We love our companion animals. Our companion animals are family. We give them the best of everything: superior food, toys, and a loving home with unwavering affection. We also want and expect the best care for our companion animals while we are at work, on a business trip, or away on vacation.
Companion animal service providers are responsible for the life of your companion animal and you are responsible for finding the best fit for your loved one, and thoroughly planning for their care in the hands of others.
As a former dog daycare and companion animal boarding facility manager, I managed a twelve-person dog daycare staff and directed the daily operations of the dog daycare to ensure the safety, health, and welfare of forty-five to sixty dog daycare and boarding dogs on a daily basis. Dog daycare with overnight boarding is a fabulous social opportunity for dog-social-dogs suited to the environment.
Dog daycare with overnight boarding is not suitable for every dog. Dogs with specialized medical needs may require veterinary boarding. Companion animals with behavior issues may require a facility that provides separated boarding. In-home pet-sitting is also a highly valuable option. Companion animals can remain in the comfort and security of home and receive one-on-one attention. Pet-sitting service providers can provide multiple daily visits and overnight sleep-over services.
Companion animal caregivers need to establish a plan - plus multiple back-up plans. Trying to find available and proper companion animal boarding care suited to your companion’s individual personality and needs on short notice is a common faux-pas, particularly around major holidays. Procuring a service at the last minute and as a last resort can cause aggravation, problems, and emotional distress for you and your companion.
Visit several dog daycare and companion animal boarding facilities and interview the managerial staff. A visual inspection and confirmation of the safety in construction and configuration of the dog daycare play area and companion animal boarding space, (whether it be crates, kennel runs, or suites), is tantamount to your confidence in the answers given to your questions.
Ask detailed questions about emergency veterinary care and procedures, an emergency plan in the event of a disaster such as a fire, and the proper training of dog daycare staff to administer medication and companion animal first-aid. Accidents are bound to happen at a high-volume dog daycare and companion animal boarding facilities and the staff is the first responder.
Do not hesitate to review admission policies, vaccination requirements, acclimation time, and sanitization protocols.
Some dog daycare and companion animal boarding facilities provide extra safety perks such as cushioned, non-skid, rubber flooring to reduce the stress on your dog’s joints, webcams, and overnight staff. Unless you board with your veterinarian, a staff veterinarian is a rare luxury.
To preserve the safety of all dog daycare and boarding dogs, the staff should have knowledge of individual and pack behavior. In some dog daycare and boarding facilities, all dogs share the same play area. In others, to further manage arousal levels associated with dog daycare and boarding, some services separate dogs into play-groups according to a combination of size, play-style, age, temperament, and personality.
Verify that the dog daycare staff can recognize and provide relief for stress and anxiety as well as determine escalating aggression and know how to safely diffuse a possible dog fight.
Closely observe the dog daycare staff interact with and manage the pack. All interactions should foster positive and polite social conditions - no yelling at the dogs and no overuse of interrupters such as squirt bottles, air horns, or shake cans.
Set aside your busy schedule to be present at your dog’s entry evaluation, speak with the evaluator about your dog’s behavior after the initial phase of the evaluation, and verify their knowledge of canine behavior. Arrive early for pick-up on evaluation day to see for yourself how your dog is acclimating and get a full and reliable report from staff.
In the end, your hard work in finding the best suitable care for your companion animal will help ensure the safety of your loved one and your peace of mind.
- This feature was written in collaboration with Patrick Cole, Director of Communications and Outreach at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria.