Our beloved Dachshund/Lab mix, Howie, has been in a kennel all weekend. :( No, I don’t like boarding him. Unfortunately, we don’t have close friends here who we’re comfortable asking to shoulder the burden of pet-sitting. He’s well behaved, but very hyper. Our solution is to budget Howie’s boarding fees in with our vacation budget.
This is one area where I don’t look for the cheapest option. The truth is, if your boarding facility is reputable, you’ll pay more for personal care. The more personal care they provide the animals, the more staff they need. They also must have better facilities, which are more costly to maintain. If those are the things you’re paying for, then it’s absolutely worth it to pay extra to board your pet.
We boarded Howie for the first time during the week of our wedding. He wasn’t quite a year old, and I was very uncomfortable with the idea.
I don’t expect our dog to be pampered with doggie massages and treats four times a day (though that’s not far off from what he gets at home), but I do expect the people whom I’m entrusting with his care to treat him humanely and kindly. I’ve heard horror stories about understaffed boarding facilities abusing and neglecting animals. Even facilities considered humane often leave the animals in small cages 24 hours a day. I hate the idea of animal cruelty period, and I certainly don’t want my own pet to be mistreated. The thought of putting Howie in a cage for that long with no room to stretch his legs broke my heart.
We researched extensively before choosing a boarding facility. After looking at reviews, asking other pet owners in the area for recommendations, and touring the facility, we chose a place that charges $23 a night. That includes 4 hours of morning play time and 2 hours of afternoon play time in a yard with all of the other dogs. For a social dog like Howie who loves the dog park, this is ideal.
On the tour, we were looking for a few things. First, we checked the play area. The dogs in the yard all seemed friendly and social. I wanted to make sure they were keeping aggressive dogs separate. Indeed, the owner showed us a separate play yard where staffers play with dogs that don’t play well with other dogs.
We also looked in the kennels where the dogs sleep. Dogs stay there, so I didn’t expect it to smell like roses. However, excessive bad odors could be a warning sign that the kennels aren’t maintained well or cleaned after messes. That’s not only uncomfortable, but unsanitary. I also looked at the kennels to make sure they were large enough to comfortably hold the dogs.
When choosing a boarding facility, pay attention to their policies on vaccinations and vet care. Our boarding facility must have current vet records on dogs before they can stay. When I called to make a reservation for this weekend, they even reminded me that Howie was due for several shots before he would be welcome. Their records were so up to date that they knew the dates when he was due for his shots. That’s important if you don’t want to bring a sick dog home.
If you’re considering boarding a social dog, I suggest finding a facility that offers several hours of daily playtime.
They even gave us a free half-day pass to let Howie play in the dog area for a few hours before our trip. This was good for us because we’d never boarded him, and we wanted to know how he’d react to being dropped off in a strange environment. He loved it. When we picked him up, he was exhausted and filthy from rolling around in the dirt with other dogs. I’d rather give him a bath when we get home than pick up a clean dog who’s been caged.
We ended up paying almost $250 in boarding fees while we were away for our wedding and honeymoon. We’ll pay a little under $100 for this weekend. Obviously, the ideal is to leave your pet with a loving family member or friend for little or no money. When that isn’t an option, it’s worth it to pay top dollar for good care.