What you should know before choosing your provider!
written by Jennifer Wolf-Pierson | photo by Nicki Gaylord Photography
Got a new puppy? Are you planning a vacation, or just need your furry friend out of the house for the day? There are many reasons why pet-parents seek daycare, training and lodging. Here are some of the things you should think about as you start your search.
How do you wade through and figure out who actually knows what they are doing when it comes to pet care? Compare it to childcare. Would you take your preschooler to a facility that was not certified? No! So why would that be an option for your pets? There are some great training programs and certifications that all pet care professionals should have under their belt. At a minimum, the provider needs to be CPR and First Aid certified. The professionals who are taking it up a notch are probably members of the International Boarding and Pet Services Association (IBPSA), as well as The Dog Gurus, for professionals who want to offer safe off-leash group play. These associations provide endless continued education opportunities and individual certifications like Canine Specialist or Feline Care Providers.
If you are like me, you want the best of the best! The select few that make it to this level are certified independently through the Professional Animal Care Certification Council (PACCC). This is not an easy task to accomplish. Each certified professional must have pet care experience, animal care references, and complete a 150-question exam with an 80% or higher grade! But, that’s not all; they must also participate in continued educational opportunities to keep their certification! To date, there are only fourteen Certified Pet Care Providers in Texas, and only two are in the greater Houston area. You can check and see if your provider is certified at www.paccert.org.
What do the rooms and play yards look like, smell like and sound like? Does the resort allow unannounced tours? The key to a great experience is a friendly, welcoming, at-home atmosphere. Take a look at the floors. Are they clean? Are they slip-resistant? Concrete is one of the worst surfaces to use in the pet areas, because it is porous and absorbs everything, is hard on the dog’s pads and can be very slippery! Is there a calm, quiet environment, or are all the pets barking and nervous? No one, not even the dogs, like listening to that all day! And no….noise does not come with the territory. Check out the materials used for the partitions, doors or dividers between the rooms. The space for lodging, at a minimum, should allow each pet to comfortably stand and turn around freely. A good rule of thumb would be 4 ft. by 8 ft. of floor space and 6 ft. in height. Stackable enclosures or crates generally can’t offer this and should on be used as short-turn holding spaces or napping dens during daycare breaks.
I am just going to say two things on this subject:
- What if something happens between the times of the sitter’s visits?
- Do you really want a stranger to have access to your home while you’re away?
Private Home Facilities:
Do the care-givers check that all vaccinations are current? Who is coming into the home…are there visitors, children, or neighbors involved or around your pet? Are there places for pets to be away from other, non-family pets if they want to be? Are they left alone or unattended with limited people-interaction? Imagine a group of elementary students home alone! Yikes!
What is the plan if something goes wrong while you’re away? Do the care-givers know basic first aid or know the early warning signs of illnesses? Hopefully, you will find a facility that focuses on the health and happiness of each pet first. Professional, caring providers will tell you that they do not “play vet” when there’s a problem – they will immediately seek care at the first sign of any upper-respiratory cold, tummy ache or scratch. Who is responsible for the bill if an illness or accident happens? Some of these folks will even take care of the veterinary costs! Obviously, there are health situations where the provider wouldn’t cover the cost for treatment, such as pre-existing or age/breed specific conditions, but their first responsibility should be your pet’s health and safety.
All dogs are pack animals and just love to play with other dogs. WRONG! Many dogs actually do not enjoy group play or daycare. As professionals, we are seeing a completely new group of pet personalities trending; I call them the “only children”. They want to be the center of attention and just do not understand or enjoy spending time with non-family dogs. If you have an “only child”, does the facility offer other activities like individual play or enrichment play; or will your dog be required to be a part of the “group” to attend camp for the day or for overnight lodging? Places that do not offer alternatives may overlook some behaviors that are not appropriate in group play. You don’t want your dog in a group with other dogs that don’t want to be there, because the level of arousal or tension may be too high to be safe. It’s much more fun when all the doggie participants are happy to be playing with others!
Happy hunting for that perfect pet care provider who will love and care for your four-legged kids!
Jennifer Wolf-Pierson, CPACO is a certified pet care professional serving the Spring/Woodlands/North Houston area. Jennifer currently is General Manager at ABC Pet Resort & Spa. When she is not playing with the guests at the resort, she is consulting with pet industry businesses and start-ups across the country. Last year, she was honored to be a co-speaker at the International Boarding and Pet Care Services Annual Conference. To learn more about ABC or Jennifer visit www.abcpetresort.com
ABC Pet Resort & Spa offers dog and cat boarding as well as grooming and doggie daycare.
ABC Pet Resort & Spa
17024 Bamwood Drive
Houston, TX 77090