What to consider when looking for the right dog boarding or daycare facility for your dog.
A KENNEL OR A CAMP?
At a traditional kennel, dogs are kept separately, in crates, or in runs. A run can be a small or a large caged area. Some kennels offer indoor/outdoor runs, so that dogs can move from the indoor area to the outdoor – on their own, or when opened by the kennel attendant.
Some kennels offer a play area in which dogs are allowed to play alone or with a kennel attendant for a specified amount of time (usually 20 minutes). This play time might be included in the boarding rate, or there might be a separate charge for each play session.
For dogs who have shown some aggression, or who are not ‘fixed’, kennels can be the right option.
Kennels should be licensed by the Town or City in which they operate.
Dog Camps (sometimes called ‘open concept boarding’, ‘no-crate boarding’, or ‘social boarding’) offer an alternative to a kennel environment. At a camp, dogs are together with other dogs during the day, in a play field, or park.
Because the dogs are together with others, a dog camp must have staff members with the dogs in order to supervise, and avoid conflicts between dogs.
At some dog camps, dogs sleep together in groups with other dogs. At other dog camps, dogs may also have the option to sleep separately, in a room or a crate.
Some camps will offer other activities for dogs, such as walks, or swimming.
Dog camps are ideal for dogs who enjoy playing with other dogs, and might be stressed in a ‘kennel’ environment.
LICENSING: DOES IT MATTER?
All Cities and Towns have their own by-laws that regulate business, including dog boarding and daycare businesses.
These by-laws set requirements that these facilities must follow, including:
Safety Guidelines and Requirements
Cleaning Guidelines and Requirements
Air Quality Guidelines and Requirements
Note that most home boarding business are not licensed. Why?
Because most cities and towns have by-laws that prevent the boarding of dogs in a home environment. The concern with home boarding relates to the ability to sterilize the space (can floors be power washed, is there proper drainage), as well as air quality (air exhaust and exchange systems need to be powerful enough to address fur, dust, and contaminants in the air).
You have the right to ask the boarding facility to see their Town or City license to operate, and it is a good idea to do so.
OWNERS AND MANAGEMENT
Is the owner involved? Does he/she live on site?
At some boarding facilities, the owner is very involved. You should be able to meet or speak to the owner by request, if you’d like to.
An involved owner is usually the sign of a good facility. The owner should be overseeing the whole business, and ensuring that all safety and cleanliness procedures are being followed.
At the larger facilities, there may be management as well.
This is always a good sign. The benefit of having management at the facility is that the manager can pay close attention to the daily operations of the facility. The manager would be in very close touch with the staff, and would ‘keep tabs’ on every dog staying there.
A manager is also there to take care of any concerns about a dog, or to address client or staff concerns.
It is the staff who will be taking care of your dogs on a daily basis. Therefore, it’s important to meet at least some of the staff, and to know about how experienced they are.
Some facilities have structured and documented staff training procedures. This ensures that staff are well versed in all parts of their jobs, including:
– How to supervise and manage groups of dogs
– Dog body language (e.g. how to know when a dog is anxious or stressed)
– Proper cleaning and disinfecting procedures
– Safety procedures
– First aid procedures
You may also want to ask about the following:
– How many staff members are there?
– How are the staff supervised?
– How are they trained?
– Do the staff have training in Pet First Aid?
– Is there a Veterinary Technician on staff?
How can you find out about the reputation of a dog boarding facility you’re considering?
Check Google Reviews. These are real reviews, by real people who have used the facility.
If you’d like to, ask for referrals to existing clients. You may want to speak to other clients who have used the facility for their dogs. Any camp, kennel, or daycare, should be able to provide these referrals to you.
As your Veterinarian if he or she knows of the facility, and see what they have to say.
At any dog boarding facility, there is the possibility of a dog becoming ill or getting injured.
Your concerns might be:
– How does the facility decide if your dog needs a Veterinarian?
– Will they let you know if your dog needs a Vet?
– Where is the closest Veterinary Clinic?
– Where is the closest Emergency or After Hours Veterinary Clinic?
– Does the facility have emergency procedures in place? If so, what are they?
– How does the facility address a dog who is not well, or injured?
Some facilitates have a Veterinary Technician on staff. Ask about this, as having one on staff can be very helpful.
Remember: You have the right to contact the facility’s Veterinary Clinic, to ask about their experience with the facility, its owners, and its staff.
What about activities for the dogs?
Some dog boarding facilities just give the dogs a play area where they can play indoors or outdoors. While for some dogs, this may be enough, other dogs may need more ‘to do’. They may need more stimulation, and this can be done by additional activities offered by the business.
Some examples of additional activities include:
– Walks through trails
– Agility or other play equipment in the playground
– Challenging dog games such as dog puzzles
WHILE YOU’RE AWAY
Can you check on your dog while you’re away?
Dog owners will often want to keep in touch with the boarding facility so that they know how their dogs are doing.
Some facilities have various ways of keeping owners updated. This may be by updates on social media, direct text or email updates, or even updates by video. Ask the facility if they have a way of keeping you updated, and if so, how.
Some facilities encourage owners to check in on their dogs while they are away, for their own peace of mind. Ask the facility you’re considering how they feel about having owners check in.
Sometimes dogs will need time away from the group, if they’re staying at a dog camp.
Some offer private time with staff members, which can involve a walk, playing alone in a separate play area, or just quiet time in a separate and quiet room.
If you feel your dog would benefit from alone or quiet time, ask the facility if this is something they offer.
How easy is it to book?
The more established and reputable dog boarding facilities will have online booking options. This makes it easy for owners to book their dogs in, and to make changes to a booking. These systems are similar to booking a hotel or a flight online.
Some facilities will ask that you book by phone, or by email instead. If that is the case, ensure that you have a confirmation email of some kind, and that you know how to make changes to your booking if you need to.