Boarding: How to Choose the Right Facility

Boarding: How to Choose the Right Facility

By Susan Paretts

When going out of town, every pet owner is faced with the decision to board their furry friend at a kennel. Choosing a trustworthy caregiver gives you peace of mind that your dog or cat is in good hands while you’re away. Once you know what to look for, a little investigating will help you find a boarding facility that meets your pet’s needs.

Check Out the Facilities
The best boarding facility for your pet will offer you free access to the entire building and staff. According to Josh Brown of, pass on any facility that refuses to show you where your pet will be staying. “You should absolutely, positively be able to see where the dogs are kept. If you can’t, leave,” says Brown, who also owns Far North Kennels in Anchorage, Alaska.

Make sure that the facilities are secure and that enclosures are made of non-chewable materials, recommends Brown. Check that the indoor temperature is pleasant and that there’s plenty of light and ventilation for your pet. Cats should have litter boxes available and all pets should have access to fresh food and water daily. Most importantly, kennel spaces should allow for pets to move around comfortably.

Keith Miller, owner of the Pampered Pooch Playground, a doggie daycare and pet hotel in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, recommends that you place your pet in a facility that allows you to drop by to check on it without an appointment. This allows you to really see how the facility is kept at all times, not just when they’re prepared for you to come over.

Ensure Facilities are Clean
When touring the facility, see if the staff is regularly cleaning up after their four-legged guests. The staff should respond relatively quickly to accidents and regularly change food and water bowls. If you smell unpleasant odors or notice that most kennels for the pets are dirty, avoid that facility, recommends Miller. “While you might notice some doggie [or kitty] odor around, the building should generally smell and look clean without lots of air freshener used to cover up smells,” he said.

Interact with the Staff
Only choose a pet boarding facility that is licensed by the state and where you’re comfortable with the staff. See how the staff interacts with your pet and the pets that are staying at the facility. Pets should be groomed and played with regularly. The staff should also allow you to bring along a favorite toy, bed, food, or brush, like the ConairPRO Dog™ pin brush. This way, your pet will feel more at home while it’s away.

“You want it to be obvious that your dog is going to get positive human interaction while [it’s] there,” recommends Brown. Pets should be required to be properly vaccinated before being boarded. You also want to make sure that there are enough people around to handle the pets. “Most states require licensed facilities to have a pet to staff ratio of 20 or 15 to 1,” Miller said. “Staff should be prepared to bring your pet to the vet in case of a health issue and be trained in pet CPR and first aid.”

Check In Regularly
Most good boarding facilities now offer you webcam access so that you can see your four-legged friend at any time during its stay, advise both Miller and Brown. In addition, a desirable pet boarding facility will welcome you to call and check on your pet. If any of the staff or the owner seems annoyed that you want to check on your boarded pet, choose another facility.

While it’s never easy to be separated from your fur baby, you’ll feel better if you can check on your pet from afar. Taking the time to inspect the boarding facility and speak with the staff will give you peace of mind when you leave your pet in their care.