It feels like for every story of a good boarding facility, we hear two nightmare tales. It’s a lot of work to run a successful dog kennel. One where the dogs are happy and relaxed, the area is clean, the staff are knowledgeable and that makes money. And that’s why it can be stressful and scary to drop your dog off at a new facility. We are going to help you pick out a good one with some professional tips on what to look for when interviewing a new dog kennel (YES THERE SHOULD BE AN “INTERVIEW!” Don’t just drop your dog off at some place you found on Google). Instead, set-up an appointment to tour the facility and don’t forget this checklist.
Signs of Good Kennel
Cleanliness. When you enter the dog kennel, it shouldn’t smell of feces or urine. They should be using appropriate cleaners that are safe for animals and that kill bacteria. The place should be tidy and organized. Dog food should be stored properly and water bowls should be filled and clean. This is the first thing that should tip you off if a place is good or not.
Knowledge. How knowledgeable is the staff? Don’t be afraid to quiz members of the staff, including the owner or manager. Do they know what to do if a dog starts choking? Bloats? Overheats or starts a fight? How do they address dogs that bark the whole time? (Some places have been known to use electronic-collars without asking the owner’s permission). If you have a dog with special needs – whether she is on medication, older or has an injury, be sure they know how to take care of her properly.
Some breeds have special requirements – do they know enough about dogs to know this? (An example would short-nosed breeds being more susceptible to heat stroke.) A bulldog recently drowned at a dog boarding facility in the United States even though the owners had left explicit instructions to not let him near the pool because they don’t swim well. Two things went wrong – the owners trusted that the workers knew better and they chose a facility that was probably not the best choice for their breed of dog.
Dogs are Separated into Play Rooms. One giant room with every dog in it can really cause trouble. Different facilities do things differently, but size is a good way for them to be broken up – so big dogs and little dogs are separated. Some also have a puppy area and an old dog area. The latter two areas can really help keep the peace in the play rooms – puppies often play too rough for adult dogs. Senior dogs tend to be crabbier and will often snap if another dog bumps into them, etc. Putting them with other, slower moving dogs can help them all relax.
For Dogs that Don’t Play Nice. Remember, it’s about what works for your individual dog! If you have a dog that can’t be with other dogs, ask them what their schedule will be like – do they get to go out and run around or are they in a kennel the entire time? Some places have separate areas where single dogs take turns getting to run around and play.
Insurance. Do be sure they are licensed and insured. This is just common sense.
Vaccine Requirements. These places have a lot of dogs from a lot of different areas. Most of them are stressed. Requiring vaccines, especially for kennel cough (Bordetella) is just smart. It helps make sure the dogs in their care do not all come down with something. So ask the place about the types of vaccines they require.
Cameras. Do you they have security cameras? I’d be very suspicious of a place that doesn’t want a record of what they are doing with or to other people’s dogs. Ask them if there are ways for you to watch your dog via video while you are away – a lot of places do nowadays.
After that initial interview, drop in once or twice unannounced to see if the facility was just “putting on a show” for the tour, or if they really are that clean and organized.
Find online reviews and see what past and present customers say.
If they do daycare, drop your dog off for just a day prior to a stay and see how he likes it. Does he seem relaxed and happy? An even bigger tell will be how he acts when you return – is he excited to be back or does he act like you are leaving him at the vet’s to be neutered? Remember, dogs are often better judges than we are. And don’t forget to trust your own gut too. If something feels off, don’t entrust your dog with them, it’s not worth the risk. Instead, keeping searching until you find the perfect carer for you and your dog.
So anyone can pet sit. A lot of teenagers make extra money by feeding the neighbor’s dog while they go on vacation. But there are also professional pet sitters who spend money on certifications (which means they have more knowledge on pets and participate in continuing education) and industry memberships
(which means they stay up on the latest information and are dedicated enough to their business to spend money on it). Professionals have insurance too, which pays for any accidents that happen while you are a way. What happens if that teenager gets pulled by your large dog, he falls and breaks his arm. Who’s paying for the medical bills?
The Pet Sitters International is a great organization to source a certified pet sitter if you like.
Definitely ask for references. Just remember that they were chosen by the pet sitter so these are going to be guaranteed positive reviews. If they are a legitimate company, look for Facebook or Yelp! reviews that will be more truthful.
Have an in-person interview
One of the most important tips is to invite the pet sitter to your home for an in-person interview. This is so important because it gives you a chance to see what your “gut feeling” tells you about the person. It allows your dog to meet the potential sitter. Do they like him or her? Dogs are very good at judging character. If your dog isn’t warming up to them right away (especially a dog that is not normally shy or reserved), then I’d keep looking.
You have many options when it comes to a pet sitter, so don’t be afraid to interview several before choosing one. After all, you are entrusting them with a life of your best friend, so choose carefully.