Everyone needs help looking after their dog sometimes. Making sure that your dog is well cared for by a competent professional needs more than trusting to luck.
For occasional and emergency visits, plan at a time when the need is not urgent or even before you have a definite need so that you can try out an establishment and make other arrangements if it is not suitable.
Dogs are not just for evenings and weekends. If you don’t enjoy (or train) your dog to the extent that you are prepared to go on holiday with him, then probably a dog is not for you. If you are planning to leave your dog with a boarder when you are at work, check to see if your employer might consider allowing you to take your dog into work, otherwise re-consider whether you should own a dog.
As of October 1st, 2018, everyone boarding dogs must be licensed and the legislation makes different provisions for day care and overnight boarding. Dog day and overnight care used to be covered by the Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963 which made an exception if an individual boarded just one other dog in addition to their own at home. This is no longer the case.
- Boarders must only keep dogs in their home and may be granted a day care or overnight boarding licence
- Boarders licensed for day care only are not permitted to keep dogs overnight. If you think that this is likely to be a requirement, even if it might just be in an emergency, look for a boarder that has a full licence
- Dogs must have direct access to a private, non-communal, secure and hazard-free external area with at least two secure physical barriers between any dog and any entrance or exit
- If the boarder will be taking in dogs from multiple owners, each owner must provide written consent
- Each dog must be provided with its own room where it can be kept separate from other dogs and each designated room must have a secure window to the outside that can be opened and closed
- A dog can only be confined in a crate for three hours in any 24-hour period and the crate must be in good condition and of a suitable size as laid out in the legislation. The owner must consent to the use of a crate. A dog must not be kept in a crate unless it is already habituated to it and if the crate forms part of the normal routine for the dog
- Boarders must take steps to restrict access to dogs by children under 16 years of age
- Boarders must keep detailed written records for each dog and owner and provide an identity tag including the licence holder’s name and contact information when the dog is exercised outside the premises.
Premises will be inspected to check compliance and that may include local planning permission. Licenses will be granted for one, two or three years, depending on the previous licensing history, standard of accommodation and welfare, qualifications and experience of the boarder and the level of risk of breeching the licensing conditions that is calculated by the assessor.
Ask what the daily routine is. Make sure that you know about local restrictions such as areas where dogs should not be walked and restrictions on the number of dogs that can be walked at any one time. Many walkers circumvent limitations by walking in groups which means that, although there may be one person to every four dogs, the dogs will be in a large pack. This has consequences for their behaviour and that of other dogs in the vicinity. If the dogs will be collected by car or van, be aware that dogs will be left unattended while new dogs are collected. This may take quite a long time in an urban area, so your dog may be spending a lot of time in a vehicle in close proximity to strange dogs. Dogs have been left to die in hot vans by dog walking businesses and have been stolen when vehicles have been left unattended. Check that the dogs will be secured in the vehicle and provide a car harness or accustom your dog to being crated for travel. (This is not the same as allowing your dog to be crated while boarding and does not require written permission).
If the boarder is not willing to show you up to date copies of their licence and insurance and provide references for you to contact – walk away.
If the boarder is not willing to let you visit and have a thorough look around (preferably unannounced) – walk away.
Ask to see the licence and ask for references and cross check them: documents and references are easy to fake.
Boarding in Kennels
When you do decide to board, take your dog in for a trial period. Make the minimum amount of fuss when leaving. Ask for a full report of his behaviour throughout the trial period and the routine that was undertaken. Make sure that you are completely happy with everything befopre you agree to a longer stay. Many kennels will provide updates, but please bear in mind that kennel staff will be busy looking after a lot of dogs and possibly other animals so they do not need harrassing by an anxious owner. If you do not trust them to look after your dog without making constant contact, do not leave your dog in their care.
Try to make things as familiar for your dog as possible. Take in your own bedding (most kennels will allow this but they may have bio-security concerns) and a favourite toy which is safe for unsupervised play. Some kennels offer to provide food, but remember that a sudden change can upset your dog’s digestion at a time when he will also be coping with being in a strange environment.
If you are boarding more than one dog then it may be safe to allow them to board in the same kennel as long as it is at least double the size of a single kennel. However, if either dog does get stressed, there is always the chance that re-directed aggression may result in a fight. Strange dogs should never be boarded together.
Find out how much exercise dogs get out of the kennels per day. Your dog should have at least two sessions out of kennels either on lead or in a completely enclosed run. If you trust staff to choose dogs that can play safely together then give your permission; otherwise request that your dog does not mix with other dogs but that he has time to play with the staff or just have a wander and a sniff.
Check charges beforehand and compare with other local, similar facilities. Price is not always an indicator of quality and should never be the sole consideration. Never board your dog anywhere that you have not visited and inspected thoroughly or at the very least had a reliable recommendation if in an emergency.
Your dog should be vaccinated fully and treated for parasites. In addition, if you do not choose it as routine, you will need to have a bordetella vaccination administered at least 2 weeks prior to boarding. Staff should ask you to show up to date records. If they do not – walk away. There is always the chance that they have taken another dog on trust that has not been vaccinated and your dog’s welfare and even life could be at risk. Kennel cough can be extremely serious in very young and very old dogs and cases of parvo virus and distemper are on the increase and can be fatal. Ask if any dogs are fed raw and request a written copy of the kennel hygiene routine. Make it a condition of your dog boarding that the strictest hygiene rules are complied with to the letter if raw meat or eggs are fed to any dogs on the premises. Dogs fed raw meat and eggs will be shedding transferable pathogens.
Bear in mind that holiday periods will be extremely busy and book as far in advance as possible.