How do you decide?
We provide home dog boarding in Morecambe and there are plenty of dog owners who like our individual approach. But equally, others are happy to place their dog in kennels. So you’re going on holiday, and you can’t take your dog. Should you try to find a home boarder? Which is best? There are several things to consider.
Many owners use kennels because of:
- Costs – kennels are usually a little cheaper than pet sitters
- Dates – kennels take many more dogs than home boarders, so they are more likely to have a place for your holiday. One of our local kennels boards up to 75 dogs at a time! (Source: LCC dog wardens)
Yes, these are important considerations. But actually…
Isn’t it more about your dog?
These days, your holiday is probably going to cost you hundreds or even thousands of pounds. Making the upgrade from kennels to private dog home boarding will probably cost less than extra leg-room on the plane and almost certainly less than your bar bill! A quick search on Google will almost certainly find you some home dog boarding nearby and if you contact them well in advance (preferably as soon as you book your holiday) your dates will probably be available.
What is much more important, I think, is the experience your dog has while you are away. Here are some issues to think about…
Your dog’s nature
Is your dog resilient? Sensitive? Nervous? Friendly? Quiet? Aggressive? Do they love to be with people and/or other dogs, or prefer to be left alone? Do they like noise and activity, or do they prefer a peaceful and quiet environment?
Some owners treat their dogs just like human children or friends; others keep dogs much closer in nature to their wild ancestors (these will survive just as well in a cage for two weeks as they will cuddling up to a carer on a sofa.) Which is yours?
Ultimately, you know your dog. If you honestly believe they will be equally happy living in kennels as in someone’s home, then why pay more?
But what if you’re not quite sure? Let me suggest some things to consider:
Living and sleeping accommodation
Particularly since 2018, strict animal welfare regulations ensure that living and sleeping conditions in boarding kennels (apart from “rogue” establishments) meet basic minimum standards of comfort, heating, ventilation, and hygiene. But that’s exactly what they are: basic. Your dog will spend time in their designated space behind bars or barriers of some sort for much of the time you are away on holiday.
Private “home from home” dog boarding, by contrast, will see your dog enjoying most of their usual home comforts: centrally-heated homes with carpets and/or rugs on the floor, comfortable furniture to explore and standards of cleanliness that are ensured both by those same animal welfare standards (licensed home boarders have to meet them too) and by the higher standards of cleanliness usually found in a human home (Gail is a demon cleaner!) They will be free to move around as they choose into different rooms throughout the day and their designated space for sleeping or withdrawing will be part of someone’s home (perhaps a bedroom or lounge.)
Take a moment to imagine your dog in each place…would they be happier living and sleeping in kennels or home boarding?
The level of exercise required by your dog depends upon several factors, such as their breed, size, age and health. Some dogs thrive on a long, vigorous walk twice a day; others may be unable to move far at all.
Sometimes your local dog kennels will offer dog walking services, although these are likely to be optional extras at extra cost. More likely, your dog will be given access to a shared yard to run and socialise with other dogs (on concrete, or grass/AstroTurf if you’re lucky.) Again, the animal welfare regulations will usually ensure that minimum standards of exercise are met.
A quick browse through several home dog boarding websites in our area reveals that exercise offered to dogs can vary considerably from one pet sitter to another. Gail walks dogs (if they are fit and able) twice a day for no less than 45 minutes each time, often much longer. She will also adapt this to more frequent shorter walks if the owner prefers. The dogs in her care take different routes along the coast, on the beach or in the countryside. Provided Gail is satisfied with their recall and the owner has given consent, they will also be able to run off-lead in a huge rural space near our home. Remember: some individual pet sitters may offer less exercise than Gail – it’s probably worth checking before you book. One-to-one walks such as these offer good opportunities for your dog to socialise with other dogs and with people along the way.
Both kennels and home boarders will take your dog’s individual needs into account when programming their exercise regime. But home boarders have a lot more flexibility in their approach since they will be caring for perhaps only one to three dogs at a time.
What do you think? Is it worth paying extra for the luxury of those good long walks, or are you happy for your dog to be let out in the yard or compound? There’s quite a difference.
Imagine the perfect boarding kennels – with one member of staff for every animal! Each dog could spend as much time as they liked with their human companion. There would be time for all the games and cuddles they could handle and all the grooming and bathing they could need. And when they just wanted to sleep, that would be just fine…their human servant would be right there waiting for them when they woke up again. Overnight, too.
Of course, no boarding kennels could ever afford to run with that many staff. Human contact is sometimes brief and probably restricted to feeding times and exercise breaks. So the perfect boarding kennels don’t exist, but…
Home boarding comes pretty close! At Gail’s Home Dog Boarding in Morecambe, we have a 24-hour care guarantee: dogs are never left on their own in the house during their stay. One of us is always at home. When your dog wants human contact, they get it. And when they don’t, that’s fine. We’re pretty good at telling the difference – and we’ll get on with something else in the meantime. At night they are right next door to our room in case they need us.
