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Choose the right place to board your dog

By Karen A. Soukiasian

Most pet owners would love to take their dogs with them when they go on vacation. That isn’t always realistic. Some dogs have problems adjusting when their routine is discombobulated. Others don’t travel well and are stressed by long car rides.

Then, there is always the possibility they will run off and get lost. That will not only create a lot of stress, while you search for them in an unfamiliar area, it can ruin the entire purpose of your vacation. There goes the time you have earned to chill out and relax.

There are three options for boarding your puppy or dog. They are: in a caged kennel, an open kennel pen or in a kennel-free home. Only you know which will be the best decision for you and your pet.

There are certain things you will need to consider before deciding. They include the age, health, temperament, size and energy level of your pet. Would yours be better suited being caged, penned or in a home situation. Then, there is your own comfort level. Would you feel more relaxed knowing they are restricted, yet secure, with an occasional free-time period outside their kennel a couple of times a day? Or, would you feel more comfortable knowing they are kennel-free and treated as a house guest?

To find what works for you, ask around. Veterinarians who offer kennel boarding will no doubt refer themselves. If that’s what you would feel most comfortable with, do it. If you’re looking for more than that, ask friends, relatives and other dog owners who they would recommend. Check online for reviews or complaints. Contact the Better Business Bureau.

Ask the person or facility how long they have been in operation. Are they licensed and insured? Be aware, ultimately you are responsible though for any veterinary expenses incurred. Do they require a copy of your dog’s immunization records; particularly rabies and Bordatella (Kennel Cough) vaccination? Do they require your pet be neutered or spayed, if they are over a certain age?

Ask if they have live cams, in case you want to check on how they are doing.

If you want a more personal touch, think about kennel-free boarding. There, basically, your puppy or dog is a guest in someone’s home. They are not locked up all day. They are treated like a member of the family. There is always someone there. Your dog is socialized with new people and other dogs. They are interacted with and exercised regularly. Special feeding times can be accommodated. For some dogs, this is the ideal choice.

More questions that need to be answered, especially in a formal boarding kennel are: is the facility manned 24/7, in case there is an emergency? How large are the kennels and do they have access to an attached outdoor area? The kennel should be at least 5-6 feet wide, tall and long enough for your dog to move around and lay down comfortably. It should also be clean and dry. Does the facility provide beds or should you bring your own? Do they permit you to bring personal items for your dog, such as their crate, bed, blanket, toys, balls and special treats?

The third option is kennel pens. It is a fairly new concept in boarding. Dogs are grouped in large fenced pens, according to age, size, energy level and temperaments. This allows them to interact and socialize with each other, more than those confined in separate kennels. They are also allowed group exercise and play time outside.

Other questions to ask are: how many hours per day, will your puppy or dog be confined? What type of exercise or playtime will they receive? Is there an additional cost for extra exercise time? Will they be interacting with someone, allowed to play with other dogs or will they be left to entertain his or her self?

There are facilities do not allow interaction, so ask if they will they be allowed to socialize with other dogs? Some dogs, prefer social interaction, other don’t. You are the best judge for which option you think your dog would be happiest with. How noisy is the facility? There are dogs that love nothing more than to chime in on the chorus of barking, and there are those that are uncomfortable when the noise level rises too much.

Are there scheduled feeding times or will the facility accommodate your dog’s schedule? Is there an extra charge for that service? Is there an extra charge to administer medications? Are there additional charges for anything? You don’t want to be surprised when you pick your dog up!

Visit the three types of boarding options. Observe if the dogs appear happy or stressed. Do they eagerly and cheerfully greet the staff? Do they appear fearful? Is there enough staff to safely handle the number of dogs? Ask if there are additional charges for special needs. You need to feel comfortable about any place, before you put your pet in someone else’s care. Call periodically to check on them. A reputable facility will understand your concern.

Expect a few changes in your dog’s behavior when they return home. Most likely, they will be exhausted and need a day or three to re-adjust to life at home!

Bottom line: Boarding is not inexpensive. For the sake of your pet get the best service your budget will allow. Don’t scrimp on the cost… you usually get what you pay for! If your pet has never experienced being boarded, expect them to be anxious at first. Usually, within an hour or two, most dogs adjust and are just fine. Don’t make leaving a big production and dramatic exit! That only raises their anxiety level. Dogs have no sense of time. They don’t know if you’ve just gone out to the mailbox, or are on a cruise. It’s all the same to them! Be comfortable with your choice… odds are, your puppy or dog is having a great time too!

Here’s a little secret: you will know you picked the right place when you see how your pet reacts the next time you take them there! They recall how they were treated! Visit the facility before your next trip, just to observe your dog’s reaction. If they appear hesitant or nervous, think twice about taking them back. If they are happy and excited, you’ve found a winner! Now, you can relax and enjoy your vacation too!

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