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  • UC Davis Vet School

Choosing a Boarding Facility For Your Dog

Boarding can be a high stress experience for both you and your dog. Choosing the right boarding kennel is imperative to ensure that you are able to enjoy your trip and not have to worry about your pets. This handout will help address some of the common questions and concerns that you might have when choosing a boarding facility.

Q: What vaccines does my dog need to board?

A: Every boarding facility has different vaccination requirements, but a general guideline is that your dog should be current on his rabies, distemper, parvovirus and especially bordatella vaccines at the time of boarding. To ensure the health and safety of your dog while boarding, kennels with strict vaccine requirements should be considered first.

Q: Should I visit the boarding facility before bringing my dog there?

A: Yes. Visiting the boarding facility will help you picture where your dog will be housed. Speaking with the boarding facility staff can help you answer your specific questions and alleviate any personal concerns you may have.

Q: How do I know a good boarding facility when I see one?

A: Make sure that a boarding facility has a strict vaccine policy. If you are unsure if the policy is accurate, check with your veterinarian. In addition, what kind of veterinary support is available at the boarding facility? Is the facility certified by the American Boarding Kennels Association? Does the facility look and smell clean? Is there good ventilation? Is the staff courteous and respectful to the animals there? What other services does the boarding facility have to offer? You can also check with the Better Business Bureau in your area. These questions will help you decide if the boarding facility that you are visiting is right for you.

Q: What if my dog has special medical needs?

A: You may want to consider choosing a boarding facility that is within a veterinary hospital, or a boarding facility that has a veterinarian on staff. You should be prepared to bring your dog’s medication in the original bottles with written directions as to the time and dose for each medication. You should also alert the staff as to when your dog has had his or her last dose.

Q: How is boarding going to affect my dog?

A: Stress is the number one behavioral change encountered in a boarding situation. While vacation can be relaxing for the owner, vacation at a boarding facility can be stressful for the dog. Some of the reasons boarding facilities can be stressful include being away from the owner, sudden changes in diet, sudden changes in daily routine, lack of familiar items and lack of familiar comforts. A good boarding facility will be aware of the potential effects on your dog, and will be prepared to minimize them as much as possible.

Q: What else can I do to alleviate my dog’s anxiety while I’m away?

A: If your dog is not used to boarding, try to take them for a short visit before leaving for a longer time. This can help your dog acclimate to the new environment. When saying goodbye, try to make it brief; a long goodbye can upset your pet unnecessarily. If you find a boarding facility that you like, keep going back there. Your dog will become accustomed to the staff there, and this can help alleviate some stress. Other things you can do include bringing some of their food from home, or bringing some of their own toys and blankets. This will give your dog a sense of home and some added security in the boarding environment.

Q: I have multiple dogs. Should I board them together or separately?

A: If your dogs are good together and don’t tend to fight when in close quarters, then boarding them together may give both a sense of security and familiarity while at the boarding facility. If your dogs tend to play rough, or if you have any doubts about their behavior together, you should board them separately. If boarding two dogs together is not an option at the boarding facility of your choice, ask about group play time, so at least your dogs can be together for some of the day. You can also ask about having kennels where the dogs can see each other if they cannot be together all the time.

Q: How is my dog going to behave after coming home from being boarded?

A: It is not uncommon for your dog to be quite excited upon returning home. You might also see a continuation of stress behaviors your dog may have demonstrated during boarding. These behaviors can include excessive whining, barking, digging and chewing. Your dog may try to eat his dinner too quickly, or may not have much of an appetite at all. It could take a couple of days to get back on his or her normal routine. If your dog does not return to their normal behavior within a couple of days, you should consult your veterinarian.

Finding a boarding facility where you feel comfortable leaving your dog is very important to both your animals' well-being and your own. While there are several personal considerations that factor into this decision, it is also imperative that the facility you choose has strict vaccine requirements, sanitary and appropriately structured kennels, and a considerate and competent staff. Always feel free to discuss any medical or personal pet concerns with your veterinarian before you choose a facility. They can be very helpful in giving you additional tips to help alleviate the stress of boarding your dog.

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