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Before You Board Your Dog

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At some point, you will probably need to leave your dog behind while you travel. Though it is not easy to leave her, you want to be sure your dog has a safe, comfortable place to stay while you are gone. If you are considering boarding your dog, ask your friends and your vet who they recommend. Then, call several boarding kennels to learn more. Here are some questions dog owners commonly have about boarding. Be sure to ask the facility these questions before you make a boarding reservation for your dog.

Where will my dog stay?

It is important to know what your dog’s temporary living space will be like. Ask for a tour of the facility to ensure that the environment is neat, organized and odor-free. Consider the cages or runs. While it might be fine for a crate-trained dog, boarding in a cage can cause anxiety for a dog not accustomed to it. Plus, older dogs with arthritis need more room to move around. If you don’t like the idea of your dog staying in a small cage the whole time, look for a boarding facility that offers upscale boarding. These "pet hotels" often have small rooms with dog beds and toys that mimic the home environment.

How often will my dog be walked?

Some boarding facilities only let dogs out twice a day for a few minutes at a time. If this is something your dog is used to, then it might not be a problem. However, if you want your dog to get a bit more time to stretch, you should look for a place that walks dogs 3 or more times daily. Ask if they have a fenced-in area where your dog can roam a bit. If not, find out if the attendants walk dogs around for several minutes rather than just letting them relieve themselves quickly and go back in the cage.

What will my dog eat?

Boarding can be stressful for your dog, even if she is accustomed to it. A change in diet can add to the stress on her body, possibly resulting in diarrhea or vomiting. Bringing your dog’s regular food is the best way to prevent this. Find out if there is an extra fee to feed a special diet. Be sure to stress the importance of feeding your dog her regular food. Some dogs will not eat well while boarding, so you may want to bring along something healthy that can be added to her food to make it more palatable. Be sure to leave specific instructions with the boarding facility regarding what your dog can and cannot eat.

Will my dog be allowed to interact with other dogs?

Some boarding facilities offer daily sessions where dogs are permitted to play together off-leash. While this is great exercise and can be fun for your dog, it can also be risky. Even dogs that get along with other dogs can become over-stimulated in a group environment. If dogs are allowed to play together, attendants should heavily monitor the dogs and only allow a few dogs to play together at a time. Ask the facility about their policies regarding dog playtime, including their established protocol if an injury occurs.

What happens if my dog becomes sick or injured?

Every boarding facility should monitor the daily habits of boarders. Most keep a log of appetite, water intake, urination and defecation. Vomiting, diarrhea or other abnormal activity should be noted also. Some boarding facilities will perform a daily “once-over” on boarders to make sure there have been no changes in their physical condition, especially if the boarding facility is part of a veterinary hospital. If the boarding facility is not part of a veterinary hospital, find out where they take dogs that become sick. Ask if it is possible to have your dog transported to your own vet if she needs medical attention.

How much is this going to cost?

Part of planning for a vacation includes budgeting for your dog’s accommodations. Be direct with the boarding facilities up-front. Ask about the base boarding fee per day based on the size and type of dog you have. Find out if there are any hidden costs or add-ons, such as fees to feed your dog a special diet, administer medications or take your dog for extra walks. Try to get a written estimate in advance if possible.

I can’t seem to find the right boarding facility, what other options do I have?

Consider hiring a pet sitter. Though this can be more expensive than boarding, it may not be as much as you think. Plus, you may find that it is worth the extra expense. Knowing that your dog receives individual attention in your own home adds peace of mind.

Ask friends and family if they can help. If you ask around, you may find that someone you know would be happy to take care of your dog while you are gone. If so, make sure the instructions are clear and that the person and your dog are comfortable with one another. Don’t forget to bring back a nice souvenir for the volunteer pet sitter as a thank-you.

So you found a great boarding facility. Now what?

  • Make a reservation well in advance. If you wait too long, the facility may become fully booked.
  • When you bring your dog in for boarding, remember her food, special instructions, and any other permitted items.
  • Do not bring items that you absolutely need to get back, as they could become lost or damaged. Bear in mind that many facilities limit personal items for this reason.
  • Make sure the boarding facility has contact numbers for you on your trip, plus local emergency contacts in case you cannot be reached.
  • Relax! You’ve done your research and your dog is in good hands. Enjoy your vacation!

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