Things are exciting in this part of the world. With the opening of a kennel has come a lot of hard work. Add on to that training for a marathon (more on that later) and basic life, and one is bound to get exhausted. Still, though, it's all worth it.
As Hans, Shannon, and I have been scrubbing walls, mopping floors, and painting non-stop, I got to thinking: What should people look for when choosing a dog kennel / day care? I know what sorts of things I notice, but some people seem to overlook these things. Sometimes a friendly staff is all it takes to win someone over, but they're missing the bigger picture. So, here are some handy hints.
There should not be one. Ideally, unless you're coming during cleaning time, you shouldn't smell cleaner, and you shouldn't smell a lot of dogs or cats. If you smell cleaner, you're really just smelling an effort to cover up dirt. If you smell dogs then you can tell there hasn't been much cleaning. If you smell urine or feces (assuming someone did not just have an accident in the lobby), run. Run as far and as fast as you can.
Obviously, a dog-care facility should appear clean. There should not be standing water on the floors or dirt on the walls. Look for dust and dog hair. Of course, also take note of the general color scheme of a facility. Some companies may choose darker colors to avoid having dirt be seen. Other companies choose bright and cheery colors. Dirt will be seen easier on these colors, so if the place still seems clean you know you've got a winner.
Dog to Person Ratio
How many employees are there watching the dogs? Is it a 2:1 ratio, a 10:1 ratio, or a 50:1 ratio? Ideally, you'll have somewhere between 5-10:1. Of course, the smaller the ratio, the better. This one is harder to find out, though. Companies have been known to lie about their numbers. My mom once called a doggy day care and asked how many dogs they generally have there a day. She was told 15-20. In reality they had anywhere between 35-70 on any given day. Of course, you can sometimes get away with having more dogs and fewer people if the dogs are in smaller groups or the screening process is strict. However, if it looks like there are more than 20 dogs there, then there probably are more than 20 dogs there.
Due to insurance reasons, most kennels cannot let the general public into areas where dogs are loose. However, they CAN let you into areas where dogs are put up. When you tour a facility, you should be allowed to see every part of the building (except the break room or office). If you're not allowed to see where dogs sleep / play / are groomed / etc. then something is being hidden. Run. Do not walk. Run away.
At some point, you may find a facility that you would like to leave your dog at. Once this happens, take some time to watch your dog's reactions when he returns to the building each day. Is he excited? Happy? Pulling you towards the door? Or, his he trying to hide in the car and hugging close to your leg? Dogs should be happy to go into their daycare. Of course, sometimes daycare just isn't for some dogs. Make sure you know your dog's personality before testing out a place. Also, pay attention to how he feels after some time at a daycare. Is he getting sick more often than normal? Is he getting random infections? This could be a sign of a cleanliness issue at the facility. Do keep in mind, though, that, just like day care for kids, your dog may catch a few more colds than he used to. Also, if your dog is playing all day, he may come home a little dirty. It's not unusual, and it won't hurt him.
My best recommendation for finding a kennel is to ask around. Ask your friends, ask your vet, ask your trainer, ask the lady in the park walking her dog. Check reviews online. Look at websites. No one can say which kennel might be best for you, but it never hurts to go into your search with an arsenal of knowledge.