'Dog Boarding Facilities on the Rise Across India'
Though kennels existed, the concept of home boarding or pet-sitting did not have much visibility. I always wanted to be sure that my dogs were safe and sound, while I wasn't around. I would look for a comfortable, trustworthy place and finally would zero down on some, but they left a lot to be desired for.
Indian pet industry has definitely grown over the years. There is a lot more awareness today than what it was earlier. A tremendous change and growth has been seen in pet keeping/rescue-adoption work/training workshops, online platforms for pet needs, veterinary services, grooming services, home boarding, championships, magazines subscription, media, pet-friendly vacation stay cottages, and many more. After all, a 20 percent growth every year is not a bad sign at all!
However, if there's one area where there's a lot of opportunity for growth, is in the kennel/pet-sitting and home boarding category. The question of, 'where do I leave my dog is a worry that plagues all pet parents'. And that's when pet boarding and kennels play an important role.
Pet Culture in India on Boom
Since keeping a pet has been an age-old culture in the US and Europe, there are adequate number of in-house boarding, pet-sitters, and kennels along with institutes offering certification programs on kennel management and pet-sitting.
Pet culture in India is a relatively new phenomenon. While the scope of finding a good in-house boarding facility or a kennel is still manageable in metros, but is definitely a challenge when it comes to tier 2 and tier 3 cities. The dog is either left at a relatives' place, or the pet is left at the hands of inexperienced friends or neighbours. Basically rendering the dog at the mercy of known or unknown people who have no idea how to take care of them!
Dog boarding facilities have definitely increased in the last few years across India, against what it used be few years back. The idea of boarding has been there for some time and has begun to take off with more facilities coming up, as pet owners have multiplied over the past 3-4 years.
As the number of pet owners has grown across the world, there has been a change in relationship of pets with their owners too. Pets are considered to be members of the family, and pet owners would always prefer to send them to a boarding, which gives them a homely cage less environment instead of a restricted caged environment.
Pet Kennels vs Home Boarding
If I had to take a decision on where to leave my pet; an in-house boarding or a kennel, I will close my eyes and prefer the former always. Kennels are good in their own ways, but the popularity of in-house dog boarding has increased over the time.
Running a boarding facility is a responsibility, and being just a dog lover isn't enough. In a cage free place, a dog would always have complete access to every corner of the house while in kennels, it's just the opposite. Most kennels operate in unhygienic conditions, and dogs might suffer from kennel cough and other serious ailments.
As far as petting or showering love is concerned, kennels doesn't provide much (pet parent's opinion). In most of the kennel stay cases, behavioural changes have been obeserved in dogs. Kennels are so stressful that dogs take time to come back to their normal self. Pet owners should choose wisely while opting for a kennel or home boarding.
Getting a Tail-Wagging Experience
I ensure that there is an in-house screening process on the basis of the training level, socialisation skills, behavioural pattern, food habits and medical history of a dog, once the parent/dog meeting is scheduled at 'Tail Magic', the pet boarding house that I own.
Becoming a trusted host requires a commitment to creating a safe and fun environment for the guests (read dogs) and so, we need to closely monitor/supervise several areas such as food, bed, toys territory, etc., which are closer to pets.
Last minute decisions by pet parents can be chaotic. One must research early about the sitter, depending on the location, profile of the host, the price, and the type of house facility, which can be done by grabbing references post queries via social media, search engines, friends, and most importantly dog communities, etc.
Searching early gives you enough time to look for more referred options, and a chance to zero down to few best suitable hosts for your four-legged friend, thus giving ample time to the host for profiling the dog as well.
There is a saying 'never hide anything from your doctor and partner', like ways, one should always cooperate with the host and be honest regarding any habit of the pet. It's very important to reveal any aspect, which is alarming or anything that needs immediate attention from training/medical/behavioural point of view.
A boarding facility with no screening process and greet/trial stays should be avoided.
What to Look for in a Pet-Sitter
The host should be a qualified/certified person affiliated to a reputed canine institute or has been associated or worked with somebody who has had a plethora of canine experience, and believes in positive dog handling methodology.
Make sure that the boarding house has enough space. How will the host engage the owner, while he/she is away has always been a talking point! Thanks to technology, pet owners are in the loop via video files, messages, phone call, video conferencing and pictures. Host should be able to give inputs and guidance on anything, which needs to be worked on.
Pricing is definitely an important factor. Home boarding are usually not that expensive, and can vary from Rs 500-800 per day or more depending on the size, food habits and medical condition of dog, or if there are any special needs.
Boarding facilities must have security gates/boundaries to avoid dogs running away. There should be evacuation plans in case of any natural disasters.
It is important to keep a tab on by the host who takes charge of the supervision part, hygiene/cleanliness conditions, documentation of boarding agreements, customisation of food (when required), medical back-ups, etc. It is also necessary that the host has a vehicle ready 24/7 for medical emergencies; location of the boarding ideally shouldn't be out of the town or away from the city.
Ins & Outs of Pet-Sitters
It is absolutely important to know the ins and outs of the service provider, who must know the same on what he owns or runs. This helps the host to take the right guest dog in, and helps the pet parent to choose the right service provider.
"India's need for such facilities is huge and I see a great scope in terms of pet-sitting/and home boarding for pets in the coming months and years."
It's an added advantage if a host owns dogs or is a pet parent, as it becomes easier to develop an instant connect. People such as Pranita Balar (Bark N Bond, Mumbai); Meera Thosar (Happy Tails, Pune), Sanam and Suraj Karunakar (Perfect Pooch, Mumbai) have done a remarkable job in pet-sitting.
The host should be well versed with pet care and realise that 'being a dog lover' and 'understanding a dog' are as different as night and day. We need to keep in mind that what works for one dog might be a disaster for another.
Some relationships you end up cherishing beyond your professional world, and I am one lucky person to have made several friends from my list of pet parents, who are always enthusiastic to interact as there's so much to discuss and share about our lovely pooches.