Guide to Boarding Your Dog

Guide to Boarding Your Dog – “Will He Be Traumatized?”

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Pet boarding is probably the first solution that comes to your mind when thinking about a temporary stay for your dog while traveling or home renovation. Leaving your dog alone for the first will probably let you worry a lot. Especially when you think about all the potential stress laid upon him.

Your dog will be put in an unfamiliar place with many other dogs, a new diet, a change in routine and contagious diseases. It’s like putting your child in a new kindergarten for several days on end. Every dog is different and some are able to cope with it pretty easily while others experience it in full distress.

Will My Dog Be Okay in Boarding Kennels?

To evaluate an answer to this question, let’s look at the benefits and disadvantages of boarding kennels. Your dog will obviously don’t have to go through the stress of traveling by car or by plane. Car sickness is a real problem in dogs and for some, it’s just not possible to go through several hours of car rides.

In an airplane, your dog can either sit with you in the cabin or he will have to be put in the cargo. Only very small dogs are allowed in the cabin which excludes most dog breeds. Being caged in the cold and loud cargo is definitely not a pleasant experience and should be avoided.

The staff in a boarding kennel is able to monitor your dog closely for possible health issues around the clock and they can quickly act in case of an emergency. A pet sitter would only check in a few hours a day so your dog would have to be alone most of the time.

In such proximity, diseases can travel easily and not all of them are harmless. Although you are sparing your dog the stress of traveling, the amount of distress he has to face in a kennel shouldn’t be underestimated. If you have to drive to your chosen kennel, you will still have to deal with car sickness.

But you don’t have to worry so much about boarding your dog with the right preparation which I will talk about more below.

Choosing the Right Boarding Kennel

To minimize the amount of stress your dog has to go through, do your research on finding the best kennel near you. Ask your friends and your veterinarian about some recommendations and what you should be looking out for.

If possible, the kennel should be part of the American Boarding Kennels Association and they should have a form of license that certifies high pet care standards. Before deciding on a boarding facility, pay a visit to every candidate and take note on the following questions:

  • Does the facility look clean and organized? How is the smell?
  • Are the kennels big enough to adequately house a dog with food and water bowls? Do they protect against rain and wind?
  • Do the kennels look secure and escape-proof?
  • Are dogs being provided with a dog bed or other comfortable place? (you will most likely have to bring your own dog bed)
  • How well is the staff educated and how willing are they to answer any questions? Do they care about your pet’s health?
  • How often can the dogs interact with people one-on-one?
  • Are the dogs being exercised daily?
  • Do dogs need to be vaccinated against diseases like the kennel cough?
  • How often are the dogs fed and what food are they using? Can you bring your own food?
  • Do they offer other services like grooming, vet care or training?

Ask about everything that they will need for boarding. It should include toys, a dog bed, food, and medical information. Talk to them about your dog’s exercise needs. Most dogs are only let out for a few minutes a day and high energy breeds won’t be satisfied with that.

I recommend providing your dog with a few chew toys like the Benebone or a Kong. These will keep your dog occupied during his alone hours in the kennel. You could also ask the staff if they would hide treats in the PAW5: Wooly Snuffle Mat.

I would also recommend paying an extra fee for your dog’s regular food. Dogs in a kennel are being fed the same food and a sudden change in diet will put additional stress on your dog as well as health consequences. If your dog is in need of a special diet, really emphasize the importance of his meal plan.

Get more information on how exactly the dogs will be physically exercised. If they have the possibility to play together, ask if there is someone supervising them at any time to prevent dog fights or escapes. Small and large dog breeds should never be exercised together instead they should be divided into separate groups.

The Cost of Boarding a Dog

Depending on where you live and the size of your dog, boarding can cost anywhere from $25 to $80 for one day. The average comes around to $25 per day and $40 per night. If you are planning a severalday stay, you might be offered a discount. One week usually costs about $140 to $170.

Kennel Stress

Without proper preparation, your dog might experience kennel stress. Common symptoms include:

  • Pacing – Pacing is a compulsive behavior displayed by dogs during times of anxiety. The repetitive nature of pacing comforts the dog to a certain degree.
  • Depression – Dogs can feel depressed just like we do. A depressed dog will feel very sad and won’t engage in any activities that were fun to him before.
  • Loss of appetite – Depression, stress and anxiety may cause a loss of interest in eating or drinking. But also a change in diet and diseases can lead to this. Vomiting, diarrhea or weight loss might follow.
  • Aggression – Fear or the lack of exercise can lead to aggressive behavior towards humans or other dogs.
  • Digging – Boredom or separation anxiety can cause excessive digging in dogs. Most of the time it’s an attempt to escape.
  • Barking – A high level of distress will cause excessive vocalization often induced by other barking dogs.

