Are Kennels Bad for Dogs? The Pros and Cons

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Kennels are the traditional solution for pet owners to leave their doggies for extended periods of time.

However, the public perception of kennels is not fantastic. Many believe that kennels are abusive, dangerous places where dogs could become neglected. However, this is all dependent on the facilities that your kennel provides. 

Of course, a modern, more expensive kennel will often have great amenities; on the other hand, a smaller, lower-staffed kennel might cause bad dog behavior due to stress.

As a general rule, we acknowledge that there are several risks attached to kennels; therefore, we don’t recommend them unless the owners check out the boarding facility beforehand.

What is a Kennel?

Concrete Dog Kennels

A kennel is an establishment that takes care of dogs (or sometimes other animals) for an extended period of time. They can take your furry friend in overnight, or only for a day.

Kennels may be indoors or outdoors. They house many dogs in separate living facilities. So, each dog will get their own crate, but all of the crates will be interconnected.

They give your pup food, water, and exercise. Depending on the facility, some give your dog only the necessary bathroom breaks, whereas others will vigorously exercise them.

Certain kennels will offer extra amenities, like grooming, swimming, or administering medication, for an extra cost.

Do we recommend them?

So, should you put your furry friend in a kennel or not? Unfortunately, this is a very black-and-white answer that we can’t provide.

There is a multitude of risks associated with kennels, mainly cheaper ones. This includes contagious diseases, undue anxiety, and much more. Therefore, we don’t recommend kennels in general.

However, if you have had fantastic experiences with a certain kennel & love the amenities that they provide, there is no reason not to continue with them.

Traditional kennels typically do not offer these kinds of amenities. They usually only have the bare minimum; this lack of attention can be extremely distressing for our pups. Therefore, it’s crucial that you choose the right kennel & also consider alternative ideas to kennel boarding.

Reasons to avoid kennels

In selective focus of the Dermatitis disease on dog
  1. Spread of infectious disease
    Have you ever heard of a kennel cough outbreak? This is just one of the infectious diseases that plague kennels.

    Due to the close proximity of the dogs, contagious diseases such as rabies or parvovirus are easily spread through the animal population.

    Thus, even if your dog is perfectly healthy, he may be prone to catching one of these ailments in a kennel.

    Furthermore, your dog will be experiencing elevated stress due to the environmental change. This reduces their immunity & also makes them more prone to illness.

    Disease transmission is possible because all the dogs are just divided by a metal-wire wall. This wall still makes it possible for them to touch noses, share food and toys, and pass on air droplets.

    A reputable kennel will definitely screen for any health issues before taking you on as a customer, but others will simply take you on for your money. 
  1. Lack of individual attention
    Kennels often house many, many dogs at once. Furthermore, certain kennels tend to be severely understaffed. Therefore, the staff are spread thin and are only able to change out the food & water bowls.

    They rarely have time for individualized interactions. This can lead to your dog feeling extremely neglected, especially if they are already prone to separation anxiety.

    You might be able to pay extra for more interaction & playtime, but not everyone is able to do so. This is definitely something to consider when you are deciding if a kennel is the right choice for you.
  1. Gastrointestinal Issues
    This is especially relevant to older dogs who are more set in their routines, or dogs with sensitive tummies.

    If you send them to a boarding facility, they will have to eat the kennel food. For dogs with GI issues, suddenly changing their diet like this can cause problems like bloating, diarrhea, and vomiting.

    You can also check in with the kennel to see if you are able to provide your own food; they may even give you a discount if you do so!
  1. Limited bathroom breaks
    Since the kennel staff tend to be extremely busy, they might not be able to take your dog on a walk as often as you do. Plus, they would take your dog out at completely different times, which means that your dog completely loses his routine.

    This inconsistency is extremely confusing for your pooch and may lead to peeing inside the crate. On the other hand, your dog may hold onto their urine for very long periods of time, as they don’t want to dirty their living space. 

    This could lead to severe consequences such as urinary tract infections, urinary crystals, and kidney stones. Smaller dogs should be able to relieve themselves 5-8 times a day at least. Many kennels do not meet this requirement, unfortunately.

    You may be able to pay a fee for extra bathroom breaks, but this varies from kennel to kennel.
  1. Reduced outdoor time & exercise
    Dogs will likely be spending all of their time inside the kennel. Long term, this lack of exercise & human interaction could lead to unpredictable dog behavior, such as biting, jumping, and barking, due to increased energy levels. 

    Dogs can go “kennel-crazy” if they are left in kennels for too long. They exhibit behaviors such as chasing their tails, running in circles, and reduced appetite.

    This is all due to a complete lack of stimulation, in the form of playtime or toys. 
  1. Dirty Kennels
    Dirty boarding kennels are a sign of an ill-kept housing facility.

    The kennel environment should be completely hygienic; all surfaces must be cleaned multiple times throughout the day. In fact, reputable boarding kennels often temporarily remove the dogs from their kennels to ensure a very thorough cleaning.

    Ask the boarding kennel staff how they clean their cages, what cleaning solutions they use, and the frequency in which they disinfect all the surfaces. Keep in mind that dogs can be pretty gross creatures, so it’s essential to constantly clean a building filled with them!

