As you know, we spent last weekend in St. Louis attending Geekway to the West. It’s an event we look forward to each year and book our tickets and hotel as early as possible. Scott’s Patron ticket was purchased last fall within minutes of them going on sale. At the time, we didn’t think twice about being away from home for half a week. Scott and I work hard to get ahead on our articles here while the girls make preparations for taking care of any homework or tests they’ll be missing.
Until a couple weeks ago, that’s as much as we needed to worry about. Then we adopted Tink and were reminded we had another member of the family to consider. The kids have been learning a lot from the puppy and this was another item to add to their list: boarding kennels.
If you’ll be traveling, you have a few different options on what to do with your pet but there are multiple things to take into consideration.
Are you traveling to a pet-friendly destination?
If you’re headed to visit family, going camping or on an adventure that welcomes pets, then you can consider taking your pet along with. Be sure to check for pet-friendly hotels if you’ll need lodging on your trip. Keep in mind that your pet may spend more time alone than if they were at a kennel so if you aren’t planning to spend time with your dog while traveling, it might be worth considering a boarding kennel. Also make sure you have the proper type of carrier to transport your pet in the car!
Do you have friends or neighbors who could pet sit?
We have a couple neighbors who we trusted with our bird and goldfish since they were pretty low maintenance. But a puppy is a bigger commitment. If you have an older dog with an established routine and you won’t be gone long, letting it stay home alone and having someone check it several times a day might be an option. Or perhaps your pet could take an overnight at someone’s house. Finding someone you trust to handle the task is critical.
Does your pet have all its required shots?
If option one or two don’t work and you find yourself needing to find boarding, your pet will need to have all its shots up to date. In our case, Tink only had one set of shots so she was as up to date as she could be yet not fully vaccinated. That meant we needed to have her quarantined and most kennels wouldn’t accept her since her shot series was incomplete. If you’ll need a specialized facility, contact a local animal hospital that allows boarding.
Does your dog need a lot of exercise?
Most kennels offer indoor / outdoor runs meaning the dogs have a safe place inside (and out of the elements) but can get fresh air and run. Others keep the dogs in an interior location then have a community area where they let the dogs out to play. If the kennel you’re thinking of using doesn’t have any space for your pet to move around, look elsewhere.
Does your pet need a specialized diet?
Be sure to ask what the kennel feeds their visitors. It can vary dramatically by facility. Some keep a variety of foods on hand from mainstream brands to veterinary brands. Most will allow you to bring your own food and treats. The kennel we utilized for boarding our dogs in California cooked chicken daily to supplement the dry dog food.
Will your pet need grooming or other vet services?
You know what? After a dog has been in a kennel, it’s likely to come home smelling less than ideal. Many kennels offer additional services such as grooming. You really should ask about it. We used to have the kennel groom the dogs before we picked them up including having their nails and rear-end cleaned up. Sooo worth it. This time, we’re scheduling Tink’s spay surgery for one of our trips. She’ll be at the animal hospital for boarding so they’ll handle the surgery along with any necessary dog medicines. If your pet needs any type of medical procedures and there’s a kennel option that is also a vet or animal hospital, then it’s worth taking care of it all at the same time.
What should you look for in a kennel?
Don’t be afraid to visit the facility and interview the staff. If they’re rude to you when you visit, imagine how they’ll treat your pet. A clean facility is very important. Ask for a tour. If the runs and cages aren’t getting washed down, think of it as staying in a hotel where the housekeeping staff skipped the room between the prior occupants and you. Ewww. Some kennels offer a more upscale experience with personalized play time, interaction and walks. Depending on the price and the temperament of your pet, that might be worth considering. We generally found that our attitude toward the staff impacted how our pets were treated. In other words, if we were friendly and showed that we genuinely cared for our four-legged children, the staff would utilize their down time to pay some extra attention to them without charging a fee.
What should you take to the kennel?
Once you’ve decided on a place to board your pet, make plans for what to bring with you for the stay. First and foremost, you’ll need to have an updated shot record for their files. Beyond that, consider your pet’s well-being and include items that will help it feel like it’s at home. Bring comfort items such as old t-shirts with family member scents on them, a familiar toy, some favorite treats and possibly a blanket. Make sure you bring along a garbage bag to tote it all home at the end of the stay as it will need to be laundered. If you’re opting to have them feed your own food or dispense pet vitamins or medicines, make sure you include that as well. Make sure you write your pet’s name on all the items.
Boarding your pet can be an emotionally challenging experience for everyone in the family (including the dog) so see if the kennel allows communication during the stay. I jokingly said I was going to FaceTime Tink during our trip and they said that wouldn’t be the first time a pet owner had done that. When it came down to it, I didn’t need to but the fact they provided an after-hours phone number gave me a great deal of comfort.
Don’t be afraid to let your pet vacation when you do, just plan accordingly.
What do you look for in a kennel?