Pet Travel. Made Easy.

5 Tips for Finding the Perfect Dog Kennel

This probably isn’t a topic you expect to read about on this blog, but even we at GoPetFriendly do not always take the dogs with us when we travel. Of course, we prefer to have the boys with us all the time, but there are times when taking them along isn’t in their best interest.

Unsure pup at Meet the Breeds

Concerned pup at Meet the Breeds

For example, we occasionally do a trade show like Meet the Breeds, and we don’t take Ty and Buster with us. The crowds that pack this event would be overwhelming for our boys. And, the hustle and bustle of working our booth combined with caring for the dogs would be more than we could handle.

Another reason we would choose to leave the dogs behind is if we had to fly to our destination. Both Ty and Buster are too large to fly in-cabin, and we’ve never been comfortable with the thought of them traveling in the cargo hold of an airplane. Ty, being a Shar-pei, has a short nose, which can make it more difficult for him to breathe on a plane. And we’re afraid our sensitive Buster would find the experience terrifying.

Luckily, a while back we found a kennel where the boys are well cared for and are excited to go. Because you never know when unexpected circumstances might require you to opt for boarding, it’s less stressful for you and your pet if you’ve got a plan in place. Here are some tips to make sure you and your furry loved one are both comfortable.

Call the Boarding Facility and Take a Tour

The first step is to get some recommendations and then call the kennels in your area to ask for a tour. If you are told that you are not allowed to see the facilities – move on. Any place that’s unwilling to show you where your pet will be staying is not a place you should be leaving them.

Also, carefully consider kennels that require you to schedule the tour in advance. I’m not saying this is an absolute deal breaker, but I’ve always been more comfortable with locations that are happy to show me around when they haven’t had an opportunity to prepare for my visit.

Things to Notice During Your Visit

Allow yourself plenty of time to see the facility and ask any questions you may have. Take notice if the kennel is clean and smells pleasant. Ask to see where your pet will sleep, play, and be exercised. Observe the staff interacting with the animals and note if they are attentive and caring. Also, take notice of the behavior of the animals – are they happy and content or do they seem overly anxious or stressed? Finally, make sure there is adequate security to prevent pets from escaping.

Questions to Ask

During your visit find out how much time your pet will have outside of their enclosure, how often they will be fed, whether you can bring their food from home, what procedures are in place to ensure they get required medications, whether there is staff on-site 24 hours, whether the facility temperature controlled, whether there is a sprinkler system in the building, what steps would be taken in the event of a veterinary emergency, and whether you are allowed to bring their bed and favorite toy along for their stay.

Also, be sure you know what paperwork will be required to drop off your pet. Vaccination records are almost always necessary for boarding any animal.

Consider Day Care

If the facility you’ve selected offers day care, consider acclimating your pet by arranging for one or two short visits prior to boarding them for a number of days. This can help decrease their stress level because they will be in a familiar place, and they’ll understand that you’ll be back to pick them up.

Observe Your Pet’s Behavior After Boarding

When we first boarded Buster and Ty we chose a very posh facility with televisions in each doggy suite and a gorgeous indoor/outdoor play area. It did wonders to assuage our guilt for leaving them behind, but when we returned it was like both dogs had forgotten all their training! My guess was that while they were at the kennel (if you could call it that), it was a doggy free-for-all, with little regard for any rules of proper decorum.

The facility they stay at now is more spartan, but it has a calm energy about it and the dogs don’t run amok. They may not be watching Animal Planet, but they are well cared for and spend most of the day romping in the big dog yard. The best part is that Buster and Ty are both happily exhausted when we pick them up and sometimes their behavior has even improved!

Ty and Buster Snuggling

Pooped pooches.

What are your experiences with boarding your pets? Do you have any other suggestions of other things that should be considered when tackling this difficult decision?

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  • Finding the right a dog boarding kennel for my dogs was difficult and I followed all your suggestions like visiting and inspecting the facilities and other dogs. I narrowed down which kennels I saw by simply find the ones with the best pet owner reviews on It worked out good, and found a really great kennel I will use again and again. Thanks for the article.

    • Amy Burkert says:

      Hi Gordon. Thanks so much for stopping by! I’m glad you found the article helpful and that you were able to locate a great kennel for your dog. Having a place that we trust to care for our pets when we’re away makes traveling without the furry members of our family a lot easier!

  • Nancy Deutsch says:

    Your suggestions were very good. I interviewed a half dozen kennels with my dog before picking one. The one we picked has doggie day care, is extremely clean, has good security, offers additional services like swimming, ball games, and grooming before picking up the dog and gives her her daily meds. She always comes home happy and better socialized than when at home where her pack mates are tolerant but not play pals. The pet resort also has web cams so we can watch her when we are away…very reassuring.

  • Michele C. Hollow says:

    Amy you are absolutely right. Sometimes it is in their best interest to leave them with a pet sitter at home or board them at a kennel that you have fully checked out.

  • The only boarding that Jersey had was when she was at the vets with a broken leg. So far, I've been very lucky with dog care. My Mom always takes care of Jersey when Sean & I go away, so we don't even give it a second thought.

    For awhile I've been thinking about adopting a “sister” for Jersey, but I'm putting it off until I get back from a Florida vacation in December. My Mom has 3 dogs in the house and I don't want to make that number 5 if I bring over Jersey and a new dog. Another dog means that I'm probably going to have to consider a boarding kennel and I know that I will be super picky about choosing one!