How Do I Prepare My Dog for Boarding?

To ensure that your dog won’t be in full shock when suddenly being put into a kennel, preparation will be mandatory. You will want to get your dog accustomed to this new environment. If possible, schedule a day and an overnight stay in your chosen boarding facility.

This way, you will have a first impression on how your dog will be handling the new situation and he won’t have any negative associations with the place. Start with only a few hours and slowly increase the duration for a weekend stay.

In general, crate trained dogs do much better in a kennel as they are used to being confined. Crate training should be started at least a few weeks prior. Read my crate training article and follow the steps for the most pleasant experience.

Your dog should be well mannered and tempered, meaning that he is able to perform basic commands and well socialized. Daily training sessions will keep your dog’s mind fresh and mentally stimulated. It is best to work with your dog on the basic obedience commands before boarding him.

Socialization is a huge topic in the canine world and it’s the number one foundation for a confident, kind and considerate dog. Although the socialization period happens between 3-12 weeks of age, desensitizing an adult dog still works with the same tips.

If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, work on this condition several weeks before otherwise your dog and the staff will have a very hard time. The level of distress that your dog will be feeling will leave him traumatized and even more attached to you. Follow these tips and train with him consistently.

Before your dog enters any kennel, make sure that he is up to date with vaccinations. The staff should be properly informed about your dog’s special needs or medications.

Provide them with your contact information and find a trusted person nearby that can quickly come in case of an emergency. This person should be equipped with a signed letter that gives them permission to make medical decisions.

When the time has come, avoid throwing an emotional goodbye which will leave your dog more stressed. Just hand him over to the staff and leave. If you have taken the proper precautions then you don’t have to worry so much.

Dog Traumatized After Boarding

It rarely happens that a dog really gets traumatized when spending time at a kennel. If you do your proper research on a responsible boarding facility, nothing bad should be happening to your dog.

The most common sign of mental trauma in dog is a change in behavior. The dog becomes scared, is shaking, starts having accidents and can act depressed. To rule out any medical cause, take your dog to the vet for a check-up.

If your dog had few opportunities to eliminate on a grass surface, this change will definitely cause some accidents in the house. Give your dog time to get used to being in his home again and reinforce his old behaviors. The familiar schedule will ease his trauma after a few days or weeks.

If the change in behavior is very drastic and doesn’t resolve, consult a professional behaviorist on the possible causes and what you can do to help your dog. It’s always helpful to provide your dog with a lot of one-on-one time to build up trust again.

Boarding a Puppy for the First Time

In general, young puppies shouldn’t be boarded. A responsible boarding center will only accept dogs that are at least 6 months old and had all their necessary shots.

Your puppy is only just starting to build a relationship with you, giving him up during this time will leave a big mark. He won’t have any playmates as the other dogs are older and bigger and a young mind won’t be able to cope with the stress. It’s like separating a little toddler from his mom during the very first weeks.

If you know that you cannot stay home for the first few months, then wait with adopting a puppy. In case of an emergency, look for better alternatives. Ask friends and family if they would be willing to care for a young puppy with all his needs.

Over-night care and pet sitters are also an alternative that will provide your puppy with the comfort of his own home. Care will also be much easier if your pup can stay in a familiar place.

Will My Dog Remember Me After a Week?

Yes, your dog will definitely be able to remember you after a week or even a month. Dogs have a great memory that works a bit different than ours. It’s called associative memory. While we remember the composition of a place, sounds, smells and the people, dogs remember experiences based on their associations with them.

Dogs do not remember a guest as the person with a green hat but as a person that gave them the most pets this evening. They remember good memories as well as bad memories and people that they have met years ago.

Here is a very precious video of a lost dog and his owner reuniting:

Worried About Boarding Your Dog?

You really don’t have to worry about boarding your dog. It all comes down to choosing the right boarding center and properly preparing your dog. The less behavior problems your dog has, the easier it will be for him to feel comfortable.

If your dog has underlying issues like separation anxiety, solving the problem first will be mandatory. Get your dog familiar with the kennel and take with you his food, contact information and a bed. A nondramatic goodbye will be better for you and for him.

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