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What Should A Professional Kennel Look and Smell Like?

The idea of boarding your dog can be difficult — especially if they’ve got a bit of separation anxiety.

But boarding your pooch at a professional kennel with high standards can help ease your dog’s sense of anxiety — and provide the flexibility you need to get away without worry.

The challenge is to find a professional kennel that you can be sure of. After all, you’re leaving a family member in someone else’s care. You don’t want to trust just anyone!

In this guide, we’ll tell give you the framework and knowledge you need to assess a professional kennel and find the one that’s best for your dog. But first, why would you even need a kennel to begin with?

Why You May Need A Professional Kennel

If you’re heading out for a day-trip or leaving for 24 to 48 hours, asking a friend to watch over your dog or to pet-sit is not a bad idea. It can be comforting for your pet to be in the company and care of someone familiar and friendly.

However, if you’re leaving on vacation for longer than a day or two, you’ll need to consider a professional boarding space or kennel to minimize inconvenience and stress on both your pet and your personal relationships.

Professional kennels are an essential aspect of a dog’s quality of life because the right kennel can help them feel safe and yet be open to change. Furthermore, there are several services a professional kennel can provide that a neighbor watching over your pup might not. These include grooming, bathing, and the perks of interacting with other dogs.

It’s also a great way to keep your dog from experiencing separation anxiety, which can be bad for your pet and your home.

Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Dogs infograph

Image Source

As long as the indoor and outdoor spaces of a kennel are high-quality, and there’s a team ready to handle all boarded dogs, professional kennels can be a great strategy to wean your dog off the anxiety train.

What a Professional Kennel Should Look Like

The best way to choose a professional kennel with discernment is to schedule a tour. When you enter, you’ll likely already have some sense of the quality of care and cleanliness. Refer to our simple list of expectations on your tour and make sure to take your dog so you can judge his response to the kennel as well.

1) Homey and Comfortable

Whether it’s a building or a home, a professional kennel shouldn’t be utterly industrial in look and feel. Any addresses with a “warehouse” style configuration are not a good idea. Instead, it should look and feel like a home with tile floors, painted walls, pictures, and raised beds. There can be a television or radio going as well.

2) Clean and Spotless

This has to be the number one requirement: floors should be spotless, there shouldn’t be any built-up hair, dirt, bits of food, and, of course, no animal waste. Cleanliness also means smell — but only some smells are indicators of poor quality.

3) Dog-Friendly Flooring

Floor drains and slightly sloped floors tell you that this professional kennel is built to accommodate canines specifically. Sometimes, bathroom accidents are inevitable, and these sloped floors with drains help staff clean more efficiently. Hardwood or laminate is not a practical solution for a high-quality doggie daycare space.

4) Fresh Water

There should be lots of fresh water around the kennel, placed in various bowls or automatic water dispensers so dogs can hydrate themselves on the go. There shouldn’t be any soaked food bits around the area or in the bowls because that means the water isn’t fresh.

5) Provisions and Pens

Concrete pads are not a good idea for dogs. Instead, there should be plenty of resting boards and comfortable bedding. There should also be plenty of land and open space, with outdoor pens for dogs to run and play. Keeping too many dogs cooped up in a small space leads to aggressive and dangerous behavior.

6) Staff Members

Survey the level of care and diligence staff members display towards their tasks, their interactions with the dogs, and each other. There should be a can-do attitude and a positive team spirit between staff members. Ask them questions you may already know the answers to about handling or caring for dogs, as this will tell you more about how knowledgeable the staff is or how qualified they are to take charge of your dog.

Also, take note of the ratio of the number of staff to dogs. For all their love and affection, dogs are still powerful creatures who can quickly overtake their human companions. Make sure there are more than enough staff to pay attention to the dogs as well as perform their duties.

7) Heating and Cooling

As part of the structure, there should be central heating and air system with a system of backup generators in case of a power failure.

8) Equipment

Both indoor and outdoor areas should have plenty of toys, stuffed animals, bones, and play equipment for dogs.

Pro-tip: If you can, ask for some references of current pet owners who use the professional kennel and find out what they have to say. It’s also a good way to see if the kennel is proud of their business methods. At the very least, they should be willing to give you testimonials or connect you with owners who will give reviews.

What a Professional Kennel Should Smell Like

Part of your assessment will also be the smell. Some dog smells are natural and inevitable, but the odor levels deserve their evaluation because the presence of particular smells says a lot about the cleanliness, efficiency, care, and quality of the team.

Do as your dog would do and perform a “sniff test” while you’re there. Professional kennels don’t need to smell like a bouquet at all times, but they shouldn’t smell like excrement either.

1) Dog Smells

Think about your home: iIt takes a lot of work to keep it smelling pet-free. Fresh-smelling kennels demand even more work but it should be clear from your tour that the staff is making a consistent effort to keep areas smelling clean. You can make an exception on a rainy day, for example, but most of your tour should be odor-free.

2) Cleaning Smells

If the staff members are going to be constantly cleaning, they should use products like OdorPet, which have a cherry or lavender scent. There shouldn’t be excessive chlorine or bleach smells hovering in the air.

3) Ventilation

The best way for professional kennels to mostly rid their indoor spaces of odors is to make good use of their built-in air systems. There should be plenty of ventilation that moves fresh air from the outside in through the kennel.

4) Doors and Windows

Natural ventilation includes doors and windows. High-quality kennels have thought about their canine residents’ needs in advance so they’ll have plenty of doggie doors open.

5) Your Dog After Pick-up

Whether or not your dog will smell is hard to assess until after pick-up. If the kennel allows, you may be able to leave your dog there are a “test” for a few hours. When he gets home, he shouldn’t smell any different than he usually does.

However, weather conditions and outdoor exercise play a role. So if he comes home smelling as he does when he goes out to play in the rain or runs around in the sun for hours, then that’s okay. It’s a good thing because it means he’s active. However, he shouldn’t smell like urine or feces.

Four Tips For A Happy Trip

Whether it’s you or your pet who has separation anxiety, you both need to spend some time acclimating to the idea of boarding at a professional kennel.

Here are four handy tips for your pleasant trip:

  • Work on coping mechanisms before leaving your pet at a professional kennel. You can begin this work by leaving your dog alone for short periods, no more than 10-15 minutes at first. Gradually increase this to 25-30 minutes.
  • Pack the right toys and treats. Your dog will respond better to a new environment with his familiar belongings.
  • Make a list of behavioral or medical issues for staff. All professional kennels should be willing and able to administer medication if you need. You should also bring along a list of training and obedience commands he can follow.
  • Bring his crate along. If your dog is crate-trained, bring it for his first visit. Leave a shirt or sock that smells like you inside, so he’s comforted when he retreats into his safe space.

You can also use natural, over-the-counter calming sprays on a piece of bedding that will naturally lower your dog’s panic/stress levels for the first few hours of his stay.

Everything that you can do from your side to prepare your pooch for some time away is now complete. Your next steps should be to survey several kennels, doggie daycares, or boarding centers in your area and evaluate them according to a set of non-negotiable standards.

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About the Author


Tom Massey

Tom Massey has owned and operated Snowy Pines Labradors for over a decade. They have become the leaders in English Labradors in the US. He and his team serve customers all over the US and Europe. They house their "dog family" in a state of the art facility on a large farm in the Ozark Mountains. With an obsession for genetics and temperament they raise and train dogs known across the globe for health and personality. Tom serves the pet industry in many forms campaigning for ethical breeding, training, and pet ownership.


Calm Tempered, AKC Purebred, and Certified Genetics.