Dog Boarding and Kennels

What Are Animal Kennels?

Animal boarding kennels have become a popular option for pet owners as an alternative to in-home pet sitters. While having someone come to your home offers the benefit of familiar surroundings, many kennels provide value-added services such as socialization with other animals, outdoor dog runs, or "cat condos" with multiple levels.

Kennels typically come with a per-night cost, though some offer lowered rates for longer term stays, for example a week or month. Included in the basic price will be a space for your animal — for dogs, this is usually a small gated area which includes a place to sleep and eat. Some will also include a "doggy door" and outside area for them to nap or play. Cats are usually given small rooms with multiple levels and windows onto the main floor of the kennel. There is wide variation over what's included and at what price — it's critical to visit a kennel, and get a full tour, before you make any decisions.

Keep in mind your pet will need to be fully vaccinated before they can stay at a kennel — this helps keep both your companion and others in the facility safe.

What Does My Pet Do at the Kennel?

A good kennel or boarding facility should walk your dog several times a day — anywhere from two to five — and should also build in time for play or socialization. Some kennels offer free play with other animals in a common yard, while some keep dog play one-on-one with staff, for example playing fetch or in the pool, to avoid any conflicts. Rural properties may include hiking trails.

Cats, meanwhile, may be given a common area to play if there are no behavioral issues, and some kennels include a fenced-in outdoor yard on a deck or patio for climbing and sleeping.

Most kennels will have staff available 24 hours a day, though this can take several forms. One or two employees may be present on-site (in the case of a family-owned business on their property, for example), or the kennel may be monitoried by video and audio. Feedings are usually handled at the discretion of the owner; whatever food you prefer must be supplied, along with instructions on how much to feed and how often.

How Do I Choose the Best Boarding Facility?

There are two critical factors when it comes time to choose a kennel: What you think of the space, and what you think of the staff.

Start by arranging a tour of the facility — most will have specific tour times throughout the day. Be leery of any facility that doesn't want you to visit. The dog and cat kennels should be clean, bright, and show signs of care; rusty fences or broken windows are a sign of neglect for the property, which can indicate a similar neglect for the animals.

Staff are just as critical. In speaking with staff members, a clear interest in animals should be evident. If staff seem annoyed by the dogs and cats surrounding them, are short-tempered or curt, you can expect their demeanor to be worse when you leave. Think of the kennel as a type of extended family — choosing the right service means balancing price with the comfort of your dog or cat.

Do Kennels Offer Specialty Services?

Animal boarding kennels will accommodate most owner requests, but some come with an extra cost. Administering oral medications, for example, usually adds a dollar or two per day to the price, as will having food prepared in a specific way, such as a mixture of wet and dry, or hand feeding.

Kennels also come with a variety of add-on services, just like a hotel. Basic kennels include comfortable places to sleep, eat and play, while more expensive versions can include televisions in every room, plush beds, and more personal attention for your animal. Which type you prefer depends on the needs of your animal and their day-to-day lifestyle.

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