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Cageless Boarding: What You Need to Know!

Many dog-boarding facilities have begun using a “Cageless” style of boarding, and selling it as a benefit to you and your dog. The image conjures up one of dog’s playing and sleeping together in totally unity, and in complete peace. But we all know, dog’s are going to be dogs! Cageless boarding is a way a facility can charge you for a regular night’s boarding, without spending the money on providing safe shelter, or a “den” for your dog’s comfort. These facilities use a large room, some with beds, some without, lots of dogs, but no where for your dog to seek shelter, or privacy. At Dr. Boyd’s Pet Resort and Veterinary Center, we built our facility the right way, not the fast and inexpensive way. We spent well over $200,000 on bedrooms, lounges, and safety corridors…. and we still charge less than the majority of these cageless boarding facilities!

Here’s the proof: Have you ever noticed if your dog sleeps while facing the door, or sleeps with their back to a wall? When your dog is tired or wants to rest, does he or she go to his dog bed, doghouse, kennel, or crate, maybe a special place under a bush in the yard? Maybe your dog finds his/her special space in a dark place in your house, like a closet or under a desk? This is because instinctually, your dog is protecting itself. In nature, dogs are den animals and feel most comfortable within their “den.” This is because dogs are predators, and their most vulnerable positions are behind them.  In a den, or protected area where the dog’s back is not vulnerable to other predators, dogs feel their safest. Dens tend to have protection on multiple sides allowing the dogs to position themselves to face the only entrance. This, in turn, makes sleep or rest as safe as possible for their natural instincts.  Therefore, they seek out spaces where they are protected from the threat of other predators. This behavior is in their DNA and cannot be changed: they must be alert to predators, for their survival. When a dog is placed in an environment without a sufficient resting “den,” it creates a stressful, anxious environment, which can then lead to a negative boarding experience.

A misconception:

“Cageless boarding dogs play more than the other dogs”

At Dr. Boyd’s Pet Resort and Veterinary Center, the dogs are in their bedroom to sleep at 9pm, and wake up at 7am. At 7am, every morning of the year, we take them outside for a quick walk and to relieve themselves, and then its time for breakfast, in their bedrooms. At 8am, it’s time for play…for the rest of the day. The dogs are brought back to their bedrooms around 5pm for dinner, then at 6pm they are back at play for the last couple of hours. Not all dogs are on the same schedule; some owners prefer their dogs also get lunch, some dogs are hypoglycemic and need to eat every few hours, some don’t play well in groups and need individual play times, some may have health issues that allow them only to play with our handlers. The point is, not every dog has the same needs, but they all need their own space, their own place to sleep and to eat. It’s much safer that way. And remember your dog’s special places that they seek out for rest?… Their crate, doghouse, or kennel, or a dark corner to be alone? Those spaces are not available at a cageless boarding facility. For those of you who decide that cageless boarding is the best boarding option for you: Here are some important questions you need to ask first, if they cannot give you direct and straight forward answers, beware:

  1. Is there a limit to the number of dogs in one room?
  2. How many dog handlers will be attending to the dogs? (The SPCA recommends 1 dog handler for every 12 dogs.)
  3. The handler is awake the entire night in case anything were to happen, correct?
  4. What happens if there is a dogfight?
  5. If the dogs all eat together, what happens if the alpha dog pushes my dog away from his or her food?
  6. What happens if there is an injury?
  7. Who is responsible for the veterinarian bill if my dog was not the cause?
  8. Is there a veterinarian on staff for emergencies?
  9. What happens if 2 or 3 dogs are “ganging” up on my dog?
  10. What are the staff’s methods of control or corrections? Or is complete chaos accepted?
  11. When was your last major injury or death? (do not ask if they had one, but ask when the last incident took place)

We all love dogs, we all want them to be happy, and we should all want them to be the safest they can be.

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