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Welcome to my advice column.  Remember, I am only a dog like you.  My opinions are to the best of my knowledge but are only opinions, researched or what I feel is correct.. The writer of this page is not responsible for any actions the reader may take as a result of reading this column.  If that is OK with you, keep reading.  If not, then go back and enjoy the other pages. You can address your questions to Hobo by Email with the topic Hobo's Advice (click on my picture)

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Current Column - Boarding Your Dog

There are many articles about Boarding your dog on the internet, and many are written by companies or associations wanting to sell you on their services. Some are good, and some may not be so good. We thought we should give you our own opinion.

First things first. You have many options for Boarding if you are lucky enough to live in a larger community. Don't let the cost be your main objective. This is too often the case, you are going away on vacation and already are spending a bundle so may think about saving a little here and there. But remember the statement "you can pay me now, or ay me later." It may be true for boarding your dog as well. The ultimate cost could be the ruined behavior, poor health, or even death of your dog.

You can choose between several options. There are commercial boarding kennels, upscale pet hotels, hiring a pet sitter for your own home, staying with a friend, or maybe even staying with the breeder you purchased your dog from. Of these we would choose staying with a family member that knows your dog. Our reason is that most dogs are social animals needing attention. But be sure that family member is responsible and willing (be prepared to return the favor later - or pay them!

OK so you don't have the option of a friend or family member. And you have to choose a kennel of some sort. Remember that even those flashy places may not be the same once you leave, so you have to do a little investigating.

We recommend you first talk to others who have used boarding facilities and find out how satisfied they are. Next, ask your vet. The vet of course may provide such services but often their own space is restricted so don't jump on that possibility. You can also call your local better business service or chamber of commerce. The chamber may recommend solely on the basis of who is a member (which only means they pay their dues)

Planning in advance

In most case you can not just call a kennel the day, week or even month before a trip and expect them to be able to accommodate you. Also, you may need preliminary vet services. Here are some things you should do, followed by a discussion:

1. No matter what kennel, if they are reputable at all they will require your dog to be vaccinated and most likely require immunization for things like kennel cough. Make an appointment well in advance with your vet and get everything up to date. (Rabies, distemper, parvovirus (DHLPP), bordetella, hepatitis, leptospirosis and parainfluenza, sometimes tracheobronchitis) We also suggest heartworm preventative, and preventative for fleas and ticks.
2. Visit several candidate kennels in your area. A check list is below for what you should look at. If the kennel operator will not show you the kennel and runs then walk away and don't come back. This sometimes is through viewing windows (so as not to upset the dogs being kenneled or somehow contaminate the otherwise sanitized area). The answer should be YES to all the below):

a. Is the kennel protected against fire? There should be fire extinguishers, automated sprinklers, and preferable the kennel itself should be non-burnable construction such as brick or block.

b. Is the kennel clean (indoors and outdoors)? How often do they clean the area? (this answer should satisfy you that it generally remains clean - but you can pop in a few times to check for yourself)

c. Does the kennel use sanitizers? This is to prevent diseases such as parvovirus that can spread through contact.

d. Are there barriers between runs high enough to prevent urine from running into adjacent runs (including from males hiking their legs).

e. Is there adequate ventilation? (it should not smell too strong of doggie odors)

f. Is the kennel environmentally controlled (heating and cooling)?

g. Is there a good size area where you dog can run? The AKC recommends gravel or concrete.

h. Is there a good source of lighting?

i. Does the kennel require vaccinations and proof of other immunizations? (Rabies, DHLPP, and kennel cough vaccinations)

j. Are you allowed to supply your dog's current diet? Many dogs can get upset with a change in food)

k. Does you dog get his own private supply of fresh water (often)?

l. Is there adequate security to prevent dogs from leving the kennel? This may included double doors, double fencing, concrete under the fence (if the dog digs it could escape from an exterior run). In some cases dogs need covered kennels to prevent climbing out of the kennel.

m. Is the kennel safe? Look around to see if dogs could get into trouble by getting to chemicals, sharp objects, etc. Floors should provide good traction to prevent slipping.

n. Is there adequate and knowledgeable supervision? You are going to have to quiz the kennel operator on this. A good kennel has a staff that can recognize potential medical problems your dog could acquire at the kennel.

o. Are you required to sign a release allowing the kennel to have your dog treated by a vet (if you are going to be out of town)? In the best situations your own vet would be used, in some cases there is a vet on staff.

p. If your dog has extra medical requirements or requires medications - will they accept your dog? Some kennels will not.

q. Does the dog get personal attention during its stay? Personally we would pick only those that provide additional services such as optional dog walks, attendants that spend some time with your dog, etc.

r. Is there someone close by in the evenings? This may be important if there is some disaster affecting the kennel (surprising how many kennels have no one).

s. Is the kennel protected from excessive sunlight (especially in the summer)?

t. Depending on your breed - are the runs adequately protected from rain, snow, and other harsh elements?

u. Is your dog safe from other dogs? Kennels accommodate a variety of dogs, and some times those dogs are aggressive. Kennels should be arranged so that dogs can not do harm to other dogs staying there.

v. Are you comfortable that your dog will be comfortable with sleeping arrangements (bedding, etc.)? You may want to inquire if you can bring bedding and objects from home (most good kennels encourage bringing the dogs favorite toy for an extended stay). Agin this should be a clean environment with enough space that your dog will be comfortable.

