Ease Your Anxiety and Pick the Right Dog Boarding Place

Where will your dogs go during the holiday season?

The holiday season is now in full swing with Christmas and New Year’s Eve fast approaching. This time of the year brings lots of joy meeting up with family and friends, but can also be stressful when you travel to see everyone and can’t bring your furry companion.

A pet sitter such as a neighbor or friend can ease that anxiety, but in today’s world where people’s schedules are always changing and busy that isn’t always an option. Often the best alternative is to leave your four legged friend at a reputable dog boarding facility.

So how do you pick the right place so your dog gets the best care and you can relax as you go on your trip? Here are some key considerations when selecting a boarding facility.

View the video for a quick summary and/or read the full blog post below.

Get a recommendation

Rather than starting from scratch using the Internet, ask a friend, neighbor, veterinarian, animal shelter, or dog trainer for a recommendation. Someone with first-hand experience can really help you find the best place for your pooch. Most dog trainers, veterinarians, and animal shelters know the local boarding community pretty well and have heard the good and bad stories about the facilities. Their experience can help you make a much more confident decision.

Do some background research

After coming up with a short list from a few reputable sources, consider doing some background research to narrow the list down. For example, check to see if your state requires boarding kennel inspections – if it does make sure the facility you are considering has a license or certificate showing that the boarding place meets mandated standards.  

The International Boarding & Pet Services Association (IBPSA) is the professional association for pet boarding facilities that helps its members create safe and responsible pet care environments. The IBPSA has a database of members, so you can check to see if your provider is a member. The association has also put together a list of questions you should ask a pet sitter or boarding facility to see if they are the right provider for you. The questions are available on their website or you can check this handy PDF.

Check to see if your boarding kennel has received the prestigious Pet Care Services Association (PCSA) “Voluntary Facilities Accreditation” Award. Less than 1% of kennels in the United States have received this recognition, so it is a testament to the excellent cleanliness, attentiveness of staff, and exceptional medical attention your pet will receive at this facility.

Another great resource is checking with the Better Business Bureau to see whether any complaints have been lodged against a kennel you are considering.

Also, check social media sites like Facebook, Yelp, LinkedIn and Twitter for any reviews or feedback from customers that have used the facility.

Schedule a tour

Once a boarding facility has passed your background check. It is highly recommended to schedule a site visit to see the facility in person. Boarding facilities can be very different. Some kennels keep dogs in rows of small cages with very little room to move around in. Other boarding facilities may be more like a pet resort and provide your doggie with more space and a more luxurious setting. Think about how you want your pet to live while you’re away and find a facility that suits those needs.

Here are a few things to pay close attention to during your visit:

-How long has the facility been in business?
-Is the facility clean and well maintained?
-Are there any safety hazards where your dog will be sleeping or playing, such as sharp edges or holes in fencing?
-Is the temperature comfortable?
-Is it well lit and have good ventilation?
-Is there adequate space for the number of dogs to exercise and rest?
-Are outdoor and exercise areas protected from wind, rain, and snow?
-Are resting boards and bedding provided to allow dogs to rest off the concrete floor?
-Are cats housed away from dogs?
-How often are pets fed?
-Can the owner bring a pet’s special food and medications?
-What veterinary services are available?
-How are rates calculated?

Check to make sure the staff is knowledgeable and caring

A critical factor in picking the right location is ensuring it has the right people. From the owner to the staff, these are the people you are entrusting the care of your dog to while you’re away, so pay close attention. Do they seem well prepared, trained, and have a good attitude? Do the dogs at the facility seem to be in good care and enjoying themselves? How long have the staff worked there? Do they have enough staff to operate the facility well? For example, a staff member who rushes you through a facility tour may be a sign that the staff won’t have enough time to give your dog the attention they deserve. Because holiday travel involves a lot of advance planning, Paradise Pet Resorts recommends a test run by taking your dog to the facility for a few doggie daycare visits before you leave for vacation. This will give you a real sense of whether or not the boarding facility is right for your pet.

Ask about the staff’s training and background in animal care and how often they receive continuing education. Staff members who are knowledgeable in dog behavior, dog care, and even dog training helps when any problems do arise. Also, find out if the staff is certified in pet first aid and CPR.

Assure your pet’s health is a top priority

Make sure the place has the policies and documented practices to provide the best care for your furry friend. Some basics include ensuring that any pets they board are current on their vaccinations, such as the vaccine for canine kennel cough (Bordetella). Here are some common concerns to be aware of and ask about. Usually, any new owner has to provide all the paperwork from their vet proving that their dog is current on their vaccinations.  

Find out how they handle dogs with special conditions or need medications given to them. Also, ask if the facility has had any cases of dogs escaping to make sure that isn’t a concern.  Ask what the usual schedule is for the dogs in terms of where they will exercise, play, eat and sleep. Also, ask how they handle a dog that misbehaves.

Ask how they handle medical emergencies

Find out how the facility handles any medical emergencies. If your dog gets sick or injured during their stay, it is important to know how the facility handles such events. Do they have their own veterinarian or do they call yours if something happens? How do they transport your pet and communicate with you if something happens? Make sure there is an option for your pet to get immediate care if needed.

Find out how they make sure to avoid dog fights

The last thing you want is to be on your holiday vacation and find out your dog has been in fight. A reputable facility will usually evaluate any new dogs and check their behavior before boarding them.  They will have staff watching the dogs at all times to make sure that everyone is behaving themselves. Ask to see the facility’s policy on staff supervision of the dogs. Dogs should not be left unattended at any time while in group play, as this can lead to aggressive behavior and fights. Consider asking about the types of training staff are required to complete to supervise pets in group play.

Determine how the facility is monitored

Some facilities have staff at the location 24 hours, seven days a week, and other locations take a different approach with video monitoring. Ask the staff how they monitor the dogs during the day and night and determine what you are comfortable with for your pooch. If you want to keep an eye on your dog while you’re away, many facilities will have a webcam set up so that you can see your dog playing or resting. Some even offer 24-hour video surveillance of your pet through a smartphone app.

Understand how much interaction your pet will receive

Ask about the social interaction with the dogs at the facility. When deciding on which facility to choose, you should ask questions about how much attention and interaction your pet will receive each day. You don’t want your furry friend stuck in a crate all day while you’re gone on your trip. Find out if your dog will be taken to the bathroom and how much interaction they will have with other dogs including play time.

Check for other services such as grooming, training, bathing, cuddle time or walks

A great sign is if the facility offers complementary services to make your pets stay a bit more comfortable and enjoyable.  For example, giving your dog a walk or some cuddle time can provide your dog with some social interaction and help you with your feelings of guilt while you’re enjoying your trip. Also, it’s always nice if you get your dog back from a long trip and he or she has been given a bath and been groomed.  It is always nice to know that your dog can get some interaction at the facility while you’re gone.

Request references

It can be valuable to ask for customer references prior to your final sign-off.  Most likely the facility will provide some very satisfied customers, but you still may learn something new from these conversations. This can be a great way to end your evaluation on a positive note while maybe building some new friendships at your new boarding facility.  

In the end, everyone wants their dog to be in a well-run and maintained dog boarding facility that will care for them during your vacation or trip. Knowing what to ask before you leave your dog will allow you to enjoy your time away and give your dog the outlet he or she needs to thrive until you return. Finally, have a good trip, knowing that your pet is in good hands and will be happy to see you when you return.

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