Gone are the old “kennels” that simply warehoused dogs while their “owners” were on vacation. Today’s pet lodging facilities, pet hotels, camps and resorts know that pet parents want their dogs to have fun while they’re away from home.

But with all the options out there how can you decide what is best for your dog? Frankly, anyone who tells you that their solution is the best for all dogs clearly doesn’t know all dogs, you know your dog better than anyone else. That said, there are still some questions to ask any pet care facility when determining which is best for your dog’s needs.

What can my dog do?

While you’re out of town having a great vacation, what fun will your dog be having? Ask what the facility does to keep your pet active and entertained. See if there are playgroups, individual play sessions, pools or other activities your dog will enjoy. If your dog is not the social type, be sure that there are activities that he will enjoy as well. You should expect to pay extra for these services, but they’re an important part of making your dog’s stay enjoyable.

Dogs swimming

Can my dog play outside?

It goes without saying that dogs need fresh air and what better way to get it than being outside playing. Your dog might not need acres and acres of land (and in many places that’s not even an option), but make sure there is enough outdoor play space for your dog to romp about. We once toured a facility that painted its ceiling blue and its floor green so that dogs would think they were outside. You’ve got to wonder how much they know about dogs if they thought a dog would fall for that trick!

Can I see where my dog will stay?

Ask to take a tour. Take a walk around the facility. You might not be able to walk everywhere (for both your safety and the safety of the other dogs there) but you should be able to see the place where your dog will play and the area (at least in general terms) where your dog will eat and sleep.

What can I leave with my dog?

Some dogs travel light, others like to be surrounded by their stuff. Now no pet care facility can handle all your dog’s belongings, but ask if you can bring a few favorites if you think that will make your dog feel more comfortable. Also check to see what the facility’s policy is on treats and food? Are you allowed to bring your own or must you use theirs.

Don’t expect a discount for bringing your own food. Because of the staff time involved, it’s generally more costly for a facility to prepare customized meals than it is to feed all dogs the same thing. Our dog has its favorite things from home. There are some things that are inappropriate to bring to a pet care facility, but there is no reason why no personal belongings should be allowed. Even if the pet care facility offers its own bedding and treats, you should be able to bring some things from home.

Dog Pumpkin Toy

How is my dog doing?

It’s your dog and you should be able to check in with the pet care facility to see how things are going. Ask if there are pictures posted on a website or Facebook page or if you can call or email to see how things are working out. Should you really have to pay extra for a phone call, an email update, or a picture of your dog?

Will my dog be safe?

First make sure that the facility asks you for your dog’s vaccination records. Sure, it’s a pain to keep up-to-date on all that, but you want to be sure that your dog is hanging out with healthy dogs. Make sure the facility was designed with safety in mind. There are the basics – good ventilation, heating and cooling – as well as making sure there is a sprinkler system. Are they prepared for the natural disasters common to your part of the country – whether that be earthquakes or hurricanes? If the facility is located in a relatively isolated area, ask if someone is on premises during the night.

Who’s in charge?

Is there someone who can make a decision about your dog without checking in with the corporate head office? Sure an owner might not be there every minute of every day but you want to know that there is a responsible person available without making a long distance call.

What is the staff like?

Does it look like the people who will be taking care of your pet are having fun at work and do they get along? Pet care is work, but it should also be fun and if they’re not having fun you’ve got to wonder if your pet will. Ask about the training of the people who will be caring for your pet. Are they well educated about pets and do they have any credentials to support that?

Can they accommodate your dog’s special needs?

Some dogs have special needs – either medical or social. Ask the facility if they’ve seen a dog with similar needs before and how they handled them.

 

What other services does the facility provide?

Many modern pet care facilities offer an array of programs designed to make the pet parent’s life easier. Consider transportation services too so you don’t need to spend time driving to the facility. Or perhaps training so you come home to a better behaved pooch? Definitely schedule a bath so you come home relaxed and your dog comes home smelling good.

As a pet parent you have many options, use the above questions as your guide to help you select the facility that will best meet the needs of you, your family and your dog!

 

Mark Klaiman has been owning and operating Pet Camp, a pet day care and hotel in San Francisco for over 15 years with his wife Virginia.