I originally wrote this article in 2014, it is now November 2018. I keep an eye on the stats and search terms and the number of views have increased greatly. In fact I would have to say “Boarding Kennel Stress in Dogs: Things owners need to know!” is one of my most viewed (181,966) and read articles to date.
The search terms, phrases and words have stayed, very consistent. It goes without saying, the more traffic the more views but for people to seek out and read this article, does mean, people are still having issues and concerns over boarding kennel facilities and their dog’s welfare, worldwide.
In my opinion, one of the major problems, is anyone can open a boarding kennels or doggy day care, these people may have good intentions and love dogs but having a love of dogs isn’t enough. They need to understand dog behaviour, dog safety and do their research on how to set up and run a good facility. They also need to have a good training program in place for their employees, if they employ staff.
Pet parents on the other hand, need to do their research, and don’t take things for granted, after all they trust the facility will take care of their pets, while they are away. Pet parents should also do some work, by introducing their pets to a boarding facility, before they need to use one. Instead of leaving things to the last minute because dog/cats need to be acclimatized. Day or night stays are a great way of doing this. This also means pet parents will have an opportunity, to check out facilities.
Below is the original article I wrote in 2014
Again here is another aspect of Dog Safety that seriously needs to be looked at. For many these days, the word supervise means just keeping an eye on the dogs as they are walking around doing other things, which is not good enough!
Boarding kennel stress is real! Dogs become stressed the same as you and I and putting your dog into boarding kennels, can be very stressful for them. Imagine taking a young child to a strange place and leaving it with people it doesn’t know. The child will more often than not, become distressed and upset. The same thing can and does happen to dogs.
Even steady dogs can become stressed when confronted by new surroundings, change of diet and routine. Let alone being put into a kennel they are unfamiliar with, surrounded by strange smells and other dogs, some of which, maybe barking.
Often, owners don’t realize or it never occurs to them, that their dog may become stressed under these conditions, especially, if signs of stress aren’t noticed in their home environment or when they are out and about. A boarding kennel environment can be especially hard on nervy, fearful, anxious or dog aggressive dogs. It can also be hard on dogs from the same household, if they are not used to being separated, being alone or being away from their owner. Some dogs who have never been in kennels before in their life, find kenneling very restrictive. Then there are some dogs who just need more space than others. Separation related issues in dogs are on the increase and do impact on a dogs behaviour.
Many kennels these days and I do the same, ask if your dog has been in kennels before, if not day/night stays are recommended, prior to boarding. So start conditioning your dog early, be proactive, even if you are not going away, introduce your dog to a boarding kennel environment. Dogs need to have good experiences again a bad experience can impact on their behaviour.
Signs of kennel stress can manifest in dogs in many ways:
Aggression: often due to fear, dog cannot be handled by anyone other than the owner (may need a few short visits so your dog gets used to being handled by someone else)
Excessive barking & whining: it’s a sign the dog is distressed and it also very unsettling for the other dogs
Loss of appetite: not eating, due to stress and/or change of diet. Change of diet, may also cause vomiting and diarrhea
Constant licking of the lips: dogs do that to try to calm themselves down
Pacing & Depression: Some dogs who have never been confined before may try to break out by throwing themselves against the walls or door of the kennel.
What you the owner can do to make your dog’s stay less stressful and more enjoyable
1. Condition your dog to going into kennels, day stays at a boarding kennel are a good way of getting your dog used to it. If you have a kennel and run at home or some other form of containment, such as a garage, small bedroom or a dog crate, use it.
2. If you are a multi dog household make sure your dogs are independent of each other and can cope on their own. Separate kenneling or confinement goes along way, in helping with that. Doesn’t mean that they can’t hangout together, just means they are ok with being alone. The same goes for dogs who are too attached to their owner, they too need to be made independent.
3. Visit facilities, talk to the kennel owner, are they knowledgeable and friendly do they understand dogs and dog behaviour. Just because they run a boarding facility, doesn’t mean they understand dogs and dog behaviour.
If you have a nervy, anxious or dog aggressive dog or a dog who just needs space. Ask if the kennel owner is experienced in handling these types of dogs and can accommodate them.
Introducing these dogs to kennels may take a bit more time on the part of you the owner and the boarding kennel owner. Some kennels may not take them because they are not set up to do so. Also certain breeds of dogs, may not be welcome.
4. To make your dogs stay less stressful and more comfortable, ask if you can bring a blanket or toy etc of theirs.
5. Ask how your dog will be exercised, some kennels walk the dogs, others let them out to run in large compounds with other dogs.
If they are let out to run with other dogs, ask if they are supervised in other words is there, someone physically present, “standing & watching”, while the dogs are being exercised.
Even friendly dogs can fall out and a dogfight may ensue, also signs of stress, distress & bullying maybe missed, so it is important, that someone is standing there watching, with their Eyes Wide Open at all times. (Refer AsureQuality Ltd Kennel Code of Practice).
Also, ask if they exercise small and big dogs together in groups. Small & Big dogs should not be exercised together, they both should have their own exercise areas. Some big dogs may see small dogs as prey, so there is a possibility, they could chase and kill them.
Be aware some kennels leave dogs to run together unsupervised. In other words, there isn’t anyone watching them all the time, while they are out running around.
So don’t just ask, if the dogs are supervised while running together, ask if “someone is physically present,” all the time, while the dogs are being exercised.
Also, read the boarding kennel contract before you sign. Most state that they are not liable for anything that happens to your dog while in kennels. Which is fair enough because they are running a business but the risk can be reduced if there is someone watching with their Eyes Wide Open for signs of distress, aggression, stress etc if dogs are let out to run in groups.
After all, when dog and cat owners for that matter, place their pets in these establishments, they trust that they have their pets best interests at heart.
Click on the links below to read what can happen, when dogs are left unsupervised.
Auckland dog daycare shuts down following death
If your dog is Nervy, anxious, dog aggressive or a dog who just need some space, ask if your dog can be individually exercised.If your dog is anxious or nervy, please read tips for boarding anxious/nervy dogs
6. If your dog is on a special diet or needs medication ask if the kennel will feed the diet required or dispense medication.
7. Also ask what food the kennel feeds the dogs and ask if it would be possible for you to bring your own dogs food, so his/her diet remains the same.
8. Read socializing your dog, the right way
Incorrect socializing even in a boarding kennel environment can and does lead to behaviour problems in dogs, such as aggression or timidness.
I hope the above information helps you the dog owner to make an informed decision.
Zerobites Dog Training