Whether you’re going on a vacation or working long hours at the office, you’ll need somewhere for your pet to stay sooner or later. Finding care for your pet can be a stressful task. How do you know if your pet is getting good care while you’re not there? Good news—the pet boarding industry is growing, so it’s easier than ever to find a great place for your pet to take a break.
If you’re going out of town, be sure to make reservations early. The peak season for pet boarding is typically during the summer months and at Christmas and other major holidays—just when you and everyone else is likely to go on a trip. Staying in town? There is a cornucopia of doggy day cares that will groom, feed, and give your dog plenty of playtime with other dogs so you won’t have to come home to a rambunctious rover at the end of a long work day.
Some pet boarders have entire facilities dedicated to the task. Places like your local groomer, veterinarian, or even some private homes may also be open to caring for your dog or cat (some places take dogs and cats; some are devoted to one type of animal only).
With popular services such as 24/7 on-site care and an on-call veterinarian, temperature-controlled environments, walks twice a day, and unlimited playtime, doggy day care can be a social dog’s dream come true. Some facilities offer one-on-one play and even spa-like services to create the perfect relaxing getaway! Some boarders offer electronic monitoring, allowing you to check on your pet any time, day or night, in real time.
Cats can be pampered as much as their canine compatriots. Private “apartments” with climbing towers and separate litter boxes, individual playtime with staff members, and the option to room in with other cats from the same household are some common features. Cats are notoriously picky eaters, so it will probably help lower everyone’s anxiety level if you bring your cat’s favorite food.
Be sure your kennel separates large and small dogs. Larger dogs can see their smaller counterparts as prey, and innocent playing can turn into a dangerous situation if not monitored properly. The best practice is to have separate areas for different sizes of dogs, to avoid any unhealthy conflict.
Always take a tour of a boarding facility before booking a stay for your pet. Trusting your instincts as well as your five senses will give you an indication of whether a place is right for you. Any offensive odors or lack of ventilation can be indicative of unsanitary conditions and may lead to common ailments such as “kennel cough” or worse. Even the busiest of kennels should not reek of doggy odors.
Next, inspect the kennels themselves to ensure they are tidy, clean, and properly ventilated. Don’t be afraid to ask how often the kennels are cleaned. Indoor and outdoor running areas should also maintain their cleanliness. All reputable and qualified boarders should be more than willing to show potential clients where their dogs are kept and exercised. If they are not, walk out and don’t look back.
Many boarders require proof of vaccinations prior to check-in. This policy helps ensure the safety of all the animals on the premises. Be sure to ask whether a veterinarian is on call. If your pet requires medicine or other special treatment, bring it up before booking. Some facilities are specifically geared toward pets with special needs.
Separation anxiety is common, especially if your pet has never stayed away from home without you. Anxiety can manifest itself in many ways, so look for behaviors such as excessive barking or whining, destroying objects, or scratching doors and walls. To calm them as much as possible, bring their favorite toys, treats, and blankets, so they have the smells of home to relax them while you are away. Even a pillowcase that smells like you would be a welcome reprieve from all the foreign smells of a kennel.
Before leaving your dog with a boarder or doggy day care for an extended stay, it is also possible to work on your pet’s anxiety by leaving it for shorter periods of time, gradually building up. Your veterinarian can offer other helpful suggestions. If your dog is naturally social, look for a kennel with a busy schedule for its dogs. Finding a kennel with plenty of exercise time, walking, and socialization with other dogs can alleviate stress and can be great fun for your dog.
Once you have selected a place that fits your needs, be sure to make good-byes short, sweet, and upbeat. Animals can sense your emotions. The more excited you are to get on with your vacation, the happier your pet will be!