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May 01, 2004

Finding the Right Kennel

By: Kim Johnson

If dog people ruled the world, there would be no need for kennels. Hotels, airlines and relatives would all gladly accommodate four-legged companions. However, the reality is that sometimes taking a trip means leaving your dog behind. The decision where to kennel your dog can be a tough one. After all, your dog lies on the couch with you, accompanies you on walks and may even sleep in your bed. There are ways, however, that you can travel and have a happy dog at the same time. It takes some work, some investigation and some research to find people who have made their life’s work creating a safe, happy environment for your dog to visit. Here at Fetch Magazine, we know you want to take the best possible care of your pet, so we’ve interviewed people who own kennels of all shapes and sizes to help you make an informed decision about kenneling your dog. Our experts include Mia West, owner of Just Like Home Doggie Motel, Sandy Peterson, owner of Paws Inn and Nancy Keirsey, owner of Ker Mor Kennels.

What to look for
When you evaluate a kennel, take the time to drive there and see it for yourself. Here are some things to take note of:
Cleanliness. “Make sure the water is fresh and there is no old, nasty food sitting in the pens,” according to Peterson.

The indoor air should be heated or air conditioned according to the season, and dogs should have some sort of platform and bedding to sleep on.

A single fence around the perimeter is essential; most kennels have double fences as a failsafe measure. There’s also the after-hours aspect. Is there a way to monitor the dogs during nights and off-hours? Is there a vet nearby?

Every kennel owner agreed this is key. “We try to provide the same kind of care that we would want for our dogs,” says West.

Ker Mor, for example, is a member of not only the Better Business Bureau and the Mequon-Thiensville Chamber of Commerce, but also the American Boarding Kennel Association (check out www.abka.com for some great information). “We joined ABKA the year it was formed,” says Keirsey. “It offers a degree of professionalism as well as progressive, continuous education.”

Pampering and Extras
Most quality kennels offer basically two meals and a chain link run for base price. That’s fine for other people’s dogs—but what about yours? Investigate your options and you are sure to find a place that’s got the one thing your dog will love.

Paws Inn offers three “luxury suites,” with futons, outdoor patios and even a color television for your pet. “We have a Packer suite, the wilderness room and, of course, the floral room,” says Peterson. With a tile floor and no chain link fence inside, these rooms feel (and sound) more like a house and less like a kennel.

Just Like Home offers crate-free kenneling, where the dogs are only confined during rest times and at night. “The dogs can relax on the couch, look out the windows, or play with all the toys in the world,” West says. Because she will board no more than ten dogs at a time, West lets the dogs mingle with each other during the day (supervised, of course!).

Most kennels offer additional attention for an additional price. The rates at Paws Inn include two visits in the exercise yard; more visits are available for an extra fee. Ker Mor also has playtime available, so owners can be assured their dogs get one-on-one attention with a staff member. While you may think your dog may not be happy inside a chain link fence, you’d be surprised. “Dogs look at going to the kennel as a new and exciting experience,” says Keirsey. “It’s kind of like going to camp. They get to bark, jump and play in a new location and most adapt very well to being in the runs.” 

The Other Stuff
Before you kennel, make sure your dog’s shots are up to date. In addition to distemper and rabies, you should make sure that bordatella (kennel cough) is up to date. Any medicines should be carefully packaged with written instructions. Leave a cell phone number if you will have it with you, otherwise remember that you are paying for peace of mind. Most kennels allow you to bring your dog’s bedding and some toys, so pick the ones that your dog likes, but make sure they are machine-washable. Or donate some clothing that smells like you for your dog to snuggle up with. (Make sure it’s not emotionally valuable. It might get chewed up.)

One other word of advice: If you are planning on leaving your dog at a kennel during a holiday, book early. Paws Inn books six weeks ahead for every weekend all summer long, and some kennels have standing reservations for their best customers. When you find a kennel your dog likes, you’ll be surprised how happy he or she is when trotting in the door. Don’t expect long goodbyes in the office—you’ll be left with only the image of a wagging tail and the wistful knowledge that your dog is having fun without you!

Just Like Home Doggie Motel
Located just outside Watertown, about 45 minutes northwest of Milwaukee. (Transportation for your dog to the kennel is possible. Call for rates and availability.)
Call (414) 640-1885 or (920) 927-1922
email: JustLikeHomeDM@aol.com

Ker Mor
The kennel is located near Belgium, WI, about a ½ hour north of Milwaukee.
You can call the kennel directly at (920) 994-4523, or you can also make reservations (as well as drop off your dog) at their grooming shop, located at 10000 N. Port Washington Rd, Mequon. (262) 241-8575

Paws Inn
Located at S92 W19918 Henneberry Drive in Muskego, about ½ hour west of Milwaukee
Call (262) 971-0850, or visit them on the web at www.pawsinn.cc

Kim Johnson lives in Glendale with her husband, two children and two cats. She’s also bound by ethics and full disclosure: She is related by marriage to Nancy and Ernie Keirsey, the owners of Ker Mor Kennels.

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