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Pet Care - Boarding Your Dogs

Boarding Your Dogs

Happily, more and more responsible pet owners are choosing to board their dogs at professional boarding kennels rather than choosing alternatives, which often prove to be both costly and dangerous.  However, the phones still ring all too frequently at boarding kennels across the nation as inexperienced people ask kennel owners to come to their rescue in near tragic situations involving pets left in their care.  It is to those of you who may still be hesitant about boarding your dog that these comments are addressed.


What are the Alternatives?

Do become aware of the problems that can be caused by the other methods of trying to provide pet care.  The problem of the “house-sitter,” for example, who leaves the front door open just for a second, just long enough for Rover to dash out to look for his master… and never comeback.  Or, who isn’t trained or experienced enough to recognize the symptoms of illness in dogs, and allows what might have been a minor problem to develop into a major crisis before he realizes that a veterinarian should be contacted.  Or the “house-sitter” is kept out of the house by a dog who thinks that his job is to protect the house from this “stranger” while his master is away.  (When the kennel is called for help, the first words out of the sitter’s mouth are predictably, “Why, Rover knows me almost as well as my own dog…”) Of course, the most costly result of leaving Rover at home is that he might get the idea that master has played a dirty trick on him by leaving without him, so the normally good-natured Rover proceeds to tear the house apart.

The responsible pet owner should also realize the problem of leaving his dog with friends.  Even though Rover knows the people, he still may feel he is in a strange house and try to escape in an attempt to find his master.  Or he doesn’t particularly enjoy being teased by their little boy, so he takes a hunk or slice out of him (call the kennel!) or Rover gets in a fight with their dog… (“But, Rover and Prince played together as pups, I don’t understand”) and tears him up, or gets torn up, or both.   Or… Rover is an angel, but their dog is a monster, and their vacation is coming up and the pet owner knows that hey will ask him to return the favor by taking care of their little carpet chewer.  End of friendship!

There are some drawbacks to boarding at a veterinary hospital.  You should realize that they don’t usually have adequate exercise areas, and that they usually charge hospital rates, which are considerably higher than most kennel rates.

You should also be aware of some of the potential dangers in taking your dog on vacation with you.  Many motels will not accept dogs, and some that do, charge extra for them and become very upset if your dog annoys their other guests by howling when you leave him to grab a bite to eat.  Pets may become ill as a result of traveling, probably due to the frequent changes in water, etc.  All too many dogs suffer heat prostration while locked in the car as master goes sightseeing, eating or shopping.  The National Parks have an abundance of lost dogs who somehow got away from their owners and couldn’t be found before master had to leave for home.  (One of the most pathetic sights in the world is that of the frightened dog who haunts the campgrounds, looking for his master.  Another rather pitiful sight is a dog tied to a tent-pole at a campsite because the owners are afraid he’ll run off.  He might, too, if he gets a good whiff of some wild “critter.”)  A serious risk in traveling with your pet is that you must be extremely careful where you allow him to relieve himself and to exercise.  And sometimes being careful just isn’t enough.  The lovely area you are visiting may be a haven for various parasites and disease such as heartworm, ticks, hookworms, fleas, mange, etc.  And that may include Aunt Hatties’s charming back yard!

Why a Boarding Kennel Works

Stop by a kennel and visit with the owner.  Get acquainted with the people who will be caring for your dog.  Ask questions; take nothing for granted.  “Are toys or bedding welcome?  How will Rover be exercised?  What will you feed Rover?”  Talk about safety features.  Discuss frankly any qualms you may have about boarding.  They will appreciate your frankness and interest.

The experienced personnel at an American Boarding Kennels Association Kennel are trained to recognize the warning signs of potential health problems and will contact a veterinarian if they feel it is called for.  Many times it is easier for kennel personnel to detect problems than it is for the owner of the dog e.g., blood in the urine, a warning sign that deserves attention, can more easily be detected in the kennel than at home, because the dog is exercised in a specific area which is cleaned regularly.

But it is not part of the kennel’s job to diagnose or to prescribe.  If Rover does require veterinary aid while he is in the kennel, you should be aware that you, as Rover’s owner, are financially responsible for such aid.  Discuss, before boarding, any medication or special care Rover might need.  Most kennels offer a certain amount of individual care (Playing with, talking to, petting, the dog) but you must be reasonable.  (Asking the kennel owner to check Rover at 2 a.m. to see if he’s uncovered is not reasonable).

