2. How to Properly Board Your Dog - What to Look for in an Excellent Facility
Choosing a kennel for your dog to spend his days and nights in while you are away from home can be a daunting task.
With the saturation of media coverage on animal abuse, kennel diseases, and unsavory kennel staff members, the thought of selecting a group of individuals to care for your pet can become overwhelming.
Even the most cautious dog owners can find themselves regretting a kennel choice.
Fortunately, there are certain characteristics that pet owners can seek out when determining whether or not a facility is right for them.
While the general appearance of the kennel is always the first indicator of the service that is offered within, there are less obvious ways to judge a facility.
The following items are vital to the overall comfort of your pet while you are away:
- feeding schedules
- watering schedules
- exercise schedules
- interaction with other dogs
Feeding Schedules Can Greatly Affect Your Pet's Comfort Level
If your pet is of a larger breed, he may be accustomed to consuming a greater amount of food than what is distributed on a daily basis at a kennel. Also, if your pet is still a puppy (under the age of six months), his bowl will need to be full at almost all times to promote proper growth and development.
More reputable facilities will take these facts into consideration. Others, however, will simple feed each animal the same amount regardless of age or size, sometimes only once daily. For dogs with greater feeding needs, this can become a real problem.
Ask the kennel that you are considering for your dog about their feeding schedule. They should be feeding each animal twice a day, or at least checking for empty bowls twice a day.
Also ask for exact food amounts given to each dog, and compare that with what you are currently giving your pet. If there is a dramatic difference between the two, it may be best to move on to another choice.
Water Bowls Must be Full at All Times
More important than a feeding schedule in a kennel is the watering schedule. One of the most passive and unnoticed forms of neglect in a kennel can come in the form of a rarely filled water bowl. Especially during warm summer months, when dog owners tend to go on long vacations, this factor can quickly become a health risk for your pet.
Ask your facility about watering schedules, and note any additional information that is added to your inquiry. For example, simply ask when each dog is given water, and do not ask directly if water is given in between feeding sessions as needed.
This information will be more accurate if it comes voluntarily from the kennel staff member rather than as an answer to a direct question. This is also true with any other questions you may ask.
Make Sure That Your Pet Receives Adequate Exercise
A lengthy stay in a kennel can be stressful for your dog in any event. A stay that is completely confined to a cage with no real interaction with human beings can be traumatic. With no exercise, your dog will have no energy outlet, as well as no way to relieve the stress that is associated with being confined to a cage. More importantly, a dog that is left with no exercise over a matter of days can become ill, excessively nervous, or depressed.
Because kennels stay full to capacity quite often, releasing your beloved pet for much needed exercise may not be a priority to the overworked kennel staff. Ask directly about exercise schedules, listening for references to whether or not every dog is taken out each day, rather that just a select few.
Your Dog's Interactions With Other Pets Must Be Limited
When considering a kennel, you may wish to select one that allows pets to interact with one another. This socialization is generally healthy for dogs when under careful supervision, however careful supervision is not always available in a busy kennel. Consider the following risks of your dog's kennel interactions:
- contact with aggressive dogs
- fighting injuries or death
- disease transference
The problem with kennel socialization is the risk of dogs not being adequately supervised. While one staff member may be monitoring the situation, there is little that can be done in the event of a heated fight or an overly aggressive exchange.
Almost completely out of a monitor's control is disease transference, which becomes a greater risk with each exposure to another animal. Make sure that your pet's interaction with other animals is limited. Plenty of interaction with friendly staff members, however, is highly encouraged as a social outlet.
Don't Be Afraid to Overanalyze
If you find that the aforementioned factors meet your quality standards, move on to examining the kennel's surroundings more intensely. Take into serious consideration the following items:
- the registration process
- condition of other pets
- your dog's reaction to his surroundings
All three of these factors can tell you what staff members will not. During the registration process, you should be asked about your dog's vaccine records, medical history, and medications that will be administered.
When you are touring the facility, note whether or not water and food bowls are filled. Also take note of the general conditions of the other pets, noting the cleanliness and the general environment.
While a few nervous visitors are to be expected, there should be a limited amount of barking and absolutely no whimpering from adult dogs (whimpering from puppies is a common occurrence).
Finally, take into consideration the overall reaction to the staff that your dog has. Does he wince at their touch, growl, or act afraid? This is not normal for pets that do not usually display these characteristics around strangers.
While he may be tense at first, he should be at ease once the he sees you interacting with the staff members. Regardless of the facility's appearance, your dog has the final say. If he's not comfortable with the staff, he'll be miserable during his stay.