I try to keep most of my holidays pet-friendly but sometimes there are times when Zac simply can’t come with us and our awesome pet sitters aren’t available. Through trial-and-error I have found an amazing kennel, I think the fancy name these days is ‘pet boarding facility’ or ‘doggy hotel’ and want to share my tips on choosing one that will treat your dog well.
A few years ago, we were using a kennel closer to home. The first time Zac went off happily with them. The first problem was on the way home in the car. We’d hardly turned the corner when his gas emissions caused us to choke up and have to wind the car windows down all the way home. They clearly had given him food that wasn’t good quality and didn’t work for his system. I also noticed that he seemed more subdued than usual.
The second problem was at our next visit. My dog loves humans and will run up to anyone. When it came time for me to leave after filling in the paperwork, one of the kennel staff put a lead on and started walking him to where he’d be staying. I saw Zac dig all four his four feet into the ground, the first time I’d ever seen him do this, clearly not wanting to go back there. Unfortunately we’d had a death in the family and I had no choice but to leave him.
Our reunion was happy except for the disgusting smells he was creating, but it took him around two days to be himself again. All I could describe it as was shell shock – he was subdued and frankly in a depressed state as I had never seen him before, and I vowed never to use that facility again.
A dog training contact recommended that I try Akuna Care, a pet resort as they describe themselves, in the Hunter Valley – about three hours drive from Sydney. For just $25 they pick him up and drop him off in air conditioned comfort. And when their white wagon pulls into our driveway, he is so excited to go with them that he jumps straight into his allocated crate when the door is pulled open. Then he sits there grinning at us. And why wouldn’t he we always joke, he’s off for some wine and cheese tasting in the Hunter Valley!
What I love best about Akuna is that when Zac returns home, he is wired for play, relaxed and happy. He wants to chase his ball and play tug of war, and it’s clear that he has been given plenty of attention. Their range of packages allow you to scale up the exercise given per day depending on your dog and your budget and they allow for personal extras such as providing your own food. With a highly itchy dog this is really important to me. The very friendly team keeps notes about him so they know exactly what to do every time he visits.
From my trial and error, here are my top tips for choosing a boarding facility:
- Ask them if they dog stack. I think that part of Zac’s stress from the one I no longer use is that they put all the dogs in a yard together and expect them to be calm and relaxed. My dog does not like other dogs and this would have been his idea of personal hell. At Akuna Care the dogs have their own sleeping kennel with a grass run if they need to do their business. At no time are dogs stacked together. Three times a day Zac is exercised and played with (no other dogs) in the grassed play area, taken for a walk or a swim in the dam on the property.
- Check out the type of accommodation they’ll be sleeping in. While it’ll never replace the comfort of home, an area other than concrete where they can relieve themselves and raised bedding off a concrete floor is important.
- When you are booking in or asking questions the attitude of the staff tells you a lot about how your dog will be treated. Are they just another cog in the business wheel or is the care of your precious best friend taken as personally as you do? I regularly get videos of Zac when I’m away from Akuna, a lovely way to keep in touch when travelling.
- If you can check out the facility, observe the noise levels. Are there lots of stressed dogs barking constantly or just the occasional few?
- Observe you dog’s behaviour when they come home. If they seem down or subdued, it could be highly likely because of the stress of the boarding facility. The biggest indicator of Zac’s wellbeing when he gets back is his happy demeanour and begging for play.
- Don’t assume that better care is more expensive. When I switched boarding facilities and got a much better experience, I was only paying marginally more for care, with much better outcomes achieved. My car smells better too.
In summary, when choosing any type of care service for your dog – whether a kennel or a pet minder ask lots of questions and do your research.