by Gwen Bailey
How kennel owners & dog owners
can reduce the stress
felt by kennelled dogs
In this guide we look at:
- Away from home
- What makes kennel life stressful for dogs?
- What kennel owners can do to reduce stress
- How dog owners can reduce stress for their
- How to choose the best kennels for your dog
No matter what steps are taken to make dogs feel at home, the
kennel environment is so different from that of a pet home, that it
is natural for them to undergo some stress during their stay.
possible for kennel owners to
minimise this stress
dog owners should seek out those kennels that make the effort
to do so
Reducing stress for dogs in kennels has obvious
advantages for the dogs themselves, and their
owners will feel more
at ease if they know that the kennel owner cares about
the dogs they look after.
For kennel owners, this trust means
Having found a kennel that cares,
are likely to keep coming back
a good reputation will spread by word of mouth
Why stress should be minimised in kennels:
stress in kennels will leave dogs susceptible to:
- and eventually illness
due to a compromised
This will vary from dog to dog depending on what they find disturbing,
but many dogs will find many of the following stressful:
Absence of owners/ lack of sufficient social contact
Lack of control over environment, particularly
in bare or cramped kennels
Changes in routine – feeding times,
walking time, having to toilet on concrete unless walked
Sudden change in diet – possibly leading
to diarrhoea and further distress for a housetrained dog
Lack of exercise / opportunity to play
Loud noise - from barking from other dogs
due to large numbers or poor construction of kennels, or if loud
music is played constantly
Presence of and handling by strangers
Presence and proximity of other dogs
Unfamiliar smells– particularly disinfectant
Difference in temperature from that at home
(no time for coat to adapt to changes) – particularly
stressful for short-coated and thin-coated breeds kept in cold
conditions, or thick-coated dogs kept in warm kennels
Lack of physical comfort – particularly
if no bedding given
Lack of familiar items that smell of home,
e.g. bedding, toys, items with owners scent
Lack of continuity of veterinary care if
kennel uses the local vet practice instead of the animal’s
Some of the stressors listed above are part of kennel life and cannot be avoided.
Some stressors may be costly to avoid and may need to be offered at extra cost
to the customer. Other stressors may be easily avoided with a little time and
Top of the list and often in
short supply due to its fulfilment being labour intensive,
is social contact.
Dogs have inherited social tendencies
from their ancestors and this has been accentuated in those
dogs bred to work closely with man or to be a companion.
Since most dogs retained in boarding kennels come from
a pet home, lack
of adequate social contact can be top of
the list of stressors.
A cost-effectiveway to combat this
is to employ staff that like dogs and
who will maintain a cheerful, relaxed attitude,
talking and making a fuss of them during routine cleaning
and maintenance activities.
giving staff extra time to
spend several minutes per day with each dog playing, grooming,
stroking them and giving treats for compliance with requests will result
staffing ratios but also in happier,
more contented dogs, a benefit that can be marketed
to the customer .
who like dogs and who have
a friendly, efficient approach can
substantially reduce tension in the kennel and are
most important factor in reducing stress levels.
Investing in staff and ensuring they are happy in
their work will bring considerable
improvements for the dogs in their care.
Where possible, changes to routine should be kept
to a minimum to avoid stress, particularly
with vulnerable dogs (e.g. puppies, elderly dogs, disabled dogs,
dogs on medication, or fearful dogs).
This particularly applies to feeding routines.
Owners can be asked to bring in a
few days supply of food so the change over to kennel food
can be made gradually, or they can be asked to supply food for the duration
of their stay if preferred, thereby reducing the kennel
While providing for individual needs does increase the organisation
needed, it has considerable benefits for the dogs for a
little extra effort
Control over environment
and reduction of environmental stimuli
Thoughtful kennel design allows
individual dogs to make choices about
where they want to be at any given moment.
The provision of a separate sleeping area and
a run gives flexibility for the dog and a larger
kennel will allow more choice of places to rest, play or explore.
Further areas can created without increasing the size of the kennel by providing
carefully positioned low shelves for the dog
to rest on. This shelving allows the dog to look over adjoining
areas, providing interest and variety of outlook.
Kennel noise and disturbance can be reduced by keeping
numbers low in each block (if possible, or when rebuilding).
Playing relaxing classical music has been shown
to further relax dogs in a kennel. However, this must NOT be left on all the
Temperature & Ventilation
To avoid discomfort and further stress, temperature and
ventilation levels should be adequate for comfort of dogs used to a home
Comfort items from home
The provision of bedding, preferably
the animals own, together with toys and chews (preferably
those left by the owner) can help dogs to relax.
Owners should be encouraged to bring
items , but told that they may not be returned in good
condition since the dog is likely to chew and destroy them
while they are away.
Toys and bedding
from home will be familiar and will smell of home,
helping the dog to settle more quickly.
Staff should be aware of the concerns some dogs have over the presence
of and being handled by strangers. Taking the time to
make friends with the dog will help when routine handling is required.
Staff should be well trained in dog behaviour to
help them to read their body language and be sensitive
to their needs.
Staff need to be aware of the stress caused to some dogs by the presence
Careful placementof the dogs
in kennels can help to balance the needs of shy or fearful
dogs by avoiding placing them next to aggressive or overpowering
dogs, particularly if kennels have wire rather than solid
partitions between the runs.