    • Yea! I love the idea of a “sister” for Jersey. We were in much the same situation as you – when we just had Ty one of my sisters or a good friend of our would stay with him when we went away. Once we got Buster, that plan didn't work anymore so that's when we went in search of a kennel.

  • Mel Freer says:

    A great post. I actually was going to watch a friend's dogs while she and her family were in Hawaii, but she decided to go with a boarding kennel near me. They were so upset. Both dogs (Labs) had special food and one of the Labs, Bodie, needed extra food because his high energy made him really thin. Bodie was also supposed to be allowed to play with the other dogs and they even told her when she called that he had been out every day playing. When she returned, she found out that both dogs had been fed the wrong food and the extra amount that was supposed to be given to Bodie was given to his sister. She also discovered that Bodie had not been let out of his kennel the whole time!

    It's always good to get references from people who board their dogs at a facility and ask lots of questions. Rori's comment on fencing is excellent too.

    One other note: Ask the staff how they discipline the animals. One facility I know uses CM's methods and another just gives time outs. A very good thing to know if you don't like CM's methods.

    • The experience your friends had is precisely why many people choose never to board their pets. I can't believe poor Bodie was cooped up in his kennel the whole time! I can just imagine what Buster would be feeling if that had happened to him and it makes me really sad.

      Great point about discipline! I don't even what to THINK about anyone applying their version of CM's strategies to my boys.

  • MRSBROOKS says:

    i I have had a very bad experience boarding my dogs. I called the shelter that I adopted my Saint Bernard from and asked if the still do boarding. They said that they did so I set up to have drop off the day before my wedding, and pick up the day after my wedding & 7 days later for 10 day while I went on my honeymoon. They had moved to a new building and although I wasn’t very pleased with their new set up but I figured that it would be fine and they would take care of my dogs. The lst building had indoor outdoor runs this one was only indoors and they had to bring the dogs out. When I picked them up they were FILTHEY! they were both covered in urine and smelt horrible. We ended up stopping at the dog wash half way home because we could stand the smell any longer. (the kennel was 1.5 hours away from home).

    After getting the dogs out of the car and onto the table I could see how dirty they really were, they had hard poop stuck to their fur and my saints eyes looked horrible and her face smelt like urine.

    When we got home we realized that our German Sheppard had very very loose stools, something that she only gets when her food get switched, that told me that they hadn’t feed the food that we brought. I called the shelter and just asked general questions before letting them know how angry I was and I found out that all of the dogs are kept in one room, the dogs that are there for boarding and the dogs that the dog warden brings in from the streets. I was ready to rip them a new one for the way my dogs were treated but then I bit my tongue remembering the contract I sighed saying that if they thought it was best for the dog they could remove my adopted saint from my home, so I left it at that and canceled the other booked nights and set out on a search to find a new boarding facility for my two huge dogs with behavior problems. Remembering that my old vet boards dogs I called and was able to board them there for nearly half the price in a beautiful building with great staff. My dogs came back clean and happy.

    • What a horrible experience – for you and your dogs! I'm so sorry this happened to you and I'm happy you've now found a facility where you know your dogs are comfortable and happy.

      This is the perfect example of why it's SO important to go tour the kennel and ask all your questions before you drop your pet off. Thanks for sharing – hopefully your story will encourage our other readers to plan well in advance when looking for a kennel.

  • Loretta says:

    We love our kennel.
    They even have a special house for little guys. Everyone gets free playtime. I even get a report on how he did and photos too! Plus you must book early. They fill up quick. The owner lives onsite which is great for us to know. We travel 45 minutes out of our way just to board him there.

  • RoriTravel's Florida says:

    Excellent article. And needed. As you say, many of us love to bring our furry family with us, but that is not always possible. Having a good, safe, reliable means of caring for them is a vital necessity. If I could add – even if you have no plans to travel, check out local places ahead of time – you never know when an emergency comes up & you won't have time to check things out then.
    One other thing I've learned, having worked as a Kennel Manager & having boarded once (I don't care for boarding, but will do if I need to) – along with the above great tips, check out the “safety” of how dogs are moved. Is there a fencing around the exterior door area – meaning, if the door were opened & its outside of the building, is there a fence so the dog – who might get out – is not now in the parking lot. How is the fencing around the facility in general? Maintained? Complete? Keeps dogs from other areas, getting away, and from other dogs? It's something we don't think about – until you hear of the dog that got away.
    Great article Amy!

    • Great point, Rori! Security is vital because if your pet would escape, they could be in an unfamiliar area and might never find their way home!

      I also agree that doing this research – before you need to board your pet – is really important. Even if you are a person that NEVER boards, what would happen if there were a medical emergency and you had to be hospitalized? There are always unforeseen circumstances that can put you in a difficult position. We believe in the boy scout motto: “Be Prepared.”

  • Peggy Frezon says:

    We boarded our lab once and found a kennel that was clean and friendly and came highly recommended. But we were disappointed to learn that there was little to no interaction with humans–no walks, cuddles and play times. At the time we couldn't find anything better. This was many years ago. Today I think there are many better kennels.

    • I agree Peggy – kennels have really taken hold of the “pet as part of the family” concept and the services provided now are very different than years ago. I also think keeping your priorities in mind are important when choosing a facility. Assuming the safety aspects are covered, think about what amenities make your pet happiest, and focus on that. Clearly, given our choice of kennel, we're not concerned with the decorating scheme. We know that our boys are most relaxed when they are tired – so we put our focus on how much time they will spend interacting with the staff and other dogs.

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