A Complete Guide to Choosing the Right Boarding Kennel for Your Dog

A Complete Guide to Choosing the Right Boarding Kennel for Your Dog
A Complete Guide to Choosing the Right Boarding Kennel for Your Dog
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Boarding your dog at a kennel is a great option for pet owners who need to leave their pup for a few days or even weeks. But is it the right choice for your dog? This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about boarding kennels – from how to choose the right one to tips for helping your dog settle in comfortably. Read on to learn why boarding may be a good idea for some dogs and how to make sure your pooch has the happiest time possible while you’re away.

Why Consider Boarding Your Dog?

Leaving your dog behind shouldn’t feel like a chore – it should give you confidence that your pup is getting quality care. Kennels are staffed by professionals who make it their mission to keep dogs safe, entertained, and as comfortable as possible while owners are away.

There are many reasons pet owners decide to leave their dogs at boarding kennels:

  • Traveling without your dog: If you’re going on a trip or vacation where you can’t bring your pup along, a boarding kennel ensures your dog is housed, fed, and cared for in your absence. This is often a better choice than burdening a friend or family member with full-time pet duties.
  • You’re too busy to give proper care: If you’re swamped at work or dealing with family matters, it can be challenging to give your dog the proper time and attention. Rather than neglecting exercise and affection, a kennel provides full care.
  • Your dog needs socialization: Some dogs benefit from playtime with other dogs and the stimulation of a new place. Sheltered pups and only dogs can get “bored” at home alone all day.

The bottom line? Kennels are staffed by caring professionals who make your dog’s stay as happy as possible. Boarding your pup lets you travel or focus on other priorities without worry.

Things to Consider Before Boarding Your Dog

While boarding kennels provide excellent care, they aren’t the ideal choice for every pooch. Before leaving your dog, it’s important to consider:

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Separation Anxiety

Dogs with severe separation anxiety may become extremely stressed when you leave. They could lose their appetite or even injure themselves trying to escape. Boarding may do more harm than good for these dogs.

Health Risks

Boarding facilities can expose your dog to illnesses like kennel cough (from other dogs). Make sure your pup’s vaccines are up to date prior to check-in.

Age and Temperament

Puppies, senior dogs, and those with special needs often require personalized care. Make sure a kennel can cater to your dog’s age, activity levels, and health issues before committing.

The boarding experience really depends on your individual dog’s personality and needs. While many dogs enjoy playing with new friends, others become stressed around lots of activity and strangers.

Questions to Ask the Kennel

Once you’ve decided boarding may be suitable for your dog, the next step is choosing the right kennel. You’ll want to thoroughly vet any facility before committing. Important questions to ask:

  • What are the staff’s qualifications? Look for licensed kennels whose staff have pet first aid/CPR training. Medical staff should be on-call.
  • Do they require proof of vaccinations? Reputable kennels require all dogs to be vaccinated for rabies, distemper, and bordetella (kennel cough). This keeps illness risks lower.
  • What size are the kennels and play areas? Make sure your dog will have ample indoor/outdoor space. Check if playgroups are size/temperament matched.
  • How many staff are present at all times? More staff means better supervision and individualized attention for your dog.
  • What is their cleaning protocol? Look for thorough daily cleaning of all areas to prevent illness. Kennels should also sanitize bedding between dogs.

Don’t be afraid to dig into every aspect of care. A quality kennel will be happy to address your questions and put your mind at ease.

Choose the Right Kennel for Your Dog

Narrow down your options by taking the following into account:

Look at Reviews and Get References

Don’t just rely on a website’s promotional photos. Talk to past clients and read reviews on Google/Yelp to get candid feedback on the kennel’s pros/cons. Follow up on any red flags.

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Make Sure It’s Clean, Secure, and Comfortable

Do an in-person visit before committing. The facility should be clean, temperature-controlled, secure, and have inviting indoor/outdoor areas for play and rest.

