Planning your vacation or business trip takes a lot of organization, advance work, and, let’s face it, an unavoidable degree of stress. The one thing you should never have to worry about is the care that your pet receives while you are away. Finding the right boarding facility also takes planning but is well worth the effort — when your dog pulls you to get in the front door to see all her friends.
Plan ahead: Start looking for a facility before your next trip. You never want to wait for the last minute, because any good facility will have a process that you and your dog will have to go through before you become a client.
I always suggest asking friends and neighbors where they go for dog care and boarding. Personal referrals are always best.
There are many different types of facilities out there. There are those that house 250 dogs in kennels or suites. There are facilities that are cage-free, and there are people who offer care in their own homes and take in only a small number of dogs. Know what is best for your dog. Also know that your dog’s needs may change over time, and what she liked as a puppy may not be the best for her as she matures.
Very important to consider when looking around is whether your dogs has any special needs? Does she need medication? Is she a beautiful senior dog? Are there any dogs she does not like?
After you have been given a few suggestions, look at their websites. If you like what you see, call them and ask questions about what is important to you. For me, the most important question is, “Are you staffed 24/7?” How you are treated initially on the phone says a lot about how a business cares for its clients.
Ask to schedule a meet-and-greet or an “evaluation” for you and your dog. Every facility handles this differently. Most will ask for your dog’s current vaccinations, so make sure that you can provide this.
A meet-and-greet is not only for your dog, but for you as well. You should be able to tour the facility and have all your questions answered by the staff. You should be made to feel comfortable, and your dog should be utterly doted upon.
Once you have found a place that you and your dog like, schedule a half-day of daycare or an overnight before you need it as a test run. Most meet-and-greets last 30 to 45 minutes, which may not be enough time for your dog and the staff to really size up the relationship.
Make your reservation early. Many boarding facilities will reach their boarding capacities for major holidays months in advance (remember, I said to plan ahead).
Your dog’s stay: Follow the facility’s suggestions on what to bring for your dog, such as how the staff members want food and medications packaged. I always suggest packing enough food and medication for three extra days — you never know when you may get delayed coming home. Always leave enough time to do an accurate check-in for your dog. If you and the staff feel rushed at check-in, mistakes may happen.
Many dog parents, myself included, like to check in occasionally. Some places offer 24-hour cameras and some do not. Whether a facility has them or not makes no difference in the care that your dog receives.
You should feel free to call, or better yet, email occasionally. Ask for some photos of your dog and their friends. Nothing makes me happier than to receive an email or text with pictures of my babies.
Home again: You and your dog are home together at last. The weekend felt like an eternity for you being away from you dog. You’re ready to walk and play, but your dog wants to sleep for a day or two. Don’t worry. She is just tuckered out from all the fun she had playing with her friends while you were away — a good sign that you picked the right place for your best friend.
Victoria Robinson is the owner of green business High Tail Hotel, a cage-free boarding and daycare facility for dogs in San Francisco with 24-7 supervision.
Main article photo by: Photo by istock/Boonchuay1970