We love travelling. Milo, however, is not the biggest fan of it. Although Milo is used to transatlantic flights and long road trips, today we prefer to leave him in the kennels. Sometimes, we take him with us on short weekend breaks, but taking a dog on a plane is too much of a hassle, especially, when travelling to and from England. Milo has been to a number of pet resorts in England, in Russia and in America. I decided to share my experience in choosing kennels. So, how to choose a pets’ hotel?
Where to look and what to look for?
The first and most obvious thing is to look online. Most likely you will end up with a list of around 10-15 kennels, that have a convenient location and a good price. I would eliminate those kennels that have poor quality or confusing websites. In my opinion, a business that didn’t bother to invest in a good website isn’t likely to provide good service. Just by looking at websites, you will cross out half of your list.
Next, take a look at pictures. If they give you a messy or gloomy impression, chances are they really are messy and gloomy. Of course, it could just be a bad quality picture, but would you leave your family member with someone, who can’t even produce a nice picture in the 21st century? I would not. Good kennels will show plenty of light, clean environment, green outdoor spaces and happy dogs and staff.
After that, check if they provide the necessary care for your dog. How often and how long do they walk the dogs? Will your dog have free access to the outdoors? Can staff administer medication if needed? Is playtime included or available for additional charge? What about heating during winter or shade during summer? What are the check in and check out times? You may have other questions depending on your dog’s needs, but make sure to get an answer before you make a list of kennels to visit.
Some kennels will have specific hours, when they show visitors around, while some kennels even require you to book a visit in advance. Whatever the case, be ready to spend a few hours driving visiting three or four kennels. When visit boarding kennels, pay attention to the following:
- Cleanliness. If you see dirty bedding, poo lying around or stagnant water in bowls, this is not a good place for your dog. Make sure to distinguish “old” and “messy”, because your dog won’t care about the aesthetic qualities of his temporary home. However, hygiene is one of the top priorities. One time we tried a new kennel, which looked OK, but Milo came back with a yeast infection.
- Friendliness of staff. Whether your dog is a “people person” or a loner, he needs to feel loved and cared for, while you’re gone. Exhausted, non-enthusiastic staff is not a good sign. The rule of thumb is that if you don’t like these people and don’t feel welcomed by them, your dog won’t either.
- Noise. When you approach the kennels, you will hear dogs barking, but pay attention to the tone and the amount of barking. Think about your dog, which will have to spend several days with this noise. And for him this barking will actually mean something. If it sounds too desperate or too loud, you’ll return to a stressed out exhausted dog. Some really good kennels would have some sort of soundproofing in place, while others manage noise with a good layout. Some kennels just don’t care. Your job is to avoid the uncaring ones.
- Layout. A good place will have secure kennel doors, limited number of dogs, who are able to see each other, and access to some outdoor space for each dog. Also, look for larger exercise areas, environment enrichments (trees and things to climb and to pee on). Most kennels will have a corridor system (narrow hallway with kennels on both sides). Ideally, dogs should not be able to see the hallway. This is less stressful for them and they are less likely to spend their days barking at other dogs, visitors and staff passing by.
- Feel. The overall atmosphere of the place, the feel of it, is the most accurate predictor of how good it is. When you walk around, you should feel comfortable there. If you don’t, your dog won’t either. It is difficult to give specific recommendations on what to look for, but if something doesn’t feel good, trust yourself. Your dog will thank you.
Choosing boarding kennels.
After you have done your research and visited a few kennels, you will likely face a choice between two or even three. Some kennels offer a free trial stay for your dog or you can arrange for a half-day board. After all, your dog will be the best judge – he is the one, who is going to stay in the kennels. If you are going to try more than one kennel, make sure there a couple of weeks between the stays. These trials will show you which kennel is the best. If your dog comes back agitated, act like he hasn’t seen you for a long time or if his voice is harsh from barking, probably, this kennel is not the best place for him to be. Your dog should come back moderately exited (maybe, a bit more exited then when he meets you after work every day) and generally act normally in terms of activity levels.
For those of you living in South East England Milo has a recommendation. He likes staying with Mink Farm in Surrey. It is located close to Heathrow, people are very friendly and Milo is loved and cared for to highest standards. Also, Milo enjoyed staying with Park Kennels in Oxfordshire. The only reason we’re not using them now is location.
Good luck in your search and have a nice holiday!