With the holiday season upon us, you may be making travel plans to visit friends and family over the next several weeks. This may mean leaving your furry family members behind for an extended length of time if you are unable to take them along. It’s always nice to have a trusted friend or neighbor hang out with your pet, or have a reputable pet sitter tend to your best friends in your absence, but you may be faced with the option to board your pet in a kennel. This can be a difficult decision to make, but be sure to look for these characteristics or ask these questions when considering a kennel.
1. Ask for recommendations from your veterinarian, dog trainer, local animal shelter, or family and friends. It’s likely that your trusted network has been in this same situation before. Ask around to your pet-owning friends to see if they’ve had pleasant experiences with a particular kennel in the past. Vets and trainers often know the most reliable and reputable options in your area, as well.
2. Look for these qualities when you visit a potential kennel.
- Facility looks and smells clean
- Sufficient light and ventilation
- Staff seem knowledgeable and caring
- Pets are required to be up-to-date on shots (this protects your dog as well as others)
- Each dog has their own sufficiently-sized space and opportunities to exercise
- Beds and resting areas are provided and not located directly on concrete floor
- Cats are housed separately from dogs with sufficient space to move and play
- Sufficient space is provided between cat’s litter box and food/water bowls
Additionally, be sure to confirm that you are able to provide your pet’s usual brand of food, since abruptly switching pets to different food can cause digestive illness and distress. Ask how often and when pets are fed, groomed, and exercised, and confirm whether veterinary care is available in the event that your pet becomes sick.
3. Once you’ve selected a kennel, try to board your pet for a short stay. Drop off your pet for a 1-2 night stay prior to leaving for your trip. This will give your pet an opportunity to check out the new surroundings and become comfortable with the new smells and sounds, and will also reinforce to your pet that, when you leave him there, you will return soon to take him home.
4. Be prepared. When it’s time to take your pet to the kennel, be sure to have any medications, special food, and contact information for your veterinarian, yourself, and a trusted local friend who can pick up your pet if necessary. Remind staff about any behavioral issues or personality traits that may cause your pet stress (history of epilepsy or fear of thunder) so they can be on the lookout for signs of distress.
5. Avoid long, emotional departures. Lingering or spending much time hugging or doting on your pet before leaving signals to your pet that something may be wrong. This can cause considerable distress to your pet after your departure. When it is time to leave, hand your pet or her leash to a staff member, say a quick, light-hearted goodbye, and leave. It may be difficult, but your pet will sense your confidence, and if you’re not worried, they won’t be worried.
Boarding a pet in a strange environment is never an easy decision. It’s easy to feel sad when we can’t take our furry friends along to enjoy the holiday merriment. However, you can make the most of a bummer situation by being prepared and helping your pet have the best experience possible. Also, bring back lots of treats, cuddles, and kisses for your best pal when you return.