Dogs pack into D.C. boarding kennels as summer vacations heat up

Dogs pack into D.C. boarding kennels as summer vacations heat up
Dog packed for vacation D.C.

Dog packed for vacation D.C.

Talk about an August vacation spoiler: Congress is out of session, and the heat and humidity has you fleeing Washington, D.C., when the dog sitter cancels last minute.

Before you grab the leash and head to the nearest Washington dog kennel, be prepared to be turned away.

Not only do most boarding kennels require an interview process long before drop off, but prime vacation season in the D.C. metro area means advanced planning is essential.

"I was caught off guard when I first moved to this area with my dog, Sunny," says Kathleen Hendrix of Alexandria, Virginia. "Every August I try to go out to Michigan. That first year I called a kennel that was polite enough, but they quickly told me they were booked every weekend that month and that there was an extensive observation process that I'd have to go through first."

Hendrix didn't make it to Michigan that year.

Pre-plan with a pre-trip evaluation

No résumé or pedigree is required, but before the drop-off date, you and your dog will need to have stopped by for a few hours or even up to a day for evaluation.

Scheduling that interview is tricky during summer, especially in August, as Hendrix discovered.

“The evaluation process is important for both sides,” says Amy Lewett of highly rated Affectionate Pet Care in Fairfax Station, Virginia. “We let the client watch the dogs. We are evaluating the dogs, but it’s also an opportunity for the owners to evaluate us.”

Lewett recommends watching how the staff engages with the other animals and observe any major shifts in the dog’s personality or behavior.

Is your dog a good fit for the kennel?

So what does the animal boarding staff look for?

They’re checking for outwardly aggressive dogs and those that may just be a little shy. The shy ones often come around, but it may take another pre-visit to fully determine how the animal will behave in a group. Another pre-visit could put a further wrinkle in those August vacation plans.

Are any dog breeds off-limits? That depends on the boarder. Lewett says Affectionate doesn’t “breed-discriminate,” so that’s why the evaluations are so important.

Kennels need to be more careful with aggressive breeds, but there’s another type to keep an eye on – the herding group. With large facilities where dogs have massive yards to run and play, the natural instinct of a herding dog kicks in and they can become snippy and try to corral the others.

One thing Lewett recommends pet owners look for beyond fancy amenities for pets is whether a facility offers outdoor bathroom breaks for their furry clients. Kennels may have fake grass or other facilities inside for the dog, but often it’s hard for the dutifully trained pet to realize it’s OK to relieve themselves inside.

It can be lengthy process but a beneficial one. The key to making it all a success, especially in the summer, is booking early.

“That makes it easier on everyone,” she says.

Hendrix, who after that first summer found what she describes as the perfect kennel for her dog at the highly rated Pender Pet Retreat at Dulles Gateway, suggests starting the process early several months out. 

"When I adopted another dog that was the first thing I did when she was adjusted," she says. "Pender made the process easy and it helped that I did this before summer even began. This area loves dogs and it's one of the things I like best about living here, but come August you'll find the kennels fuller than the local malls."

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