Need to board your pet? Here’s what to look for in a kennel


We love our furry friends, but we can’t always take them everywhere we go. Travelling with pets can be rewarding, but it can also be stressful, expensive, and inconvenient. Plus, there are lots of places that simply don’t allow four-legged guests.

If you’re going away and need to board your buddy, here’s what to look for in a kennel.

Good reviews

Ask your vet, your neighbours, the regulars at the dog park, and your Facebook friends for recommendations. You can also do some research online—you’ll quickly discover which facilities are popular and which aren’t. Local dog trainers and breeders can also be useful sources of info.

A good first impression

Before booking your pet into a boarding kennel, go for a visit. Look for obvious signs that a kennel is well kept: it should be clean, well maintained, well ventilated, and shouldn’t smell. Take a look at the dogs who are boarding—are they relaxing or sleeping comfortably, or are they pacing and barking like they’re stressed?  And are the cats kept away from the dogs? This reduces stress, especially in more reserved felines. Finally, the staff should be friendly with the animals, interacting comfortably without yelling.

Due diligence around vaccines

A good kennel will insist that boarding pets be up-to-date on vaccinations, since animals in close quarters create a breeding ground for germs. Dogs especially should be vaccinated against canine kennel cough, which is very contagious.

Lots of indoor and outdoor space

They should offer plenty of opportunities for exercise, both indoor and outdoor. Outdoor runs should be protected from the wind, rain, snow, and sun. Cats should be able to move around comfortably in their pens, and their litter box should be a good distance away from their food dishes.

Comfortable sleeping quarters

Pets should not be sleeping on concrete—check to make sure that beds are raised off the ground and that bedding is clean and comfortable. For a nervous pet, some kennels will allow owners to bring in beds from home, which can go a long way to making your furry friend feel relaxed.


Pets will often benefit from being able to eat their own food, play with their own toys, and sleep in their own beds, so look for a kennel that offers these services. Make sure to pack enough food (plus some extra), and let the kennel know what feeding schedule your pet is on. If your dog is a little skittish around other dogs, let the kennel know, and see what adjustments can be made to their exercise or socializing schedule.


The kennel should make sure that dogs and cats are safe, so check to see what the supervision schedule is like (many kennels aren’t staffed 24 hours a day). Dogs should never be left unattended with a chew toy, especially an unfamiliar one. Exercise sessions should divide dogs by size, age, or play style, to make sure everyone stays happy. Keep a close eye out for bent wire, peeling paint, or damaged fencing.

Little extras (if you want them)

Most pets are pretty resilient, but if you’re feeling guilty about leaving your pup or kitty with strangers, look for a kennel that offers extras: plush bedding, one-on-one walks, couches to lounge on (yes, really), optional obedience training, and grooming.  


A kennel is not a good option for all pets, and the owners should be up-front about whether boarding is right for yours. If your pet suffers from separation anxiety, is poorly socialized or anxious, is immune-compromised or especially elderly, they may not do well in a boarding situation. If this is the case, the kennel may be able to suggest alternates, like a pet sitter.