The best first step in finding boarding or daycare your pet will love is asking for recommendations from friends, neighbors, your veterinarian, or trainer. Also search "Kennels & Pet Boarding” and “Dog Daycare” online for info about the businesses, services offered, rates, and reviews.
Once you’ve found a few facilities that look and feel good to you, visit the site and ask yourself:
• Does it look and smell clean?
• Is there good light and ventilation?
• Is the temperature controlled?
• Does staff seem knowledgeable and caring?
• Are current vaccinations required? (They should be)
• Are "Prepare your pet” guidelines/instructions provided?
• What certifications are in place? Many counties conduct annual inspections; also look for Pet First Aid certification
To this list Kim Hormby, owner of awarding-winning Stay Pet Hotel in Portland, adds: Organization. “Are good notes taken? Do things seem relatively calm and under control when you are there?” She also recommends asking the dog to staff ratio if playgroups/daycare are provided, saying you should feel comfortable with the ratio. Likewise, she says to check out the play space to make sure you’re comfortable with its size and cleanliness.
“When I started, the rule of thumb was: if you can’t just walk-in and get a tour, then the facility is hiding something. I have always challenged this mentality. I would guess at many facilities, we are not always available to show a walk-in client around because we have high standards of care, and the dogs boarding with us take priority over all else. Oftentimes our staff in the back is busy caring for the dogs while our front staff is busy checking clients in and out. We love to show Stay off, but most of the time doing so by appointment makes it easier for dogs and staff alike.”
Questions to ask about boarding:
• Does each dog get daily exercise and attention?
• Are resting boards and bedding provided?
• Are cats housed separately?
• Can cats comfortably/safely move about?
• Is there space between litter box and food bowl?
• What is the feeding routine?
• What veterinary services are available?
• Is grooming, training and/or playtime available?
Hormby says questions she most often hears include:
Q How big are the suites/kennels the dogs stay in?
A Every facility has a different type, style and size of kennel – and some have none, says Hormby. Some, like those at Stay, are 50 square feet, providing plenty of room for beds, toys, and multiple dogs.
Q Do the dogs get exercise during the day?
A Most local facilities offer some type of exercise according to Hormby, who says, “Do your research and ask questions about this service before making reservations if this is important to you.” She feels strongly that dogs in boarding should get exercise, fresh air, and social interaction with humans.
Q Must my dog be dog-friendly?
A It depends on the facility. “At Stay we are able to accommodate dogs that are not dog friendly. They get exercised throughout the day via one-on-one time out with staff.”
Q Should I bring his/her food?
A Yes. People also ask about required vaccines, which Hormby notes are pretty much the same at most facilities, and include Rabies, Bordatella (kennel cough), and complete Distmper-Parvo. She notes that, “Most vets are also giving the Leptospirosis vaccine again, and while we do not require it, we do recommend it for the health of your dog.”
FINDING THE FIT FOR YOUR FIDO
When it comes to finding a place your pooch will love, Hormby says, “Figure out what is best for your dog’s personality and seek out that type of facility. Look at your dog’s energy, his or her social skills, anxiety, and other issues. Keep in mind that not all dogs want to be around 15-30 other dogs and don’t force it upon your dog. Ask about how your dog did and be realistic about what your dog needs and what you need. Finding the right balance is key, and there are a lot of great facilities that can help!”
PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT…
When asked what’s trending in boarding and daycare, Hormby says, “Dogs, dogs, dogs! I’m still amazed by how many dogs are in Portland as I drive around town. Rain or shine, there are always dedicated dog owners out with their pups. And so many small dogs! Portland used to be a big dog town, but in the past three or so years there has really been a balancing out (myself included!). A lot of this is attributed to all the great dog rescue organizations that are helping to bring last-chance pups to Oregon from surrounding states.”
The biggest change Hormby says she’s seen in daycare and boarding is the level of care provided. “Educated dog owners have clear expectations of how they want their dogs cared for and the industry has definitely risen to the challenge.”
In closing, Hormby says, “The first time you leave your dog at a facility is always the hardest!”
Once you and your dog get comfortable with a facility, you shouldn’t have to worry. And not unlike childcare with kids, Kim says, “I always recommend saying goodbye to your dog at home before you leave the house. The less of a thing you make of goodbyes at the facility, the easier it is on your dog.”
• Stay Pet Hotel — staypethotel.com
• Some statistics in this article provided courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States — Humanesociety.org
• Oregon Veterinary Medical Association — oregonvma.org
Kristan Dael is a freelance writer and the alter ego of Jennifer Mccammon. She lives in Portland with her 4-pack, and strives to produce articles that inform, edify, engage and entertain.