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It is always a pleasure to be able to take your dog on holiday with you and continue to enjoy the companionship gained. Only there will always be the times when it is simply not practical or possible to do this, so what do you do then?

Depending on your circumstances, it may be possible to have a relative, friend or neighbour look after your dog but they might not have the experience, inclination or time to properly look after your dog, particularly for longer trips, or you may consider going along the route of a ‘home sitter’. Of course, another option available to you is to use a boarding kennels.

Sometimes, people seem to be very loath to do this but a good boarding kennel can give you peace of mind, avoid the stress of a long journey and prevent the problems of where to leave the dog while you eat in hotels. He is also going to receive more attention and supervision than he would if left alone at home most of the day with someone just popping in occasionally to see to his needs. Perhaps most importantly, he will be kept in a secure environment designed to foil even the most determined escape artists!

Rather than simply loading your dog into the car and heading to the nearest kennel, it’s important to find the right kennel for you and your dog. Many people do not realize the huge variations between boarding kennels these days.

Personal recommendation is a good indicator but dogs are as individual as people and while one kennel may suit one dog, another may not settle; so it’s as well to check out a few beforehand.

If you are unfamiliar with facilities in your area, one of the first things to do is to contact your local Council’s Environmental Health Department which issues licenses in their area. There are licensing standards which kennels must meet. Although it is not really common practice for them to recommend kennels, try asking them where they board their own dogs!

Most kennels have sleeping accommodation with attached runs, which dogs have access to all day, except during inclement weather. There are also usually other larger exercise areas which the dogs are individually given turns in; grass areas can look very appealing, but they do tend to be discouraged by licensing authorities as they can become muddy very quickly! Impervious surfaces may not look quite as attractive but are far easier to disinfect and pressure hose.

Another thing to bear in mind is the experience and knowledge of the staff and owners. For instance, your dog may require daily medication, so you need to be sure that someone is sufficiently experienced to administer these.

Perhaps one of the most important things is that you are able to establish a good rapport with the owners and staff. Although we are presently looking at what to do with your dog when you’re on holiday, emergencies and tragic circumstances can and do arise.

I am sure that every kennel owner can recall heartbreaking tales of when they have been called upon to take in regular boarders because of a close family or owners’ bereavement. At a time when owners are coping with grief or other traumatic situations, at least it means that with all the pressure and worry that they were going through, they, or their relatives, know the dogs are in a safe, familiar environment.

If you have not used a kennel before, make sure you book well in advance. Last minute holidays are popular, but people seem to be amazed to discover when trying to book kennels, to find they are constantly being told ‘Sorry, we have no space available’. Most kennels are booked up months before school holidays and although they will try to accommodate regular customers, new ones are invariably turned away.

Obviously you should always go and look around kennels as only you can decide which you feel is going to be suitable for your dog. However, you are not likely to ingratiate yourself with any kennel owner if you turn up when they are chock a block or when they are trying to contend with the most appalling weather of the year!

Kennels have opening and closing times which should be respected; although we are available to see to boarders needs 24 hours a day, we also need to have some time to ourselves. A few years ago, I received a phone call a few days before a dog was due to come in – it went along the lines of: ‘Is it okay if I drop Sam off at five o’clock?’ to which I replied that teatime was not a problem. ‘No – I mean five o’clock in the morning; that’s when I’ll be passing on my way to the airport’. Needless to say, the dog had to come in the day before!

Start getting your dog used to boarding at an early age; if you wait until he is older he might have a difficult time adjusting. It’s a good idea to try leaving your dog overnight or for a weekend for the first time, preferably when you have something organised like a shopping trip or night out as this means that you’re not just sitting worrying and it also lets him know that you are going to come back for him!

Many of you may be surprised to learn that once both you and your dog get used to the idea, in most cases your dog will actually enjoy the experience; it is a change in routine, means plenty of other dogs to bark at and, particularly for those dogs whose owners are out at work, it means that they have company and something going on most of the day instead of spending a lonely day lying on the sofa!