All dog owners understand that one of the hardest things to do is to leave them for any length of time. This might just be for a night or a weekend, but it gets even harder the longer you are away!
There are two main options for boarding your dog for any length of time. The first is kennels, where your dog is kept in a secure area and looked after by trained staff. This is perfect for many types of dogs.
The alternative option is what this blog will focus on, and what we offer - dog home boarding. It’s important that you choose the right option for your dog, and you’ll probably have a gut instinct about what would be best. Home boarding might better suit dogs that are used to being a part of a home environment.
With so many home boarders available though, how to separate the good ones in it for the love of dogs, from those only interested in earning a few spare pounds for minimal effort?
Here are five important questions you should consider asking any potential home dog boarder before you even think about taking your dog to them.
1. Are you a licensed and insured boarder?
Top of the list is this question, and by asking if they are licensed first, you could potentially narrow down your list of home boarding possibilities very quickly.
Because if you want to leave your dog with someone who takes their business seriously - and so the welfare of your dog seriously - they will be willing to take all necessary steps to ensure they are a trustworthy business. Having a license is a good indication of this.
Many areas of the UK require premises who house dogs to earn a license. For us, this means undergoing annual visits from the council to ensure our premises are suitable for keeping dogs, i.e. clean and safe. We also had a vet visit in the first year to make sure everything was fine from a welfare point of view.
Does the boarder you are looking at have such regular visits? If not, how can you be sure they are following best practice for keeping your dog in a safe and secure environment? It might save you a few quid, but is that worth it in the long run if your dog isn’t being kept in the best conditions? Our license and first aid certificates are always on show in our home for visitors to check when they arrive. Any dog boarder should be willing to do the same.
You should also make sure your boarder is insured. Like any small business, insurance is vital to cover any costs that might creep up unexpectedly, and also gives you the peace of mind that protection is in place should anything unfortunate happen.
2. Do you have good, recent reviews outwith your own website?
Reviews are key to gaining trust in any new company or business, and especially one in which you’ll be trusting your beloved dog. It’s easy to add reviews to your own website - we’ve got a nice selection on our own - but key is finding independent reviews elsewhere.
This might be on their Facebook page (and you can find our Facebook reviews here) because Facebook reviews can’t be edited by the page owner. If you can’t find any reviews on Facebook for a particular business page, this is a warning sign as it means the owner has turned their reviews off. Why have they done that? Was it because they were receiving too many negative reviews? Maybe. It’s worth asking the question.
Some businesses also keep reviews on sites like Glassdoor.com, so it’s worth checking as much as you can to see what you find. Why not also do a general Google search? Has the business or business owners ever appeared in the news, for good or bad reasons? How will that affect your decision to board with them?
3. Will you meet me and my dog before boarding?
Would you be comfortable sending your dog somewhere he's never been before, to people neither he nor you have ever met? We wouldn't, which is why we insist new boarders come to meet us first. Not only will this help settle them and put your mind at ease at the fact we are real people with a genuine love of dogs, it also helps us confirm that your dog would be happy staying with us in our home environment.
If you are looking at a home boarder who doesn't let you see where your dog will be staying, ask yourself if they have your dog's best interests at heart.
Do they take any and all dogs? Big and small, no matter what their temperament?
Do they do any assessment at all on suitability?
This should be a warning sign as a home boarding experience should be calm and pleasant for your dog. They want to feel loved, not cower in a corner if they get bullied, or if the environment is too noisy.
We think it's important that you and your dog meet us first in our home, and from then we make sure your dog has a one-night trial before staying here. This is important to ensure that they are suited to our home boarding environment, and we can work out if they will be happy with us for a longer stay.
If we don't think your dog will enjoy staying with us, we'll explain why, and give you other options.
4. Will my dogs be exercised?
Don't take it as given that just because someone will take your dog in for a night or longer that they will give them the amount of exercise they need or are accustomed to. This is especially true when you give a pet to friends to look after!
Make sure you receive assurances from the boarder that whatever the weather, come rain, hail or plague of locusts, that your dog will get enough exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy.
We've heard before of "problem dogs" who just won't settle down and chew up the carpet. Most of the time this is because they haven't been walked enough. A dog needs more than just a quick visit to the garden. Luckily, we live in a beautiful area with plenty of river walks, fields and woods to explore, all safely away from busy roads.
Our customers love the pupdates that we send them on Facebook or WhatsApp each day on what they've been up to, what friends they've made and, if we're especially unlucky, what poop they've rolled in!
5. Are you dog professionals with an understanding of dog behaviour?
Are the boarders you are looking at professionals, or is this just a hobby? Are they at work all day? How often will they be with your dog, and how often will the dog be able to get outside? What happens if there is an emergency and nobody is home?
Please do keep all of this in mind when looking for a dog boarder. Seek reassurances that your dog will not be left alone 9-5 every day if they are used to cuddles and getting out regularly. Cheryl works from home, with Harry soon to be joining her. When we both need to go out, it's never for long and we have cameras in the house to keep an eye on everyone. We can even speak through the camera should we need to!
Cheryl has worked with dogs for many years, through boarding and also her Edinburgh Dog Photography business. Read more about Cheryl and her voluntary work with the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home here.
So there you have it. We hope this has been a helpful first step in finding a reputable home boarder for your dog. Obviously, we'd love for your pup to stay with us, so please get in touch to discuss your needs by clicking here. If you have any other questions, please feel free to comment below, or on our Facebook page!