Boarding your dog for the first time is a difficult decision for many pet owners. After all, they’re ultimately our responsibility—and that can put a lot of pressure on you to do things right!
In this article, we’ll discuss everything there is to know about boarding your dog, from what to pack to how to choose the best boarding facility.
Table of Contents:
Is Boarding Your Dog Bad?
Every situation is different, but it’s generally not bad to board your dog. Many people feel guilt when they have to leave their pup, but there isn’t always a choice!
If you need to go out of town and cannot bring your pup with you, boarding can be the best option. Think about it this way: You’re being a responsible pet owner by leaving your fur baby with someone who will care for them while you can’t.
However, some dogs will have bad experiences being boarded. This comes down to your dog’s personality, age, and health, as well as the care provided by the facility.
It’s important to do your research before boarding your dog to ensure they’ll be well-cared for. Below, we’ll talk about how to choose the best facility.
Also, take your individual dog into consideration. For instance, if your dog has separation anxiety, boarding is going to be very hard on them. It might be better to invest in desensitizing them to spending time alone before going on vacation, unless your trip is unavoidable.
How Much Does it Cost to Board Your Dog
Costs to board your dog will vary depending on your location and which facility you choose. If your area has a high cost of living, be prepared to spend more on boarding than your average dog owner.
If your dog needs extra care, prices will also rise. The same goes for if you want them to receive quality care. When considering cheaper facilities, think about how much work they’ll really do for that price.
Many facilities have add-ons that your dog might need to be happy, such as receiving the right amount of exercise for their breed.
Some places charge more to host large dogs as well.
The average amount you can expect to pay is $30-50 a night, plus a daycare fee during the day of around $25.
You might choose a luxury facility instead, but you’ll have to increase your budget as these can go up to $80+ per day and over $90 a night.
Some facilities offer discounts to leave your pup for a whole week, so ask about this as well.
Alternatives to Boarding
Alternatives to boarding your dog include:
- Friends and family: If you have a trusted friend or family member who can care for your dog, this is almost always the best option. If they know your dog well, it’ll be an even easier transition for your pup.
This is also typically the cheapest option available, though not everyone’s lucky enough to have this kind of support system.
- Pet sitters: Pet sitters are the next step up when it comes to price. They typically charge a day rate and check in on your dog occasionally throughout. Some will stay overnight, while others won’t.
Pros to pet sitters are price, one-on-one time for your dog, and allowing your dog to stay in their own home. Cons include allowing a stranger in your home and them not being pre-vetted by a boarding facility.
- Travelling with your dog: Lastly, it may be an option to bring your dog with you on your trip. Accommodations might need to be made like staying at pet-friendly locations and driving instead of flying. However, it might be the best option for your dog.
Pros include having your dog by your side and knowing they’re cared for. Cons include having to make extra arrangements for your dog while travelling, and potentially having to bring you dog on a plane. I only recommend travelling with your dog if you can drive or bring them into the plane cabin with you, as there are too many instances of pets being killed in cargo.
How to Choose a Pet Boarding Service
Choosing the right boarding service is essential to ensure your dog is cared for. Here are some things to consider when deciding:
- Ensure the facility is properly licensed and certified.
- The staff is qualified for the job. They should be knowledgeable in administering first aid, caring for dogs, and reading body language. The last one is especially important if your dog will be interacting with others, as it’s vital that fights don’t break out!
- Look for a facility with around the clock veterinary access. If the worst happens, you want your dog to be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
- The place is clean, spacious, and the dogs are well-kept. Tour the facility yourself to see where your dog will be kept! Also, look for space for the dogs to run and play.
- There are cameras and you can check on your dog throughout the day. Transparency is key, and there’s little opportunity for mistreating your pup if the staff is being filmed—especially if you can see the footage yourself.
- They ask you questions, too. You should be asked about your dog’s needs and fill out paperwork so that the staff have all of their information on file, including medical history, dietary restrictions, and anything else they should be aware of when caring for them.
- The kennels are comfortable and always-accessible. Your dog should have their own space accessible at all times. It should be large enough for them to stand upright, turn around, and stretch out fully. Personally, I think more space is well worth paying for to keep your pup comfortable.
- Your dog won’t be in the kennel all day. That said, you don’t want your dog to be isolated or unable to exercise, play, and act like themselves!
- Think twice before allowing your dog to join play groups. Many daycare facilities don’t have staff that are properly trained to supervise dogs together, or might let so many play at once that there’s no way for a couple of people to keep the dogs under control.
Personally, I wouldn’t let my dog play in a large group of dogs—especially without me around. It’s asking for disaster, and all it takes is one dog not liking another for a fight to break out.
- Someone’s looking out for your dog’s health and safety. Dogs shouldn’t be tossed into large groups for play, especially unsupervised. Your dog should be monitored for stress and illness. If the facility is large, they’re more likely to cut corners to keep up with all of the dogs in their care.
- Check their reviews. It’s normal that not everyone will be happy with the service they receive, but look for red flags such as dogs coming home hurt or unhealthy, the facility lying about quality of care, or lack of grooming.
