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Finding The Perfect Doggy Day Care, Dog Walker, Vet, Groomer or Boarding Kennels.

Do Your Home Work and Get Recommendations Via Word Of Mouth

Going to the vets, groomers and kennels can be distressing for many dogs and their owners. However, it need not be. Approach these things with a positive mind, do your homework and preparation. Then it can actually be a great experience for one and all.

Finding the right place and preparing your dog is key to good experiences in all. I’ve written down a few pointers you will hopefully find helpful!


woman cuddling dog

It’s a big deal for one and all being separated from each other. Owners get most upset and feel guilty leaving their dogs in kennels when on holiday.

I know many who simply holiday in the UK, but there are times when it really would be lovely to pop on a plane and find some sun and take in other cultures and explore the world. My suggestions are to do your homework and also go by (if you can) personal recommendation. Go to visit boarding kennels and find one that you feel addresses your dogs’ needs the best. There may be day care centres that also do boarding and if your dog has great days there then the overnight stays will be no big deal.

Remember to do your research and book well in advance.

When You Visit A Doggy Day Care or Other Professional To Help With Your Dog Ask Questions 

•    What is the housing like, do they have a place they can go to be calm and quiet?
•    What happens during the day for your dog?
•    Do they have music playing for the dogs to help them relax?
•    Do they mix with the others dogs? (I would prefer my dogs to be separate, see dogs through the bars but not necessarily be with them)
•    If they do mix the dogs for playtime and rest time, you need to see this and if all is calm then brilliant.
•    Some daycare places and kennels provide live video footage so you can clock in and see how you’re little one is getting on.
•    What are feeding times,
•    Will they feed the food you provide?
•    Do they have free time in a grassed area? Or indoor space so not confined to their individual kennel for the whole duration.
•    Do the dogs get individual play time and quiet time with kennel staff in a safe place?
•    Which vet do they use and is it a 24/7 service?
•    Is there someone on site always?
•    What time is the last check at night done and what time in the morning does the day start?
•    Are there any testimonials for them to read on their website or facebook?

•    Do as much homework as you would if you were looking for someone to look after a child or granny.
•    Ask as many questions as you need to.
•    Do they ask lots of questions about your dog and his likes and dislikes, behaviour with other dogs, people etc and medical needs?
•    Sit and watch, this is the best way to find out whether it’s the place for your dog.  
•    Take your dog for lots of little outings there, prior to leaving them for the week
•    Remember not to go for one just because it’s close and convenient.
•    If it doesn’t feel right, then walk away.
•    Book well in advance, the really good ones they will be booked up many months before.

You may like to opt for home boarding, where your dog stays in someone’s home. happy dog on holiday

Again visit a few and go by personal recommendation. Ask the same questions as listed above and always be observant as it is important to ask questions!

•    How many dogs do they have at any one time, at peak times?
•    Check the size of the house and garden.
•    Is it dog-friendly and do they have paddling pools for summer,
•    Shade to relax under?
•    A freezer for all your dog food?
•    Do the dogs get 1-2-1 playtime or walk time as well as mixing with other calm dogs and calm family members?
•    Do they interview you and ask all the right questions.
•    They must have insurance and booked in with a local vet.

I know of one that takes up to four dogs out together for a walk along with a two-year-old child. If the dogs don’t know you and you really don’t know them, then it’s probably not the safest idea to have a young child in tow too.

Or you can get a house and pet sitter. Your dog will be in familiar surroundings with no great upheaval. Again do your homework, find someone who you can trust with your home and your animals. There are companies that have a troop of sitters trained up and trustworthy.

Ensure you and your dogs meet the person who will come to your home well before your holiday, so not only will you feel more confident but your dogs will transition better too. Have them visit you then you can comfortably explain and show them how you do things. You’ll feel better and more confident. If you don’t feel happy about people taking your dogs for a walk (and it’s quite ok to feel that) then say so and ask them to play with them in the garden and have chill and relax…that’s what you’re going on holiday to do!

Or lucky enough for your dog to stay with a family member or friend with people he already knows and trusts, where everyone and everything is familiar already.


father and daughter walking dog

So you have found the right kennels for your dog to stay when you are away, that ticks all the boxes or as many as is possible.

• Do go and visit the kennel a few times with your dog and walk about and maybe play in a safe place there so they come accustomed to the sights and smells.
• The more you do this the better the transition will be when they have to stay there.
• It would be lovely if one of the staff were able to walk with you and so your dog gets to know them and their scent.
• To be familiar with a place and person will make all the difference.
• On the day you are to leave your dog, do not make that day any different from any other day.
• Have a lovely play and walk as usual and big hugs and cuddles (just because you love him and he loves you) before you leave.
• Take your dog’s food (to put in their freezer) unless you have done that already.
• Take his bed or blankets. A familiar smell will be very welcome and comforting.
• Remember not to get stressed and anxious, but simply deliver your dog in the morning so they have time to adjust before night time.
• Do not make a massive fuss when you leave, just hand him over to the staff you’ve got to know and trust and they will do the rest.
• Missing your dog is normal and missing you is what your dog will naturally do, as children also do when they go to school initially. When you move house to a completely different area, you miss your friends. But they will settle in. You have chosen wisely and you have left your dog with people you trust and have got to know.
• The important thing is you’ve done all you can to reduce the stress on your dog.

