Kennels can be very dangerous places, or they can be dogie resorts. I am blessed to work at the latter. Many kennel dangers are due to bad management. However, many are a combination of the dog's personality and the owner's unwillingness to either prepare the dog for a major lifestyle change or to disclose issues in the dog's behavior.
The good news is, 99.9% percent of the problem can be avoided by considering the following kennel dangers:
The Danger: Your dog 'disappears' while staying at a kennel, either temporarily or permanently. My personal worst case scenario.
The Solution: Let the staff know that your dog likes to go 'walkabout', that he has a tendency to slip his leash, jump out of runs, dig out or dash out doors. Most kennels have an 'airlock' system, so that there are multiple doors for a dog to get through before he reaches freedom - be sure to check. You may need to request a floor to ceiling run on a cement floor. Kennels want you back, so they will work with you to prevent escape - this is their worst case scenario too.
If you know this is a major problem with your dog, ask the kennel if they have a 'disaster recovery plan' for locating your dog if security measures don't work.
The Danger: Your dog will literally be surrounded by other dogs. A dog that's aggressive with other dogs can injure themselves by trying to get through bars, by going after another dog being exercised, or by escaping to attack another animal. Little dogs have no fear of attaching larger dogs, who may take offense. Even through bars, a small dog can be injured if two dogs decided to go at it.
The Solution: Make sure the kennel staff know your dog is aggressive, so that can take steps to prevent your dog from being injured, as well preventing your dog from injuring another. Your dog can be more closely monitored and won't be given the opportunity to err.
FEAR OF STRANGERS
The Danger: Your dog may not get the attention he needs, or may be handled more roughly than if he accepted strangers. Feeding, cleaning cages and exercise are all dangerous for dog and kennel-maid alike, if your dog is fearful or aggressive.
The Solution: Introduce your dog to new people, under safe conditions. If the problem is severe, consult your vet or a trainer. Take the dog to meet the kennel staff prior to his visit. A training kennel may be your best option.
The Danger: Eating the wrong food or in the wrong quantity, especially in a stressful situation can cause major digestive upsets. A forbidden treat may cause problems. Missing medications or supplements can cause problems too. A messy kennel or a messy dog is just part of the job for a kennel maid, but it is much easier for you dog if a problem can be avoided.
The Solution: A kennel should only feed per your instructions - make sure they are willing so. Make sure to provide your dog's food of choice, in sufficient quantity for the stay. Bring sufficient medication too, with full instructions. If your dog has chronic digestive issues or tends to go 'off' his food when stressed, let the staff know.
The Problem: A dog who suffers separation anxiety may harm themselves by chewing on metal bars or 'digging' cement. They may howl or cry themselves in to a bad cough or a sore throat. I've even seen a dog develop laryngitis!
The Solution: If you know your dog suffers when left unattended, start working on the problem before you need to leave them at the kennel. Tell the staff that this may be an issue.
The Danger: Your dog may injure themselves trying to escape confinement, or injure themselves or kennel staff when being placed in a crate or run.
The Solution: Personally, I wouldn't leave my dog at a kennel that ONLY provided crates. Even for little dogs, a run is much better. But if a crate is your only option, make sure your dog is crate trained before (months before) they will be in the kennel.
The Danger: If the kennel doesn't know, they can't be proactive in dealing with a problem. Aggression, diet, medication and escapist tendencies must all be discussed with the kennel staff.
The Solution: A kennel is providing 24 hour care - they must know everything, pleasant and unpleasant. Even if your dog has issues, a good kennel will work with you to solve problems. Perhaps a training kennel - with a good trainer - will be the solution.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
The Danger: Picking a bad kennel with substandard facilities, or abusive or neglectful practices.
The Solution: Picking a GOOD kennel is THE BEST WAY to ensure your dog will be as safe and happy as possible!
Don't just pick a number out of the phone book. Talk to your vet. Get recommendations from friends. Visit the kennel, and if they won't allow you to tour the facilities, walk away.
During your tour, look at the condition of the 'residents'. Look at the condition of the runs. Use your nose - all kennels smell 'dogie', but not overly so. Check the feeding arrangements, especially if your dog has digestive problems. Talk to the staff and the management, but don't be put off (necessarily) by a lack of people skills. Many people who spend a lot of time with dogs, seem to prefer canine to humans, for some strange reason....
If possible, take your dog for a visit and see how they interact with the staff. Your dog will spot a dog lover faster than you will!
Kennels can be dangerous places for dog and human alike, but then, no place is 100% safe. Keep in mind what keeps your dog safe at home, and look for those qualities in a kennel. Fido or Fifi will enjoy their stay, and you will minimize your own separation anxiety....