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Considering dog boarding for your next vacation? Read this first

Could there be a better time for a vacation than summer? Before you travel, though, you’ll need to make a plan for your furry friend (if your pet can’t come with you, that is). Would your fur baby feel better at home with a dog sitter or do you want to try dog boarding?

From pet hotels to overnight dog kenneling and everything in between, you have plenty of options for keeping your buddy safe and comfy while you’re away. You don’t want to pick just any place to care for your precious pup, though, so it’s important to ask a few questions before letting your guard down.

The outside of a dog boarding building with kennels
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Should I board my dog?

Before finding the perfect dog boarding location, you’ll need to decide if this is even the route for you. Well, for your dog, really. There may be more to consider than you realize.

Pros

When you trust a kennel with your fur baby, you can have peace of mind knowing they’re secured and cared for. That means a more relaxing vacation for you. Some boarding locations even send photos or videos of your dog so you don’t have to miss that sweet face for even a day. Some even have webcams!

Many pet parents feel better having their dog at a kennel since staff regularly interact with the animals. Most dog boarding facilities also provide extras that include all kinds of outdoor adventures — anything from playtime in a fenced-in area to an hour-long walk with one of the kennel staff.

Cons

Of course, dog boarding isn’t for everyone. There are risks that come with attending a kennel — injuries, and illness, most obviously — and it can be a large financial investment. With other options like finding a dog sitter, or having a friend watch your pup, you can let your dog stay in a more familiar environment while you’re away.

A Shepherd dog lies on the floor of a boarding kennel
Bussakorn Ewesakul/Shutterstock

What should I look for in a dog kennel?

Before you make your decision, you may want to ask for more details from a kennel or two. This will give you a clearer idea of what you’re deciding between and whether your pup would do well in that environment.

Housing, kennels, etc.

You’ll want to know how your fur baby will be living while you’re out living your best life. Ask about the spaces each dog gets, if and when they can go outside, and what kinds of accommodations will be provided. Will you need to bring your pup’s own bed? How about food and water bowls?

Whether or not a kennel can provide certain amenities, it might help your dog’s emotional state to have a few comforts from home. Whether it’s a t-shirt that smells like you or a few of their favorite toys, a little can go a long way.

Before you trust a dog boarding facility well enough to leave your four-legged friend, you should take a tour of the kennel space (via Covetrus). If a location denies you a peek in the back, don’t go there! Properly run kennels have nothing to hide, and they know it.

While you’re looking, you can ensure the space is big enough for your dog to move around and lie down comfortably. Covetrus reminds you to double-check that the area is well-ventilated, free of strong odors from waste or cleaning products, and far enough away from other kennels that dogs can’t see one another.

Supervision and safety

The only thing more important than your dog’s comfort is your buddy’s safety, which is why you should ask every question you can think of regarding supervision and staffing. Who are these people who will be caring for your dog? Are they properly trained, and if so, what is their certification?

The kennel organization should also be able to tell you about emergency plans, as every business and care facility should have them. This way, you’ll know for sure that your furry friend will be well-taken care of in case the unthinkable occurs.

Not all dog boarding places have supervision 24/7, so if this is a preference of yours you should make sure to ask about it. At the very least, a proper kennel will have supervised playtime (if applicable) and regular individual check-ins by trained staff.

Whether or not your buddy is wary of strangers, it’s smart to ask about the times and ways staff interact with their guests. How often does someone check on each dog? How long do they stay, and do they play or interact?

Requirements

Before you book, you’ll want to double-check that the kennel’s health requirements keep every pup’s safety in mind, especially because the pet hospitality industry is still fairly unregulated (via Covetrus). At a top-of-the-line kennel, all canine guests should be fully vaccinated; protected against flea, ticks, and heartworms; and in decent health. Some may require dogs to be fixed in order to participate in playtime or any other multi-pup activity, too.

Once you feel safe about leaving your precious pup at a specific boarding facility, you can ask about pricing and booking details. Better yet—book a short trial run to see how your dog does, especially if it’s their first time in a kennel. This will give you the best idea of what to expect when it’s time for the real thing. Good luck!

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Gabrielle LaFrank
Gabrielle LaFrank has written for sites such as Psych2Go, Elite Daily, and, currently, PawTracks. When she's not writing, you…
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