of environment, he also suggests "you try first a Doggy Day Care service that may be offered” or go on a short trip, such as a weekend excursion. This allows you to work out any problems before boarding your pet for an extended period.

    Before you head for the kennel, double-check that you have your pet's medications and special food (if any), your veterinarian's phone number, and contact information for you as well as a local backup.

    When you arrive with your pet at the boarding facility, remind the staff about any medical or behaviour problems your pet has, such as a history of epilepsy or fear of thunder.

    After the check-in process, hand your pet to a staff member, say good-bye, and leave. Avoid long, emotional partings, which may upset your pet. 


    Finally, don't forget to have a great trip, knowing that your dog is in good hands and will be happy to see you when you return.
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