Boarding During the Holidays

Select the perfect place for your pet during this festive season

The holiday season can be stressful with pending travel plans, Christmas parties, and house guests. Although this is an exciting time for us humans, it can be stressful and inconvenient to manage our furry friends, especially when they cannot partake in the festivities. It’s always great to have contact with a reliable boarding establishment for just these types of occasions or when you need to travel. Here’s a list of things to consider when interviewing and visiting prospective kennels.

Visit in person. Before making a reservation, request a visit to the establishment. If the manager is reluctant to let you browse the living and exercise quarters – be suspicious. It’s important for owners to be able to see the conditions in which their pets are going to be kept in. Is it safe? Is it clean? Are dogs stressed? Is the staff qualified? Take the time for this visit before making any long term arrangements.

Type of kennel options. Traditional boarding establishments offer basic indoor/outdoor kennel runs with chain link or galvanized metal fencing and concrete flooring. The indoor area is meant for shelter and housing; the outdoor run is for exercise and toileting needs. Some modern kennels are more luxurious and offer suite-like enclosures that mimic a residential environment. This is thought to provide a more familiar comfort of home while boarding. This is especially helpful for dogs which have separation issues from their families, or may have special needs. Many businesses offer services somewhere in between these categories. Reality is  – some of the amenities are more relevant for you than others – know what environment would be best suitable for your pet.

Maintenance is key. Not all kennels come standard with heating and air conditioning during extreme weather conditions. Ask if the buildings are insulated and provided with temperature control. Good management and cleaning protocols minimizes disease outbreaks and ensures your pet is healthy and happy when you return. So it is important to ask some questions. How often are the kennels cleaned? What kind of disinfectant is used? What amount of contact are pets allowed to have with one another? If the facilities or your pet smell of urine, waste, or funk upon pickup – then you may want to reconsider your choice.

Is anybody home? Some businesses are located on the owner’s property, others employ an overnight caretaker, and some businesses may simply lock the building (may or may not have security cameras) and are unstaffed outside of business hours. Know what the hours and staffing requirements are for the facility. No matter the place you select, it is a very personal choice to make – and it’s very dependent on the nature of your pet and your comfort level.

Know the services provided. Not all kennels are the same when it comes to special needs and extra services. Some have a standard number of bathroom breaks and exercise routines. Others charge for this service. Many places even offer fun activities such as food dispensing toys, play time, nose work, agility, swimming, or daycare per your request. Meet the staff members who will be interacting with your dog throughout their stay and clearly communicate your requests and what your pet needs. This is vital if your dog has special needs, does not do well with other dogs, or requires medication and supportive care while staying. If you have a puppy, consider their housebreaking routine and ensure good habits are followed at the boarding facility so there’s no set-backs on training.

Vaccine requirements. It is state law for your dog to be current on their rabies vaccine at all times. Boarding establishments may have additional vaccine requirements in order to accept your pet. Almost all businesses require a valid distemper/parvo shot and current kennel cough vaccine. Other establishments may require the canine Influenza shot, flea and tick treatment, and heartworm prevention. Call the boarding facility beforehand to learn what vaccinations are required, and establish the time frame vaccines need to be given – some require a wait period before considered to have active protection.

Know the policies of the boarding establishment. Inquire about any specific policies before making a booking. Knowing up front as to the responsibilities of each party can help you prepare for an emergency situation. Some policies may pertain to the health of the animals, involve hazard and damages (your pet was so anxious it tore through a kennel run which you need to pay for), and the various responsibilities in an emergency (like your pet gets sick or injured). Make sure you know if there any extra fees, or cancellation policies. Remember, kennels fill up quickly during holidays – make sure you book in advance.

Prepare for boarding your pet. If you’re not sure how your pet will do, ask if you may try an overnight or weekend visit first. This will help staff members observe your pet, provide feedback, and ensure things run smoothly before an extensive trip. This will also allow you to try another kennel, should the first one not meet your needs. Also ask if you can bring some familiar items from home to help your dog cope with being away. Favorite toys, treats, chews, and possibly a piece of clothing that smells like you or a family member, will offer some comfort to your pet. Some establishments provide food, but supply enough of your pet’s own food for the duration of the stay, as a radical change in diet can cause an upset stomach while they board.

Charlotte Wagner Harvey
About Charlotte Wagner Harvey 21 Articles
Charlotte Wagner Harvey holds a Bachelors of Science with honors in Animal Management from the University of Essex with a special interest in behavior. As a dog trainer and the owner of K9ology in Warrenton, she helps dog owners and dogs find common ground to establish a peaceful life together. Her core tenets: there are no shortcuts, it is hard, and do it right or don’t do it at all. She lives in Rappahannock County with her husband and a farm full of animals including horses, chickens, cats, and, of course, dogs.

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