In most areas you will find a wide variety of commercial boarding kennels from which to choose. Some boarding kennels are very basic, while other are plush and elaborate with many lavish amenities - and process to match.
The basic commercial boarding kennel specializes in boarding dogs (and sometimes other animals) for stays ranging from a few hours to several weeks or months. In general, each dog at a kennel has a small indoor space and access to a private outdoor pan. Because of zoning restrictions, including noise control, boarding kennels in urban areas often have their complete facility housed inside a building. Depending on the individual kennel and geographical location, the inside section may or may not be heated or air conditioned.
Recreational activities provided vary from facility to facility. Some kennels offer wading pools as part of the communal play period. If your dog loves water, she'll surely have a fun time splashing in and out of the pool with other dogs. Some kennels offer a doggie playground consisting of ramps, tunnels, sand, and various perches and toys. Larger kennels have several play areas where a few compatible dogs can be let out at the same time to exercise in each area. Dogs are grouped by size, temperament, and personality, and they are (or should be) carefully monitored. Male dogs that are not neutered must be exercised separately and will command an additional cost for this service.
You can obtain a list of boarding kennels in your area from the American Boarding Kennels Association (ABKA). The ABKA has a Code of Ethical Conduct that must be sworn by its members. Only boarding kennels that meet the code of ethics and have facilities in accordance with ABKA standards may be members. They are issued by accreditation from the ABKA once they pass an on-site inspection. You may check to see whether a particular kennel is accredited with ABKA by calling 719-591-1113 or visiting www.abka.com. Also check with your veterinarian or a local animal shelter for recommendations.
Specialty boarding kennels are more luxurious than the average commercial boarding kennels. They have a variety of optional amenities, activities, and accommodations. Such kennels may offer general boarding accommodations as well as pet "suites" complete with large rooms, themed decor, a television, special beds, couches, and even "valets." Some of these kennels may even offer a compatible canine roommate for your dog at your request. These luxury kennels offer many canine-pleasing activities, such as a special "happy hour" in which pets are treated to extra special attention, treats and games. Once you have found a boarding kennel, call to find out more about its facilities, policies, and services. For example, do they have set hours for arrivals and departures? Do you need a reservation and, if so, how far in advance? (This question is particularly critical if your dog's stay will be over a holiday.)
Make an appointment to visit the kennel, if visitors are allowed. Some kennels do not permit visitors to enter the facilities because residing dogs may not react favorably to strangers. Also, since most visitors have dogs of their own, it is possible for visitors to unintentionally introduce communicable diseases to the resident dogs.
Since the kennel's prime concern is the welfare of its canine charges, a "no visitors" policy may actually be best for your dog. If the kennel's policies prohibit you from actually entering the kennel area, ask if you can view it from a place that is acceptable to the owners and you. Kennels that have a "no visitors" policy should offer an area that looks out onto the kennel so potential customers can view the facilities without being a potential health hazard or upsetting the boarders. If the kennel will let you to view its boarding facilities, think twice before leaving your dog there.
Trust your eyes, nose, and instincts when visiting a kennel. From the moment you first walk in the front door of the office, examine the staff, their attitude toward their work, and their attitude toward you. Note how the staff members greet you and address your concerns. If they are not courteous, professional, and considerate of your feelings, you can't expect them to treat your dog any better. Does the facility have secure fencing, gates, locks, and so on? Do the kennels have tops or fencing that dogs can't climb? Does the flooring provide good traction but prevent digging? Are the cage latches dog-proof? Are there security cameras?
Veterinary clinics often offer boarding facilities. A great advantage of boarding your dog at a vet's office is that if your dog becomes ill, or is injured while you are gone, he will have medical care available on the spot. However, don't make the mistake of thinking that just because a kennel is hosted by a veterinarian's office it's the right kennel for your dog. Give the boarding facilities the same careful scrutiny you would give a commercial kennel. Check out the size and type of enclosure the clinic uses; it may be smaller than a regular boarding kennel.