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KENNEL CARE VS HOME-ALONE CARE                                                       

By Louise Thompson Animal Behaviour Consultant (ABC of SA ©®™)



It is generally not a good idea to have a friend or neighbour pop in daily to care for your dog when you are away.  

For one thing, most people are not experienced enough to be able to spot illness timeously.  For example, Biliary fever, a disease presenting with symptoms of anaemia, lethargy and listlessness.  In the latter stages, the dog exhibits a lack of appetite.

Lack of appetite is often confused with the dog pining for his owners!  Bilary if left untreated can be fatal! If you decide on home care, a better option would be to get a responsible, full time house sitter, (someone who possesses animal-experience and knowledge).

I must add, that dogs suffering from noise phobias, who are thunder phobic, or suffer from sound sensitivity should never be left home alone!  These dogs are more likely to present a danger to themselves and others.  They are the dogs that often escape in panic when their owners are away, get run over on the roads during a storm, and end up as strays in animal shelters.



  • The dog should have adequate shelter from the elements.  Ideally, if it is an inside dog, a doggie door with access to a secure room with a safe place/bed should be provided.  It may be necessary to block off an open- plan kitchen, or make some other suitable arrangement.
  • Do not change the dog’s usual access to the house.  Do not suddenly dump a house-dog in the garage – he will stress!  Stress = noise pollution.  One of the most common problems with dogs left “home – alone” whilst their owners are on holiday is noise pollution.  Noise pollution = neighbour complaints!
  • Clean water must be available at all times in a spill-proof dish.  If all else fails, a washing up bowl wedged into a motor car tyre works well.
  • The dog should be protected from external parasites with a long acting tick and flea preparation (available from your veterinarian).  He should also be protected against biting flies (in the summer months). All these products are available from your veterinarian.
  • The property and environment where the dog is to be confined should be completely escape proof.
  • Do not leave the dog/s wearing a check chain, or a slip collar.  If it gets stuck on a branch or fence, your dog could strangle himself!  Leave him wearing flat collar, in which you can fit at least three fingers in to ensure it is not too tight.
  • Anything dangerous in the environment must be removed, or made “safe”.  Any poisonous substances need to be locked away.  Contents of the garage need to be made safe. Spikes on any gates will need to be taped.  Care needs to be taken if you own elderly dogs. They sometimes get disorientated and if you have a swimming pool, could fall in and drown…
  • You will need to provide the dogs with an abundance of chew items.  Leave an abundance of non-synthetic objects for him to vent on.  Items such as cow hooves, pigs ears, etc. If you own several dogs, you should also consider any potential aggression that could occur in your absence.  Stress can make aggression worse. If you are in any doubt, then rather kennel the dogs.
  • Matters of hygiene need to be considered.  Your house sitter must be prepared to “scoop the poop” at least once a day.  This is to prevent an increase in flies for the duration of your absence
  • Make sure that all your dogs have nametags on their collars.  The nametags should clearly state the sitter’s contacts (as you will be away).  Just in case of an accident and he manages to escape – he can be returned and not risk being at a welfare for a week and then being re-homed
  • Lastly provide your sitter with all your relevant veterinarians’ numbers including an emergency hour’s numbers.



Before choosing a boarding kennel, you should get plenty of referrals.  

A good place to start is your local veterinarian.  Groomer’s, friends (with good experiences), dog trainers etc.  View the kennels well in advance, preferably NOT in the “off season”, as, when they are busy it will provide you with a better idea of how they cope under pressure.  A visit prior to kennelling will also provide you with insight of their routines and the general care that they provide.

If a referral is not possible.  You should look for kennel that is a registered member of the Pet Boarders Association.  The organisation has a Code of Ethics, which provides the public with a certain amount of protection.


Book well in advance.  Good kennels are often booked up long before the holiday season.

In an ideal scenario, you should prepare you dog or pup well in advance.  Start to visit the kennel for short social visits. Do this regularly up to a month or two before leaving your dog there.  Take his favourite toys. Play games with him. Play ball, pop treats, etc. Anything that you can do which will provide the dog/pup with a positive association to the environment.  This will ensure that when he is actually left at the kennels, it will not be such a culture shock.

The next step would be to book him in for a morning stay.  Once this is successful, the next step would be to book him in for a one-day stay.  Thereafter, you could then book him in for a trial weekend. Ensure that you obtain feedback from the owners and staff as to how he coped.

Before booking in, protect your dog from any possible parasites by using a long acting tick & flea preparation.  You should also provide the staff with a preparation to repel biting flies. Both products are available from your veterinarian.

Inform staff of any special diet that your dog requires.  Realise that this could affect the price of his stay.

Depending on his length of stay, your dog might need additional exercise.  Make sure this service is provided by the establishment.  If you are only going away for a couple of days, it is not an issue.  In addition (for short-term stays), if the dog is stressed, he will probably feel more secure if he is confined to a smaller area.  

Only be concerned about adequate exercise if you are away for a longer period.  However, it is important that you confirm this with the staff. Some kennels provide wonderful escape proof, exercise areas.  If your dog is a “jumper” or expert escape artist, please inform staff. This could be critical to ensure your dogs safety.


Take a piece of your clothing to leave in his kennel.  The clothing should have your scent on it.  This will help your dog/pup to feel less abandoned in the kennel, and aid in providing him with feelings of security.

Take lots of stuff for him to chew.  Take along his favourite toys and non-synthetic chews to vent on.  (pigs ears, cow hooves, etc.) You can even provide the staff with some yummy fillings for them to pack inside the hooves.  Peanut butter, Bovril, whatever … All of this will aid in relieving boredom, reducing stress and providing him with something to occupy himself with in your absence.

Do take his own bed and bedding.

DON’T FORGET TO LET STAFF KNOW THAT ….. you don’t care if his bedding, toys, or other items are destroyed, chewed up, or peed on.  If you don’t let them know staff will often whisk them away, to make sure they are presented to you when you collect your dog – clean and in one piece.