How to Kennel Board Your Dog

Puppy in blue kennel, boy playing with him.

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At some point, you will probably need to leave your dog behind while you travel. Though it is not easy to leave your pet, you want to be sure your dog has a safe, comfortable place to stay while you are gone. Depending on your situation, you could have a dog sitter come to your house or send your dog to a kennel to be boarded.

Before You Begin

If you are considering boarding your dog at a kennel, ask your friends and your veterinarian for recommendations. Then, call several boarding kennels to learn more. There are some basic questions dog owners commonly have about boarding. Be sure to ask the facility these questions before you make a boarding reservation for your dog.

What You Need

Depending on the kennel, you may be asked to bring certain things to make your dog's stay more comfortable, including:

  • Dog bed or crate
  • Familiar toys
  • Food
  • Medical records and emergency contact information

Where Will My Dog Stay?

It is important to know what your dog’s temporary living space will be like. Ask for a tour of the facility to ensure that the environment is neat, organized, and odor-free. Consider the cages or runs. While it might be fine for a crate-trained dog, boarding in a cage can cause anxiety for a dog not accustomed to it. Plus, older dogs with arthritis need more room to move around. If you don’t like the idea of your dog staying in a small cage the whole time, look for a boarding facility that offers upscale boarding. These "pet hotels" often have small rooms with dog beds and toys, giving it the feel of a home environment. This might be the best option for boarding a dog that was not crate trained.

How Often Will My Dog Be Walked?

Some boarding facilities only let dogs out twice a day for a few minutes at a time. If this is something your dog is used to, then it might not be a problem. If you want your dog to get a bit more exercise you should look for a place that is able to walk your dog three or more times daily. Ask if they have a fenced-in area where your dog can roam a bit. If not, find out if the attendants are able to walk dogs around for several minutes rather than just letting them relieve themselves quickly and go back in the cage.

What Will My Dog Eat?

Boarding can be stressful for your dog, even if it is accustomed to it. A change in diet can add to the stress on its body, possibly resulting in diarrhea or vomiting. Bringing your dog’s regular food is the best way to prevent this. Find out if there is an extra fee to feed a special diet (this is somewhat customary). Be sure to stress the importance of feeding your dog its regular food. Some dogs will not eat well while boarding, so you may want to bring along something tasty yet healthy that can be added to the food to make it more palatable. Be sure to leave specific instructions with the boarding facility regarding what your dog can and cannot eat.

Will My Dog Be Allowed to Interact with Other Dogs?

Some boarding facilities offer daily sessions where dogs are permitted to play together off-leash. While this is great exercise and can be fun for your dog, it can also be risky. Even dogs that get along with other dogs can become over-stimulated in a group environment, sometimes resulting in a dogfight. If dogs are allowed to play together, attendants should heavily monitor the dogs and only allow a few well-matched dogs to play together at a time. Ask the facility about their policies regarding dog playtime, including their established protocol if an injury occurs.

What Happens If My Dog Gets Sick or Injured?

Every boarding facility should monitor the daily habits of their boarders. Most keep a log of appetite, water intake, urination, and defecation. Vomiting, diarrhea, or other abnormal activity should also be noted. Some boarding facilities will perform a daily “once-over” on boarders to make sure there have been no changes in their physical condition, especially if the boarding facility is part of a veterinary hospital. If the boarding facility is not part of a veterinary hospital, find out where they take dogs that become sick. Ask if it is possible to have your dog transported to your own vet if it needs medical attention.

If your dog has a health condition, special needs, or requires medicine, look into boarding your dog with a veterinarian. Many veterinary clinics provide this option, which might be your only choice for a sick pet other than staying home to care for it.

How Much is Dog Boarding Going to Cost?

Part of planning for a vacation includes budgeting for your dog’s accommodations. Be direct with the boarding facilities up-front. Ask about the base boarding fee per day based on the size and type of dog you have. Find out if there are any hidden costs or add-ons, such as fees to feed your dog a special diet, administer medications, or take your dog for extra walks. Try to get a written estimate in advance if possible.

Preventing Problems With Your Dog While Boarding

If you have done the research and decide that boarding is not right for your dog, you will have to consider alternatives. You might be able to find a pet sitter or board your dog with a friend or relative. You can also do further planning on how you can travel with your dog.

If something does happen to your dog while it is boarded, make sure that the boarding facility has an emergency contact number (and make sure your emergency contact is aware of this). You want someone who is easily accessible and can be your proxy in case of emergency. A written and signed document that authorizes your emergency contact as your proxy and allows them to make any and all emergency medical decisions should you be unreachable can be helpful.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.