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What makes a great place to stay a great place to stay?

You wouldn’t want to stay in just any hotel. Kennels vary widely, too. Here are some tips for choosing your pup’s home away from home .

1. Ask friends and relatives about good (or bad) experiences they’ve had. Your veterinarian can be a good source, too.

  1. Online research. A kennel’s website can provide good information, but public sites like Google and Yelp, and social media channels like Facebook, may give less-biased reviews.
  1. See if the facility is a member of a professional association or organization. (Pssst: Tradewinds Pet Suites is a charter member of the International Pet Boarding & Pet Services Association.)
  1. Take a tour. Once you’ve narrowed the list, schedule an in-person visit. Ask if you can bring your dog along so she can start to familiarize herself with the facilities and caregivers.
  1. Don’t be shy. Ask the tough questions. Find out how friendly and knowledgeable the people are about dogs, and watch how they interact with your pet. Take a good look at fences and enclosures to be sure they’re appropriate for your dog’s jumping and digging skills. Are the kennels large enough? Will your dog have access to an outdoor run?
  1. Cleanliness. Are the grounds and kennels clean and odor-free? A big red flag: Has anything been left behind in the yards or kennels that should have been scooped?
  1. Know the rules. For the safety of every pet, a reputable boarding kennel will insist that all pets be current on vaccinations. Depending on where you live, there may be specific requirements. For example, at Tradewinds, we require that all guests be current on their DHLPP and Bordetella vaccines. They also must have a current negative heartworm test and be on heartworm and flea/tick prevention programs. In addition, they need to have had a negative fecal test within 90 days of check-in and it must include Giardia, ova and parasites.
  1. Avoid group play places. While we pet parents sometimes think our dogs will enjoy group playtime, disasters can happen – and they happen FAST! Make sure your dog will have her own private time in the play yard and that she doesn’t have to share it with strangers. It takes more time for kennel caregivers to take dogs out to play one at a time, but it’s far safer.
  1. Emergencies. If your pet gets sick or injured, what steps will the kennel take? Be sure to provide an emergency contact in case you can’t be reached immediately.
  1. Natural disasters. What’s the facility’s plan? Here in Hawaii, we have to be prepared for hurricanes, tsunamis and wildfires.
  1. Special diets or health needs. Ask if you can bring your pet’s own food so she doesn’t have to go through the discomfort of changing diets. If your dog’s food needs refrigeration, ask if that can be accommodated. A reputable boarding kennel should have no problem with this. (Hint: When you choose your kennel and drop off your pet, provide pre-measured meals in zippered storage bags to be sure your pet gets the right amount.) If your dog will need medication while she’s boarding, ask who will give it and what the additional cost will be.
  1. Fireworks! If your dog is afraid of thunder, fireworks or other loud noises, tell the boarding caregivers in advance. Find out how they handle these situations, even if they’re not expected.
  1. A la carte care. Ask about extra services such as bathing, grooming or extra play time. Find out how much these added services cost.
  1. Schedule a sleepover – for the dog. A “test drive” of a night or two will help your dog and you feel less anxious and more confident when a longer stay comes along.
  1. Plan ahead. Great boarding kennels tend to book up well in advance of holidays and peak travel times like spring break or summer vacation. (At Tradewinds, we’re nearly always booked full for Christmas before Halloween arrives.) It’s a good idea to have your dog’s go-to place checked out long before he needs to check in.

Tradewinds Pet Suites provides premium dog boarding serving Waianae, Honolulu, Kapolei, Ewa Beach, Waipahu, Mililani, Schofield Barracks, Makah, Nanakuli, Akupu and the Island of O’ahu.