Summer is the time we like to travel. Maybe a vacation, a family reunion, or a college-scouting trip is the impetus.
Whether it’s a quick weekend getaway or a summer excursion across or out of the country, it may not be possible to take our four-legged family members with us.
But leaving our pets behind can cause us great angst. Unless you have someone you trust to take care of your pet, finding the right boarding situation can leave you anxious, worried and guilt-ridden.
Our pets are our family and we want them to be safe and happy when we’re away. So how can we be sure they’re enjoying their time when we’re away?
Pet sitter or kennel?
First, consider your pet’s health. Are they well enough to leave home to be boarded or would it be best to hire a pet sitter come to you?
Older and infirm pets often have a hard time with change. A loud boarding facility without the comforts of home may be hard on them.
If your pet has special needs or suffers from separation anxiety, keeping them in their home environment may be a better idea than a kennel.
A pet sitter has its downsides too though. It’s often a more expensive choice than boarding.
And a pet sitter may leave your pet for long periods. If your pet is used to having someone at home most of the day, this can cause distress.
I’ve used a pet sitter many times. It was a person I genuinely trusted. They were great with my dogs but I realized they were leaving the dogs alone for long stretches. The dogs did damage. One time they chewed a rug—and they’re never destructive.
You can’t be sure the sitter is at your home with your pet the hours they say they are. But you’ll see the signs of anxiety when you get home if they’re not.
If your pet is well-adjusted and likes interaction with other animals, there are many great boarding options. A kennel can be a fun and stimulating vacation for your pet if you do your homework and find the right one.
Finding a quality kennel
If you want to board your pet at a kennel, you need to do a little homework and preparation long before your trip.
Gather names of reputable kennels. Ask your vet for a recommendation. They’ll know the reputation of local boarding facilities.
Once you’ve compiled a list of names, stop in to visit them. Any quality kennel will be happy to give you a tour of the premises. If the staff isn’t interested in showing you around, leave.
Things to look for
In some states you need a permit to operate a kennel and inspections may also be required. But many states have no requirements. If inspections are required where you live, be sure the kennel displays the certificate showing they meet the mandated standards.
While you’re touring the facility, ask to see all the places your pet will be. Here’s what to take note of:
Clean environment, clean smell – free of waste and urine
Good ventilation and light
Comfortable temperature – cool in the summer, warm in the winter
Knowledgeable and caring staff
Sizable individual runs – indoor only, or indoor/outdoor
Outdoor exercise areas protected from the elements
Dog beds that allow for rest off the concrete
Separate housing areas for cats and dogs
Enough space for cats to move around
Ample space between litter box and food dish
Fencing is safe – no broken fencing, jagged edges or bent wires
Boarded pets should not be wearing collars – strangulation danger
Animals should have water
Animals should appear content, not stressed
Things to ask
You will want to be sure you understand everything about the care your pet will receive when you’re away. That includes information regarding your pet’s diet, interaction with people and other pets, exercise, and emergency medical treatment during their stay at the kennel. Get the answers you need.
And what about how many animals each staff person is responsible for? The staff to animal ratio is important too. More than 10 animals per staff member means your pet may not get the attention you’re hoping for. Ask what the ratio is.
Most kennels aren’t staffed 24 hours. So ask if someone checks in on the animals at night. And find out their drop off and pick up hours.
Here are other things you’ll want to know:
What vaccines are required?
How often are pets fed?
Can you bring your pet’s food?
How often are pets exercised?
Are pets walked or let out in an exercise area?
Do dogs play together or are they separated by age, size, etc.?
Does the daily rate include playtime and how much playtime?
Do they provide toys or can you bring your own?
If your dog requires daily walks, can they accommodate that?
If your pet takes meds, is there an extra charge to administer those?
How are emergencies handled?
Is there a vet on call?
The answers to these questions and your gut instinct will tell you if the place is right for your pet. Does the place appear overcrowded? How about the staff? Are they friendly and attentive to the animals’ needs? Are they genuinely interested in your pet’s welfare?
Answers to these questions will either sit well with you or they won’t. If you sense this is a safe and happy place for your pet, then it probably is.
Sometimes people feel guilty for boarding their pets. But the right kennel can mean a great vacation for them too.
And it’s better than leaving your pet alone all day and having someone come in just to feed and walk them. At a kennel, people who are trained to detect health problems are supervising and monitoring your pet. And they’ll be socializing with pets and people.
Preparing to board your pet
Before you leave your pet at a boarding facility, here are some things you should do. Be sure your pet is socialized. If your pet isn’t good with strange people or animals, they won’t do well in a kennel.
Your pet should be current on all vaccines. Check with the kennel where you’ll be boarding because they will likely require other vaccines such as Bordetella (kennel cough).
Be sure to pack up enough medication and food for the number of days you’ll be gone, plus a few extra days. You could be delayed getting home. Things happen…
When you bring your pet to the facility for boarding, be sure to give them your vet’s phone number, your number, and a phone number for a local emergency contact. And remind the staff of any behavior (fear of thunder etc.) or medical problems.
Hand your pet to the staff, say goodbye and leave. No big farewells. You don’t want to agitate your pet in any way. They’ll sense your distress if you make a big deal.
If your anxiety persists…
Keep in mind you can always have your pet do a short staycation for a night or two before you board or have a sitter stay with them for a longer period. This gives them and you a dry run. You’ll see how your pet does and if there were any problems you’d want to avoid during a longer time away.
Many boarding facilities have webcams that allow you to see your fur baby and what they’re up to while you’re gone. If you are particularly stressed about leaving your pet at a kennel, choosing one with this capability may be helpful to you.
Many pet sitters will send videos and photos as well. And you can certainly ask them to text you with updates letting you know how your beloved pet is doing.
If any concerns still linger, check with the Better Business Bureau to find out if anyone has filed a complaint against the facility you’re considering and how the kennel addressed those complaints.
If you take the time to research the kennel and do the necessary preparation ahead of your pet’s stay, you can feel confident they’ll be well cared for when you’re away.
What has your experience been with boarding your pet? Do you use a pet sitter or a boarding facility? Share at the top.