Fido's summer vacation - choosing a boarding facility

Fido's summer vacation - choosing a boarding facility
June 10, 2010 by Colleen Safford
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It's that time of year when most pet parents take a well deserved, kick up your heels  vacation. If you're like most pet parents, you'd far prefer taking Fido with you. Unfortunately, unlike the lucky pooches of Paris, the US/Canada still have a way to go in the department of, "Dogs Welcome!"  

So, for those who will not be taking Fido along, here are some tips for choosing your pup's vacation spot.  I am a big supporter of doggy vacations, and if you choose a facility wisely your dog can relax and enjoy his vacation too!

Five things that make a good dog facility: 1. Ample Space  for exercise 2. Consistent daily routine  3. Predictable environment   4. Knowledgeable staff  5. Restorative, peaceful downtime time

Good Dog hotels:

Safety and Stress: First and foremost you need a facility that is safe; ideally free of stressors. Seek an environment that was designed to decrease barking (dogs should not be in closed in area facing each other between barriers like fences), or at least, to minimize the sounds of barking. Ask the manager/owner how an emergency situation would be handled. Do they have a relationship with a vet? If it is a social environment, how does the facility determine the social skills of their guests?

Visit the Facility:  Ask how many staff members are on board, and how the staff is trained.  If you can, observe how the staff interacts with the dogs in their care.  Are the handlers proactively and positively engaging with the doggies?  Staff members should not be forceful, dismissive or amping up the dogs in a group setting. If it is an indoor facility, ask how many times your dog will be exercised a day. Obviously, be sure the facility looks and smells clean.

This hotel is for your fur kid, not you:  Do not get caught up in cute paintings on the wall or silly human-like play sets. Look at the facility from your dog’s view. Is there space to run around? Is the environment chaotic or does it seem calm? Are the staff members gentle and humane?

Be honest about your dog’s desires and abilities: During this process, it is very important to look at your dog and not just the facility! As a responsible owner, you need to be honest about what best suits your dog. Far Fetched Acres (my country boarding facility) is a very social environment. Well socialized dogs absolutely love it. That being said, some dogs would feel much happier and more secure without interacting with other dogs.  If your dog is not fully comfortable or accustomed to socializing amongst canine friends, find a boarding facility that can keep dogs separate is likely the best option for your dog.  Often I think loving owners want certain things for their dog, but as a good dog parent, you need to figure out what your dog also wants! By doing so, not only will he be happier, but he’ll be safer.

“Cage-free” is not all that!:  I see places boasting about being “cage free.”  Dogs tend to lose their social skills when they are exhausted. Many trainers would compare this to a toddler birthday party that has gone on too long. Kids start crying, throwing toys etc. The party is over when everyone is exhausted. Dogs who are tired are more likely to get into scuffles and potentially serious fights.

While it’s very important that your dog receives ample exercise and plenty of human attention during a boarding experience, your dog also needs to sleep! Look at it this way, imagine going on a week cruise and not having your own bedroom. Of course you are there to be social and active, but how do you think you’d feel with that lack of quality sleep? Your dog needs and deserves a place of his own to rest and eat safely. Ask the facility where your dog will eat and sleep during his stay. Safely contained in a suite or appropriately-sized crate is best.

Checking in on your dog enables you to relax!: If you’re like me, you’d prefer that your dog was actually with you and are probably nervous about him being away.  So,ask how to check in on your dog over the course of the stay. It’ll help you enjoy your vacation more! At Far Fetched Acres, we prefer to give updates via email and texting (as we can send communications at all hours). We also load pictures and video to our digital galleries. As a small facility, we place our priority on spending time with the dogs in our care and try not to be too anchored to the phone.  Other facilities may have a desk person. The main thing: you should know how to get an update on your pup!

You are likely the one with separation anxiety – not your dog: Do remember that dogs are quite adaptable. So, as much as you are worried, if your pup is in the hands of someone who can toss a ball, deliver treats, or deliver a great massage, he’s likely having a good time!

Relax and enjoy!

Colleen

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