Not all home boarders will offer round-the-clock service like this, but the regulations for dog home boarding should usually ensure that dogs are never left home alone for more than 2-3 hours each day.
Some dogs are loners and don’t need much company. The more minimal human attention they would receive at the boarding kennels would be perfectly adequate. But how about your dog? What would suit them best?
Does your dog bring toys to you when they want to play? Do they seem to be full of energy even after the longest of walks or run-arounds? For dogs, mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise when it comes to using their brains and getting tired enough to rest and sleep well. For older, ill or disabled dogs that can’t get around much, mental stimulation is even more important because it might be the only way they can get tired enough to settle into a restful sleep.
In good quality home boarding, your dog’s carer will take time to exercise their brain as well as their body. Learning new tricks (they’re never too old!), puzzle toys, snuffle mats, hiding food or treats, going on “sniffari” (a dog-led sniffing safari adventure!) or just simple tug and fetch games are excellent short activities to keep dogs amused and stimulated.
Please don’t misunderstand me – kennel staff are often brilliant at their jobs and are usually genuinely passionate about animal care. But it’s doubtful they will have the time in their busy workday for all that creativity and all those mental exercises. How much do you think your dog might benefit from a good brain workout?
Grooming & bathing
Boarding kennels may be able to book in a haircut for your furry friend while you’re away (at a price) and might even commit to a regular grooming regime. But in private home boarding, the host can work much more closely with you to provide familiar daily routines for your dog. Does your girl like an all-over brushing or combing when she comes in for a walk? Does your boy regularly roll in the mud (or worse?) and often need a good scrub in the bath when he gets home? Simple grooming and cleaning can all be done to your instructions, with your equipment.
How much does your dog like to be pampered?
Other benefits of home dog boarding
So your choice of dog accommodation should, I suggest, be based upon the benefits to your dog, rather than just your convenience! And levels of physical comfort, exercise, human contact, mental stimulation and personal care can all contribute to your dog’s holiday enjoyment. But if you ditch the kennels and choose home dog boarding instead, there may be some bonuses for you, too! Think about…
Wellness checks & records
Dog boarding kennels will keep an eye on your dog’s health and wellbeing; the better ones will have checklists and tick boxes to make sure their monitoring is adequate. But there’s nothing like being in regular close contact with a dog for noticing when things might be going wrong.
Odd noises? Do eyes look a little different today? Eating less? Restless? Disinterested in play? A sensitive area when you stroke them? All these little signs (and more) can be important in diagnosing a problem as early as possible. And they are so much easier to pick up when your dog starts their day with a wellness check disguised as gentle handling, stroking and massage as Gail does with all her doggy guests.
Gail makes notes too: when you return you will be able to see her daily journal for your dog, which records anything she finds, along with information about your dog’s feeding, drinking, toileting, exercise, play, socialising and anything else she feels needs noting down.
Not every home dog boarding provider will do this (although we think they should) but they are still in a better position to spot changes in your dog that might otherwise be missed.
Photo and video updates
I was delighted to notice recently that one of our local dog kennels were advertising that they take photographs of your dog while you are away, so you can see how they have been getting on. I think there should be more of this, although I imagine the larger kennels might find it hard to administer (certainly with 75 dogs!)
Lots of private home dog boarders have Facebook or Instagram pages where they post photos and video of your dog while you are away; you can catch up with your best friend even while you’re on holiday. At Gail’s Home Dog Boarding we regularly take photos and video; we give you the option of letting us post them on Gail’s Facebook page or sending them to you via WhatsApp if you prefer something less public.
Think: how many times do you think you will check your phone while you’re on holiday? Wouldn’t it be nice to see a familiar doggy face and enjoy finding out about their adventures?
I don’t claim for a second that any of the above is an unbiased comparison between individual home-based dog boarding and dog kennels. My wife provides home-from-home dog boarding in Morecambe and I’m biased – guilty as charged! Nevertheless, I hope I’ve still been fair to the kennels, who do their best to provide a service at an affordable price point. And there are some highly-dedicated kennel workers with a true commitment to animal welfare.
As they say, you get what you pay for. Private home dog boarding businesses cater for far fewer dogs and can undoubtedly offer you higher standards of comfort, care and attention.
You know your dog. They can’t choose their holiday; you have to choose it for them. Choose wisely.
And remember, it’s not about you. It’s about your dog.
Talk to me!
- What are your experiences with dog kennels?
- Have you tried home boarding?
- Which would you recommend, and why?
Please LEAVE A REPLY below and share your thoughts.
If you’ve had a bad experience feel free to share it, but no names, please. This is not the place for personal attacks on your local kennels or home boarding establishment! I suggest you take it up with them directly or vote with your feet…