    Unfortunately, many kennels do not follow these guidelines & leave their kennels unclean for many days.  
  1. Constant Socialization
    Boarding kennels provide basically non-stop social stimulation. Dogs are able to see other dogs, interact with them through the wire, and play with them (if your kennel has canine companion time).

    While this is great for certain dogs, it can be extremely over-stimulating for certain dogs that don’t like to make furry friends. A lot of dogs much prefer their alone time.

    The constant barking may cause your dog to become over-stimulated & traumatized. Look for quality dog kennels that have sound-proofed kennels if your pooch can’t stand other animals.
  1. Small Kennels
    One huge issue with kennels is a lack of size. There are many kennels that have shanty metal structures that they pass as kennels. It’s crucial for the boarding service you choose to invest in a high-quality kennel made of non-toxic, safe, materials. 

    The kennels should also have enough space for your dog to turn around, sit, and lay down. Your dog’s head shouldn’t be touching the roof of the kennel in any circumstances.

    Furthermore, the dog should be able to pace around comfortably in the kennel, to expend any extra energy.

Kennel Positives

Outdoor Dog Kennel made of wood

Of course, there are also many reasons to choose a reputable kennel. 

  1. Low cost
    Kennels are often the cheapest option available. While more modern kennels tend to be a bit more expensive, they are still cheaper than pet boarding or calling a 24/7 pet sitter.
  1. 24/7 monitoring
    If you decide to get a pet sitter or someone to just walk your dog a few times a day, this could mean that your dog is left unattended for a large chunk of the day.

    This could be really boring for young pups & this also means that you can’t administer medicines or check their health.

    In a kennel, someone will regularly check your pooch out, and they are also under 24/7 surveillance. Thus, it is also very hard for them to escape.
  1. No pup interaction
    If your pet is fine with hearing & seeing other dogs but doesn’t want to interact with them, then a kennel is a great option.

    Dogs get their own personal space which they don’t have to share with other animals.

How to choose a good kennel

Of course, it’s not necessary that these negative features are present in every kennel. High-quality kennels will ensure that all their pups have enough exercise, interaction, and free space.

Therefore, choosing a reputable kennel is very important.

Test it out

Put your dog in the kennel for a few days, as a trial stay. When you visit, look at how big the kennels seem & how loud the dogs are there.

Observe your dog’s behavior after this trial. Do they seem well-fed, well-rested, and happy? Or, do they exhibit stereotypical signs of trauma, such as pacing, urinating in the house, whining, or growling?

Moreover, is your dog excited to go back to the kennel, or do they dread it? If your pet is not looking forward to it, do not force them to go. This simply means that either the kennel facilities were subpar, or your dog’s personality is not suitable for a kennel environment. 

Use references

Look on the kennel’s website for real customer testimonials. Also, ask around in your pet parent community for any safe kennels. If a kennel is well-known in the community, they are typically reputable.

Look at the cleanliness

Two saint Bernard dogs in breeding kennel

As we’ve already discussed, the most important aspect of a kennel is its cleanliness. Look for any grime or build-up on the floor, especially in the corners of the kennel. 

Check out the water bowls; do they look like they have been changed out recently? Is there a strong smell throughout the kennel?

These questions will help you understand how often the kennel is cleaned & if the conditions are truly sanitary. 

Ask questions

When you are signing your dog up, don’t hesitate to ask tons of questions. Ask what kibble they use and if it’s possible to provide them with your own. Ask how often they sanitize their kennels. Ask how many walks the dogs get in a 12-hour period and if you can pay extra for walks or playtime. 

A reputable boarding kennel will have staff that can easily answer these questions. All staff must be knowledgeable about this information; if they aren’t, this points to a lousy kennel service.

Consider alternatives to kennels

a woman playing with dogs at Pet daycare

There are also many alternatives to kennels that you may try. 

The first is pet sitters. Pet sitting is a service where someone will enter your home & care for your dog while you are out of town or at work. This is a fantastic option because your dog will be able to eat his food in his own routine, and will also receive individualized playtime. 

Another option is pet boarding, which is more like a summer camp for dogs. Here, the dogs have loads of activities such as swimming and outdoor playtime scheduled into the day. This is the perfect choice for dogs who get bored easily & love to interact with other dogs.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, kennels definitely have a lot of risks attached to them. They can be a center for disease transmission and animal neglect. 

However, due to increasing legislation protecting the welfare of animals, you will typically find shelters that boast cutting-edge amenities & humane conditions. Kennels also have some positives, such as constant surveillance and a low cost!

Therefore, it’s crucial that you ask around, and test out your options to find the most suitable kennel option for you.

Overall, we wouldn’t recommend kennels as we believe that this sudden disruption of routine & lack of interaction is bad for dogs. However, each case is different & it’s important that you consider your pooch’s personality & lifestyle to make the most informed decision.

Meet our writer

Anoushka’s love for animals began with taking care of the cows & chickens on her family farm. As she grew older, this love transformed into a love for dogs. She volunteers in a dog shelter, so she is well-versed in the care and comfort of all breeds of dogs.

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