Staff also need to be sensitive to a dog’s concerns
about other dogs when moving them around the kennels, taking care to avoid
aggressive or noisy dogs if possible.
Placing ‘difficult’ dogs
at the end of a block to avoid having to take all
the other dogs past each day can really help to reduce
Smell & Disinfectant
To a dog’s sensitive nose, disinfectant is a powerful
Making sure the kennels are well rinsed after being
disinfected can help to reduce the residual smell.
Having a bucket and shovel outside each kennel specially
for that occupant can help reduce the spread of disease and make it unnecessary
to completely disinfect each kennel every day.
This helps to save time & disinfectant and
also improves life for the dog kept in the kennels,
as well as helping to keep the kennel dry.
Enriching the stay of kennelled dogs
The following are suggested as ideas for providing dogs with interest
during their stay.
Although they may require extra staff time, customers
may appreciate and be prepared to pay for the extra care their dog receives.
Social contact with staff in the form
of stroking, grooming, treats for compliance with requests
Daily walks and/or the chance to run
free in a large area
Play with toys with staff
Toys left in the run for dogs to play
with. Toys need to be strong, large enough not to be easily swallowed
and be able to withstand being disinfected before being passed on to
Toys that can be filled with the dog’s
dinner or with treats, such as kongs or activity balls, can help to
relieve the boredom of confinement. These can be washed and disinfected
Chews – rawhide or other chews
can be given during the day while staff are there to supervise
Provide interest in the run by hanging
old tyres and encouraging them to play with them by hiding treats inside
Provide interest and relief from heat stress in
Summer by placing hard plastic children’s paddling pools in the
run and adding a few inches of water
Float treats or pieces of vegetable or fruit
on the water in the dog’s water bowl
Add interest to the view by placing
a bird feeder nearby, but at a safe distance so that birds cannot be
If the kennel walls are solid, arrange strategically
placed peepholesso that dogs can see what is going on
Due to the increased stress levels associated with life in kennels,
it is not surprising that dogs are more likely to develop illness
while at the kennels.
If the dog has existing conditions that the owner
has not left details of, or has history of certain problems, these may not
be taken into account unless the dog’s usual vet is called during illness.
This lack of continuity of veterinary care can compromise
the dog’s health and so it is recommended that the veterinary
surgeon that the owners regularly use is called if the dog develops a
health problem during their stay.
Special care for vulnerable dogs
Special care is needed for vulnerable dogs,
such as puppies, elderly dogs, disabled dogs, dogs on medication, nervous/fearful
dogs, or dogs with a high activity level.
All such dogs will need special care and will require
extra time to ensure that all their needs are meet.
Pairs of dogs
While it is comforting for many dogs to be kennelled with a familiar
dog, it is important to watch for signs that all may
not be right.
Staff will need to be able to notice antagonistic body
language and displays and may need to separate them to prevent fighting
and injury. This becomes
particularly important when dogs
that differ in size are kept together.
Socialising and mixing dogs
Mixing dogs from different households is not recommended unless with
permission from the owner and if there is a member of staff which enough
For some dogs, play time with other dogs is a great stress reliever and also
a good energy release, but care needs to be taken and expert supervision is
Allow plenty of timeto deliver your dog to
the kennels so you are not in a last minute panic and pushed
for time. Otherwise, your stress will be communicated to your dog and
it is better if he leaves you when you are relaxed and happy.
Take a written
or typed list of your dog’s
ailments, medications, food intake and other special requirements
Take a few day’s
of your dog’s
normal food, together with your dog’s
bed (unwashed), favourite toys, chews and treatsif
the kennel will allow you to do so
Take items made of natural fabricthat smell
of you and will retain your comforting scentfor
a few days while your dog settles in.
When you leave, try to be jolly and matter of fact,
rather than consoling, so your dog thinks there is nothing
to worry about.
A young dog may benefit from a few days in kennels every
so often early in life so they get used to the
experience and find it easier
to cope with a longer stay.
Choose the kennels where your
dog will stay carefully.
Compile a checklist of
questions to ask from the information given above for kennel
owners and visit several kennels to find the best in your area.
Make an appointment to
view the kennels rather than just turning up so that it is convenient for kennel
owner and they will have time to answer your questions.
Above all else, choose a place where
the staff are interested in and like animals! Dogs are social animals and fare best with kind, empathetic and professional
staff to care for them.
If the choice is betweenkennels
with miserable, difficult staff and a kennels
with friendly staff that really
care, choose the latter.
Find a kennels where staff
are friendly, polite and interact easily with
dogs and the customers. Surly,
ill-at-ease staff are likely to be poisonous with the dogs
in their care and such establishments are best
Choose a place where there is sufficient staff
to give individual care.
the kennels claim to walk all dogs, ask for how
long and then do the sums to see if there are enough staff
to make this possible. Staff are expensive, especially if they
are well trained and good quality, so expect to pay more for
a better service.
The kennels should be clean, tidy and
The housing for the dogs
should be at the correct temperature, and dry.
There should be no smell,
and proper food storage facilities should be available.
Check the dogs to see if they look
happy and settled. There will be initial barking as you walk
in, but this should settle quickly in a well run kennels as stress
levelss will be low.
Specially written by Gwen for our website
to want to make it easy for dog owners
quality & caring boarding
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