For many of us, the long, cold January days are when we start to daydream about taking a vacation somewhere warm and sunny to escape the winter blahs. Or maybe a winter ski getaway is more your style. As exciting as it is to plan a vacation, regardless of the type of trip you take, one thing you must consider are your pets. Are they able to come with you? Depending on your destination, they may be, but if not, who will look after them? We can’t leave our pets to fend for themselves while we go off exploring the world, so there are some things to take into consideration regarding your pet’s care when planning a vacation.
If you have a reliable family member or friend that knows your pet and their routines well and can provide trustworthy care for them either in your home or theirs, that’s great! Professional pet sitter services also exist as an option. Another option many pet parents turn to is professional boarding kennels. Like any parent that has looked for reliable, trustworthy daycare for a human child, leaving your fur-baby in the hands of strangers can be a nerve-wracking experience, but there are ways to make the process easier.
Do your research. Ask friends and family members with pets, trainers, or breeders for boarding kennel recommendations. Read online reviews of potential kennels. Sometimes local communities will even give out ‘best-of’ awards that may include local kennels and boarding facilities. Do your best to see what facilities are available in your area, and where the people you trust board their pets when they are away. Many veterinarians also offer boarding at their hospitals or clinics, so check with your local vet to see if that may also be an option. Look for accreditations and association to memberships that require a certain level of conformity to standards, and check to see if your potential kennel has certificates or licenses showing they meet municipal or organizational standards.
Go for a visit. Before entrusting your pet to just any boarding kennel, make sure you go for a visit to see the facilities for yourself and make a decision. Trust your instincts, as well as common sense, and make a determination about a kennel based on what you see and how other animals boarding there are acting. Ask to see the whole kennel, including accommodation areas, exercise areas, and dog runs. These areas should be clean, orderly and in good repair, with no offensive odors, adequate ventilation, lighting, and temperature control. Sufficient security measures should be in place. Evaluate whether the staff seem competent, knowledgeable, and caring of the animals there.
Ask questions. Question the operating staff about everything, such as their feeding routines, accommodations, socialization, exercise, cleaning and sanitation practices, security, staff training and qualifications, if veterinary services are available, as well as grooming or bathing services. How much do they charge, and what does that fee include? It is important to understand how a boarding facility operates, what you are paying for, and what you can expect your pet’s days to look like while there, in order to determine if it is the right place for your pet to stay. There is a wide range in the types of accommodations and services a kennel may offer, so it is important to make sure that it is a good fit for your pet and their accustomed lifestyle. A small, pampered pooch may not be well suited to an outdoor kennel geared towards larger, active dogs, and may require boarding at a more ‘luxurious’ and attentive kennel.
Make reservations early. Many boarding kennels will book up early during holiday seasons and peak vacation times. To ensure you get a space at your preferred kennel, make your reservations as early as you can.
Have a trial run. If it’s your pets first time being boarded consider having them go for shorter overnight stays before the extended vacation. When they realize you always come back for them, it can help to alleviate any ‘separation anxiety’ they may feel, and get them used to the new surroundings and caregivers.
Visit the vet. It’s a good idea to see your vet for a well-visit to make sure your pet is in tip-top shape before staying at a boarding kennel. Your pet may need to have a vaccine boosters administered, depending on what your pet has been vaccinated for and what the specific kennel requires. There are some communicable diseases, such as gastrointestinal viruses and contagious coughs, which tend to occur more frequently in kennel situations where many animals are in close quarters. There are vaccines available for many of these diseases, but your pet may not have been previously vaccinated for them depending on their risk factors. Some kennels may require certain vaccinations and may also require your pet to be on flea and/or tick preventives, so a discussion with your vet about your best options for your pet’s health requirements may be in order. Any vaccinations or new preventives should be done a few weeks before your pet’s scheduled stay, to avoid adverse reactions at the kennel and provide adequate protection.
Be prepared. Make sure you prepare clear documentation on medications and dosage instructions, food and feeding instructions, emergency contact information, your veterinarian’s contact information, special issues and anything else the boarding kennel may need to know about. Fill out all forms provided to you as fully and completely as possible.
Pack your pet’s bags. Make sure your pet is wearing their proper identification tags. Pack their food if you are sending it, medications and/or supplements, their personal food and water bowls if necessary, favorite toys, blankets or bedding, any essential grooming tools like brushes or combs, and their leash and harness. Many kennels provide some or all of these things, but your pet may be more at ease with familiar objects around them.
Keep the goodbyes short and sweet. Animals pick up on human emotions, and if any of your family members indulge in an overly-emotional farewell, your pets will pick up on those emotions and may become overly anxious about the whole process, thinking there is a reason to be upset. If you are calm during the drop off process, they will likely be calm as well when you leave.
Remember, your pet may enjoy and appreciate a vacation in new surroundings with new friends just as much as you do! Once they get accustomed to their new surroundings, they are often like excited kids at summer camp, running around with their new friends. As long as you take the time to make sure your chosen boarding facility is a good fit for your pet and they type of care they are accustomed to, your pet will hopefully have an enjoyable time on their own ‘vacation’ and come back home just as relaxed and happy as you!