Packing your suitcase for vacation can be stressful enough, but if you have a pet, you also have to figure out what to pack for dog boarding. Whether you've chosen to board your dog at a kennel or leave them with a pet sitter, there are seven essential items they'll need to enjoy a safe and comfortable experience.
Make sure your pup has a collar with visible identification. It's important to include not only their name, but your contact information as well. Better yet, ensure your dog is micro-chipped and your information is up to date in case the pet sitter or boarding facility removes their collar. Some places like to remove dog collars during group playtime (if they offer that throughout the stay) or at night. Quick-release collars are often preferred for safety reasons, but it's best to check with your individual boarding facility or pet sitter to see exactly what they recommend.
2. Proof of Vaccination
It's likely that your boarding kennel has requirements for immunizations. This is something you should prepare for at least a month before your visit. First, check with the establishment to confirm which vaccines are required. Most kennels insist all dogs are current on the Rabies and DAP vaccines, but some may also require Bordetella (kennel cough) or canine influenza shots, depending on the location.
Next, check with your veterinarian to make sure your dog is up to date. If they're not, schedule an appointment to get them in at least 2 weeks before you drop them off for boarding to ensure they have adequate immunity at the time they arrive. Your veterinary hospital can provide you with a physical copy of the vaccine record to present to the boarding kennel or pet sitter, or they can just email it right over.
Introducing a new diet can potentially lead to gastrointestinal upset, vomiting, or diarrhea, so it's best to keep your dog on their regular food while they board. Whether it's cans or kibble, leave enough food for the duration of your stay with instructions on how much and how often your pup eats. Keeping your dog on a familiar eating schedule will give them a sense of routine and comfort. If you feel compelled, it can be helpful to portion out pre-measured bags for each meal, but this isn't required.
4. Medications and Supplements
If your pup is on any daily medications or supplements, you'll have to pack those. Always provide enough to get through the duration of the stay, plus an extra pill or two as back up in case you're delayed getting back and your dog must stay an extra night. Try to leave all prescriptions in the original bottles or packaging so the kennel staff or pet sitter know exactly what they are and how much to give. And if your dog takes a lot of pills, consider a weekly pill organizer with written instructions.
Everyone loves to sleep in their own bed -- even your dog. Although most kennels provide blankets and towels for your pup to sleep on, it can be comforting for them to have their own. Pack their favorite bed and blanket. Be sure to label it with a water-resistant tag, because if it gets soiled or wet, the staff or pet sitter might have to toss it in the washer.
Most kennels and pet sitters request that pet owners leave a leash with their dog during boarding. If your dog wears a harness, Gentle Leader, or another type of halter, be sure to bring that, too. This way, the kennel can use the attire your dog is comfortable with to safely exercise them outside (if they don't have an off-leash play area).
7. Emergency Information
Although no one anticipates an emergency occurring, they can happen; therefore, it's important to be prepared. Leave the number of a local family member or trusted friend who the sitter or kennel can contact if you're not available. Also, leave the name and number of your veterinarian in case there's a medical issue and your pup needs care.
Special Considerations for Boarding Puppies
Boarding your puppy can be a great way to socialize them and confirm that they stay safe while you're out of town, but there are a few things to consider before you board your young pup.
- Get them fully vaccinated: Puppies need a series of vaccines to protect them against distemper and parvovirus -- two serious and life-threatening viruses that are prevalent in most areas of the world. After their final puppy booster, they won't have full immunity for two weeks, so be sure to time appointments accordingly.
- Find out about any neuter/spay policies: Some dog boarding facilities require dogs over a specific age (usually 6 months or 1 year) to be spayed or neutered. These regulations are in place to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and occasionally to avoid hormone-related conflicts.
- Bring safe toys: You don't want your busy puppy to get bored, so bring any safe chew toys that they love. Avoid small toys they can swallow or items with pieces they can chew off.
Special Considerations for Boarding Older Dogs
Your senior dog might be used to boarding, but as they age, they could need some special items.
- Bring extra blankets: If your old friend suffers from arthritis, it can be helpful to provide them with a few extra blankets for their kennel. This way, their creaky joints will have a little extra cushion when resting or sleeping.
- Provide mobility aids: For those dogs that have a hard time getting around, be sure to provide the boarding staff with any tools you typically use to help them at home. Whether it's a special harness or a sling, let the establishment or pet sitter know if your dog needs any extra help.
- Relay medical information: Unfortunately, older dogs are more likely to suffer from chronic conditions or illnesses, so be sure to relay any pertinent medical history to the compassionate boarding staff before leaving your pet. These professionals likely have experience with dogs suffering from numerous ailments, so they'll understand which signs or symptoms to monitor for.
Items to Leave at Home
If you find yourself packing everything but the kitchen sink for your dog's boarding stay, it might be time to reassess the necessities. Based on experience, there are a few items your kennel staff might prefer you leave at home.
Your Old T-shirt
I know, I know -- this is often considered a staple item when packing your pup up for boarding, but it's not always a great idea. In fact, some boarding facilities cannot place human clothing in their dog runs due to hygiene concerns. On the other hand, some kennels or pet sitters encourage owners bring items like shirts that smell like you. Call ahead to see what the policy is first.
Bully Sticks, Bones, or Rawhides
Although your dog might leisurely enjoy these at home, they can be a health hazard and aren't ideal while boarding. If your dog is anxious, they might chew more vigorously than they normally would or even swallow it, which can result in broken teeth, choking, or an intestinal obstruction. Leave these special items for when you return home, and instead, bring your dog's KONG or favorite safe toy for their stay.
Unless your dog has a unique bowl, such as a slow feeder, it might be best to leave your dishes at home. Kennels typically provide their own bowls, which they thoroughly sanitize between feedings. To prevent these items from getting misplaced, don't pack them.
Feel Confident Boarding Your Canine Friend
Leaving your beloved pet while you're on vacation can feel daunting, but you'll be reunited before you both know it. By choosing a reputable dog boarding facility or pet sitter and packing the seven items your dog will need, you can enjoy peace of mind that your dog is content and safe.