ALL ABOUT DOGS and CATS Resource Center for Canine & Feline Lovers
Dogs on Holiday
By Elizabeth Wasserman
Canine Behavior Articles
There used to be no place like home for a dog when the
family went away. But these days, there's a place that
might be even better than home.
Like so many dog owners, Reba Love, a retired accounting
professor from Panama City, Florida, is shunning the
old-fashioned kennel when she leaves town. Instead, she
is opting to give her pooch a vacation of its own. Love
takes her three-year-old Weimaraner, Chloe, to Beaches
Pet Resort when she has to travel. The upscale pet
boarding facility in Northern Florida offers luxury
accommodations including extra playtime with staff. Rooms
have tile floors and soft blankets. Love often opts for the
larger room with a doggie door so Chloe can go out into
the courtyard whenever she pleases.
"You can pay more for a room with a TV," Love says. "But I have no idea what they watch."
While she doesn't want Chloe to be a couch potato, Love has been thinking about treating her
beloved pet to a bubble bath the next time she goes out-of-town.
Unless you take your dog with you on trips, vacations often mean that man's best friend ends up
being boarded. These days, a growing number of facilities nationwide are eschewing the "kennel"
label and are donning such nicknames as "Doggie Utopia." Canyon View Ranch, in Topanga,
California, bills itself as a "Canine Shangri la," where dogs can run on manicured lawns, climb ramps
and crawl through tunnels in Disneyland-inspired parks.
Camp Bow Wow, which expects to have 50 franchises open in the U.S. and Canada by the end
of 2006, offers all-day romping, while overnight guests get tasty "campfire treats" before being
tucked into cots in their own cabins. Camp Web Cams help families monitor pups over the
Internet from wherever they are -- the beach, the ski resort, or the Champs Elysees.
"Our clients typically humanize their pets a bit. They see them as their kids," says Heidi Flammang,
CampBowWow founder and CEO. "The thought of leaving their dog alone in a box for 24 hours a
day is too much."
Here's how to decide if a pet resort is right for your pooch:
What to look for Never decide on a boarding facility from a brochure or the Internet. You have
to go visit the grounds, meet the staff, and see for yourself how animals are treated. A good
kennel is clean, well-ventilated, air conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter. The staff
should interact with pets. "When dogs are at home, they're generally with family members being
touched and petted. Suddenly, you put them in a kennel with handlers who never touch them
and it can be quite traumatic," says Elizabeth Wilmot, owner of Countryside Kennels, in Owings,
Md., and the Mid-Atlantic regional director of the American Boarding Kennels Association.
Countryside offers a "Sportsman's Package" for $40-a-night, including a swim in the bone-shaped
swimming pool, jogging, Frisbee sessions, and bottled water. Pampered pooch guests receive
playtime, moonlit walks, petting sessions, and an orthopedic bed for $35 nightly.
Consider your dog's temperament Many of these kennel redux owners shy away from cages
and encourage dogs to play in groups by romping, running and chasing. Cage Free K-9 Camp, of
Los Angeles, allows overnight guests to sleep in a 2,000-square-foot, climate-controlled loft on
individual dog beds. In the TV lounge, they show Animal Planet. And over at CampBowWow,
despite the fact each dog is given a private dining space, all dogs are temperament-tested. "We
have an interview process," Flammang says. A dog needs to enjoy the company of other dogs to
be boarded in a communal environment. Otherwise, individual rooms are a better bet.
How to pack Dogs, like children, sometimes do best on "sleepovers" when they have a comfort
item to remind them of home. Check with a facility before bringing a blanket, a towel, or a
favorite toy, Wilmot says. This is usually fine if your pet has his or her own "room" or run. It may
be more difficult -- or provoke aggressive behavior -- in the group environment. For dogs with
sensitive stomachs, or special diets, you may want to bring your own food to the kennel. Many
luxury kennels provide top-notch fare for overnight guests, such as the "healthy lamb-and-rice
diet with Glucosamine" included in the $50-a-night rate at Canyon View Ranch. Medications will
also be administered on site at most pet resorts, although some charge extra. No matter where
your dog stays, you'll want to spring for a bath and flea dip before bringing your pet back home.
These new-fangled pet resorts may cost a tad more than the old-style kennel, but pup parents
say it's worth the price in peace of mind. "This is my baby," Love explains of her dog Chloe.
"She's a 70-pound baby, but she's still my baby."