Easy Trainer Tips for Boarding Your Dog for the First Time

Boarding your dog for the first time can be stressful, but ensuring a positive experience or exploring alternatives can help ease the process for both of you.

Updated February 13, 2024
Dog in kennel

When life's adventures or responsibilities, like moving, remodeling your home, or setting off on a vacation, arise, it becomes necessary to find a comfortable place for your beloved dog to stay. Boarding your dog can be a stressful experience for both you and your furry friend, but with the right preparation, it can be made much smoother.

Related: Boarding, Kennels & Dog Sitting: What's the Difference?

Before Boarding Your Dog

Whether you're moving, remodeling, or going on vacation, there are some factors to consider before you make the decision to board your dog away from home. 

Look for a Facility

Begin the process by securing a spot for your dog at a trusted kennel as early as possible. This is particularly important during popular travel times like holidays and summer vacations, when boarding facilities tend to reach full capacity rapidly. Take the time to personally visit and inspect the kennel beforehand. This step is crucial to confirming that the facility aligns with your expectations and provides an environment where your dog will feel both comfortable and secure.

Evaluate aspects such as cleanliness, space, safety measures, and the overall atmosphere of the kennel. Check the demeanor of the staff and how they interact with the animals in their care. Once you're satisfied with your choice, clarify the duration of your dog’s stay with the kennel staff.

Provide the Dates

Providing them with precise dates helps ensure your dog's boarding is well organized and free of any last-minute complications. Clear communication about the length of the stay allows the staff to plan adequately for your pet's care and ensures a reserved spot for the entire duration of your absence.

Be Honest About Your Dog

If your dog has any medical or behavioral problems, make sure you're upfront and honest about them at the kennel. Tell the kennel staff if your dog has anxiety around other animals, aggression, or separation anxiety. This allows the kennel staff to take the necessary precautions. They can provide a more suitable environment for your dog, perhaps with more secluded accommodations or extra attention, to reduce stress and prevent incidents.

If your dog requires medication or has a specific medical regimen, the staff needs to know so they're able to administer it properly. They should also know what the medical issue is, so they can care for your dog appropriately during their stay. 

Gather Materials

Once you have decided on a facility, discussed your dog with the staff, and have the dates in place, it's time to gather the materials for their stay. 

Food and Supplements

To avoid digestive upset, it's important to stick to your dog’s regular diet and supplement routine. Pack enough of your dog's usual food and any necessary supplements for the entire duration of their stay. Provide the kennel with clear instructions on feeding amounts and schedules, as well as any supplement dosing information.

Collar and Tags

Pembroke Welsh corgi puppy sitting on bench

Always ensure your dog is wearing a collar with up-to-date ID tags. This simple step is vital for your pet’s safety and your peace of mind. It ensures your dog can be easily identified and returned to you if there are any mix-ups at the kennel.

Emergency Contacts

Leave a detailed list of emergency contacts with the boarding facility. This should include your number, a backup contact, and your vet’s information. It's important for the kennel to have quick access to these contacts in case of any emergencies or unexpected situations.

Security Items

To help your dog feel more secure and comfortable in the new environment, bring along their favorite toys and a blanket or plush towel that has your scent on it. Familiar smells can be very comforting to dogs and can help reduce their anxiety while they’re away from home.

Vaccinations and Records

Most boarding facilities will require any dog clients to be up to date on all their core vaccinations, plus vaccinations for easily communicable diseases, like kennel cough. Make sure you check ahead of time and get these vaccinations in the required window (often 10+ days to 6 months before boarding.)

During The Stay

While your dog is at the kennel, make it a point to call and check on them regularly. These check-ins not only reassure you about your dog’s well-being but also demonstrate your continued involvement in their care, which can be important for the kennel staff. This may also make them pay closer attention to your individual dog because they'll be aware of your upcoming call for updates.

Desensitizing Your Dog to Kennels

Many dogs have anxiety in new environments, which is where gradual desensitization comes in. By desensitizing your dog slowly, you can reduce feelings of anxiety and boost your dog's confidence. This will also give you peace of mind when you're away and improve their well-being when they're not able to be with you.

Quick Tip

Even if you don't plan on boarding your dog, this can come in handy if you ever have an emergency situation.

Practice With a Crate

A boston terrier dog plays with a small toy in his soft dog crate.

If the kennel requires crate use, get your dog accustomed to spending time in a crate at home first. Make it a comfortable and safe space for them.

Add Some Extra Socialization

At the dog kennel, most dogs are let out together during certain periods of the day when they can be monitored. To help them become comfortable with the new dogs quicker, socialize your dog on a regular basis throughout the year. Introduce them to new dogs, have play dates, and expose them to new places, sights, and smells. 

Make the Kennel a Familiar Place

If you already have a kennel in mind, ask them if you can visit with your dog during quieter time periods. This will help them get comfortable with the sounds, smells, and sights of the kennel you've chosen. Bring treats, toys, or anything else your dog loves to create positive associations with the kennel.

Day Stay at the Kennel

Before you leave your dog overnight, allow them to stay in the kennel for a day stay, or even just a few hours if the entire day isn't realistic. Not only will this help them become accustomed to the kennel, but it will allow you to understand how your dog reacts during the stay while you're close enough to go pick them up if necessary. 

When Pet Sitting Is a Better Option

Keep in mind that not all dogs do well in a kennel environment. If your dog shows extreme signs of stress during the day stay, or struggles with behavioral challenges like dog/dog aggression, an in-home pet sitter may be a better option.

Related: Pro Tips for Finding, Vetting & Paying a Pet Sitter

Doing What's Best For Your Dog

Think about what works best for you and your dog. If you feel your dog would benefit from in-home pet sitting as opposed to a kennel stay, go with that option, and vice versa. Some dogs do great at kennels and enjoy having the time to play with other dogs. Others would rather relax at home with one person and no other dogs. Regardless of what you choose, try to make either experience as stress-free as possible.

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Easy Trainer Tips for Boarding Your Dog for the First Time