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Boarding Your Pet – Tips and Tricks to Choosing the Right Boarding Facility

Pet Boarding TipsWith the holidays just around the corner, it is time to think about out-of-town travels and who will care for your pets while you are away.  For many people having a pet sitter is not an option, so the majority of people turn to boarding facilities to care for their furry friends.  Boarding can be a stressful event for both you and your pet so it is important to take the time to find somewhere you can trust.

First you'll want to compile a list of possible facilities in your area.  It is helpful to ask around for suggestions from people who are familiar and recommend a particular facility to help narrow down your options.  Then call around to find availability – if you've waiting too close to your departure date, your choices may be further limited by which places have space for your pets.

Then, ask questions about the things that are important to you.  You may want to know:
  • What are the hours? Are they convenient for dropping off and picking up your pet?  What happens if your return was delayed?
  • How much is it per night and what payment is accepted? What is included with their stay?  
  • What vaccinations are required/recommended for boarding? Are pets required to be on flea/tick control?
  • What is the set up like? Size of runs, proximity to other pets, etc.  
  • Is there group play available? Many people want their pets to have fun and socialize while they are there, but not all facilities offer this and may structure it differently.  What type of attention is given to pets when group play is not appropriate?
  • How often are kennels cleaned and what is the procedure if someone is sick?
  • What is the general schedule of the day? Are there people on the property overnight?  How often do pets go out for potty breaks and/or exercise?
  • What items should be brought from home? Some facilities will provide bowls, food, bedding, etc, but you may prefer to bring your own.  Do they allow toys?
  • What happens if a pet needs veterinary care? What is the procedure?
  • If your pet requires medications or specific instructions, how is that handled?
If you are happy with the resulting answers, you may then want to ask if you can tour the facility.  At that time you can make observations to further assist you in choosing the right place for your pet.
  • Does the staff seem attentive, comfortable and knowledgeable?
  • Does the facility seem clean and well maintained including the fencing, gates and play areas? Is there protection from the elements in outdoor areas?
  • Does the air smell clean? Is the temperature comfortable with good ventilation?
  • Are the kennels comfortable? They should be big enough for eating, sleeping and moving around.  How do they ensure fresh water is available?  
Hopefully at this point you have found somewhere you are comfortable leaving your furry family members!  Prior to leaving, be sure to:
  • Ensure your pet's vaccines are up to date!  Try to get any boosters done ahead of time so they can be effective when your pet needs them most! The latest strain of canine Influenza is life-threatening and you may want to consider this vaccine if your pet is not already up to date on it.  It is also a good idea to remember their monthly flea/tick preventatives, especially since you don't know what other animals may be carrying!
  • Tell the kennel staff if your pet has any particular characteristics they should be aware of.  Do they dig, climb, get aggressive towards other animals (or people!), have a fear of storms, etc.
  • Compile a contact list to include yourself, emergency contacts and your veterinarian's information.
  • Write down any medication and/or feeding instructions your pet may require.  
  • Don't make your send off too emotional as this will likely make your pet more anxious.  At pick up, you'll also want to stay as calm as possible and avoid feeding for a couple hours after arriving home.
Be aware that boarding your pet is the equivalent to sending your kid to daycare.  The exposure to lots of other animals, unfortunately, increases their possibility of illness.  This can be unavoidable even in the best facilities, and should be monitored for once you return home.  Often these illnesses are fairly minor and can be resolved easily with a quick trip to the veterinarian.  If your dog will be participating in play time activities that involve other dogs, accidents and injuries may happen.  Just like a dog park, it can be fun, but remember there is always some risk involved.  

Relax, have fun, and enjoy your vacation.  You've done your research and have found a great facility to care for your pet!