Leaving your best friend behind for the weekend is tough, but it’s worse when you can’t make them understand that you’ll be back and that your travels are only temporary. I’m talking, of course, about your canine companion, but boarding your furry BFF can be a breeze if you take the right steps.
First, check out Yelp, Facebook, and Google for well-reviewed facilities and ask other pet parents where they prefer to leave their furbabies. Reach out to the best recommended kennels with any questions or concerns and PetsWelcome.com smartly suggests arranging a tour “to see where the dogs sleep, stay, and play”. When scheduling a visit, “Be aware that some facilities may not be able to show you their boarding areas during business hours because of dogs that are out and playing and they don’t want you to accidentally get jumped on or nipped at. Most will do a tour right as they open or close before it gets too hectic and crowded.”
During your visit, pay special attention to the conditions and cleanliness of the organization. “It will smell like dog but it should not smell like dirty dog,” PW reminds us. Ask to check out where the pups will play, see the food storage, and explore the sleeping arrangement to make sure it’s appropriate for your pet’s health and behavior (if you’ve got a fragile senior, for example, or an eager escape artist). Most of all, note how their pet guests are being treated, “Observe the dogs that are there if there are some boarding. Do they seem comfortable? Do they all have water? Do they have bedding? Do they seem happy or stressed?”
Ask lots of questions. PetsWelcome.com’s list of important conversations to have with your boarder includes: “How much play time do boarding dogs have throughout the day? Where do they go potty? What’s the feeding schedule? Does the staff know how to administer medications? Is there an on-site staff 24/7? Are there webcams? Is it climate controlled? What are the procedures for emergencies? What can you bring for your dog?”
The best suggestion to make things easier for you and your pet both is to give your pup’s stay a trial run for a few afternoons. Dropping off your doggie for a few hours of daycare will get him used to the routine and hopefully help him to recognize the kennel as somewhere fun, instead of experiencing the anxiety of being dropped at a strange place without you. Note any negative changes beyond his normal level of anxiety: “Is he tired? Is he forgetting all his commands? Were there any concerns from the staff about his play style or interactions with other dogs? How’s his appetite and does he have an upset stomach? It’s natural for your dog to be tired, a little hungrier than usual, and maybe even have a small upset belly.”
But know your dog’s limitations and work with the staff to accommodate him if he seems overwrought or move on to another space, “…if your dog seems weary of staff or afraid to go into the facility it may have been too much or too many hours with a pack. Some dogs love to play all day and others only want to play for a few hours and then call it quits. Talk to the staff about what schedule of daycare and boarding would work best for your pet.”
What’s your best advice for pet owners boarding their dog for the first time? What’s one tip you wish you’d known before you left your dog at a kennel? — Casandra Armour