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How to choose a dog kennel when you can’t take it with you

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As much as you would like to take your dog on a trip, sometimes that just isn’t possible or practical. And maybe you have exhausted all the favors of your family and friends. It might be time to go shopping for a kennel.

As with other travel arrangements, planning ahead is key to ensuring the kennel is right for your best friend. Options and prices vary from spa to spartan, so take the time to get references and visit the place.

Here are a few things to do and think about when choosing a kennel for your furry best friend.

Take a dog kennel tour

Dog daycare owners playing with dogs

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Looking at photos and reviews online can help you determine which kennels you want to consider, but it’s no substitute for an in-person visit.

Shop around for the facilities of the kennels you have on your shortlist. You’ll be able to better gauge how things are going there on a day-to-day basis, which will help you determine if it’s a place your dog would be comfortable staying for the duration of your trip.

Here are some key signals to look for to tell good kennels from bad ones:

  • Cleanliness. It should smell and look clean – not just in areas where your dog will stay, but also in play areas and other places your dog will go.
  • Ventilation. Is the air fresh or does it smell of stale air?
  • Habitability. The play area should be large enough for many dogs, as too little space can cause dogs to behave aggressively.
  • Comfortable bedding. The kennel may ask you to bring your dog’s own bed, but make sure they also have enough bedding if they need to change it due to spills or accidents.
  • Interactions between dogs. Watch how the staff handles dogs of different sizes; some kennels separate smaller dogs from larger ones so the little ones don’t feel overpowered. This is generally a good thing. Observe how the dogs staying at the kennel interact.
  • Your dog’s response. Much like people entering a not-so-clean hotel or an uncomfortable room, dogs can show their displeasure through agitation or restlessness. Bring your dog on the tour and see how he handles it. Trust your instincts and those of your dog.

Evaluate suitors

Young woman in a dog shelter playing with dogs and choosing which one to adopt.

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Now that you’ve toured the facility and narrowed down the decision to a few prospects, there are a few other things to consider that will help you choose the right kennel for your pooch.

If a few kennels seem to be in perfect condition, here are several other factors that can help you make your choice:

  • Ask for references and call them. Get input from several dog parents, preferably those whose pets vary in size and personality. Additionally, you may want to request recent inspection reports to ensure that the kennel consistently meets state safety and sanitation standards.
  • Make sure the kennel has a relationship with a veterinarian. Otherwise, see if the staff is willing to work with your own veterinarian, especially if you have a dog with special medical needs.
  • Observe how staff members interact with and talk about the dogs. Warning bells should ring if they speak negatively about any of the dogs or treat the dogs roughly.

What a Good Dog Kennel Should Provide

Saint Bernard dog lying in a breeding kennel, Martigny, Switzerland

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There are certain things that all good kennels will provide for the dogs in their care. These are absolute minimum requirements, but you should still ask them when finalizing your decision.

Here are some basics you should expect from any reputable kennel:

  • Dogs are fed on a regular schedulewhich varies according to the pet’s parent’s instructions, but is usually once or twice a day.
  • Dogs exercise daily; this varies by kennel but generally consists of four to six hours a day and may involve open space off leash, supervised walks or kennel runs.
  • Staff will give all medications needed, according to the schedule requested.
  • Bathing and grooming are generally available if requested.

What a dog hotel offers

Japanese Inn in Yagen, Mutsu City, Aomori Prefecture, Japan, June 20, 2011

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Let’s say your dog demands the best and you want the boarding to be as luxurious as possible. If you have extra money to spend, you might want to consider a dog hotel. Many offer private rooms for pooches and plenty of amenities, though they can vary a lot.

Here are the kinds of services that some “dog hotels” offer:

  • swimming pools
  • Nature walks
  • Heated floors
  • soundproofing
  • TVs tuned to animal planet
  • Freshly baked treats
  • A staff partner at bedtime and/or music to reduce the risk of separation anxiety

Preparing for the kennel stay

Another Sugar Sundaze for the Books

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Before you send your pup off in extended pajamas, you’ll need to prepare him. No matter how good the kennel you have chosen, staying in an unfamiliar place without your family is stressful.

Here are some steps you can take to prepare yourself and your pup:

  • Be prepared to meet the demands of the kennel. Bring everything requested: proof of current vaccinations and other health documents, prepayment if necessary, your contact details and any necessary medication. Many kennels require you to bring your dog’s own food to avoid stomach upset, so bring enough for the entire stay, plus a bit more in case there is a delay at pick-up time.
  • Bring familiar items from home. Many kennels recommend that you bring one or two familiar items, such as bedding or your dog’s favorite toy, as this will make them calmer in your absence. Note that kennels cannot always guarantee that the toy will come home. it can get lost during play or cleaning.
  • Say a quick goodbye. As difficult as it can be, experts recommend handing your pet over to a member of staff, saying goodbye, and leaving. Emotional goodbyes can be overwhelming for dogs, and they’re not so easy for pet parents either. With so much homework done ahead of time, you can walk away knowing your dog is in good hands and save the emotions for a happy reunion.

Keep special considerations in mind

Homeless dog puppy behind the bars of a dog shelter

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Discuss any unusual circumstances with kennel staff in advance. For example, if you are housing a young puppy, get as much detail as possible about how he will be handled and socialized with other dogs.

Learn about the kennel’s methods for dealing with any unusual behavior your dog may be exhibiting, such as aggression towards other dogs, overly submissive behavior, or separation anxiety.

If your dog has special medical needs, consider boarding him with your veterinarian. Although they may not get as much exercise or interactive play time as in another type of kennel, they will receive more medical supervision.

You and your dog should feel comfortable with the kennel before the stay even begins. Before dropping off your dog, check the credentials of the kennel; take a ride; and ask for details about exercise, diet, and other care.

Has your dog ever stayed in a kennel? How was the experience? Let us know in the comments below!

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