Choosing a Kennel or Pet Daycare Facility

Whether it’s for a social hour at doggy daycare or an extended kennel stay while you’re away, you want to know your Fluffy or Fido is safe and happy when boarded.

Here are some tips from pet owners and kennel owners to make sure your pet’s stay is a happy one:

Things to Consider

  1. Consider looking for a kennel/pet daycare long before you need one. Remember to call well in advance for trips and especially for the holidays.
  2. Questions and things to consider:
    • What type of services do you need for your pet?
    • Consider the location – is it near home and work and easy to get to in a hurry?
    • Consider your budget – can you afford many services or should you consider a pet sitter?
    • What hours/days do you need kennel/daycare services?
    • Can you wait on a waiting list or do you need arrangements immediately?
  3. Gather recommendations:
    • Ask a friend, neighbor, veterinarian, animal shelter, or dog trainer for a recommendation
    • Check the Yellow Pages under "Kennels & Pet Boarding."

      WHN TIP: Inspections

      Find out whether your state requires boarding kennel inspections. If it does, make sure the kennel you are considering displays a license or certificate showing that the kennel meets mandated standards.

Start Your Search

Call the kennels/daycares you are considering. Questions to ask:

  • Do you have spaces available for your needed hours/times? Is there a waiting list?
  • What days and hours are you open?
  • On what days, dates and/or holidays is the facility closed?
  • Do you have drop-in emergency hours or do I have to book ahead?
  • How much are your rates? Do you do hourly or half-day rates?
  • Are there 'late' charges (i.e. late to pick up/drop off pet from care) or other additional fees?
  • Do you provide food? Is this included or a separate fee? Can I bring in special food for my pet?
  • What additional classes, training or other amenities do you provide?

WHN TIP: Just In Case

Ask friends, family, neighbors, etc. if they could be a back-up plan for pet sitting. Keep a list of their addresses/phone numbers in case you need them in a hurry.

WHN TIP: Back It Up

Even if you decide not to go ahead with a certain service, it's always good to have a back-up. That way, if your regular provider is closed or unavailable, you have another option.

Visiting the Kennel

After you’ve chosen a facility, make an appointment to check it out.

WHN TIP: Busiest Days

Kennels are usually busiest on Mondays and Fridays.

Questions to Ask

  • What training do you and your staff have?
  • Is there 24/7 supervision provided? What happens at night time?
  • How many pets do you care for each day? Each week? Each month?
  • Do you often care for the same breed as my pet?
  • What is the daily routine?
  • How often are pets fed?
  • How often do you walk or exercise the animals during the day?
  • How much time will my pet spend alone?
  • Will my pet be able to socialize with other pets? Humans?
  • What veterinary services are available?
  • What vaccinations are required?

    WHN Expert TIP: Proof of Vaccinations

    Many kennels, boarding facilities and pet hotels require that all pets be current on their vaccinations with written proof of up-to-date vaccinations.
    - Kelley Lenhart, Petsmart’s PetsHotel Expert.

  • What do you do if my pet gets sick?
  • When do you administer medications? How do you keep track of that process?
  • Can you accommodate my pet’s special needs (allergies, medical conditions, blindness, etc.)?
  • What emergency procedures do you have in place (fire, tornado, etc.)?
  • What should I do if I know I can’t make it back in time to pick up my pet?
  • What do I have to bring in with my pet (leash, collar, tags, dish, crate, medications, paperwork, etc.)?
  • Can I see a breakdown list of your costs and rates?
  • Are additional services available such as grooming, training, bathing, etc.?

    WHN Expert TIP: Ask away!

    Inquire about what is included in the cost of boarding and what amenities are available such as bedding, food, playtimes, interaction with other pets and humans, what medications can be given, and what toys and other personal belongings are permitted.
    - Kelley Lenhart, Petsmart’s PetsHotel Expert.

Evaluate the Facility

Jot down notes to the following questions:

  • Does the facility look and smell clean?
  • Is there sufficient ventilation and light?
  • Is a comfortable temperature maintained?
  • Does the staff seem knowledgeable and caring?
  • Does each dog have a schedule for exercise?
  • Are outdoor runs and exercise areas protected from wind, rain, and snow?
  • Are resting boards and bedding provided to allow dogs to rest off the concrete floor?
  • Are cats housed away from dogs?
  • Is there enough space for animals to move around comfortably?
  • Is there enough space between the litter box and food bowls?

WHN Expert TIP: No Visitors Areas

Some facilities may not allow you inside areas where animals are housed because animals can become frightened or aggressive. Also, this policy may be in place for sanitation reasons on behalf of the pets. Still, facilities with “No Visitors” areas should have viewing windows so you can see where your pet will be staying
– American Boarding Kennel Association, “How to Select a Pet Care Facility”

Preparing for Kenneling

WHN Expert TIP: Trial Run

If it’s the pet’s first time boarding, visit the boarding facility before the actual stay and leave the pet for a session of day camp. Then if feasible, leave the pet for just one overnight stay, returning the next day. This way, your pet will know you’re coming back for him, and it’ll decrease the feeling of abandonment. The more times you can do this before any long stay, the less stressed your pet will be.
- Kelley Lenhart, Petsmart’s PetsHotel Expert.

  1. Make your reservations well in advance.
  2. Your pet should know basic commands and be well socialized around other people and pets.
  3. Make sure your pet’s required vaccinations are current. Not sure? Check with your vet.
  4. You will need to bring:
    • Food
    • Up-to-date vaccination records
    • Heartworm preventive and any other medications along with an administration schedule
    • An emergency contact besides the veterinarian
    • A list of your cat’s/dog’s medical and behavior issues (doesn’t like to be touched by the ears, etc.)

    WHN Expert TIP: Label Maker

    All your pets’ personal items should be labeled with a permanent marker with the pet’s name.
    - Kelley Lenhart, Petsmart’s PetsHotel Expert.

  5. Exercise the pet before dropping him or her off.

    WHN Expert TIP: Watch the Food

    Don’t overfeed your pet before your pet goes to the daycare or boarding facility. The extra food isn’t necessary and might make them sick
    – American Boarding Kennel Association, “How to Select a Pet Care Facility”
  6. Again, mention any new or existing medical or behavioral issues your pet has. It’ll help the staff and your pet to make his or her stay a more comfortable one.
  7. Fill out necessary paperwork and be sure to leave the following information:
    • Name
    • Address
    • Phone Number
    • Emergency Contact Numbers
    • Vet’s Name and Phone Number
    • Medication instructions
    • Any other special instructions
    • Date and time of your return

WHN Expert TIP: In Good Hands

Remember that you are leaving your pet in the hands of capable professionals. Pets in the facility probably receive more care and attention than they would at home.
– American Boarding Kennel Association, “How to Select a Pet Care Facility”

Picking Your Pet Up From the Facility

  1. Pick up your pet on the scheduled day and time. Call if you will be late or need to have them keep your pet for an extra day (expect an additional charge and be aware of their policies).
  2. Ask about the stay and if there were any problems with feeding, socializing with other animals, sleeping, barking, meowing, medical or health problems, etc.
  3. Contact the facility if you notice anything unusual or if you have any questions about their behavior or health.
Updated 5/2009