Courtesy of the American Boarding Kennels Association, the non-profit trade association for the pet boarding industry in the United States and around the world. ABKA offers information, publications, education, and facility accreditation.
Preparing For Boarding
1. Make your reservations early: Most kennels are booked up on holidays and during vacation times. If you wait until the last minute to make your reservations, you may be disappointed. As you make your reservations, verify those items which you should bring with you to the kennel (immunization records, special food, medication, bedding, and toys). Make arrangements for any special services you wish to have performed while your pet is in the kennel (grooming, training, or shipping). As you make your reservations, find out what type of payment arrangements are acceptable (credit cards, personal checks, money orders).
2. Prepare your pet for boarding: Remember that pets, like people, usually appreciate a vacation in new surroundings with new friends. Dogs, once they become familiar with their new surroundings, have a marvelous, exciting time, almost like kids at summer camp. (If your dog has never been boarded before, you might consider short, overnight stays at the kennel prior to an extended boarding stay to help him or her get used to boarding. Every time you return, your dog is less likely to affected by "separation anxiety" and can enjoy boarding more.) As a rule, kittens take to boarding easily and have a wonderful time. Adult cats usually display a very nonchalant attitude towards boarding and prefer to sit quietly and observe the daily kennel routine. They don't seem inclined to make new feline friends or participate in group play, but seem content to rest, eat, make friends with the help, and purr. Make sure that all immunizations are current (and have immunization records, if your kennel requires them). Don't overfeed your pet right before going to the kennel. The extra food is not really necessary and the result might be an upset stomach. Finally, because pets sense and reflect our emotions, DO NOT allow any member of the family to stage an emotional "farewell" scene. Your pets can be made to feel unnecessarily anxious about the kennel visit if they are subjected to this kind of dramatic display.
3. Check in during business hours: Bring all agreed upon medications, etc. Make sure that medications list the prescription number and name of the pharmacy so the kennel can obtain a refill if your return is unexpectedly delayed. Allow enough time in the kennel office to fill out the necessary paperwork. The kennel needs to know such things as: name, address, phone number, return date, additional services requested, where you can be reached in case of an emergency, the name of a local contact, your veterinarian's name and phone number, special feeding instructions (if any), medication instructions, etc. If your pet has any special problems that are not covered on the check-in forms, such as fear of thunder, epilepsy, or deafness, point them out to your kennel operator. All of this information helps your kennel take better care of your pet, especially if there is any type of emergency requiring special action. And this is what professional care is all about. Anyone can feed your pet, as long as nothing goes wrong. But what you want for your pet is supervision by someone who can assess and respond properly to emergencies. Don't be surprised if your kennel operator asks you to leave your dog in the kennel office rather than allowing you to place your dog in his run. This is done so that your dog will see you leave and will realize that you have entrusted him or her to the care of the kennel operator. It also eliminates the possibility of your dog getting the erroneous impression that you are placing him in the run to "guard" it. When dogs get that impression, they sometimes become aggressive.
4. Relax and enjoy your trip: Remember that you are leaving your pet in the hands of capable professionals. Pets in the kennel probably receive more care and attention than they would at home.
Picking Up Your Pet
When you return from your trip, here are some things that can help you and your pet to have a happy homecoming:
1. Pick up your pet during the kennel's normal business hours: Attempting to conduct business after hours is not only an imposition on the kennel operator and a possible disruption of sleep for the boarding animals, but can also result in a wasted trip to the kennel (because all personnel may be working in the kennel area and unable to hear the doorbell). For these reasons, many kennels assess an additional charge for after-hours pickup to discourage the practice.
2. Ask about your pet's stay at the kennel: Did your pet adapt well to kennel food, routine, and environment? Did he or she display any unusual behavior or require any special handling? This information will be entered on the kennel's records to assist kennel personnel in caring for your pet during the next stay, but you should also be aware of it in the event that you move or use the services of another kennel in the future.
3. Do not feed or water your dog for at least four hours after returning home: Cats adapt to their return home with the same easy acceptance with which they adapt to boarding, but dogs can become very excited when you return. And when dogs become excited, they tend to gulp food and water, which frequently triggers vomiting and/or diarrhea. Even if you normally provide unlimited access to either food or water, do not do so immediately after returning home. If your dog appears to be thirsty, provide a few ice cubes rather than water. Let him or her calm down for about four hours before offering food.
4. Contact your kennel operator if you have any questions about your pet's behavior after returning home: Sometimes pet owners become unnecessarily concerned about their dogs' behavior, which is completely normal. (For example, many dogs tend to sleep almost continuously for a day or two after returning home. This is usually a result of being back in a relatively calm environment after the excitement of the kennel). However, if you observe anything that appears to be out of the ordinary, contact your boarding kennel operator to discuss your observations. Your ABKA kennel operator wants you to understand the boarding process and your pet's reaction to it, and will be happy to discuss any questions you might have.