GIMME SHELTER-Rover sleep-over: How to choose a kennel

Samuel Sale, Wakefield Kennel Inc.

Q: We're going away on vacation and can't bring our dogs, but we've never boarded them before. What should we know before choosing a kennel?

A: First you need to decide what kind of facility you want. Take a tour of the facilities in the area, or call some local veterinarians to see which ones they recommend. There are about 6 to 10 kennels in the Charlottesville area, even more in surrounding counties, so there are quite a few to choose from. Getting a house-sitter is always an option, but if you have social dogs or dogs with special needs, a kennel is a good way to go.

When you visit a kennel, make sure you have a list of questions. For example, how much playtime are dogs allowed? Are dogs exercised regularly? What happens if my dog is injured? How often and what are the dogs fed? How are dogs disciplined? Will the kennel accommodate a dog's special diet? Will the kennel administer any medications dogs might need? What about bedding options? Some kennels allow you to bring your own bedding, others don't. And what about toys– will the kennel allow Rover to bring his favorite stuffed animal or old shoe? 

Also, consider the time of year. You don't want your Saint Bernard outside in the middle of summer, or your greyhound out in the middle of winter. Is it an indoor/outdoor facility? Can the kennel keep your dogs comfortable given the breed and the time of year?

Next, make sure your dog is prepared. If you're not sure how your dog reacts to other dogs, visit a park or dog run to find out. Nervous dogs do not do well in kennels and can end up with diarrhea.

Also, talk to your vet and make sure all your dog's vaccinations are up to date. Most kennels require your dog to have current rabies and distemper shots. I also recommend vaccinating for canine cough, a kind of dog bronchitis that is very contagious. Make sure your dogs get these shots at least seven days before you arrive at the kennel. 

In general, make sure you feel comfortable with the facility and the people running it before you make a decision. That way you won't spend your whole vacation worrying about Rover or Spot!

Samuel Sale