why choose a kennel?

There are a plethora of pet hotels, doggie daycares and boarding kennels out there for furry friends ― almost as many as there are names for them! If only our pets could tell us what they think. Since Fluffy’s and Fido’s vocabulary is limited, follow these tips to help decide if a kennel is right for your four-legged friend.

book a stay if your pet:

  • Plays well with others ― two- and four-legged alike!
  • Doesn’t get stressed in unfamiliar places.
  • Is healthy and up to date on vaccinations.

kibosh the kennel if:

  • Your pet prefers to fly solo, rather than meet new four-legged friends.
  • Your pet has special medical or behavioral needs the staff can’t accommodate.
  • You can’t find a facility that fits your personal criteria (more on that below).

finding the right fit

The kennel will be your fur-baby’s home while you’re gone, so you don’t want one that’s gone to the dogs! We recommend using this checklist when vetting potential pet hotels.

your pet’s itinerary

  • ask about exercise policies and playtime. If Fido’s frisky, he’ll need lots of time and space to run around!

  • ask if your pet will get individual attention. How much each day? Can you meet your pup’s two-legged playmates?

  • ask about timing and frequency of bathroom breaks and see where your pet will do his business.

  • ask if you can provide your own food ― some stressed pets can avoid tummy upset by eating their regular food.

  • ask if you will get updates while you are away; some kennels have an email service or Web cam so you can check on your pet whenever you want.


  • ask for a tour so that you can see your pet’s digs. If the staff isn’t willing to walk you through, cross that kennel off your list.

  • check out the size of the rooms and ask to see the space that your pet will occupy, keeping cleanliness, comfort and safety in mind. (Some cat condos even play soothing music!)

  • ask how often the “rooms” are cleaned (including if accidents occur) and whether or not they are disinfected between pets.

  • ask for references or clients you can contact ― they should be happy to pass names and numbers into your paws!


  • ask about the protocol for emergency illnesses or injuries. Some dog boarding kennels will call your veterinarian, while others will only use a veterinarian of their choosing.

  • ask how they handle stressed animals, including those who may bark or whine excessively, or those who stop eating from stress.

  • ask what measures the kennel takes to prevent escapes, and then ask what happens if ― dog forbid ― a pet does manage to get free.

privacy + pup-grades

Kennels can be a great option for super-social pooches, but what if your furry friend is more private? (For some cats, just the thought of leaving home can send them flying into a hissing frenzy!) If that’s the case, it might be best to look into a pet sitter to stay with your pal. Don’t despair if you’ve got a nervous nelly; the right boarding facility may still be able to accommodate you.

  • Look for a kennel that offers private playtime ― many do!
  • Ask if your dog can stay in a sound-proof room (he won’t be as stressed if he can’t hear other animals).
  • Consider a boarding facility with a section devoted to feline friends ― these are often designed to lower stress. Cat boarding kennels (sometimes called catteries) are another option if your kitty prefers the company of feline friends only.
  • Talk to your vet about anti-anxiety medication or pheromones to help your furry friend relax during his stay. If your doc prescribes a drug, be sure the staff is trained to administer it.
  • Fretful pets can benefit from a doggie bag brimming with the comforts of home. Download our What to Pack worksheet to give you a paw up on the packing.

avoiding illness

Kennels can be a great place for furry family members to make new friends ― but because so many pets are grouped in close proximity, the potential for transmitting disease can also be higher than at home. Common communicable conditions include:

  • Canine and feline distemper
  • Canine influenza
  • Feline herpes virus
  • Parvovirus
  • Kennel cough
  • Rabies

But there’s a silver lining: these diseases are largely preventable with proper vaccinations. That’s why you should always ask the kennel if they require immunizations (they should!) and make sure your favorite fluffball is up-to-date before his stay.

Always stop by the vet before boarding your pet ― not just for his health, but for the sake of his kennel companions. Schedule a check-up at least a week before you leave for your trip to give your pet time to recover from any shots, and while you’re there, remember to:

  • Get all the vaccination boosters your pet needs to prep for his stay.
  • Grab a copy of your pet’s medical records (including vaccine history) to share with the kennel.
  • Request copies of your pet’s microchip information. If he isn’t microchipped, now is the time to make it happen!
  • Refill prescriptions.
  • Make sure it’s safe for pets with chronic health issues to be boarded.
  • Leave information about the kennel you’ve chosen.

forget that dog-gone guilt

Feeling bad about leaving your four-legged love at a kennel while you fly off to explore? A recent study suggests that your negative emotions may be misplaced ― in fact, your pet may actually enjoy the change of pace a kennel provides!

Researchers at the University of Lincoln observed 29 dogs at home and at kennels, checking physical signs such as skin dryness, nose temperature, core body temperature and amount of food eaten, plus behaviors like lip licking, paw lifting, yawning, shaking and restlessness. They even tested stress and adrenalin hormone levels.

their findings? That the dogs didn’t experience any additional negative stress from kenneling ― and were actually more active and excited when there!

the bottom line: If your pet has the right disposition for a boarding facility, there’s no need to carry emotional baggage along with your towels and sunscreen.