What to Know About the Different Dog Boarding Options
Boarding your dog is sometimes necessary when traveling to a vacation destination that isn’t dog-friendly or if you have a work-related travel obligation. While we never want to leave our dogs behind, boarding is a safe and viable option as long as you do your homework and ensure they’re in the most suitable type of boarding facility for their needs. If you have an upcoming trip and will be boarding your dog for the first time, you may have turned to Google for insight. At GeniusVets, we believe that pet care information should come from veterinarians and not the internet, especially with a topic such as boarding your precious pet. That’s why we’ve taken the top dog boarding FAQs, sent these questions to renowned veterinarians across the U.S., and compiled their replies to get you helpful information that you can trust.
While we've sourced all of the dog boarding information and recommendations below directly from leading veterinarians across the country, please make sure to seek out the advice of your own veterinarian or find a trusted vet near you using the GeniusVets Directory.
While there are many things to consider when boarding your dog, the most critical consideration is their individual needs. Some dogs require special attention for medical issues, while younger dogs might need an environment that offers a lot of socialization with other dogs. Dogs form a very close bond with their owners, and since it can be stressful when you need to leave them behind, placing them in an ideal environment for their needs is the best thing you can do for them.
There are a few different dog boarding options, each catering to a dog’s medical or social needs.
The different types of dog boarding options include:
Pet Sitter – If you have a trusted friend or family member, or a highly recommended pet sitter, it could be an option for someone to stay at your house with your dog or check on them a few times a day while you’re gone.
Boarding Facility – A boarding facility will offer your dog 24/7 care and interaction with other dogs. This is the best option for dogs prone to stress when you’re not with them, as they will receive extra attention and be distracted.
Veterinary Hospital – Some veterinary hospitals will also board dogs, most often due to medical issues requiring constant monitoring. If this happens to be your regular veterinarian, you can rest assured your dog will be comfortable since they’re familiar with the environment.
Your veterinarian will likely recommend a boarding facility with a veterinarian on hand or close by at all times, especially if your dog needs medical supervision. They’ll also strongly suggest the facility you’ve chosen is aware of any unique characteristics or ongoing medical issues, so they aren’t surprised by anything. Vaccines are also vital, so make sure your dog is up-to-date on the kennel cough vaccine and, ideally, the influenza vaccine.
Depending on the type of boarding facility, there are different ways your dog will get active social time with other dogs and humans. Your dog will receive plenty of exercise in play yards, and some boarding facilities will even take your dog on walks for some individual attention and active time. Some dogs may not like being around other dogs, which is essential to communicate. Hence, the facility avoids those situations for your dog and replaces that social time with human interaction.
What questions should I ask at the dog boarding facility or kennel?
There are several questions you should ask a potential boarding facility for the sake of your dog’s well-being and also to provide peace of mind that you’ve selected the best environment for them. After all, you want to enjoy your time away and not worry about your dog and if their needs are being met.
Questions to ask a boarding facility include:
“How much supervision will there be?”
Suppose boarded dogs are in an open environment to play with each other. In that case, you want to know that they’re supervised during those times to ensure everyone's getting along and playing appropriately. Many places also provide overnight supervision and care for your dogs where someone is present, but that's not always the case.
“What is your access to a veterinarian?”
As mentioned above, some boarding facilities have onsite veterinarians, and others might be a phone call away. Make sure there is quick access to medical attention either way.
“What are the vaccine requirements?”
Vaccine requirements for dogs may vary from one boarding facility to another, and some may be merely suggested instead of required. Still, they’re essential to ensure your dog doesn't pick up any illnesses while boarded. In a boarding facility with close quarters, it’s easy for things to spread, so make sure your dog is up-to-date on all core and any pertinent non-core vaccines for your dog’s lifestyle.
“What do I need to bring to the boarding facility for my dog?”
A boarding facility should provide you with a list of what they suggest you bring, such as their dog food, treats, bedding, and favorite toy. Also, be sure to note what they don’t allow.
“What will the daily routine look like for my dog?”
This should include social time, outdoor time, when your dog is alone, when they’re in a group, when they’re eating, and when they go to bed for the night.
“Are there extra services available while my dog is boarding?”
Some boarding facilities also offer grooming, swimming, and other services. You might want your dog to have a special spa day if they’re prone to stress when you’re away. And you'd be hard put to beat the convenience of picking up a dog that's been groomed while you were away!
Boarding at a veterinary hospital gives you the luxury of having the eyes of a veterinarian on your dog at all times, which is necessary for older dogs that have chronic medical conditions or require frequent medications. A veterinary hospital will ensure they get all their medications at the proper dosages and correct times. It's also an added benefit that your veterinarian already has a relationship with your dog and is familiar with their medical history.
Pet resorts or hotels offer an elevated boarding experience, with la carte-type options such as extended playtime or nature walks for your dog. It’s essential to know the type of play they may be getting while there. Is it with other dogs, and does that best fit your dog's personality? These are the things that are essential to ask, along with the vaccination requirements.
It's essential to let a boarding facility know of any medical or health concerns, as well as any medications, vitamins, supplements, or probiotics that need to be given. Behavioral issues are also critical to communicate, such as your dog’s temperament. If your dog doesn't do well in certain situations, like playing with other pets, that is vital information to share. Dietary concerns are also essential to pass along, especially any food sensitivities.
The most important things to bring are your dog’s medications and food to avoid an upset stomach, which they might be prone to if they're already stressed from being in an unfamiliar environment and away from you. A different food offered by the boarding facility can trigger or exacerbate gastrointestinal upset. Pack your dog's food in Ziplock bags with the correct portions for each feeding, so you can rest assured they're being fed appropriately.
It’s also important to make them as comfortable as possible during their stay, so bring any anti-stress toys or toys that your dog especially likes. You might also be able to bring a bed, blanket, and other comforts from home, but be sure to confirm that they’re allowed. Some boarding facilities don't want the liability of dogs having things in their kennels that could cause blockages or obstructions.
In addition to the information provided above, the American Kennel Club offers some great tips on selecting a boarding facility, including red flags to be aware of when choosing a facility. If you have further questions about boarding your dog, reach out to your veterinarian. If you don't have one yet, we can help you find a local veterinarian!