Meet the Staff and Check for Any Red Flags

Observe how staff interact with the dogs in their care. Look for calm assertiveness, enthusiasm, and gentleness. Beware of any rough handling or short tempers.

Trust your gut. If something feels off about the facility or staff, your dog will likely pick up on that same vibe. Keep looking until you find a boarding kennel that meets your standards.

Help Your Dog Adjust to Boarding

Dropping your pup off for the first kennel stay can be tough. Here are tips to smooth the transition:

Take Them for Short Visits First

Let your dog get familiar with the kennel environment before staying overnight. Try hourly visits to build comfort.

Bring Familiar Toys and Bedding

Pack favorite chew toys, treats, and blankets with home scents. This helps it feel more like home.

Keep Goodbyes Brief and Upbeat

A long, emotional goodbye will only amplify separation anxiety. Be matter-of-fact and happy when departing.

Tell Staff About Your Dog’s Quirks

Fill staff in on your dog’s schedule, habits, anxieties – anything that will help them provide personalized care.

Check on Your Dog

Many kennels let you call to check on your pup or even view live webcam footage of the play areas during the day. Ask about options to ease your mind.

With the right introduction, most dogs learn to enjoy their boarding experience. It takes time to adjust, but socialization and stimulation are beneficial.

Tips for Pick-Up Day

After an exciting stay with playmates, pick-up day needs to be a gentle transition. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Have identification ready – Most kennels scan ID barcodes and verify info at checkout.
  • Check your dog over – Scan for any injuries, hot spots, or symptoms of illness before heading home. Inform staff right away about any issues.
  • Keep homecoming low-key at first – Limit excitement and guests at home to avoid overstimulation. Stick to their normal routine.
  • Give payment/tips – Settle your bill and offer staff tips if they provide exceptional care.
  • Grab their leftovers – Don’t forget to take home their extra food, meds, or other belongings.
  • Share feedback – Let the manager know how your dog’s stay went. Your constructive feedback helps them improve.
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With some patience, your dog will be back to their happy, well-adjusted self in no time. Some initial clinginess or acting out is normal. Be consistent and stay positive!

Is Doggy Daycare an Alternative?

If boarding overnight isn’t quite right for your pup, consider daycare instead. Many kennels offer daycare options:


  • Socialization and play while you’re at work
  • Cared for by staff vs. alone all-day
  • Fun group activities and naps


  • Less supervision than boarding
  • Requires daily drop-off/pickup
  • No overnight care provided

Doggy daycare can be a great compromise if your schedule doesn’t allow full-time care but your dog needs companionship. Social time is beneficial without the overnight separation.

Ask kennels about their daycare packages. Many offer bulk discounts when you purchase multiple days in advance.

Dog Home Boarding

Another option besides traditional kennel boarding is dog home boarding. This is when you entrust your dog to an individual who cares for them in their own home while you are away. Some pros of home boarding are that the environment is often calmer and more home-like, and your dog may receive more personalized attention. The dog sitter can also follow your exact care instructions and keep you updated with photos, videos, or daily reports.

However, there are also some cons to consider. Make sure any home boarder is properly insured, licensed, and has excellent references, as you are entrusting them with your pet in their private residence. Meet any potential sitter in person to get a sense of their abilities before committing. If you’re looking to avoid the costs of a sitter, you might explore networks like WoofConnect which offer complimentary boarding services.

The Bottom Line

Boarding kennels provide an invaluable service to pet owners. When chosen carefully, they can give your dog all the care, socialization, and supervision they need while you’re away. Look for clean facilities, attentive staff, and ample room to play.

For anxious or high-needs dogs, test runs are recommended so they can become comfortable with the new environment. To make the transition smoother, provide familiar items from home and keep goodbyes upbeat yet brief.

With the right boarding facility, you can travel without worry knowing your furry friend is in good hands. Do your due diligence in selecting a quality kennel, and you and your pup will both have peace of mind.

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