Search Menu

You’ve got your passport ready, hotel booked, and bags ready. Now, there’s just one thing left to do: find a kennel where your dog can have a vacation of their own while you’re away.

Choosing a trustworthy kennel is a multi-faceted process. It’s more than typing “dog boarding near me” and seeing what comes up. You’ll need to consider many factors to make a well-informed decision, on top of your dog’s temperament and the kennel’s reputation.

Don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to narrow down your search and find the right “home away from home” for your dog.

In Partnership with logo
Find Your Perfect Home white dog paw print
*Dog friendly rental filter applied to results

Organize Tours With Kennels in Advance

While some boarding dog services may seem more convenient than others, above all else, you want to find a kennel that prioritizes your dog’s comfort and well-being. There are many “green flags” and “red flags” that you should know during your search.

For example, a reputable, professional organization would have no problem letting you visit the dog runs, ask questions, and meet the employees. You should be allowed to see where meals are prepared, along with the space where the dogs play.

If you visit a kennel, and you’re not permitted to view the entire facility, turn tail. A well-run dog boarding service would be eager to show you everything, as it would have nothing to conceal. Be wary of kennels that don’t require immunization records, seem overbooked, or appear disinterested in your pet.

Bulldog on a leash sitting next to a couple.
Ron Chapple Stock via Getty Images

Inquire About the Kennel’s Daily Activities

A thriving boarding kennel is essentially a summer camp for dogs. Campers should have frequent playtimes, face-to-face contact with the staff, and interact regularly with other dogs (unless your dog prefers being alone). During their stay, dogs should be fed on a regular schedule with portions appropriate for their size and weight.

Some dog boarding facilities offer detailed daily itineraries, including:

  • Training exercises: Whether your dog is a puppy or needs to brush up on some skills, many kennels have staff to teach basic obedience skills, such as “sit” or “leave it.”
  • Playtime with hand-picked groups of dogs: To ensure dogs enjoy their stay and get adequate exercise, kennels organize play sessions where dogs are grouped based on compatibility, age, and energy levels.

After learning about a boarding service’s activities for dogs, ask yourself: “Would I want to stay here?” The answer could help determine whether a particular service is a good choice.

Bullmastiff puppies playing with toys in the grass.
©Sergey Lavrentev -

Ask About a Kennel’s Immunization Requirements

Many states require that for a dog kennel to legally operate, it must have proof of dogs’ vaccination records. This prevents outbreaks of life-threatening communicable diseases, such as parvovirus, rabies, and distemper — among other illnesses. Upon registering your dog, the boarding facility may ask for proof of basic annual vaccinations. In this same conversation, feel empowered to ask:

  • Is there a veterinarian on staff? If not, does the kennel work with local veterinary services in case of an emergency?
  • What measures does the kennel take to ensure the overall health of its dogs? Some sanitation practices may include regularly cleaning dogs’ crates, spraying down communal play areas, and quarantining dogs with concerning symptoms.

What to Expect When Picking Up Your Dog From a Test Run

Many kennels offer test runs. Some even require them. These trial periods assess many things, such as a dog’s temperament, ability to play with others, and whether they struggle with separation anxiety. While these tests determine whether your dog is well-suited to the facility, it’s also an opportunity to see if your dog will thrive while you’re away.

Some “green flags” that your dog has enjoyed their kennel staycation include:

  • They’re tired from a day filled with playtime and healthy interaction
  • They linger just a bit longer to say good-bye to a particular caregiver
  • You don’t see signs of distress, such as excessive panting, drooling, or a stiff body
  • They’re just as healthy as they were when you dropped them off, meaning they’re free of bruises, cuts, and scratches
  • Their paws are free from dried urine or feces

Upon returning, your dog should be happy to see you — not simply relieved. If they display signs of apprehension, or you otherwise aren’t sure whether your dog is suited to overnight kennel stays, you can continue your search.

Australian Shepherds (10-12 months old) running together.
©ksuksa -

Know the Difference Between Dog Boarding and Dog Sitting

You may feel uncomfortable about leaving your dog with a kennel or boarding service while you’re away. Luckily, there are many individual pet sitters who can come to your home and offer your dog the interaction and care they deserve. With this arrangement, you don’t have to drop off your dog at a kennel or worry about negative interactions with other dogs. Everything takes place right in the comfort of your home.

When finding a dog-sitter, you would ask many of the same questions you would a boarding service. You may inquire about a dog-sitter’s experience, comfort level, and ability to visit your home multiple times a day. If you’re going through an app (such as Rover or Wag!), you can assess a sitter’s reviews. Read the comments other clients have left behind and see if any capture the traits you’re looking for.

Frequently Asked Questions About Dog Boarding

It’s reasonable to have questions if you’re boarding a dog for the first time. These questions may include:

What Should You Bring When Dropping Off Your Dog?

Prior to dropping off your dog, the facility should explain what you should bring. These items may include your dog’s favorite toy, food, and a piece of clothing with your scent. If your dog snoozes in a bed, you may consider bringing that, too.

How Do Dogs Handle Being Boarded?

Every dog’s response to boarding differs. Some thrive from playtime with other dogs, new smells, and a temporary change of scenery. Others exhibit signs of stress and shy away from staff members and other dogs. During your trial run with a potential kennel, you can observe how your dog responds to boarding and determine whether it’s a good decision.

Australian Shepherd puppies playing with a flying disc together outdoors.
©Spring -

Can You Board a Dog with Health Conditions or Behavioral Concerns?

The short answer is that there are many boarding services that are well-equipped to accommodate a dog’s behavioral or health considerations. The longer answer is that while researching a particular service, you should discuss these matters with the staff upfront. Be transparent about issues regarding separation anxiety, resource-guarding, or illnesses requiring close monitoring.

How to Find a Dog Boarding Service or Sitter Near You

The good news is that you have many options for finding a reputable dog-sitting service in your area. You could start your search by asking friends, family, and neighbors about their experiences — whether good or bad. You may even call your dog’s veterinarian and ask if they work with or recommend any local dog boarding services.

It can be tough finding a kennel or pet-sitter who puts your dog’s comfort first. Yet, the sooner you start your search, the more options you could have available.
Get Your Free AKC eBook

Tips for Responsible Dog Owners

This e-book is a great resource for anyone who's considering dog ownership or already owns a dog. Download for tips on how to be the best dog owner you can be.
*Turn off pop-up blocker to download
*Turn off pop-up blocker to download