What is Dog Boarding: Playtime or Doggy Jail?
Boarding your dog when you are going out of town is a tough decision that most pet owners go through. This is your best friend and it’s hard to know whether it will be like spring break for him or doggy jail. There are different types of boarding facilities to choose from. If you don’t find a great dog boarding kennel, you could choose a pet sitter instead.
Boarding Kennel Vs. Dog Sitting
Boarding your dog means you are taking him to a kennel where staff members will care for him. They feed the dogs, take them for potty breaks and often play with them. Some kennels have more playtime as part of their services than others. However, there is rarely personalized attention. Some pet owners feel that boarding is akin to doggy jail, but this isn’t necessarily the case as we will explain.
Dog sitting means someone is watching your dog either at their home or at yours. Keeping dogs with friendly faces in home environment eases the stress dogs feel when their owners disappear for any given period of time. Many owners feel that keeping the dog at home in their own environment creates the least amount of stress.
What You Get with Dog Boarding Services
Every dog has his own personality. How your dog reacts to a boarding facility will depend on the type of kennel it is and what your dog’s socialization and anxiety levels are. Some boarding facilities are like canine country clubs, giving your dog his very own club med experience while you actually go to Club Med.
The pets have more than just potty breaks. They have playtime with new friends. The find their style in the grooming services and run (what seems to them as amuck) at both indoor and outdoor dog playgrounds, maybe even a pool. The dogs are comfortable and happy and you’ll wonder if they even want you to come back because they are having so much fun.
Other boarding facilities, like many found with veterinary care, are more like a hospital stay than a vacation. While everyone is kept safe, there isn’t as much space and not as much fun time to be had. Expect dogs to remain in crates most of the day at this type of boarding facility. While this might seem more like doggy jail, it is a wise choice for older dogs or pets with health conditions that are best monitored by a veterinarian and trained staff members.
Keeping Pets Safe During Boarding
Every boarding facility will want to know that you are bringing a healthy, well-socialized dog. This means you must provide records or required vaccinations, current flea and tick control and come by with your dog for an interview. A pup might have more requirements due to early shot and de-worming history along with standard puppy behavioral issues. These rules ensure your dog and all other guests will have a safe experience at the facility.
As an owner, you should ask a lot of questions of the boarding kennel including:
- How many staff members are there and who is in charge at night?
- What is the name of the veterinarian on call?
- Do the dogs get walked or do they have free exercise play?
- If they have free play, how many dogs are out at a time?
- What is the procedure if there is a dogfight or a medical emergency?
- Are there video feeds for me to watch my dog and his new friends?
Many facilities will ask owners to bring their own dog food to keep the dog’s diet stable. Being in a new place without you there is stressful enough. A change in food could lead to digestive issues. A blanket, treat or favorite toy might be taken if left in an individual kennel to keep your pet comfortable. Some facilities forbid this.
Canine Companion Care: AKA Pet Sitters
More and more pet owners are using pet sitters rather than taking their dog to a kennel. Finding a trusted friend or family member is often the best way to keep your dog safe at home while someone is in the house at all times. Hiring a pet sitter is a little trickier.
When your dog is home, he feels he is still on his own turf. Dog’s don’t really track time and he’ll realize his routine is a bit off without you there but he’ll feel more secure with all his other routines intact. He’ll have his own food dishes in his regular spot. He’ll be able to run in his backyard and walk in his own neighborhood.
If you are hiring a pet sitter, take the time to screen them extensively. Ask them to provide references and business insurance. Remember that this person will have access not just to your pet, but also your home. You need to trust them and feel comfortable that everything is in good hands day and night.
Asking friends and neighbors for recommendations is usually the best way to go. Some neighbors may have a kid in college who already knows your dog. Others may have a pet sitter they trust and have used comfortably in the past. There are two ways that pet sitters work: living in your home while you are gone or coming to the house several times a day. This is dependent on the pet sitter, the owner and the needs of the dog.
Preparing Your Pet Care Provider
Anyone watching your dog for you is his care provider. Make sure they are well versed in your dog’s health and dietary restrictions. If Chewy can’t have table scraps, this has to be clearly outlined. It is best to write down all pertinent information for the kennel or pet sitter.
Provide a complete itinerary of your trip with where you will stay, what flights you are on and any contact information. Don’t just leave your cell phone; provide hotel contact numbers in the outside event something happens to your phone.
List out the daily routine for your dog. While the routine might not be kept completely to the minute, it gives the pet care provider a good idea of time and frequency for meals, playtime and potty breaks. If your dog is on medicine, list those out with the dosage and the times. Make sure the veterinarian is listed and notify the vet that someone is caring for your dog and has the authority to request care in your absence.
Plan ahead so that you aren’t trying to deal with emergencies while away. Your trip will be more enjoyable if you aren’t concerned and your dog will be less stressed in either situation is you take the time to prepare everything.
Kimberlee Leonard is a certified pet first aid and CPR instructor. Her company, Safer Family Pets helps families prepared for worst-case scenarios including evacuations during natural disasters. She enjoys time with her beagle mix, Arky who enjoys “sit-walks” where he sits more than walks, enjoying the fresh mountain air.