On a journey. Who will look after your dog?
There can be many reasons for a dog to stay temporarily in a dog kennel or dog hotel. Illness, rehabilitation, or just because you are going on holiday and your dog cannot come along. Your dog is your everything and you want the best for him. It is a difficult decision for many people to leave their dog, even if it is only temporarily, with strangers. Will your dog feel at home there? Will he be well looked after? Will he get enough exercise and good food? These are all uncertainties and questions that you will have to deal with. How do you know which boarding kennels are best for your dog? What do you need to look out for?
Is the boarding kennel owner competent?
Not just anyone can start a boarding kennel. A boarding kennel owner must have a certificate of professional competence in the field of dog and cat boarding, which satisfies the legal requirements laid down by the government in the Dutch Decree on animal keepers previously known as the Dogs and Cats Decree). This states, for example, the requirements for accommodation and care and how the business is run.
Guesthouses that are affiliated with the sector organization Dibevo can only join if they meet the legal requirements. Furthermore, the National Inspection Service Animal Protection (LID) and the NVWA are responsible for the supervision and inspection of dog boarding centers.
What do good boarding kennels have to fulfill?
Animal welfare must come first. Within the EU, animal welfare is formulated in the five freedoms. These five freedoms recommended by Tinberdog can be used as guidelines for a boarding kennel, but also for the situation at home.
Dogs should always have access to fresh drinking water and be given a set amount of food every day. You can agree with the landlord whether or not you want to bring your own food. Having your own food does not automatically mean a discount on your stay. Remember that this is a custom job for the landlord and he has to spend extra time on it.
The accommodation is spacious, covered, and clean. Also important is the temperature (not too cold or too hot), daylight, and that your dog has a comfortable place to lie down. Some boarding houses have separate indoor and outdoor areas for each dog, sometimes dogs have to share a pen. Please realize, however, that an outside shelter must not be seen as an alternative to being outside. At a lot of pensions with an outside stay, the dogs don't come any further than that stay. At home the dog does not have an outside shelter either, so why in a boarding kennel? A boarding house where the dogs go outside in groups is much more laborious for the pension holder and therefore it may well cost more.
The housekeeper shall prevent any dog from experiencing pain or discomfort. If a dog does fall ill or become injured, it shall be given prompt and appropriate medical attention.
The aim is always for a dog to experience as little fear and stress as possible. Predictability and regularity can prevent a lot of stress in a dog. If a dog knows how each day will go, it will have peace of mind and a sense of security.
Boarding kennels are not cytological behavioral therapists, but it is a very good thing if a boarding kennel keeper has enough up-to-date knowledge of dog behavior to be able to act effectively when an animal is suffering mentally. Does he recognize stress in a dog? Is the dog homesick? What ways are there to relax a dog? Brainwork, chewing, exercise, or dog massage? Does the dog get enough rest or are other dogs barking all day? What does a boarding kennel owner do if a dog is stressed or has separation anxiety? Does he refuse a dog? Is there a trial night to find out?
Dogs are social animals, but this does not mean that you can just put them together, for one dog it will be a party, for another, it can be misery. It is therefore important for a dog that he can be with other dogs during his stay (possibly with supervision). Is there a playing field? Does a dog get enough time on a day to socialize and play outside the kennel?
Are enrichments such as brainwork or food games provided? If these are not met, it can lead, for example, to stereotyped behavior increased aggression, or depression.
Knowledge of dog behavior
As mentioned before, a boarding kennel owner is not a canine behaviorist. But it is a great advantage if he has up-to-date knowledge of dog behavior and takes regular refresher courses. This means that he deals with the dogs in an animal-friendly and respectful way, treats them as individuals and does not try to subjugate them.
Does the boarding kennel owner know what is or is not a game? Which dogs are placed together on a field? Is size, age, temperament considered? You can imagine that a small, old dog cannot play together with a busy, clumsy big dog. "Dogs will figure it out for themselves" is hopefully not something you will hear from the boarding kennel owner.
It is important to formulate several questions that will give you an idea of the boarding kennel owner's way of thinking. A boarding house may look perfect and meet all the requirements but that says nothing about how they treat their dogs.
Pay a visit first
If you want to get a good impression of a boarding house, it is advisable to pay a visit to get acquainted. Talk to the owner and any other employees. Ask for a tour and pay attention to the dogs that are there! Are they busy or timid? Do the dogs bark and pant a lot? Can you tell anything from the behavior of the dogs present? Do they like to see the owner? Do the dogs look well-groomed?
To prepare your dog, you can take your dog with you on this first or later visit. Make sure that you take your time. Do not drag your dog inside, if he hesitates give him time. Do not lure or force him. Make sure it is a positive experience. Sometimes the dog shows too much stress, which already says a lot. You then have to ask yourself if it is a good idea and if you cannot better choice for care in a domestic circle or at friends home.
Look at the size of the boarding house. How many dogs does it take in? Is it a small-scale boarding kennel where dogs have housed in a domestic environment or a large-scale one with hundreds of kennels? Is there a fenced area where the dogs can play outside?
Experiences of others
Perhaps you can find out about other people's experiences on the internet? On Doggo.nl, for example, you can see if there are any reviews of the boarding kennels in question.
How can you prepare and help your dog?
For some dogs, being taken into care is associated with stress. Different surroundings, different people, different smells, less attention. It is therefore not only exciting for you as an owner to take your dog to a boarding kennel, but also for your dog. After all, during his first stay in a boarding house, he does not know what is going to happen and how long it will take, and if he will come back. The next time he will know that perhaps. What can you do to make the stay more pleasant?
You can give your dog something from home to take home with you during his stay; basket, rug, food, toys, or something with your scent on it. Not all pensions allow this because other dogs might take it away and demolish it.
Theoretically, you could also take something home from the boarding house and put it in the basket so that your dog gets used to the smell of the boarding house.
Do you have a 'problem dog'?
Do you have a dog with special needs? Is your dog aggressive to other dogs? Does your dog have the urge to escape anytime and anywhere? Or does your dog have a medical problem? Discuss it and ask for the possibilities. Keep asking. How does one deal with it? Does one have experience with this problem? Do not be satisfied with short answers; oh that will be alright, no problem, we have been doing it this way for years...
To prevent other dogs from getting sick from your dog, it is compulsory to vaccinate your dog when staying in a dog kennel. The vaccinations should be given 3 weeks before the stay! Some boarding kennels also accept titer determinations. Please enquire about this.
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