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Note: These articles are provided for information only and are not meant to replace veterinary care.


The core vaccines for dogs are rabies, distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, leptospirosis and parainfluenza. Many kennels require vaccination against Bordetella and canine influenza as well. Others, such as flea and tick prevention and heart worm preventatives, are also strongly suggested. 

When it comes to cats, required vaccinations include rabies, feline panleukopenia, calicivirus and rhinotracheitis. Check with the kennel to see if they require any other types of shots. 


Make sure you know what your money is buying. Some kennels include one play time; some include none in the base fee. There should be some system in place to divide dogs by play style, size, age, etc. to keep them safe and happy. Dogs that require more exercise should also be walked by a kennel assistant. If you own a breed of dog, such as a German Shepherd or Greyhound, that requires walking, make sure that the kennel offers this service and that it is adequately staffed to meet your dog's needs. 

Choosing A Kennel


You have decided to take a vacation and need to kennel your companion. How do you choose? 

The first thing is decide what kind of environment you are looking for. Are you looking for a basic kennel that provides daily runs, feeding and exercise or do you want a "resort" style accommodation with fancy bedding, toys, culinary cuisine, exercise, stimulation, spa services such as massage, grooming, behavior or agility training, etc? Kennel frills are for the owners, not the dogs and help to relieve the owner's sense of guilt at leaving the dog, but they generally add to the cost.

Once you have established your needs, even a basic kennel should be clean and well-ventilated, offer protection from the weather, provide adequate space for the size of the dog, and guarantee medical care if the dog gets sick in their care. Most should also offer 24-hour coverage with someone living on the kennel property.

Ask for recommendations! The best person to ask is your pet's veterinarian. If you take your dog to a dog park in your community, ask other owners if they have any recommendations, then do your due diligence. In Alberta, it is not mandatory for kennels to be certified and there are only basic guidelines they must follow.


In a kennel, is the fencing appropriate? Look for bent wire, torn fencing or jagged edges. Can your pet escape through holes or gaps in the fencing, or in the case of larger breed dogs, can your pet scale the fence and escape? It is important to know whether or not someone will be on the premises at all times, or if someone will be checking in on the animals every hour or so throughout the night. They may have no idea if your pet gets caught in fencing in the middle of the night or is trying to escape. Do they have security measures like double gates to outside entrances, no electric cords in play areas and safe, non-skid surfaces in the play areas? Do they have emergency procedures in place and what are they?

You also want to make sure the kennel is open during the hours you will need to drop off or pick up your pet. 

Ask if your dog will be allowed to play unattended with a chew toy or bone. If yes, this is a red flag. If the dog encounters a choking hazard, who will be there to monitor any issues?

Does the facility have a screening process for volunteers or workers? How well is the staff educated? Kennel staff do not necessarily need a certification in animal behavior or training. What is even more important than any certificate is the staff's attentiveness and attitude. They should be able to tell you details about every dog and cat under their care. Ideally, a kennel assistant should welcome each animal -- and its human -- with care and attention. He or she should take meticulous notes about your pet's diet and exercise needs, medications and any other pertinent information (such as your pet's favorite toy). They should be patient, friendly and genuinely concerned for your pet's welfare. 

Medications/Special Needs

If you have a frail or elderly pet, a kennel housed at a veterinary clinic may be a better option. If your pet has health issues, this will impact your kennel search. For dogs that are blind or deaf, having handlers that let the animal know they are nearby to avoid startling them can help. These pets will need more personal attention and more time and patience to care for. 

Pets that suffer from degenerative diseases like arthritis should receive soft bedding on which to rest. Cats with mobility issues may need litter boxes with low sides for easier access.

If your pet takes medications, make sure the kennel has some type of routine procedure in place so your pet gets his or her medication at the proper time and there is no chance of double dosing or missed doses. Always leave your contact information, as well as your veterinarian's information, in case of an emergency. Keep in mind that some medical conditions may require more care and monitoring than the average kennel is able to provide (i.e. seizure medication, insulin etc.)

Check the Kennel First!

Once you have chosen a kennel, call to arrange a visit. Ask for an appointment in mid-week; good kennels are very busy on Mondays and Fridays as dogs come in or go home. If you can't get an appointment to tour the facility, you should cross that kennel off your list immediately! 

First impressions are important. Sniff the air. The kennel should have a clean smell, not one generated by stale urine or old feces. If sour kennel smells waft into the office while you are interviewing, you will probably want to go somewhere else. You will be able to tell the difference between a kennel that has urine and decay soaked into the woodwork and a kennel that is basically clean with a run or two that was dirtied after the morning scrubbing. 

A good kennel should be largely odor-free and as quiet as possible -- difficult with dogs, but necessary for cats. Also look to see that the kennel isn't overcrowded; ask the staff how many animals they usually board and how many workers are normally staffed. There should be no greater than a 1:10 staff-to-dog ratio. The higher the people-to-animal ratio, the more individual attention your pet will get. Animals should look content and stress-free, and also have proper bedding and water. High-tech facilities may have web cams set up so you can check in on your furry friend from your computer while you're away. 

And ask questions during your tour! What will they do if your animal gets diarrhea, breaks a toenail or won't eat? How often are dogs walked? What will they do in the event your dog needs medical attention? If a kennel will not allow you an impromptu tour, do not leave your pet there! 

If the kennel yard is full of debris, if the building is in need of serious repair, if the food bowls are dirty and the water bowls scummy, walk away. 

Ask to see the kitchen where the dog meals are prepared. It should be clean, food should be in barrels or in the refrigerator, etc. 

Ask questions about feeding schedules, extra charges to give heartworm pills or medications, or anything else you wonder about. 

If you like the kennel and it's booked for the time you'll be away, get put on a waiting list and make a reservation at your second or third choice. If a space becomes available, don't forget to cancel any other reservations you have made. 

A Final Word

Take caution when it comes to animals with separation anxiety. Pets that suffer from sever separation anxiety may not be good candidates for boarding and a pet sitter may be a better alternative. Pheromone products or holistic calming oils can help ease anxiety. In severe cases, other medications may be necessary to calm your pet. Leaving a sweater or other piece of clothing that has your scent on it may also help. If possible, board your pet a day or two before you leave to allow an adjustment time and to be notified of any behavior issues that may arise.

Remember, just because it says "professional" in the title or description, does not necessary mean that they are. Ask what kind of liability insurance they carry, what steps and procedures are in place for injured or lost animals while in their care and always, go with your first gut impression. If something doesn't feel right, chances are it isn't.