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Key Points
  • Finding a safe and comfortable boarding option for your dog takes careful research.
  • Visit the kennel or pet sitter with your dog first to see how they interact with them.
  • Safety is key, so look for secure, clean, chemical-free, and temperature-controlled spaces.

When you’re looking to board your dog, it’s important to find a situation that’s comfortable for both you and your dog. These days, there are more options than ever to choose from when leaving your dog in the care of others. In addition to boarding kennels, there are dog sitters who will board your dog in their home or your own.

A good place to start is by asking your veterinarian, groomer, dog-owning friends, or neighbors for the names of boarding kennels or dog sitters they recommend. It’s important to know the right questions to ask and the right things to look for when finding the right “home-away-from-home” boarding experience for your dog.

Dog Boarding Checklist

  • Contact the kennel or dog sitter well in advance of your trip to schedule a visit for you and your dog.
  • Do due diligence. If you’re looking at a commercial dog boarding kennel, find out if they are certified or members of a professional organization. If you’re interviewing an individual, find out how long the person has been dog sitting and how many repeat customers they’ve had. Also, check a few references.
  • Find out about immunization requirements. Many kennels will require a Bordetella shot, along with rabies, distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza. Are dogs also screened for fleas and ticks?
  • Keep an eye out for clean, secure, and sanitary conditions. There should be adequate, securely-fenced exercise areas and sleeping areas with comfortable non-slip surfaces. Are you welcome to visit all areas of the kennel or home that the dog will have access to? Are they secure and free of harmful chemicals?
  • Meet the caretakers and observe how they interact with your dog. How many dogs will they care for at one time? How much exercise do the dogs get, and how often are they taken out to eliminate? What type of animal care education and training does the provider have?
  • Take stock of provisions made for the comfort of boarders. This includes fresh drinking water, temperature control, ventilation, and shelter.
  • Find out what happens if your dog has any healthcare needs or emergencies requiring medication and/or veterinary services. Determine if the pet care provider is certified in pet first-aid.
  • Evaluate the staffing situation. Are there proper staff on the premises 24-hours-a-day? Is there an evacuation plan in case of an emergency?
  • Observe the handling of the dogs. Is any interaction allowed with other dogs? How well is this supervised?

Siberian Husky laying down in a kennel at a pet hotel.

Other Considerations When Boarding Your Dog

Quality is obviously key, but costs are also important when determining a boarding facility. Find out what the daily/nightly rates are, and whether this includes walks, individual attention, giving medications, and bathing. What form of payment do they take, and do you pay when you pick up your dog? What is the checkout time, and how much are you charged if you’re late? And what is the cancellation policy? Some places charge a penalty for late cancellations, which can be understandable if they’ve turned other bookings away.

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If your dog hasn’t been boarded before, consider a short overnight stay before an extended stay. Even an afternoon of doggie daycare can be a good test. This will help your dog get more comfortable with the experience and give the caretaker a better idea of your dog’s needs. It will also give you a chance to observe how your dog acts when you pick them up. Is your dog desperate to leave? Tired but happy? Stopping to say good-bye to the caretaker? Ask the caretaker for a detailed verbal report of how your dog reacted to the new environment.

When you drop off your dog for boarding, bring their food, health and veterinarian information, bed, and favorite toys. Be sure to leave up-to-date contact information, as well as an emergency contact. When you leave, be positive and upbeat. Keep the goodbyes short and sweet.

When you pick up your dog from the boarding kennel or dog watcher’s home, don’t feed or give them water for at least four hours after returning home. They will likely be excited, which can trigger food gulping, vomiting, and diarrhea. If they seem thirsty, provide a few ice cubes rather than water. Then, let your dog calm down and rest.

Often the hardest part of leaving town is trusting someone else to take care of your canine companion. Taking the time to find a boarding option you trust and one your dog enjoys will make all the difference in the end.
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