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How to pick a dog kennel when traveling

how to pick a dog kennel when traveling
Boomer and Jovi on the road

Sometimes I get flack for traveling with my dogs. Although I try my best to find activities to include them in my travels it does not always pan out. And when it doesn’t I have to rely on a little local help at the destinations we visit. And when I say local help, I mean local dog care facilities.

For those of you who don’t know, I use to manage a dog kennel for about 3 years. It was a lot of hard work but I made a lot of great friends. And when I say friends, I mean the dogs.

Prior to working at a dog kennel, I did my best when selecting a suitable kennel. But I always wished there was a checklist of things to keep an eye out for when choosing a kennel for my best friend. So I decided to create a checklist because there may be more than just me running around, traveling with my best friends, and needing a little assistance in selecting the right boarding facility.

When looking for a facility to use, but I am located nowhere near the facility I use the following checklist to help decide which one is best for us:

1. Availability is important. Do their days and hours work for my travel plans? Do they have specific drop off or pick up times? Is there a mandatory meet and greet before the pet is allowed to board?

Although I am a supporter of helping your dog adjust to the kennel life it has become rather cumbersome when traveling with the meet and greet requirement.  Sure the handlers at the kennel want to make sure your dog is not a monster, but as a traveler who needs temporary housing either for the day or overnight it is rare I can meet this requirement as we are just passing through the area and my dogs are not able to pop in for an introduction because we can be thousands of miles away depending on the trip.

How I sidestep the meet and greet is by looking for either a facility without that requirement or more likely boarding at a veterinarian facility. They are less stringent on the meet and greet, but their experience can be less than a private facility.

how to pick a dog kennel when traveling
Look for happy dogs
how to pick a dog kennel when traveling
Not sad dogs who “might bite”

2. I then move on to the online reviews. As someone who comes from the industry, I do take into consideration what the reviewers are saying but I also try to be mindful when reading a bad review. Was it just a misunderstanding between the pet owner and the facility or was there a legit issue. People love to bash online so it is always good to read the reviews and think about it from both perspectives. Also, check out their social media accounts. Do you see photos of happy pets playing either with the staff or other pets or do you see scared pets stuck in a kennel? Obviously, you want photos of happy pets.

how to pick a dog kennel when traveling
Dogs playing with the staff

Photo Credit: K Tiernan [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2. I then check out the facility’s website, looking for photos of the kennels, the outside space, and the kennel staff. If there are no photos, that is a big red flag. Also if they do not let you tour the facility, that is questionable. If they are not willing to let you look around, what could they be hiding?

When looking at the photos keep in mind that the pet industry is not always a huge profit business. Maybe they need a paint job, but you can overlook surface things and look for safety issues. Are there any glaring safety issues?  Such as damaged fencing or shotty repair jobs to the kennels. Granted you can only tell so much from a photo, but if these things are in the photos you can probably imagine what shape things are in, in real life.

3. Tour your local kennels to see what you like and don’t like. Keep in mind what you like and try to find facilities that mirror those likes when you are looking for facilities on the road.

If your dog is not used to boarding try a day-board or an overnight board to get the pet used to kennel life. Remember the pet has no idea what is going on when you drop them off. If they are a shelter dog it may trigger memories of abandonment. Get them use to you leaving and then coming back to get them. That way it will be less traumatic when you are traveling. Traveling for a pet can be stressful enough so it is best to minimize additional stress.

how to pick a dog kennel when traveling
Can your pet bring the comforts of home with them?

4. When you find a facility, give them a call and ask some questions.

  • Are there playgroups offered?
  • How many times do the dogs get out per day? And how long are they out? Are the pets supervised when they are outside? Do they go out alone or in groups?
  • If your pet is a climber ask how high the outside fencing is.
  • Is grooming available? Sometimes the cleaning chemicals leave a less than desirable smell on your pet’s fur, so why not spring for a bath before you pick them up?
  • Speaking of cleaning chemicals, ask how often the kennels are cleaned and what are they cleaned with? If your pup has sensitive skin it is worth asking as some cleaning products can irritate the pet’s skin.
  • Check to see what vaccines are required.  Common vaccines are rabies, distemper, and Bordetella (aka kennel cough). If they do not require vaccines it may be best to choose another facility. Kennel cough is highly contagious and an outbreak of kennel cough can be a real bummer for your dog, especially while traveling.
  • Ask if you bring your own food, toys, and bedding or is that provided?
  • Can they administer medication if necessary and is that an additional charge?
  • What happens if your pet requires medical attention? Is there a nearby vet the facility uses? What is the protocol for such emergencies and what happens if they can’t get ahold of you and care is needed?
how to pick a dog kennel when traveling
Don’t bring your pet’s favorite anything just in case it gets lost or destroyed

5. Things to think about when it comes to food and belongings:

  • If they offer to feed your pets at no additional cost it can be tempting but think about your pet. Is saving a few dollars on food really worth potential digestion issues for your pet? Boomer has a super sensitive stomach and switching his food will always cause an issue, so I like to bring his food when possible.
  • A helpful tip for the kennel staff is to pre-bag your pet’s food in ziplock bags. I portion out the food into meals and write my pet’s names on each bag, date and the amount they are getting. This is helpful when you have pets with different food or portion amounts. It can be frustrating, as a pet owner, to find that your pet has not been fed the correct food or amount. Help out the kennel staff when you can.
  • If you are dropping off toys or belongings DO NOT bring your pet’s favorite anything. Yes, it may help comfort them but what if that item gets accidentally misplaced? I usually leave all favorite toys at home so there is no chance of losing said favorite belongings. If possible still bring some comforts from home but only ones that will be ok to lose or be destroyed.

6. When booking always have a backup just in case the facility you book with does not live up to your expectations. I once booked a place to board, got there and did not have a back up which left the dogs in an ok place, but I wasn’t too happy that my dogs were being walked on a leash in a parking lot, near a busy road. Am I a worry wart? Sure. But I also come from the industry and know it is always best to minimize potential problems.

how to pick a dog kennel when traveling
There may not always be room at the lodge

Photo Credit: Sarah Nichols

7. And my last tip – are you traveling during busy times of the year? Holidays, summer? It is best to book ahead of time to secure your pet’s spot. Never assume there will be kennels available when you show up at a facility.

And there you have it… The good… The bad… And the ugly behind finding the right kennel when traveling.

Do you travel with your pets and use boarding facilities?  If so, what are your tips?

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