July 19-- If you own a dog, he or she can be like your "child." You strive to provide excellent care through proper nutrition and exercise and with clean, comfortable surroundings. Then comes summer, with vacations that do not include the four-legged child. So what can you do to make sure you are replicating the home situation through overnight boarding?
It's best to tour overnight facilities and ask the following questions to determine which boarding option best suits your pet. Reputable facilities are eager to show you how they care for dogs-steer away from those that won't. The "sniff" test is always a primary indicator. If you don't like the odor, most likely your dog won't either.
If your dog has never boarded before, you might want to run an overnight stay test to see how the dog acclimates. You could also enroll your dog in daycare at the same facility a few weeks prior so he can get used to his new surroundings.
During your tour, ask questions until you receive the answers you are seeking. The following questions will assist you in finding the right "fit" for your dog.
What type of training do the pet care associates have? Employees caring for dogs need to have extensive training in dog handling, care, training and safety. They shouldn't be employed there simply because they love dogs. They need to understand the different breeds of dogs and the specific requirements that apply to some. Employees need to be fully trained in recognizing aggression in dogs and in emergency protocols.
Are their associates trained in pet CPR?
Do they provide 24-hour hands-on care? There should always be an associate in the building, even at night when dogs are sleeping. Steer away from those that put dogs in their quarters and lock up for the night.
Ask (or see) what the boarding and sleeping area looks like. Ask about area size, bedding, noise, and how often the dog has relief exercise and fresh water. If you are boarding multiple dogs of the same family, can they be together? This is especially important for bonded dogs of the same family to feel safe away from home.
Ask about the facility itself. This includes the air handling system and cleaning protocols. Going away during the summer and leaving your dog or cat in a kennel with no air conditioning may stress your pet. Your pet's kennel space will need to be cleaned often. Ask about their cleaning products. Are they approved for dogs and nontoxic? And ask about the security methods that are used to ensure your dog does not escape or move into an area that is not secure.
What type of food is provided, or will they allow you to bring your own food? This is important, as most dogs would rather eat what they are used to eating. A change in diet could upset the stomach or stress the dog. Consider bringing your pet's own food with specific directions for the facility regarding how much to feed and what time of day. Also ask about medication-dispensing and their protocols. You dog should never miss his regular medication schedule.
Ask about optional services to make your pet's stay more fun. Can your dog enter daycare or have private play or walks? Do they offer other services where the dog can receive a treat or toys? Incorporating these types of options into your pet's stay will not only keep him active while you're away but can also help the time go by faster.
What are the safety protocols? If something happens to your pet, what is the emergency plan? The facility should have extensive protocols in safe dog handling and emergency evacuation. Question those that do not.
Will your dog have access to veterinary care? What would happen if there was an emergency with your dog? Where do they take sick or injured animals? How do they transport the dog if needed?
How will they keep in touch with you about your dog's stay? Owners should be able to call or text the facility and receive a progress report on their dog during business hours. Some facilities may send a photo of the dog during its stay or give you access to a webcam if your dog is enrolled in daycare play. There is nothing worse than being on vacation and only "imagining" the dog's care.
Obtaining this type of information upfront will assist you in making a qualified boarding decision. However, there are obligations the dog owner has as well.
-Book early and check their hours. When you find a facility that meets your needs, make sure you book your dog's stay early and confirm as your trip gets closer. Many boarding facilities get booked up, particularly during the holiday season and summer. It is better to have to cancel a reservation than to not have one. Knowing their business hours is also important. If you return after hours and cannot pick up until the following day, you probably will have to pay for an extra night.
-Provide up-to-date vaccination records. Most boarding facilities require certain shots, and without proof that they are up to date, they won't let your pet stay. Giving the staff an idea of any recent medical issues will also allow them to provide better care. If your pet is on any medication, don't forget to pack it along with specific dosing instructions.
-If you will provide your dog's own food, make sure you supply more than enough food for the stay. Bag the meals individually, and mark them with the days and times the food is to be provided. If you were delayed in picking up the dog, it's good for the facility to have extra food.
-Bring some small comforts from home. Bringing a few of your dog's toys and treats can help reinforce the feelings of being at home and help make their stay more pleasant. Having things with them that smell like, or remind them of, home is a great way to keep them more relaxed.
-Make sure your pet is outfitted with updated identification. In the rare event that your pet requires professional care or gets free, your pet should have an updated collar with ID tags and contact information. Additionally, microchipping your pet can drastically speed up the location process.
-Provide the emergency contact information of several people who can be reached during the stay. Emergency contacts should be local, and you should let them know that their info has been provided. They need to be willing to make decisions or pick up your dog in your absence if needed.
(James Tysseling is the chief operating officer of Canine Retreat by AKC.)
For more tips on dog ownership, visit the AKC at www.akc.org.
(c)2019 American Kennel Club
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