Interview with Dale Ketcham
Dale Ketcham, owner of We Board Labs in Huntington, Long Island, NY, (https://www.weboardlabs.com/) has worked with dogs for many years including volunteering to raise dogs for the Guide Dog Foundation, and she was certified as a positive reinforcement trainer through PetSmart.
Nine years ago, she started her boarding business with an environment that offers guest dogs total freedom, inside and outside of her home, while being selective about the dogs she takes. She isn’t willing to give up her nice home with a yard and gardens, or being able to entertain her friends. She wants that for herself and that’s what impresses potential customers when they come to her facility for a tour. They don’t see sheets on the furniture, there are no crates, cages or clumsy baby gates – only well-behaved Labrador Retrievers of all ages and colors being treated royally.
Dale shares some awesome information about how you can advise your clients as to the best boarding situation for their dog and the not so great ones – after all, we all worry when we leave our dogs!
DTC: Trainers’ clients often ask them to suggest places to board their dogs or ask them what the best type of boarding is. Can you share some information on what to recommend.
Dale: First, you have to know your dog.
• What’s his normal day like?
• Is he people oriented or dog-oriented?
• Active or inactive?
• Easily stressed or eager to make friends?
Then look for the best match. The needs of a 10-month-old Labrador, a 3-year-old Jack Russell, and an 11-year-old St. Bernard are all different. So based on:
you ask yourself what type of environment would he be happiest in. Then educate yourself on what the options are:
• A kennel with a good reputation
• A pet sitter coming 3 times a day or staying overnight at the dog’s home
• A backyard business like mine that boards dogs
• A host family option that you’d find through several sites such as “Buddy’s Sleepovers” or “Dog Vacay.”
**Beware of the friend/relative/neighbor who offers to watch over your pooch. Even if they are dog lovers and owners, they come with hidden dangers. Don’t hand your dog over to anyone unless they are truly dog savvy**
DTC: The mantra of your business is “ideally you want them in a home environment, taken care of with the same love and attention you give them.” Do you have an opinion about boarding in vets’ offices or large commercial kennels?
Dale: What concerns me about vets’ boarding is:
• the size of the cage
• the number of hours they are in it
• the lack of social interaction
• the solitary walk outside only to relieve themselves
• no one there when the office is closed.
As for kennels:
• I like the ones who arrange for playtime, but really…20 minutes? Honestly, it can work for some dogs if they’re solid as a rock and very adaptable. Some dogs need a limited environment. They can’t handle too much freedom – it stresses them out.
• My biggest concern with standard kennels is that some dogs are very stressed there and others, that might normally not be stressed in that environment, take on the energy of the stressed dogs – the barking, the pacing, the nervousness. It’s upsetting to a balanced dog.
• Additionally at some facilities the dogs never see the light of day and are taken to a room with a pebble floor to relieve themselves. Holding it stresses their bladder and often they return home with housebreaking issues.
• On the other hand, they’re usually safe from harm, won’t escape, and are in a controlled (but loosely monitored) environment. They’ve passed inspections and have trained employees and standards, which can’t be said about someone’s house.
DTC: Are there any situations where you feel a dog should stay home, be taken care of by a pet sitter who comes three times a day, and possibly stays over night?
Dale: Normally I don’t suggest this unless you’re going away for a short amount a time, say a long weekend because the dog has to be emotionally okay with being left alone. But in the instance of a senior dog that sleeps most of the day, a dog with physical restrictions, an under-socialized dog or a dog with an unstable temperament – certainly.
Stay tuned for the Part 2 of the interview covering:
Super tips and suggestions for trainers thinking of boarding dogs including:
• How to incorporate your “holistic” beliefs into your boarding and do you need to insist on vaccinations and flea and tick preparations.
• How to get a dog acclimated to a pack of dogs in a home boarding situation and determine whether the dog will fit in
Dale has extended an invitation to visit her home facility. Send her an e-mail Dale@WeBoardLabs.com or call her 631-549-8263 and you’re welcome to a tour! Like Dale’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/WeBoardLabs to see fun videos of Labs
All rights reserved © Dog Trainers Connection and Dale Ketcham, We Board Labs, Huntington, NY.
Diane Murowany says
I enjoyed Dale’s article and I advise my clients the same way. I would rather see any dog boarded in a priate home or sat for at home by a Professional Pet Sitter. Her advice about families and friends is also spot on. However, as a Certified Professional Pet Sitter, I do not agree with the assessment of pets staying at home with a sitter. I have been in this business for many years and we have great success with our clients pups (and a variety of other pets). We allocate enough time to exercise (walk, play ball, do puzzles, etc.), they receive lots of love, pets, etc and they can stay in their own home. They are well cared for by professionals who are trained to deal with any situation and their home is protected as well. I do not want other pet professionals to sour clients on the ideas of and pet industry unless it deserves it. As a professional there are certainly dogs who I recommend should be boarded as they would go crazy at home with three or four sits a day. (Yes we do four sits also)
All Critters Sitting Service, LLC.
Dog Trainers Connection says
Thanks for your thoughtful comment Diane! It’s good to hear other professionals’ opinions for sure!