As much as we would like to take our dogs everywhere we go, sometimes we must leave them home. There are a few things I would suggest you take into consideration when boarding your precious pal…
For starters, in what type of boarding environment would YOUR dog be most comfortable? Your co-worker may have raved about how great her free-range boarding facility is but it may not be right for your dog.
Here is my two-cents on the most common options:
- If your dog gets “stressed-out” in new environments, doesn’t do well with change, or does not get along with other dogs, your best bet may be to keep your dog at home with a house/pet sitter. Many older dogs feel much more comfortable in their own home as well. If someone stays at your home ask what his nightly fee includes. Does it include one walk/day? Two walks/day? How long are those walks? Where will they take them? What is their work schedule? What time will they be home at night, during the day? One of the biggest benefits to this situation is that your dog can remain on his regular schedule for eating and walks. Although having someone stay in your home may seem pricy, if you have other animals (meow!) especially, if could be the best option.
- “Free-range” boarding facilities or Dog Day Care facilities that also do overnight boarding. Here, your dog is allowed to play with other dogs. These can be fantastic if your dog plays well with others but even the best-run, most FUN facilities can be quite stressful and tiresome for some dogs. The requirements for this type of boarding should be the same as the requirements for a dog day care. In fact, since many of the dogs in this facility may attend much more sporadically than a regular day care, thorough attention should be paid to these requirements. Again, even though this is heaven for some dogs make sure it is heaven for your dog. If you do decide on this type of facility make sure to do at least one or two practice days so your dog is not being left there the first time he sees the place. Also, dogs should not be left alone loose together at night. Dogs should be separated (unless they go with a buddy they can bunk with), not only for safety but also for rest. If your dog is not used to this much constant activity, he may not be good a giving himself a “timeout” during the day to rest. Although it may seem like a good way to tire out your dog, it is not healthy, physically or mentally, to be going constantly without rest. There should be places for your dog to go during the day for rest periods as well and if your dog is not good at resting himself, make sure the facility takes him out of the play for breaks during the day. You do not want to come home to an exhausted, sick dog.
- Having your dog stay in someone else’s home. This can be easier for dogs who are not comfortable in a free-range or kennel boarding facility. This option has the biggest range of environments so I would certainly use caution in choosing. Even though this is a home, it is not your dog’s home. There are professionals with a huge range of experience and knowledge of canine behavior (from tons to not much at all) who do this, as well as your friends and neighbors. On the scary side, unfortunately, I have seen many instances of the caretaker loosing the dog – the dog bolts from their front door, escapes their yard, or slips out of his leash on a walk. These may be well-intentioned friends, neighbors and “professionals” who love dogs but just do not have enough knowledge of dogs and dog behavior. On the plus side, the caretaker may have a dog that your dog loves. Your dog may end up having a fantastic time playing with his friend in a less stressful/exhausting environment than a free-range or day care facility.
- Traditional Boarding kennel. This can include your own veterinary hospital. These are usually the least expensive options and usually my least favorite. If you have a dog that requires medical care or you have a low energy dog who is comfortable “anywhere” this could certainly be an option. If you do choose this environment, make sure your dog is taken out several times/day for an outside walk or romp (in a securely fenced area). Many people who have a dog that does not do well with other dogs choose this option but I have found that many dogs who have problems with other dogs may also have stress/fear/anxiety issues. So again, make sure your dog would be OK here.
- In any of the environments, do your homework! Visit the facility or home of the caretaker. Have your dog visit the facility (with you) then have your dog stay for a night prior to your trip (especially if you will be gone more than 2-3 nights). Ask the staff how he did – did he eat, play, rest?
- Ask for references from their clients. Although I am not always the biggest fan of internet reviews (there is always that one “crazy” person) it can be a good place to get a general picture overall. Just take it with a grain of salt.
- Ask how they deal with the dogs if there is a “problem.” This is important! Their answer tells you a lot about their dog behavior/health knowledge and about their methods of dealing with your dog and dogs together (if applicable). You are looking for the same training methods used by the boarding caretaker as the methods you look for when choosing a trainer.
- Wherever you do end up leaving your dog, make sure to bring his own food. Changing foods is often stressful and hard on your dog’s digestive system.
Let us know your boarding experiences and if you know of a fantastic boarding environment let us know – we are always looking for places to refer folks to.
Have a great trip!!!