“Find the right boarding option based on the personality of your dog”

Jill Priest, Globe and Mail,

May 6, 2016

Dogs, like humans, have different tastes when it comes to vacations. Ms. Priest opines that “Some dogs thrive on plenty of contact and activity with their four-legged friends, and others prefer a quieter more laid-back setting.” This is the introduction to her examination of the different options for your dog’s vacation when you are going away yourself.

First, the traditional kennel has a private room, usually with access to a “run”, an outdoor space for bathroom breaks, while keeping them from interacting with other dogs. Some kennels offer the option of a daily walk or other activities, sometimes included in the boarding fees. It is important to choose a kennel that limits the number of dogs that it boards at one time, approximately ten or twelve dogs, in order that each dog can get more one-on-one attention, including more outside walk or play time. The fewer the number of dogs, the less stressful is the barking.

The kind of dogs who would benefit most from a traditional kennel are those that may have a social problem such as over-reactivity to other dogs, situational anxiety or difficulty dealing with overexcitement. Older dogs, younger dogs or those with a medical problem will also do better in this type of kennel.

The downside to the traditional type of kennel is that most dogs often need more social stimulation than this type of accommodation can provide. Your pet may be stressed by howling or barking that is often the case with this type of kennel. In addition, some kennels do not provide easy visual access in that staff can’t quickly or easily see the animals in their facility. Ms. Priest provides the example of a sudden illness that staff did not notice immediately, adding “Also, unless the company adheres to rigid cleaning and sterilization procedures, illness can quickly and easily spread to all dogs in their care.” Her bottom line is that the traditional kennel is recommended for dogs who “require solitude with minimal to medium levels of interaction.”

The author turns her attention next to “cage-free” or “free-range-style boarding”. This type of facility is sometimes advertised as being “cage-free, providing a wide-open setting where multiple dogs roam, play and sleep together. There is a romanticized idea of happy doggies playing together all day — and free-range boarding attempts to provide such an environment.” The dogs who benefit most from this setting are high-energy, well-balanced and socialized dogs and an attractive choice for owners who believe their dog would prefer having few limits and free reign to run and play. The downside, however, is that it is risky to throw “— a bunch of strange dogs together and constantly changing the dynamic of the group as boarders arrive and leave –.” Despite a behavioural assessment of dogs being boarded in this type of facility, Ms. Priest states that “— it is difficult to predict how all dogs will react in their new setting. During longer stays, a dog’s baseline stress level can easily get elevated, and ordinary events may provoke an exaggerated response.” The author opines that, in other cases, some dogs simply don’t like each other and she likens this to the unexplained tension between some people. Concluding, Ms. Priest indicates that a lot depends upon how well trained the staff are and, in this type of boarding arrangement, illness can spread quickly. Finally, these types of kennel are among the most expensive.

Next, the author deals with “Daycare plus boarding (blended option), referring to overnight boarding. Dogs are able to play with other dogs during the day and retire to their own room or “run” to sleep at night. The dogs that benefit from this facility are high-energy dogs who are well-socialized. There is the bonus that owners looking for continuity of care will appreciate boarding their hounds with the same daycare as they use on a regular basis. However, the downside is that, the longer your dog stays in this sort of accommodation, the more likely it is that they will become fatigued by the constant activity. “A well-trained staff can identify these signs in your dog and provide enough play breaks to keep everything going smoothly.” Ms. Priests adds that, as with any environment with multiple dogs, illness and injury can occur. The plus side is that a regular daycare facility usually has a more stable group of dogs who are familiar with one another. This type of facility should have staff on duty 24/7 or at least be video monitored. She recommends this type of boarding for most dogs, depending on age, physical limitations and social issues.

The last type of boarding facility that Ms. Priest refers to is “veterinary boarding”. That is, the dog stays at an animal hospital in a cage at all times, surrounded by loud, sick, stressed out pets. She only recommends this arrangement for dogs needing specialized medical care.