1. How long have you been in the boarding industry?
I bought Mornington Lodge (then known as AWUN) 14 years ago.
2. What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job?
Accommodating our dog guests in the way I would like my own dogs looked after if I had to go away. This means ensuring each guest has heated accommodation, a warm and dry bed to sleep in every night, and a friend to share with and play with at all times.
We also check each guest over from nose to tail every day, and brush daily too, ensuring as much as possible that no health issues or skin conditions are overlooked. Some guests are only in for a weekend, some are in for months – so monitoring is crucial.
We also like the aspect of lots and lots of daily activities, both in the morning and in the afternoon. This is included in the daily tariff – we are very much against some kennel operators practice of charging $5 per 15 minutes of playtime. How do you look a dog guest in the eye and leave it locked up in its pen because their owner cannot afford playtime?
3. What is the most unenjoyable aspect of your job?
Paying the bills!
4. What is required of the owner before you will take in a dog for boarding? i.e. vaccinations etc
We require up to date C5 vaccination certificates for our dog guests, and F3 or F4 cerificates for our cat guests.
We also need details on pre-existing health issues; emergency contact numbers and what limit can be spent on emergency care until we can contact owners on their mobile.
5. Does the dog need to be within certain ages for you to take them in? Ie can a dog be too young or too old to be boarded? If so, is this common among boarding kennels?
The Code of Practice does not allow dogs less than 16 weeks of age to be boarded, except in an emergency. Otherwise, we can take guests up to any age. As we are the main referral centre for elderly guests, diabetic guests, insulin dependants etc – we are happy to take older dogs. Many kennels however are now turning away guests over 10 years of age due to increased health issues.
6. How many dogs does the average boarding kennel hold?
I'm not sure about other kennels – we are have unlimited license however we do not take over 109 guests at any stage. Our average occupancy rate outside school holidays is 97% - which is great – as we can maintain a full staff. This is a great advantage, as it takes around 9 months to train a new staff member to an effective and reliable stage – so it helps not to have peaks and troughs in our numbers.
7. What would you say are the benefits of boarding over pet minding?
If you can find a GOOD facility – then boarding offers complete security, daily monitoring by experienced staff, and complete reliability. These facilities rely on veterinary and client recommendations, have insurance and are fully accountable. Some facilities, such as ours, offer an environment that emulates the home lounge room – with televisions, sofas, rugs on the floors, covered verandahs and garden access throughout the day.
Services that take your dog into their own home have their good points and bad points. The good points are that your dog is in a home environment and you can meet the operator. The down side is that some of these minders keep too many guests and therefore keep them in crates in bedrooms/lounge room/garage. You have no way of knowing this unless you went through their whole house. They have no Council check ups, no regulations, no insurance, no training – no liability or actual responsibility.
Services that offer to feed your dog in your own home, check the mail etc – in my opinion - are to be feared and avoided. During busy times – these operators would have to fit in at least 7 to 8 jobs a day to make a living, and most people only work an 8 hour day. There is travelling time involved between clients … which means at best each client dog would receive a half hour a day attention. This leaves 23 and a half hours where the dog/cat is unattended!! What happens in the event of….
- A bee sting, wasp sting – resulting in swelling of the face or throat? Or if the dog chokes, or vomits its meal up and inhales it back down – causing aspiration into the lungs and then death?
- The house is burgled or burns down?
- The pet minder becomes ill or has an accident? Is there a back up plan? We had one case where 4 dogs were found starving in a back yard over Christmas, with no water, as the pet minder had simply not bothered to keep coming back.
- Is there insurance in place? Any real liability or responsibility taken?
There are no checks in place with these smaller operations – and dogs can be left at the mercy of just any individual.
8. Do boarding kennels involve dogs in any sort of activity such as play, training, walks etc?
We include morning and afternoon activities for every guest every day. We avoid training, as we feel that it is usually the owners that need to learn the skills associated with maintaining a trained pet. We also believe that guests come here to have as much fun as possible. We also offer clients Executive Suites, whereby their dog can have access to their own private play area all day.
9. How are dogs housed in a kennel ie are they kept in group accommodation or individual?
The Code of Practice dictates that only two guests can be accommodated in any sleeping area at any time, with written consent from the owners. Play times can have multiple guests of the same size/energy level in the same area, as long as they are supervised at all times.
10. Should owners be wary when looking for a good kennel to place their dogs? If so, why and what should they look out for?
Yes, owners should be extremely wary when looking for a facility for their dog. My advice is to get recommendations from veterinarians and friends. Make a short of list of 3 facilities, and then go and visit them. What a place sounds like over the phone and on a website can be deceiving, to say the least.
Things to look for; starting from arriving in the office.
You really need to feel comfortable with the staff/owner. Are they recording all the necessary details relating to your pet? Do they have a good system to keep track of medications and dietary requirements specific to your pet?
Do the accommodation areas smell clean? You should not be able to smell strong disinfectant OR urine, or left over food. All you should be able to smell is fresh air.
Do the dogs have a view and enough visual stimulation? Do they get enough exercise? If the facility holds, say, 90 guests and there are only two large exercise areas – you have to do the mathematics! How can 90 guests be exercised in 2 areas in a short 8 hour day???
11. What qualifications/training should people working in the boarding industry have?
Applicants can have as many letters after their name as they like – however the ones we take on are keen to learn, work hard, can clean thoroughly, have a quick eye that immediately spots a problem with a dog/cat guest, and has good people skills. This is important, as you have to make clients comfortable and feel reassured that you will be looking after their children – and staff need to be a part of a very close knit team.
12. What would you say the benefits are of boarding your dog rather than leaving them with a pet sitter – either professional or friends/family?
As I said before, a GOOD facility offers peace of mind, security, 24 hour staffing and close monitoring of guests. Friends and family are great … until they have a change of plan 1 week before Christmas and can no longer mind Fido. It is impossible to find a boarding facility with a vacancy 1 week before Christmas. At Mornington Lodge, Christmas is fully booked by April and payment made in full for that time frame.
Friends and family are also great until a front door is left open by accident, or Fido does not stop barking all day, or chews the furniture. Boarding facilities are regulated by a governing authority and contract to take your dog when the booking was made … no backing out or accidents.
13. What tasks, if any, will the owner need to do before handing over their dog?
They need to ensure all vaccinations are up to date, and provide a list of emergency numbers and other such details.
14. Are the costs of boarding cheaper than hiring a sitter?
I would not think so – however am unsure as to sitter costs.
Day care centres charge on average $47 per day – with no overnight care. Boarding facilities are in the vicinity of $30 per day for 24 hour care.