- Ask what they’ll do if things go wrong. What if your dog gets sick in their care? What if two dogs get into a tussle? What if there’s a fire in the building?
Responsible facilities and staff while have solid plans for any emergency. Run away from facilities that cannot answer basic safety questions.
You can also try booking your dog for just one night to test the facility before committing to them while you’re away. This can give you some assurance that they’ll care for your dog well.
Also consider the size of the facility. The less dogs they board at once, the more likely yours is to get the attention they need.
Of course, location and price are also factors to consider—though I recommend not letting distance or finances get in the way of ensuring your dog gets proper care! Remember, some boarding facilities may be cheap for a reason.
Preparing Your Dog for Boarding
Before your dog can be boarded without distress, they must be well-socialized and crate trained. Socialization includes being comfortable with new environments, people, and animals. A well-socialized dog is also used to being on their own.
If your dog has separation anxiety or is poorly socialized, please work on this before booking a vacation. If you absolutely have to leave them, for work or an emergency, find a facility or dog sitter who can handle your pup well. Not all of them will be prepared to deal with anxiety or poorly-socialized dogs.
Your dog must also be healthy and fully vaccinated to be boarded. Never board a dog with a contagious ailment, as you’ll get others’ dogs sick! If your dog doesn’t have all of their needed vaccines, they can get sick from other dogs—and it’s very likely the facility won’t even allow them in, as most have vaccine requirements.
Other Ways to Prepare Your Dog for Boarding
With all of the above aside, here’s how to prepare your dog for boarding in the moment:
- See your veterinarian first. A check-up to ensure your dog is healthy and fit to be boarded is a must! Also ensure they’re up to date on vaccines and parasite preventative.
- Ensure your dog is microchipped. Some facilities will remove collars, so having a microchip registered to yourself is vital in case anything happens.
- Commit to a trial at the facility. This allows you to test out the boarding facility, and also gives your dog a chance to get used to it before being left for an extended time.
- Get your dog used to sleeping alone. A couple of weeks in their crate at night before you leave will get them used to the experience, making it less stressful to sleep at the facility. If your dog is used to sleeping with you and is all of the sudden left alone in a strange place at night, they’ll likely struggle to adapt.
- Bring emergency contact information, veterinary records, and any medications with you. Make sure that the staff at the facility have all the information they need to care for your pup properly.
- Bring comfort items like your dog’s favorite toys, bedding, and an item that smells like you. Scent is important to dogs, and they’re more likely to be comfortable if they have things that remind them of home.
- Leave your dog in the morning. This gives them time to get used to the boarding facility before they go to sleep at night. They’re also more likely to associate it as a fun place if they’re getting attention during the day, rather than being left alone at night.
What to Bring When Boarding Your Dog
- Emergency contact numbers
- Any paperwork the facility requires, including vet records, vaccine certificates, etc.
- Identification tags on your dog’s collar and a microchip
- Soft comfort items like toys, bedding, or a t-shirt that smells like you
- Your dog’s medications
- Their collar, harness, and leash
- Enough food to last the entire stay, plus some extra just in case
- Toys and treats your dog likes
The facility may have many of these items, but it’s good for your dog to have things that remind them of home. Providing the facility with everything they need to care for your pup will also help staff to care for them well.
When it comes to food, you’ll want them to stay on a consistent diet since switching foods can give some dogs tummy issues. Your dog might also be stressed during boarding, and that’s not the time to make unnecessary dietary changes!
Health Considerations Before Boarding
Lastly, ensure your dog is up for boarding. Some things to consider include:
- How old is your dog? Puppies too young to be vaccinated shouldn’t be around other dogs, so boarding may not be an option for them. Senior dogs might also struggle with being boarded, especially if they’re not used to it or have health problems.
- Do they have separation anxiety? I suggest not boarding a dog with separation anxiety unless absolutely necessary. If you do, you’ll want to find a facility that can work with them so that the experience doesn’t worsen their anxiety.
- Do they have an illness that requires extra supervision or care? You might need to book at a small facility so your dog can get plenty of one-on-one time, ensure the staff are properly trained in handling your dog’s condition, or simply stay home to care for your pup.
Some health conditions can be made worse if your dog is stressed from boarding. Consider how serious your dog’s condition is before leaving them.
For instance, don’t leave a sick, senior dog who’s on end-of-life care at a boarding facility unless absolutely necessary. You risk them dying at the facility, rather than with you.
Also, think about the amount of care your dog needs and whether or not the staff can reasonably provide it. Your dog might need one-on-one care that they aren’t able to give, and might suffer from neglect when being boarded with overworked staff.
Overall, boarding your dog is sometimes the best thing you can do to ensure they’re cared for while you’re away. However, some dogs shouldn’t be boarded for their own sake or because they wouldn’t be safe to the dogs around them.
Before boarding your dog, ensure the boarding facility has all of the information and items on hand to care for them properly. Review your options thoroughly to choose the best place possible, and be sure to provide comfort items for your dog that smell like home!