Choosing a boarding facility for your dog can feel more stressful than planning your own vacation! When you can’t take your pup along and want to go the boarding facility route, how do you decide which facility would be the best fit for your dog? Dogs who are social, don’t have separation anxiety, and love to meet new people and dogs will often be happier in a boarding facility than being left at home with a pet sitter. Taking some time to interview and tour a few different boarding facilities is the best way to determine where your dog will have the most fun on his “vacation!”
Size and Staffing Ratio
Ask the facility about the number of dogs that they generally care for each day in boarding and daycare. How many kennels are filled on most days? Some states have regulations in place for the staffing ratio required at doggie daycares or boarding facilities to ensure that dogs are given the best care and supervised for safety. Dogs are pack animals, so if a fight breaks out in a play group, other dogs may jump into the action. It’s important to have enough staff to monitor dogs to ensure that the staff can intervene immediately in the case of a dog disagreement. It’s also important for a facility to either have a trainer on site or have already educated employees on how and when to intervene in a rough play situation.
What are the security standards established at the facility? Are there double gates; safe, tall fencing; or other features to ensure that your dog can’t get loose? Do they keep collars/tags on dogs or are those collars and tags removed to prevent potential injuries and entanglement? Consider microchipping your pup before boarding to ensure that he can be found should he stage an escape.
It’s also a good idea to discuss if there is a staff member who remains overnight with dogs to keep an eye on them for emergencies or a “night walker.” If no one stays overnight, when is the last time that dogs will go out for bathroom breaks? Are there security cameras, secure locks or other preventions in place to protect the facility?
When you visit for a tour you’ll be able to get a good look at the cleanliness and sanitation standards of the kennel. While there’s bound to be dirt and hair, staff should be able to tell you their cleaning process including when and how often kennels and play areas are sanitized. You don’t want to board your dog in a place that doesn’t sanitize kennels between dogs as it’s possible your dog could pick up something, such as a bacterial or viral infection, from the last dog who stayed there. If the facility smells like urine or feces, consider heading to another boarding facility as it’s clear that dogs are not let out frequently enough to not soil their kennels at this location.
Everyday Kennel Environment
What is the temperature within the kennel and is it maintained at a specific temperature throughout the day and night? If dogs have access to outdoor play areas, are there rules regarding weather or temperatures to ensure dogs don’t go outside to play when it is too hot or too cold?
How loud are the kennels? While some barking (especially in play rooms) is usual, you don’t want your dog to be exposed to 24/7 barking. This can stress your dog out and prevent him from sleeping and having a good time.
Ask if there is a veterinarian on site to care for dogs who may become sick or in need of emergency treatment during their stay. If not, what are the facility’s procedures on getting a dog emergency medical care?
Increasingly, boarding facilities are offering more amenities for their four-legged guests. Everything from TVs in kennels, time to play in a pool, or scheduled story times are available in some facilities. Are you interested in a 24/7 camera in your dog’s kennel so that you can check-in? Do you want him to be groomed before you pick him up? Decide if your dog wants a luxury package with his boarding or if he’ll be happy with a few scheduled play groups. Knowing what you want the boarding facility to offer in terms of amenities can help whittle down the options of facilities you need to interview and tour.
Options for Exercise
Every boarding facility has different options for how their dogs get exercise. Sometimes you can choose to pay more to increase the duration or frequency of exercise, but you should ensure that your dog will have adequate bathroom breaks and human interaction. Ask when and how often dogs are taken out of their individual kennels.
What are the standards for play groups? Do dogs have to pass a temperament test before they’re allowed into a play group for safety? Can you request individual playtime with a staff member if your dog isn’t great in the “dog-park” style play environment?
Generally boarding facilities require that dogs come with their own food pre-bagged for feeding. If your dog needs special medications in his food, ensure that the facility will provide this medication. Inquire about the time of day that your dog will be fed and try to slowly move your feeding time at home closer to their schedule in the week before you board your dog.
You should be able to find a facility’s vaccination requirements on their website or you can call and ask the front desk. You’ll want to know this information to ensure that the dogs your pup will interact with are all in tip-top shape. Check that your dog is up to date on all the necessary vaccinations as well as his flea/tick preventative medication.
What to Pack
If your dog has a picky personality or certain quirks, ask to leave instructions with the boarding facility. This can help to clarify everything from feeding to medications to his personality and will allow the staff to take the best care of your dog. Older dogs with special needs will often be accommodated, but only if the staff is aware of his situation. You can see a list of some other items to pack for your dog’s stay in this article.
Conduct a Test Run
If you’ve gotten a tour of a facility that you like but are still concerned about how your dog might do there, consider doing a test run. Either take your dog for a day of daycare or board him overnight to see how he does. It’ll be worth the time and cost to do a test run so you can enjoy your trip knowing that your dog will be content!