Get all the facts about the kennel. You do not want any surprises.

  1. Hours of service. You may get home late from your trip and youwill want to know when you can pick up your dog. You will also want to call and check to see how things are.
  2. Are there any other services? Many kennels offer grooming or training, and you may want to take advantage of that. You will also want to know if you dog will be given a bath before coming home.
  3. Get a feel of how comfortable you are with the kennel's staff. Any business arrangement should feel both friendly and professional. You will want to be able to ask questions whenever you wish, and they should be happy to provide the answers.
  4. Get a copy of the Boarding Contract in advance, and see if it reflects your investigation of the kennel.
  5. Find out if the kennel is a member of any kennel organizations and if you are able to check for any comments or complaints registered by that organization.
  6. Rates are important, but not the most important. You simply want to know how much and when you will be charged and the method of payment. Some kennels start charging an additional day at a certain time each day (so if you arrive 20 minutes late you can be charged one more day). Some don't take personal checks (so if you arrive just before closing with only a check in hand you may have to leave your dog).
  7. What do they expect you to bring in the way of toys, bedding, and food?

Whats Next?

So now you have investigated and found a kennel well in advance of your trip. There are some other things you may want to do to prepare.

Trial Run - you may want to try one night in the kennel well in advance of your trip. This can help your dog get used to the environment. Many of these kennels have day care. Your dog will get to know that you will return if you try that a few times and the likelihood of separation anxiety is reduced.

Folder - Once you have all the veterinary records completed, make up a folder with that information, your competed contract (if you have been provide one in advance), your vet's name and contact information, your itinerary with contact information, additional contact numbers of family or friends (especially if you authorize them to represent you in emergencies). Also make a list of any special requirements (and you have by now discussed those with the kennel to be sure they are able to satisfy those requirements), You may even want to break in a few more toys to include with your dogs stay.

When you drop your dog off.

Make sure your dog is leashed. Remember that there will be other dos coming and going from the kennel. When you arrive you will likely need to complet some paperwork. Sometimes it is a good idea to bring along someone to help by holding the leash while you do this. In some case you will have already become to know the operator, or the operator is thoughtful enough to provide help.

Don't make a big deal over leaving your dog. Your dog will read your body language. If you are overly excited, your do will be as well. Pretend this is just another moment in the day and nothing unusual is happening. The best thing is to hand the dog over and act as you will be back soon.

When you get home

We suggest that you unpack and get everything settled at home before going to get your dog from the kennel. Open up the house, get back the familiar smells, and relax for a bit if possible. You want your dog to come home to the house he remembers.

Arrive during normal business hours to pick up your dog. Try to arrive at least half an hour before closing. Bring along an extra collar and lead (even the best kennels can misplace these items) You will want enough time to pay your invoice, collect all the items you provided, and of course collect your dog. But before you see your dog, ask about his stay and make sure to find out about any problems or concerns. If possible, arrange to get a copy of any comments made by the kennel's employees as this will help you in the future should you require these services. Ask when your dog last received food and water.

When it is time to great your dog for the big homecoming try to be as calm as possible, but of course happy. Many dogs will pee all over as they are so excited. You are happy to see you best friend, but you act as though nothing has happened. You are calm and your dog is happy to see you.

Try to resist a big meal or too much water when you get home. Your dog may be overly excited and become sick or have diarrhea. Wait until everything has settled down before feeding - usually three to four hours. Expect your dog to pant a lot, provide a small amount of water or an ice cube. This might be a good time for one of his favorite walks or just a little familiar cuddling.

Other Comments

Generally people will write in and ask us our choice of methods when we write these articles. Maybe from a dog's point of view. We have tried out a variety of kennel types and different length of stay at the kennel.

My own favorite kennel was away from the city. It was a combination of a breeder facility and a boarding kennel. The owner's home was next to the kennel and there were additional staff available night and day. The kennel also has grooming facilities, and the owner was a veterinary assistant.

What we liked the most about this kennel was the variety of excellent services. The kennel had an option of walking the dog through a nicely wooded area once or twice a day. There was a large exercise area.

The kennel itself was protected from fires with sprinklers - and more! This is our biggest fear as several kennels have burnt to the ground with all occupants incinerated. This kennel was made of block, the normal area provided an indoor area and outdoor run. There was a door between the area that provided access to the run. At night that door was closed, but in the event of a fire alarm the door would automatically open, allowing the dogs to gain access to a long fenced in outdoor run.

During the day the kennel hired additional staff to just spend time with the dogs. Great fun.

We have also used day care, and love it. Some might not agree with this type of day care as the dogs are allowed to run with each other. They are carefully screened before being allowed to come to this day care and any dog that cause problems must stay in his own run. All dogs have extra vaccination requirements. - more than the norm, do to this environment. We find that the dogs learn socialization form this experience.

The humans also have arranged for our other humans to take care of us in our own home. We liked this the best.

Oddly, the worse place we have stayed was at a veterinary office. The reason is that this is usually a crate .. maybe an occasional walk .. very boring.

Please do add your comments and suggestions by emailing us (there is a link at the top of the page.

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