We'd all love to take our dogs with us everywhere, but sometimes we can't. Business meetings don't welcome dogs in the conference room, your beach hotel isn't interested in hosting your pet, and your dog isn't keen on air travel. Fortunately, having a mobile life doesn't preclude having a dog. Professional dog boarding services can keep your dogs safe and sound while you are away on vacation or traveling for work. Dog boarding is available in almost all areas, from large cities to small towns. Most boarders offer dogs lodging and overnight care in their homes or keep special kennels located on their property.
Home boarders typically just take in one or two dogs at a time and have a special space for them in their home. They may have their own dogs, and your pet will be welcomed as one of the family while you're away. Companies that offer dog boarding services often have a dedicated facility, with the kennels located indoors and large, outdoor, fenced-in play areas that allow the dogs to socialize, exercise and get fresh air during the day. Always make sure there are play areas separated by size so that your little dachshund doesn't get run over by a Great Dane or your big mastiff doesn't accidentally trample a teacup Pomeranian. In big cities, dog boarding facilities are tucked into city blocks, many with small outdoor areas that — when coupled with multiple dog walks during the day — provide your dog with all the exercise they could need. In general, regardless of how big or small the operation, dog boarders should be insured, have business licenses, and have a background working with or training dogs. Some cities or counties require dog boarders and kennels to have special licensing. It is always a good idea to check providers' qualifications and make sure they meet local requirements.
Before signing on with a new dog boarding service, thoroughly research the facility and do a site visit. Not only will you want to see the facility for yourself, but most dog boarders also require a meet-and-greet initial visit. This allows them to get to know your dogs and confirm that they are well-behaved before bringing them into the mix. Depending on your dog's temperament, this two-step process can mean it takes a few tries to find with just the right people properly trained to handle your dog. In general, this introductory session is free. Once you have established a relationship with a boarding facility, you can arrange to board your dogs anytime you need, provided you keep your pet's vaccinations up to date. Here are the factors that affect the cost of boarding your dog.
Many dog boarding facilities have set daily rates that apply to all dogs, regardless of size or breed. Some facilities charge the same daily rate regardless of the length of your pet's stay; others may offer a discount if you board your dog for longer periods. The daily rate will take into account the dog boarder's business expenses: overhead, employee wages, rent or mortgage, utilities, the equipment needed to care for the dogs (fencing, shampoos, water bowls, leashes), and more. The higher the cost to do business in a given area, the higher the average daily dog boarding rates will likely be. Smaller mom-and-pop operations, such as homeowners who board a dog or two at a time in their own home, may have lower daily rates, as they don't have the same level of business overhead as a dedicated dog boarding facility.
As a rule, owners must show proof of current vaccinations to keep all boarded dogs safe. If you research a dog boarding facility that does not require proof of vaccinations, steer clear. This could be very hazardous — even fatal — to your dog's health. Vaccinations that your facility may ask to see proof of can include DA2PL-Parvo; bordetella (kennel cough); an annual canine influenza vaccine; distemper (DHPP); rabies shots; and others.
More mess equals more money for daily boarding rates. No one wants a dirty dog at their facility. A little mud is okay, but pests such as fleas, ticks and mites are generally not tolerated at dog boarding locations. If a dog infests the other dogs with fleas, the owner will most likely have to pay for the flea bath or treatment for their dog and the other dogs on-site as well as for a defleaing of the entire premises if necessary. Cleaning up this mess could cost $250 or more. Avoid this costly mistake by treating your dog with flea and tick medicine in the week prior to boarding. Consult with your vet for the best product and flea treatment plan for your specific dog.
Daily rates could increase if a dog is particularly aggressive and needs to be isolated. Daily rates can also be higher if a female dog goes into heat and needs to be isolated. The higher rates reflect the added work, employee time and resources required to board a dog with special needs. Some dog boarders do not take aggressive dogs or females in heat, so always be sure to ask. Other factors that could increase your daily rates include illness or advanced age. Senior dogs can often need special care or medical attention that requires more employee training and time. Some senior dogs also need mobility assistance, which can increase daily rates. Here are some examples of standard day rates for on-site dog boarding:
Angela Lullo at ALL4K9 in Cary, Illinois
Wanda La Cour of AngelsCare Pet Sitting in Frisco, Texas
Randy Francis with Sitter4Paws in Scottsdale, Arizona
Owners who prefer that their dog remain in their own home while they're away can opt for in-home dog care. Also referred to as dog-sitting, in-home dog care is a good choice for dogs with mobility issues, separation issues, or anxiety around other dogs or in new places. Your dog gets to remain in the comfort of their home with the dog-sitter providing a watchful eye, feeding them on their normal routine, walking them regularly, and giving them love and attention. An additional benefit of in-home dog sitting is that your house is occupied while you are away, reducing the risk of break-ins. Prices are typically higher for in-home dog sitting than for dog boarding because the service provider cares for one owner's pet or pets rather than being able to board multiple dogs. The higher cost also helps cover transportation costs. As with a dog boarding facility, always make sure you give the dog sitter emergency contact information and access to any pet first aid supplies you have, along with instructions for medication. Leah Rowe with For the Love of Dogs in Wilmington, Delaware, charges $85 for each 24-hour period of in-home overnight care. She charges the following rates for time spent beyond the initial 24-hour minimum fee:
Boarding during the day — commonly referred to as "doggy day care" — is less expensive than overnight boarding because it requires fewer resources and time from the boarder. Day boarding is a good choice for people who can't leave their dog home alone or who want their dog to have play time, socialization with other dogs and exercise during the day. Many city dwellers opt for doggy day care since apartment living can leave their dog cooped up in a lonely, empty flat for eight hours a day. Boarders may offer reduced rates to clients boarding multiple dogs at once. Here's how ALL4K9 charges for doggy day care:
Do your research before booking a new dog boarding service to ensure your dog is getting a safe and happy home away from home. Reading online reviews to weed out any less-than-stellar service providers. Read websites to get a feel for each boarder's approach, and ask for quotes to see the range of dog boarding rates in your area. Boarding your dog will usually cost more if you live in a metropolitan area where real estate costs are higher. In addition to high real estate costs, expensive cities also have a higher cost to do business, with more to pay in employee wages, insurance, etc.
After you've determined an average price range for boarding, decide which company is the best for you and your pet. Remember that cheaper is not necessarily better, and weigh what services are included in the cost. You should always visit the kennel or dog boarder's home before signing any service agreement or paying a deposit. Look for clean facilities, happy animals and well-maintained outdoor areas. Steer clear of any place that has poor sanitation or an unwelcoming atmosphere. According to PetMD, some critical warning signs to watch out for include owners who are unwilling to provide kennel tours; stinky or unsanitary boarding areas; no requirements that your dog be vaccinated (this could be life-threatening to your dog); no clear emergency plan that they can share with you on request; inadequate outdoor areas; and just one play area for all dogs, regardless of size or temperament. Most of all, take a look around and make sure the other dogs there look happy and well cared-for.
The facility will want to meet your dog, too, to make sure that it will be compatible with the staff and other animals on location. This is also the time to bring proof of your dog's vaccinations. Once you've found a safe and secure location for your dog, place a deposit to reserve your dog's stay while you're away, typically a percentage of your total bill.
If you're worried about your baby missing you while you are gone, there are a few steps you can take to make sure they feel comfortable and secure in a new place. Some dog boarding facilities require your dog arrive with some or all of these items, as they know this creates a sense of comfort for dogs on vacation. Even if the items aren't required by the facility, your dog will likely be happier having these things from home:
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