Going away? Ensure your dog has a happy holiday too.

As the holiday season kicks into high gear, those of us who will be travelling out of town need to plan ahead for the care of our pets.

Whether you will fly or drive, your travel plans and holiday destination often won’t be able to accommodate your dog and therefore an alternative housing needs to be arranged.

The solution for many is boarding kennels — and a good boarding kennel can be worth its weight in gold. However, in exactly the same way as you wouldn’t suddenly leave your children in a strange place with no preparation and with no research into who would be looking after them, this is something that needs to be prepared well in advance.

Most people know when they get a puppy if they are going to occasionally need to go into boarding kennels — and even if you don’t think this will ever happen, we can’t predict the future, so it is useful if most dogs can cope with ‘away days’! Along with all the other things we want our dogs to accept as just being part of life, this should form a part of your dog’s early experiences.

The first step is to find the right kennels for your dog. Seek advice and recommendations from your vet, your dog trainer or other dog owners. In most areas you now have the choice of traditional boarding kennels or home boarding — and there are benefits to both. Traditional kennels will have well qualified experienced staff who will keep your dog in a totally secure area. Home boarders will take your dog into their home (possibly with other dogs — their own or other visitors) and exercise them either in their gardens or out and about in the area they live.

The decision you make depends on the type of dog you have. If you have an easy-going, friendly, home-loving dog, then home boarding may suit them well. If you have a more challenging dog — or if you want to ensure your dog stays in a secure (if not so comfortable) environment — then boarding kennels are probably a better choice.

Once you have some suggestions, go and visit them. Make sure you like the staff, the facilities, see their insurance and qualifications (this includes home-boarders!), and look to see that the residents look happy and well cared for. Some even have webcam facilities so you will be able to see how your dog is settling in whenever you want.

When you have selected the place and the people you trust to look after your dog, book your dog in for half a day. This will give him a nice short visit to get to know the place and the staff before you leave him for any length of time.

Remember that a boarding kennel can initially stressful for your dog — there are lots of strange people, dogs, smells and noise so do everything to keep him calm. Use an Adaptil collar for the day before he goes to kennels and while he is there. Make sure he has some bedding that smells of home (although you are unlikely to get this back so use some old vetbed or similar), take his favourite (washable) toy, and if he is going to need to be fed while he is there, send him with his usual food.

Ask the staff how he coped. If he copes well with half a day, next time you can book him in to stay overnight (and if he is fine with this, do an overnighter several times before you leave him for longer).

By doing this preparation, you know that both of you can relax during the holidays — knowing that your dog will be able to cope with his ‘away days’.

Reminders:

Prepare well before you need to leave your dog

Spend time finding the ideal place and people to leave your dog with

Make sure you see their insurance, license, qualifications and ideally testimonials (and follow these up if you don’t know anyone who has used their service!)

Book early (good kennels get booked up for the holidays many months in advance)

Give your dog some short stays to get used to the novel environment.

Send him with his food, some bedding, a toy, an Adaptil collar — and his vet’s phone number.

Ensure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date

including kennel cough. The kennels may not take your dog if you are behind with their vaccinations.

If your dog is on long-term medication explain to the kennels when and how this is administered.

If he is home-boarding, make sure he has an ID tag with his holiday address as well as your own.

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