Does it make me a helicopter dog mom that I am even writing about this? Yes, yes it does. This is a fact about those who have big travel plans to Turkey or South Africa, or even a quick jaunt down the road to your Mother-In-Law who won’t let you bring your canine family member with you. The fact of life, Reus goes to boarding ~5 weeks a year. Boarding prices are not cheap either, so it is up to you and your budget constraints on how to accommodate you pup. I have personally tried out Rover in multiple cities, a downtown Dallas boarding facility, a neighborhood teenager, the Vet’s office and a neighborhood boarding facility
That said, I’ve “fired” some boarding facilities because of the diva dog mom that I am. If you’re investigating some options for boarding, consider the following when reaching out to the different facilities.
How do you communicate?
Before, during, after boarding. This is the #1 red flag if they are not explicit in the communication and setting expectations on how frequent you would expect to hear from them. You can think of this as push / pull notifications as well. Do I need to reach out to get updates? Will you proactively email me, text me, post to social media? Rovers are encouraged to send pictures and daily updates, however boarding facilities with many dogs on site may not offer the individual communication. I’ve seen other facilities post daily on social media and/or have a livestream of the play yard.
When I drop off and pick up my dog I often call 3 minutes from arrival and frequently email to remind them to thaw Reus’s food throughout his stay. Thankfully my downtown Dallas boarding facility does all forms of communication effectively – from email, phone, social media they are quick to respond to this overbearing dog mom.
How many dogs do you board at a time?
I stay away from Rovers that board more than just Reus. If they have a resident dog or two, no problem. I just try to reduce the number of risk factors when it is a single person running their own dog boarding compared to a larger facility that is trained in handling many dogs at once.
Making sure you know the capacity of the boarding facility give you an understanding of the safety and is a good check with your own risk tolerance. As a related ask, you can get an understanding of if the big and small dogs in separate pens or play areas as well.
Do you offer temperament check daycare visits?
The standard in Dallas is to do one free day of daycare before boarding your dog so that they are able to get a temperament check on your pup and see how they do in a group setting. Also known as making sure the dogs are psychopaths or aggressive in a group setting. If you know your dog is not good with other dogs, definitely let the facility know in advance to make special accommodations.
This is also important to consider for your own scheduling. You likely can’t do a hot drop with your dog on the same day of a trip. You would need to line up a day of daycare in advance and get the approval from the facility to leave your dog there in the future.
This is a factor in your dog’s safety at the boarding facility. If they do any sort of group play and your dog is friendly, that doesn’t necessarily mean that other dogs are friendly. Advocating for your dog is important and understanding how the boarding kennel vets other dogs is a key data point to consider.
Is there supervised play yard or exercise for the dogs?
Depending on your dog (small, big, young, old) this could have a different impact of your decision. I run 5-10 miles with my dog 4 times a week and walk him an hour on the days that we don’t run together. He is a very active dog. Typically Vet offices that do boarding only have kennels and take the dogs out to relieve themselves a few times a day on a leash. If Reus was cooped up in a kennel for three weeks straight he would be a banshee when he got home. We opted for the kennel with a play yard, but have to be careful Reus doesn’t get over aroused and stop drinking water during the day.
This question goes for Rovers as well, how often is the Rover parent home to let dogs out? Do they work full time jobs and keep the dogs in a crate the entire time? Asking these questions will keep you and your pup happy.
Can I see the boarding kennels and play yard?
I asked this to the neighborhood kennel and they said no. If I can’t see where my dog sleeps and plays, why would I let him stay here? I understand logistically if the dogs are currently in the yard or in their kennels there may be a challenge, but I also offered to come back at another time to look at the facility itself. Again denied. Nope, my dog not gonna stay here! Juxtaposed against the downtown boarding facility, they let me stroll through the entire space on the first time Reus was dropped off for daycare so that I felt comfortable with the space and process.
For in home or Rovers, this is important as well. My dog is an Olympic jumper and could easily clear short fences in the backyard. I scroll through pictures online and usually request more information on the backyard, fencing and door situation because Reus has also been known to make a break for it out the door and down the street.
What do you do in case of emergency? How will I be contacted and what vet is used?
Safety first. Reus was hospitalized for dehydration during our trip to Turkey and it was one of the most horrific moments of my life because I didn’t know it was happening. The boarding facility was texting me (not over wifi, standard SMS) but I was not receiving the texts because I was in another country with my phone on airplane mode. If it had been wifi texts or emails it would be no problem. I arrived in Chicago airport to a stream of text messages saying that Reus wasn’t looking good and that ultimately he was taken into the emergency vet. After 16 hours of flying and 3 more to go, I cried my way through Chicago and all the way home to Dallas. We have since learned our lesson and make sure Reus is signed up for “Naps” in his kennel every day for an hour with a personal bowl of water.
Understanding how the kennel communicates is critical in emergency situations. If I had known Reus was not doing well I would have asked one of my local parents to go get him immediately. I am thankful they took him to the vet when he continued to look terrible, but I have since changed my approach to making sure they have a local emergency contact and are aware when I am out of the country.
Do you offer extended stay discounts?
When you’re on vacation for 10+ days it can seem like a lifetime away from your dog. A boarding facility I frequently use offers discounts for stays after the 10 day, 15 day and 20 day timeframe, with a 10%, 15% and 10% discount accordingly. This is something I’ve started to ask for when I finalize my pick up time with them either on the phone or via email because they won’t automatically discount the bill. Every pick up email goes something like “Hey, just to let you know I’ll be picking up Reus at 3pm later today. Do yall still offer the long term discounts by chance? You can go ahead and charge the card on file. Thanks!!” It is nice but also reminding them I want to save nearly $100 on my boarding fees. You could also negotiate this with the owner if other boarding facilities offer it in the area. When you’re dropping $500+ on boarding there is space to negotiate.
Can you accommodate food / medication needs?
Reus eats raw dog food. Thankfully he is young and doesn’t need any medication outside flee/tick and heartworm, but his food is refrigerated and has to be thawed in batches for extended boarding stays. It also requires the feeder to wash their hands and be more mindful at feeding time compared to the bag of traditional dog food. My first question is always if they can accommodate and if they have a refrigerator for storage. This is an unusual request and diet, so always check with your person, vet or kennel to make sure they can make it happen.
Other kennels offer food as part of their rate but that can lead to upset stomachs. I personally would advise leaving enough of your dog’s normal food with the kennel to prevent any unanticipated illnesses or adjustments.
Do you have an extra charge for daycare?
Depending on when you pick up your pup, you could be charged a half or full day of daycare. When comparing prices on different facilities, this can tip one over the edge price-wise. Boarding places also offer concierge drop off and/or limited hours on the weekend. Understanding the logistics of how you are being charged is a big factor before making a reservation.
If my dog doesn’t like other dogs, is there the opportunity for solo play time?
My canine brother, Taco, also known as my parent’s dog is a bit of a psycho. He doesn’t get along with other dogs in a play setting nor does he coexist easily in general. What is a challenge for him is getting any exercise at all when he has to be in boarding. My parents have successfully negotiated “private play time” with the boarding facility so when the other dogs are down for a rest or for breakfast and dinner, Taco is allowed to go run around the yard by himself. This gets a little of the stir crazy out and keeps all dogs safe.
Is this overkill? You tell me ha! Have you interrogated dog boarding facilities before? Would love to hear what Q&A convinced you of your preferred kennel.
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