How to Choose a Boarding Kennel

Leaving your pet behind for the holidays can be tough. But doing these three things can make it easier for both of you.

Dalmatian puppy

Photo by Stocksy

Photo by Stocksy

Ask Lots of Questions

As a pet parent, you want to carefully, um, vet, the sitters who’ll be taking care of your furbaby. Some Qs to put on your list: Does the kennel verify that all boarders’ vaccinations are up-to-date? What would a typical day be like for your pet? Is someone manning the facility 24/7? If your pet has special needs—say, they have to be given medication—is the staff trained to handle that?

You’ll also want to know what kind of report the kennel will keep on your pet’s stay. “Most reputable boarding facilities track animals’ eating and bathroom habits, as well as their general temperament,” says Joanna Zucker, vice president of  services at PetSmart. But double-check, especially if you want a deeper level of detail (“Fluffy played nicely with the other cats this morning”).

Services like Rover and PetSitter offer drop-in visits or house sitting so your pet can stay in the comfort of their own home.

Decide Whether You Want Any Extras

Some facilities offer serious perks, such as “video cameras that let you observe your pet remotely, onsite veterinary services in case of an emergency or doggy daycare that has an enriching environment to help your pup feel confident while separated from you,” says Ari Zabell, DVM, of Banfield Pet Hospital in Vancouver, WA. Of course, be prepared to shell out some bucks for these bennies.

$322 vs $164

The average amount owners spend per year to board dogs vs cats.

Source: American Pet Products Association

Do a Trial Run 

“Consider boarding your dog or cat for a few hours or overnight to gauge how they will respond to the environment,” says Zabell. (Not all kennels offer trial runs. If not, ask whether you and your pet can tour the facility instead.) A brief introduction can make a longer stay later less stressful for your pet. And knowing you’ve chosen the right home away from home for your pet will do you the same for you.