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How do I select a dog boarding kennel?

Dogs are social animals who like hanging out with other dogs, so kennels can be lots of fun. If you chose to kennel, here are some things to think about so you chose the right kennel for you and your family. A good kennel will answer your questions over the phone and in-person at an on-site visit. While many articles encourage you to drop in so you can see how a kennel is “really run”, a better approach is to make an appointment. Why? If a kennel is dirty or bad, getting a couple of hours notice isn’t going to give the kennel operator enough time to make it right before you arrive. If you scheduled a time to meet, your kennel operator can adjust their work schedule so you can spend as much time with them as you want, while not interrupting the dogs’ feeding, playing and housekeeping schedule. You should be able to see the entire facility including where your dog will stay, play and poop. If you can’t you might want to think twice about whether you want to leave your dog there.

Kennels use different facilities and philosophies. We abide by the New Zeland Quality Assure standards, which we feel are the best kennel standards in the world. When you’re looking for the right kennel for you and your dog’s needs, here are some key questions to ask:

WELL-TRAINED, CARING PEOPLE

There’s a huge difference between a kennel owner or manager and those who care for and spend time with your dog. The caregivers can’t just love dogs, they must have the experience and training to recognize dog body language and the signs of illness.

  • Who are your dog’s caregivers? Can you talk with and meet them, not just the manager?

  • What animal health and well-being qualifications and experience do they have?

  • Are they Pet First Aid certified? Do they know how to recognize signs of illness and injury?

  • Do they understand dog body language?

  • Are they themselves calm and in control?

  • Do they get to know my pet?

  • What else are those people doing in addition to caring for their boarding guests? If they’re busy grooming, training and selling product too, how much of their time is actually spent with boarded guests?

SAFE AND SECURE, PROFESSIONAL FACILITIES

The building, grounds and procedures must be safe, comfortable and clean.

  • Is the building designed to prevent the spread of disease and parasites?

  • Where do the dogs poop and pee, and how often is it removed?

  • Can you visit to see the entire facility, including the enclosure where your dog will stay?

  • Are all enclosures permanent enclosures or do they take in more dogs during peak seasons by adding temporary crates?

  • Is the facility constructed with health and safety in mind – eg. every door is a “double door” so your dog can’t bolt out and run away – that includes the front reception area? Are latches secure?

  • Is the facility clean and neat? How big is your dog's suite?

  • What is the environment like? Ambient sound? Traffic? Noises?

  • How safe and secure are the dogs after closing time? What fire and security systems are in place?

  • What do they do to prevent accidents, illness, dog fights, and escape? What's their health and safety track record?

  • What emergency preparedness plans do they have?

EFFECTIVE PRACTICES AND PROTOCOLS

How the kennel is run can make a difference to your dog’s health and happiness.

  • What is their health and safety track record? Have they had any bites, fights, accidents or illnesses to animals or people?

  • What’s the maximum number of the dogs they provide care for? (The New Zealand AsureQuality best-practice standard recommends that the ratio of people to dogs must not exceed 1:30 even in busy times. That refers to people who care for dogs, not people who are also grooming, and training dogs or selling product in addition to providing care. )

  • What information do they collect about my pet before arrival?

  • If play pools are available, is there 100 per cent constant supervision? (All dogs, especially small ones, can drown in a small kiddie pool. Being nearby is not good enough – watching the pool is essential.)

  • Which vaccinations and parasite prevention methods are mandatory and how long before boarding do they need to be done?

  • What brand of food is served?

  • Do their cleaning and disinfecting product kill parvovirus and are they pet-safe? If cats are also boarded at the facility, ensure that the cleaning products do not contain phenols, which are toxic to cats.

  • What do they do to ensure that poisons, chemicals and cleaners not accessible to animals?

  • What do they do with aggressive dogs?

  • If they do not use a municipal water source, is the water tested for heavy metals initially and potability annually?

  • Is the space free of animal waste and garbage?

SPECIAL SERVICES

Community play time where dogs from many families interact is a way to socialize a pet if done correctly, and if not done well, is extremely dangerous.

  • Is it a quality experience for the dog or an unfamiliar pack thrown together? It should be more like a well controlled birthday party with games and supervision than a free-for-all. (Reference doggy daycare 2.0.)

  • How many people are continuously and actively supervising how many dogs? Continuously and actively means being with the dogs, not dogs being in the yard and people being in the office. (To ensure pet safety, one person to 10 dogs is recommended by the Pet Care Services Association, and a minimum of one person per 15 dogs is regulated in some states like Colorado - 16 dogs would require two people.)

  • Are dogs temperament tested before being allowed to interact with others?

  • Do dogs have constant physical supervision (not just by looking out a window) by people who understand dog body language and are current in pet first aid certification?

  • Are only dogs of a similar size grouped together?

  • How much of their time is spent at community playtime vs. in their enclosure?

  • How do they ensure that dogs don’t step in or eat other dogs’ faces?

  • What is the emergency response plan when accidents, injuries and/or death occurs? (According to Dog Gurus, any Dog Daycare with more than two issues a year operates using poor protocols.)

Grooming is a specialized service that requires special knowledge and skills.

  • Is the groomer knowledgeable and do they practice parasite prevention?

  • Is the groomer knowledgeable about grooming? Some dogs are designed with thick coats so they can regulate their temperature and should never be clipped. If they are clipped, they can cannot regulate their temperature and may suffer heat stroke or hypothermia.

  • Are dogs who are left for grooming supervised 100 percent of the time so they cannot fall off a grooming table and strangle or overheat in a dryer?

EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS

  • In case of power failure, do they have emergency generators and heating systems?

  • What security measures are in place? For example, live on site, monitored alarms, video cameras, alarms, etc.

BUSINESS PRACTICES

  • What are the cancellation policies?

  • What environmentally friendly practices do they have?

  • What do they do for animal welfare and the local dog community in general?

  • Do they give back to the community in any way?

RATES

Once you’re comfortable with the people, facilities, operating philosophies, you’ll want to know costs.

  • What does it cost to board my pet for one day or night? Eg. is arrival Tuesday, departure Wednesday one night or two days? Is there a check-out time? If so, what am I charged for staying late?

  • What is included in the daily rate? Food? Bedding?

  • Are there extra costs for medications, play time, etc.?

Selecting a kennel that fits your style can be a very positive experience for both you and your dog. It gives your dog a safe place away from home and a social outlet, and it gives you peace of mind and the freedom to travel knowing that your pet is properly cared for, happy and healthy.