During boarding, it is possible that dogs sometimes step in their stools or urine and become dirty.  This can happen in the cleanest of kennels!  Also, some of the finest disinfectants available for sanitizing are not always the most pleasant smelling, and the odor may cling to your dog’s coat.  Grooming may be indicated, and you should advise the kennel owner if you want Rover to have a bath on the day he goes home.

One standard of measuring the kennel owner’s interest in his profession is his membership in the American Boarding Kennels Association.  You can be certain ABKA members are trying to keep current on the latest developments within the industry, and that hey truly care.  Their membership certificate will be proudly displayed.

Make certain you understand the rate structure for all services and hours of operation.  The fee for boarding includes the care of your pet, as well as the peace of mind that goes with knowing that Rover is safe and with someone you can trust.

A Working Partnership


Let us suppose that you do choose to board your pet.  Boarding is a shared responsibility.  As a responsible pet owner there are a few things you must attend to before bringing Rover in to board.  Make certain all immunizations are current, including the parainfluenza vaccine for protection against tracheobronchitis.   Your pet should be free of internal and external parasites and not have been exposed to any contagious diseases. Do not feed Rover for at least 4 hours prior to kenneling to minimize the possibility of stomach upset. Boarding at a kennel is the best alternative, but separation from master and/or being in strange surroundings can produce stress in your dog, and stress can result in lowered resistance to disease and sometimes even temporary changes in behavior. Be sure to inform the kennel proprietor of any special idiosyncrasies or medical problems Rover may have, such as a history of epilepsy or fear of thunder, etc. that may aid him in keeping Rover healthy and happy.

Dogs should be prepared psychologically for boarding. It’s best, of course, to begin with a pup as soon as the immunization program is complete. (Puppies usually learn very quickly to enjoy boarding.) Some kennels offer “day-care” services, enabling you to leave your dog for a few hours at a time. This is an excellent way to introduce your dog to boarding. After just a few visits Rover accepts a kennel as normal way of life/


The psychological preparation of a dog for boarding (and also for helping him develop a healthy personality) also includes getting him used to the new people and experiences (socialization). This is probably the most easily accomplished by taking him through obedience classes and occasionally boarding him. Naturally, a dog who is relaxed about boarding is more likely to board well. (It almost goes without saying that a pet owner should not moan or cry over his dog in the kennel office upon leaving him, nor should he bring out the suitcases at home a day before the trip-he should understand that both of these things cause his dog to be unnecessarily upset.)

Understanding the Kennel Environment


You should understand the possible effects of stress on a dog and not be shocked if, while your dog is boarding, he develops tracheobroncitis or, occasionally intestinal problems (such as diarrhea). You should be aware that some dogs carry viruses in their system for months and begin to show symptoms only after being subjected to a stress situation. In other words, they can “catch” a disease from themselves.


Sometimes temporary behavior changes can occur as a result of unfamiliar surroundings. Dear sweet Rover tears up the bed he has slept in for years. Or “Killer,” that rowdy scourge of the neighborhood, turns into a little lamb. Eating habits change under stress, and a dog assimilates his food differently. Some will eat like canaries at home and like vultures at a kennel. They may put on a few pounds. Others can lose weight though eating well or lose weight by not eating enough. Kennel life can be very exciting, and some dogs lose weight because they run the weight off as they charge around barking at other dogs and having a wonderful time. These dogs often go home exhausted but happy and sleep a lot the first couple of days at home.

All of the preparation by the pet owner merely points out that he should recognize that successful boarding depends not only upon the kennel, but also upon how well the owner prepares his dog for the experience.

Now that Rover is Home Again

When Rover is picked up he will be very excited to see you. (Dogs do not have a sense of time so that he would be just as happy to see you if you left him for 5 minutes or 5 days.)  Do not feed him (though he will act hungry once he gets back on his familiar turf) for at least 3 hours, and then be very careful not to overfeed him. Also, excitement will cause Rover to pant a lot, lose body water and be thirsty. Give him a few ice cubes to tide him over until feeding time. Again, in his excited state, excessive food and water consumption can create problems.

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