The down side to travel writing? Syrupy, brown puppy eyes.

River — a former military dog who didn’t have the right stuff — came to us when he was just two-years-old. He  arrived insanely strong, overjoyed to be in a house for the first time, and with serious separation anxiety. We waited a year before traveling without our boy. I thought a beautiful kennel situation with plenty of exercise would fit River’s needs versus leaving him at home with a pet sitter whom he’d wrestle to the floor, leave in the closet tied up, and skip out on in a heartbeat.

Finding the Best Kennel for your Fur-Kid

Trust me, when I say that picking an amazing kennel can make or break your trip, and can even potentially save your dog’s life.

Here’s what to look for when searching for a phenomenal kennel:


Make it your mission to ask dog park friends, your hair stylist, neighbors, your vet – everyone  – where they leave their dog when they travel. It’s like dating. I had to ask a lot of people for suggestions before I came close to finding something right for us. A five-star kennel to one dog-lover might be a lamo kennel to you. It goes without saying, don’t wait until the very last minute to find a great place for your animal.


Do an online search for kennels in your area and read as many reviews as possible. (Keep in mind that competitors are known to write fake reviews.)

When looking for a great kennel think about location. Often the best kennels for large dogs are in the sticks — not usually found in the middle of a city. I’m willing to drive an hour for an outstanding kennel experience for River.


Hop on’s forum and look under your state and city. Post a request for recommendations for awesome kennels. Ask everyone who responds to share why they think their kennel is so fantastic. (Again, their criteria might not be the same as yours.)


If you love your veterinarian, ask him or her for great kennel referrals. (I’m totally not a fan of vet kennels that are in the back of their offices and lined with cramped cages. The animals only get out to use the little dog’s room. Major yuk.) That said, my vet actually has a sizeable kennel on his property that is first-rate. So, you never know.


Once you find a kennel that you’d like to explore, note whether the kennel will allow you to “meet” their premises without an appointment. A truly fabulous kennel will not require that you set a specific appointment to see their place — they shouldn’t need to clean like banshees before you arrive.


Does the kennel you’re considering let the dogs play with other dogs? Some kennels — like mine in the stickes — think that this plan equals too much liability. Or, if the kennel doesn’t allow dogs to play with other dogs, can you request that the staff play with your dog? (Like mine does.) The closer kennel at my vet does allow the dogs to play together, but they temperament-test dogs before they’re allowed in with others. Temperament-testing is a great sign that the kennel wants friendly dogs on their premises.

Just to give you a ballpark amount on what I pay in Atlanta out in the middle of nowhere: the kennel charges $32 a night for a 22 foot indoor/outdoor run (which is enormous, most are smaller). The runs are also air-conditioned/heated and staff is on the premises 24/7.

I can add “a la carte” services to my bill like “super playtime”, $7 – and a nighttime “pupcream” dessert, $5. The kennel also offers brushing, baths, pedicures and so forth. I’ve never bought the beautifying treatments, but if I do I’ll schedule them on days when I won’t be picking River up so that he’ll receive extra attention from the staff while I’m gone.

Re: a la carte services. There was a time when I truly disliked this practice. I’d found a kennel that let the dogs have playtime together and kept the daily rate “all-inclusive.” All was well until I learned – from a staff member – that another dog had been bothering River a lot. I also arrived a couple of times during the afternoon playtime and the dogs weren’t in their yards. They were in their kennels – not playing at all. Being dishonest? Definite red flag.

The small kennel next to my vet’s office charges $47 a night. I know. It’s pricey, but built into the price is a bath, nail trim and anal expression for the dog. Plus they provide the food (which happens to be the super high quality we feed).


I’ve researched kennels in four states. Most don’t meet my requirements. Most kennels are warehousing dogs and aren’t tending to their physical (beyond food) and emotional needs.

With that in mind, maintain your standards and don’t settle for less.





Adventure more. Panic less. Travel writer wants to shout it from the rooftops every not discussed method for safer, saner family travel. Read me before you take off!

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