NOTE: If your dog does suffer from separation anxiety it would be advisable to address this before he goes. This may well take a few weeks so again preparation is key!



I’m so fortunate to have found a vet who listens to me, his appointments are 15 mins long, not the average 5 mins. He accepts I do things my way and like to, where ever possible to use homeopathy, raw feed and minimal vaccines. He’s not a homeopathic vet, but when it comes to vaccines and worming he doesn’t pressure me into doing what he suggests. I feel supported and know if there is an emergency he won’t charge the earth but start with the cheapest option rather than go for test after test.

I moved up north a year ago and went on the hunt for a vet I felt comfortable with. Fourth time lucky. He’s an independent vet, not in a large chain and puts clients and their dogs first. The waiting room is large and there is always space away from other dogs and pets. My dogs are not reactive but I know that the emotions of others have an effect on them. Being able to give my dogs space is paramount!

If however you have a reactive dog or one who really worries about being in such a closed space with others, or there is a reactive dog in the waiting room, then here are some suggestions:

• When you arrive, go check who’s in the waiting room. Will you and your dog cope?
• If it’s quiet then collect your dog and go in
• I like to do a few turns in the car park of a silent walk, this connects your dog to you and he can then concentrate on you, your low levels of stress hormones and then relax.
• When in the waiting room, Calmly place your hand on your dog’s side. He will relax.
• If he doesn’t, then do more silent walk outside.
• Ask all who approach you to please not stroke your dog, even if he’s super chilled and doesn’t react with a jump up if people do this. It’s a closed environment and full of stress smells and chemicals. Your dog lives by scent and you need to make this a great experience
• If a dog comes in that is super stressed, pulling on the lead, gasping and panting, then you leave and ask reception to call you when the vet is free.
• If you have a reactive dog or a really sensitive dog, then let reception know you have arrived and always wait in the car.
• You could also ask if the vet would allow you to walk in the back entrance when ready, so as not to walk past others in the waiting room or see your dog in the car park.
• Vets do home visits and this may well be a better option for you and your dog.


When we get a puppy, we go off to the vet at the earliest opportunity to have a health check and vaccines.

Cute New Puppy• My suggestion is that you take your puppy for a check but do not vaccinate on the first visit.
• Simply go so your puppy gets used to the smells and sights of the surgery.
• He will be gently handled by the vet and you leave with a good experience under your belt.
• Even a thermometer up the bottom is too much at this stage. However many vets have the ear thermometers now which is awesome.
• Make your second visit, vaccine visit.
• If there are reactive dogs in the waiting room, walk away with your puppy, its what he’d like to do naturally anyway, and you’ve just given him a taste of how great you are about making decisions about safety.
• Hold your pup on your lap or in your arms and be calm, he will sense it and relax.
• If your pup is very wriggly then walk out to an environment he’s more comfortable in.
• A great idea is to periodically visit the vets, walk around the car park and in and out of the waiting room, sit for a moment and then leave. This ensures that the experience is not a big deal and when its necessary your puppy to the dog will not get overly anxious.



The same goes for the groomers, do your homework, ask friends, vets for recommendations and do as above. Getting used to the sights and sounds and smells is really important.
• Go and watchdogs being groomed, they ideally should let you do this and then you can see first-hand how gentle and unrushed the groomer is.
• If you can, then stay in the building when your dog is being groomed and not leave him all day. Unless you’ve got a groomer that has outside space for pee breaks and space.
• I groom my own dogs and yes the spaniels look like they’ve been scissor by a lawn mower sometimes. But as long as I don’t give them a mirror to check the latest haircut, they are happy!
• Ideally, the breeder or rescue should give you a lesson on how to groom and what brushed etc to get for your particular breed. It’s worth doing this on a daily basis and keeps their coat tangle, burr and twig free, even if your dog is short haired grooming is a great bonding exercise.
• At the expense of repeating myself, which I often do at nauseam! Grooming is a great bonding tool and little and often initially is going to reap rewards and if they do need to go to the groomer, it’s not all a new experience; it’s just the place and another person that they then have to adjust to.

Use calming herbs and/or CBD oil to take the edge off anxieties. For both you and your dog!

Caroline Spencer – Canine Behaviourist for Bella and Duke


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