The idea of boarding your dog can be difficult, especially if he suffers from separation anxiety.
But boarding your dog in a professional kennel with high standards can help ease his anxiety and give him the flexibility he needs to leave with peace of mind.
The challenge is finding a reputable professional kennel. After all, you are entrusting a family member to someone else.
In this guide, we’ll give you the framework and knowledge you need to evaluate a professional kennel and find the right one for your dog. But first, why do you need a kennel?
Why do you need a professional kennel?
If you’re going on a day trip or a 24-48 hour trip, asking a friend to watch your dog or babysit is not a bad idea.
However, if you are going on vacation for more than a day or two, you should consider fostering or professional kenneling to minimize the inconvenience and stress on your pet and your personal relationships.
Professional kennels are an essential aspect of a dog’s quality of life, as the right kennel can help them feel safe while being open to change. In addition, a professional kennel can offer many services that a neighbor caring for your puppy could not. These include grooming, bathing and the benefits of interaction with other dogs.
It’s also a good way to prevent your dog from suffering from separation anxiety, which can be detrimental to your pet and your home.
As long as the indoor and outdoor spaces of a kennel are of a high standard, and there is a team ready to care for all the dogs housed, professional kennels can be a great strategy for weaning your dog off the anxiety train.
What should a professional kennel look like?
The best way to make the right choice of a professional kennel is to schedule a visit. When you walk in, you’ll probably already have an idea of the quality of care and cleanliness. Refer to our simple list of expectations when you visit, and don’t forget to bring your dog so you can also judge how he or she reacts to the kennel.
1) Comfortable and welcoming
Whether it’s a building or a home, a professional kennel should not look totally industrial. Any address with a “warehouse” configuration is not a good idea. Instead, it should look like a house with tiled floors, painted walls, pictures and raised beds. There may also be a TV or radio on.
2) Cleanliness and tidiness
This is the number one requirement: the floors should be spotless, there should be no accumulated hair, dirt, bits of food and, of course, no animal waste. Cleanliness also means odor, but only some odors are indicators of poor quality.
3) A dog-friendly floor
Floor drains and slightly sloped floors tell you that this professional kennel is built specifically to accommodate canines. Sometimes grooming accidents are unavoidable, and these sloped floors with drains help staff clean up more efficiently. Hardwood or laminate is not a practical solution for a high-quality dog daycare space.
4) Fresh water
There should be plenty of fresh water in the kennel, placed in several bowls or automatic water dispensers, so that dogs can hydrate while moving. There should be no soggy bits of food in the area or in the bowls, as this means the water is not fresh.
5) Provisions and enclosures.
Concrete platforms are not a good idea for dogs. There should also be plenty of land and open space, with outdoor runs where dogs can run and play. Keeping too many dogs confined to a small area leads to aggressive and dangerous behavior.
6) Staff members
Consider the level of care and diligence staff members show in the performance of their duties, their interactions with the dogs and with each other. There should be a positive attitude and team spirit among staff members. Ask them questions whose answers you already know about handling or caring for dogs, as this will tell you more about the staff’s knowledge or qualifications to care for your dog.
Also keep in mind the ratio of staff to dogs. For all their love and affection, dogs are powerful creatures that can quickly get the best of their human companions. Make sure there is more than enough staff to care for the dogs and perform their tasks.
7) Heating and Cooling
The facility should have a central heating and cooling system, as well as a backup generator system in case of a power outage.
Tip: If you can, ask for references from pet owners who use the professional kennel and find out what they have to say. This is also a good way to see if the kennel is proud of its business practices. At the very least, they should be willing to give you testimonials or put you in touch with owners who will give you feedback.
The smell of a professional kennel
Smell will also be part of your evaluation. Some dog odors are natural and unavoidable, but it is worth evaluating odor levels, as the presence of certain odors speaks volumes about the cleanliness, efficiency, care and quality of the equipment.
Do as your dog does and do a “sniff test” while you’re there. Professional kennels don’t have to smell like a bouquet at all times, but they shouldn’t smell like feces either.
1) Dog smells
Think about your home: it takes a lot of work to keep it from smelling like a pet. Smelly kennels require even more work, but when you visit it should be clear that the staff is constantly striving to keep the place clean. You can make an exception on a rainy day, for example, but most of your visit should be odor-free.
2) Cleaning odors.
If staff members have to clean constantly, they should use products such as OdorPet, scented with cherry or lavender. There should not be excessive chlorine or bleach odors in the air.
The best way for professional kennels to eliminate odors from their indoor spaces is to make good use of their built-in ventilation systems. There should be sufficient ventilation to circulate fresh air from the outside to the inside of the kennel.
4) Doors and windows
Natural ventilation includes doors and windows. High-quality kennels have thought ahead of time about the needs of their canine residents, so they will have plenty of open doors for the dogs.
5) Your dog after pick-up
It is difficult to assess whether or not your dog will smell until he has been picked up. If the kennel allows it, you can leave your dog there to “test” for a few hours. When he gets home, he should smell no different than he usually does.
So if he comes home smelling like he’s been playing in the rain or running in the sun for hours, that’s okay. This is good because it means you are active. However, he should not smell like urine or feces.
Four tips for a successful trip
Whether you and your pet suffer from separation anxiety, both of you should spend some time getting used to the idea of boarding in a professional kennel.
Here are four practical tips for an enjoyable trip:
Work on coping mechanisms before leaving your pet at a professional kennel. You can begin this work by leaving your dog alone for short periods, no more than 10-15 minutes at first. Gradually increase this time to 25-30 minutes.
Provide appropriate toys and treats. Your dog will respond better to a new environment with familiar objects.
Make a list of behavioral or medical problems for the staff. All professional kennels should be willing and able to administer medication if you need it. You should also bring a list of training and obedience commands he can follow.
Bring his crate. If your dog is crate trained, bring it to your first visit. Leave a shirt or sock that smells like you inside, so he feels comforted when he retreats to his safe space.
You can also use over-the-counter natural calming sprays on a piece of bedding, which will naturally reduce your dog’s panic and stress levels during the first few hours of his stay.
Everything you can do on your end to prepare your dog for a stay is now complete. The next step will be to research various kennels, doggy daycare or boarding facilities in your area and evaluate them against a set of non-negotiable criteria.