Kennel Worker

The Job and What's Involved

Kennel workers care for dogs and cats staying in boarding or quarantine kennels, either while their owners are on holiday, or because they are strays or waiting to be re-homed.

Some kennels have space for just a few animals, while others may have around one hundred at a time. Kennel workers' jobs may vary, but the main tasks are usually:

  • Grooming dogs and cats and keeping them clean.
  • Preparing food for dogs and cats.
  • Preparing any special diets.
  • Giving animals tablets or medicine if they need it.
  • Keeping kennels clean and hygienic, changing bedding, sweeping out and removing waste.
  • Exercising dogs by taking them for walks two or three times a day.
  • Making sure cats have facilities in their pens for exercise.
  • Handling and training dogs individually, where necessary, to make sure they are obedient and well-behaved.

Kennel workers may also show owners and prospective owners around and give advice on animal care.

Tools such as brushes, hoses or steam-cleaning machines are used to clean and sterilise the kennels.

There is also administration work to do. This includes taking telephone bookings, dealing with payments, keeping records of vaccinations, diets, medications and any specific needs or behavioural problems. Records may be kept manually or on computer.

Kennel workers liaise closely with kennel owners or managers, other colleagues and vets.

Kennel workers work around 40 hours a week, sometimes longer if required. They often start early, from around 7.30am, and work some weekends. Work is often organised on a rota basis with other staff to cover seven days a week and all the hours required. Part-time, seasonal and casual work is often available, as some kennels need extra help during holiday periods for example.

Much of the work is outdoors, in all weathers. Kennel areas can sometimes be quite cold, smelly and often noisy. The work involves regular dog walking and bending to clean out kennels.

The usual starting salary for a kennel worker is around £8,000. The RSPCA pays a minimum of £10,500 a year for its kennel workers (known as animal care assistants).

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are estimated to be around 3,500 kennel worker jobs throughout the UK. Kennel workers are employed by private kennels, charitable organisations like the RSPCA and Dogs Trust and assistance dog training organisations such as Dogs for the Disabled and Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. Privately-owned kennels include boarding, racing and breeding kennels. There are also some jobs with the armed forces who keep sniffer dogs or have dog display teams.

Competition is often strong for full-time jobs. Many kennels have part-time, seasonal and casual staff, and often volunteers.

Jobs may be advertised in local newspapers. The RSPCA website has a job vacancy section. Websites of some dog training and other independent organisations also give vacancy information.

Education and Training

There are no set academic qualifications to become a kennel worker, but some employers may prefer people with GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), especially maths or English. Real enthusiasm and interest in working with small animals are very important. Experience of working in kennels voluntarily or on work experience, or of owning a pet, is valuable.

Useful qualifications include:

  • BTEC First Certificate and First Diploma in Animal Care.
  • City & Guilds Advanced National Certificate in Animal Care.

Contact local colleges for information on the entry requirements for these courses.

The Animal Care College offers a wide range of training courses and qualifications, some of which are accredited by OCN (Open College Network). All courses are open learning packages, with a personal tutor and internet discussion pages for contact between students. Courses include:

Introduction to Canine Psychology Level 1

  • Intermediate Canine Psychology Level 2
  • Small Animal Care Certificate
  • National Small Animal Care Certificate Level 2
  • The Anatomy and Physiology of Cats and Dogs Level 2

Contact The Animal Care College for full information.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

On-the-job training is given to new kennel workers by the manager or other experienced staff.

First and national certificate and diploma courses usually last for a year. They include practical work and assessment as well as examinations.

The Animal Care College offers a series of Level 3 qualifications and diplomas for kennel workers wishing to develop their knowledge and skills. They also run advanced short courses including:

  • Advanced Care and Management
  • Advanced Nutrition for Dogs and Cats
  • Diploma in Advanced Canine and/or Feline Care

Kennel workers can work towards NVQ's/SVQ's on the job, as achieving these qualifications includes workplace assessment. NVQ's/SVQ's are available in Animal Care at Levels 1 to 3 and Animal Care and Management at Level 3. Contact your local agricultural or further education college for information.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A kennel worker should:

  • Know a lot about the care of small pets.
  • Be caring and patient.
  • Be reliable and able to act on their own initiative.
  • Be able to calm anxious and nervous animals.
  • Have stamina and fitness for physical tasks.
  • Be practical and prepared to deal with dirt and waste.
  • Have good communication skills.
  • Work well as part of a team.

Your Long Term Prospects

Promotion prospects may be limited in small kennels. There may sometimes be opportunities in larger ones to progress to kennel supervisor or manager.

Kennel workers wishing to develop their skills can work towards gaining relevant qualifications for animal training, breeding or RSPCA inspection work. Some kennel workers, with the necessary skills and experience, may open their own kennel business.

Get Further Information

The Animal Care College, Ascot House,
High Street, Ascot SL5 7HG
Tel: 01344 628269

Canine Partners, Mill Lane, Heyshott, Midhurst,
West Sussex GU29 0ED
Tel: 08456 580 480

Dogs for the Disabled, The Frances Hay Centre,
Blacklocks Hill, Banbury OX17 2BS
Tel: 0870 077 66 00

Dogs Trust, 17 Wakley Street, London EC1V 7RQ
Tel: 020 7837 0006

Guide Dogs for the Blind Association,
Hillfields, Reading Road, Burghfield Common,
Reading RG7 3YG
Tel: 0118 983 5555

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People,
The Grange, Wycombe Road, Saunderton,
Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire HP27 9NS
Tel: 01844 348100

Lantra, Sector Skills Council
for the Environmental and Land-Based Sector,
Lantra House, Stoneleigh Park, Coventry CV8 2LG
Tel: 024 7669 6996

RSPCA, Wilberforce Way,
Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex RH13 9RS
Tel: 0870 3335 999

Support Dogs, 21 Jessops Riverside,
Brightside Lane, Sheffield S92 2RX
Tel: 0870 609 3476

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