How to Board a Dog

By: Sarah Hall Weaver


Photo by Kathryn, Cambridge

While your pooch may be an experienced jet setter, traveling with dogs in tow is not always an option. Many pet owners must resort to boarding dogs due to restrictive vacation destinations, work-related travel, family emergencies, or major home renovations—occasions when it’s simply in the dog’s best interest to board elsewhere temporarily.

When deciding where to board your dog for the first time, begin by researching local boarding facilities. Search online reviews or reach out to trusted friends who have boarded pets. In addition to private boarding kennels, many veterinary offices now offer dog boarding services. Having a trained medical staff on hand is a wonderful asset for dogs with health issues or daily medications. Narrow your options and contact kennels for more information on the following:

Pricing for Dog Boarding

Boarding facilities operate their businesses differently, including how they price a dog’s stay. You should receive a concise written contract and quote. Make sure you understand the checkout times. Missing pick-up by even a half hour may cost you an extra day’s fee.

Dog Vaccinations

Responsible boarding facilities require certain health and vaccination standards for all boarders. Nearly every kennel requires rabies and distemper vaccinations, but many require additional vaccines for bordetella (kennel cough), leptospirosis, parainfluenza, and parvo, as well as the use of flea and tick medication. Know which vaccinations are necessary but speak to your vet about optional preventatives that could benefit your dog.

Checking In on Your Dog

Thanks to modern technology, you can easily check in on your dog while he’s at a kennel. Ask about receiving updates from the staff: photos or written notes via email or text.

Dog Boarding Amenities

Different kennels offer different services. Know what services are guaranteed: how often food, water, and treats are dispensed, how often the staff walks your dog each day, how much playtime is allotted, etc. Some kennels, or “dog hotels,” offer spa-like amenities for an additional cost. These can include training, swimming, massage, grooming, baths, and more.

Facility/Site Visits

Most pet boarding companies happily welcome new customers to take a brief tour of their facility. This allows an inside glimpse into where your dog would stay and whether it is a good fit for your pet. There are several things to look for:

  • The building should not smell and all surfaces should be visibly clean. Scan the floors, walls, cages, yard, and food and water bowls. If you have concerns about cleanliness, do not hesitate to ask about the facility’s sanitation schedule and practices.
  • The kennels should be well lit, ventilated, and the temperature controlled.
  • Review the layout of the boarding area. Are there separate areas for dogs and cats, or for dogs of different sizes? Isolation spaces for dogs who are sick or not good with other animals? Are there indoor and outdoor runs? You know your pet—consider whether this space offers the environment he’ll need to be comfortable.
  • Take note of safety features throughout the facility. Is there access to other dogs? Are the kennels closed at the top? This is particularly important if your dog is a climber. Are the gates and doors equipped with sturdy latches and locks? Are the outdoor grounds equipped with proper precautions or leads? If your dog is a notorious escape artist—and many are—a site visit prior to drop-off is an excellent opportunity to identify potential problems.

Drop-Off

Plan ahead. Boarding facilities fill up quickly, particularly around the holidays. Ask about drop-off procedures and arrive early. Most professional kennels review the information you have provided to ensure a happy stay. Spare no detail about your dog—how he gets along with other animals, whether he pulls on his leash or chews his dog bed, etc.—this gives the staff important insight about your pet.

What to Bring When You Board Your Dog

Bring your dog his own food for the length of the stay. Some kennels offer standard food on site but an abrupt change in diet may upset your dog’s stomach. Pack your dog comforting items as well: a dog bed, a favorite toy, or, to soothe separation anxiety, an old sweatshirt or blanket that smells like home. Pheromone collars or wipes are also calming for dogs new to boarding.

Pick-Up

Plan to arrive early with time some to spare. The boarding facility will typically provide notes on how your dog behaved, ate, slept, and enjoyed himself. Once you’re home, monitor your dog’s health and behavior for 24 to 48 hours. Contact the kennel and your vet if anything seems off.

Owners may experience understandable guilt about overnight dog boarding, as it does require you to leave a precious family member in the hands of strangers. To alleviate your stress (and your dog’s) follow these simple measures of research and preparation. In time, the staff will become an extension of your family, and the boarding facility will be a comfortable home-away-from-home for your dog.

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