When pet owners travel the comfort and care of their pets is always a key element of their planning. You need to know that your pet is going to be safe and well cared for so that you don’t have to be constantly worrying about them or worse, feel that you have to stay home to be with them. So it’s great to know what options are available to you when you go away, especially at a place like Walt Disney World that has always welcomed pets by providing them a place to stay.
I’ll be honest, when I became a pet owner in my adult life, I really didn’t know what I was getting in to. When I was younger my typical Long Island “bisected” and reworked family had 2 cats and 2 dogs. Looking back we went on plenty of trips, even if they were just weekend stays with my grandparents in Flushing. But I honestly have no idea what my parents did with the pets when we went away. It just happened and they were there when we got back – I presume neighbors checked in on them.
Cheryl and I have had two cats and one dog before getting our current dog, a Bichon Frise named Jasper. And we’ve learned quite a lot over the years as we’ve had to arrange their care while we’re away. No matter what we try to do, Jasper always tries to stow away with us, especially once he figures out that we’re going to Disney World… okay he pretty much assumes that if we’re leaving the house without him that that’s where we’re going. He wants to spend time at Disney World too, as any good DisneyDoggie would.
Very often, when we’re just going to spend a day in a at WDW we’ll set up Jasper in the office (a.k.a. “The Cave”), with water, toys, and his bed. Then we’ll monitor him throughout the day via webcam. We can even leave him watching Disney Channel using the TV card attached to my computer. Unlike cats who can more or less take care of themselves while you’re away for short periods of time, dogs are much more dependent. So being able to keep an eye on him like this helps to put our minds at ease.
Other times, when planning in advance, we’ve had Jasper spend the day in the old Epcot Kennel, or even stay there overnight. Of the four older Kennels, this was our favorite due to its convenience in terms of parking and access. When they were taken over by Best Friends, a boarding facility we had used for our last dog up in Massachusetts, we were very excited because they had always taken great care of our dog and even our cats. Price-wise, the old Kennels were a great value with prices on par with other Kennels. However smaller pets stayed in a 2’ x 3’ crate, and larger dogs could get 3’ x 4’ accommodations.
When not boarding at Disney World, Jasper stays at a local kennel. We do this not just because of the price, but because at this facility Jasper gets to stay in a dog run with 6’ of space inside and 6’ of space outside. It is a fantastic value, they are always willing to take in Jasper, and he has a fantastic time there. We can drop him off and pick him up on any day of the week except Sunday. Jasper loves staying there.
However, when Best Friends unveiled their new Pet facility at Walt Disney World, Jasper got very excited, put on his best puppy dog eyes, told me, “Hey daddyman I needz ta go see cousin Yeti ta work on mah roar.” We decided that his stay would have to coincide with a trip to WDW, and that meant the first weekend in October as I had a lot of friends coming down. I planned for this to be a one night indoor stay with grooming the next day. A little tip I learned is that the groom includes a six hour stay for that day. With pickup by noon for his resort stay, that meant 6pm, with a fee should we go past that time.
While it may work, walk-ups at Kennels, especially on holidays like July 4th are very risky. You should always try to book in advance this is definitely a space is limited issues. Getting to Disney World with your dog and not having a place for him to stay can really put the kibosh on your plans.
One additional thing you may want to consider when boarding your dog is food. Most kennels will feed their dogs a standard food offering. However you can always bring your own food for your dog to eat. I actually recommend this, dogs can often have stomach issues when they do a hard switch from one food to another. Looking back to an earlier article, the best way to pack the food for the stay is in baggies. I recommend labeling these by day and meal.
Booking his stay was very painless, because Jasper was already in their computer system as he’d already “done time” in the Epcot kennel. They reminded me to bring his shot records. Boarding facilities are generally looking for three vaccinations: Rabies, DHPP, and Bordetella aka “Kennel Cough”. Bordetella can be odd to deal with as some Kennels will require it be within the last 6 months, and others within the last 12. There were many outbreaks during the late 1990s, and it is still a huge concern to this day.
Admittedly, when I saw the prices for the new Kennel, I was a little put off by them as they are roughly twice what they were at the old Kennels in many cases. There are some perks that are now available that were not at the old Kennels including the addition of grooming and a large outdoor play area. A doggie day care facility is also available, which can provide fantastic socialization opportunities for your dog, but it is not available on weekends. During operating hours you can come to play with and/or walk your dog. They do also provide the same $2 DVC discount that the old Kennels did.
On checking in, the groomer, Olga, met with us to examine Jasper and to go over how we prefer for his hair to be cut. Generally, since Jasper is not a show dog, we get for him what is known as a “puppy cut”. The main reason is that with it he’ll carry a lot less hair which is much better for his well being in the warm Florida weather. She told me ahead of time exactly how short his hair would be. The groom includes one specialized service and we chose a nail trim, we also added in whitening shampoo – an all white dog is not the easiest to keep clean.
The price for the groom by itself is on par with that of the groomer we normally use. I plan to leverage that in the future as this means we can do one day grooming trips where Jasper gets a spa day and we get to go play. The groomer did a fantastic job considering she had to deal with a dog who’s coat had been purposely let go for about six weeks.
Checking Jasper in was otherwise uneventful, and afterward we were taken on a tour of the facility. Normally this is something I try to do before I ever bring my dog for a stay anywhere. However, as I had seen some great pics come out of the opening event for the new Kennel, I felt comfortable enough to take Jasper there. The indoor kennel where Jasper stayed contains two “rooms” each about 3’ x 4’ – he can move back and forth between the two rooms as he pleases. So while the price jumped, when the new Kennels opened the value of the stay increased as well. (note: we were restricted from taking pictures in a number of the rooms at the facility, so I do not have a picture of these accomodations)
Later on in the day we stopped by to see Jasper, and we had a great time playing and running with him. Behind the facility is a large, though not huge, play area that includes a few water features. There is also a walkway around the perimeter of the play area that is separately fenced where you can take your dog to stretch his legs and do his business. The walkway has two possible endings depending on if you choose to exit at the first checkpoint or continue along what the staff calls the “long trail”.
The next day after participating in the WDWFoodieFest, serving drinks at the TouringPlans.com Meetup at the Mexico Pavillion in World Showcase, and a staff dinner at La Hacienda de San Angel, we headed off to pick up Jasper. He was in fantastic spirits and you could tell he had a good time. The groomer had done a fantastic job, he looked great. My one big disappointment came while checking out. In the lobby there is a screensaver running of dogs who stay at the facility, but no matter how long I watched I never saw Jasper. Apparently, he hadn’t stayed long enough to be displayed on the screen. To me that seemed to be a petty rule.
The total cost of Jasper’s stay and groom was $103. This breaks down as follows:
|$32||1 Day Indoor Stay w/DVC Discount|
|$53||Grooming, Shampoo, Brush, Haircut, Nail Trim|
|$16||Late Groom Pickup|
Overall, while the stay was more expensive then if Jasper had stayed closer to home, considering that the groom was reasonably priced, the value was not terrible. It just isn’t great. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t use the facility again, especially for grooming as I indicated earlier. But I’m not rushing back either. Best Friends has a rate chart here.
What about you? Have you ever boarded your dog at Walt Disney World? How do you feel about the new Kennel? Have you tried it? Do you like it? Did your dog like it? To quote Jasper, “Hokey Woofkerinos!”