Boarding Your Dog: Options Beyond Kennels

If you are going away for the holidays and cannot take your canine companion along, there are several options you might consider to keep him safe.

The first is to have someone come over and take him out a few times a day and feed/ water him. I DO NOT like this option. I have met a few people on the road looking for their daughter-in-law’s dog or grandpa’s dog who bolted through a door when the caretakers dropped by to take care of the dog. Many dogs get nervous when their owners leave them at home alone, and the stress of not having the owner home again day after day after day is too much for some of them.

Another option is to have a friend or relative take the dog home with him/ her. I DO NOT like this option either. Last summer a neighbor dropped by to ask if I’d seen a large German Shepherd. The dog belonged to a friend of hers and had gone AWOL. It had disappeared the night before, she said. It was mid afternoon when she made her inquiry. You dog may like your friend or relative just fine as an acquaintance, but if he is on a mission to get home to you, he may duck, cover and evade detection as he attempts to carry out his mission.

A third option is to board your dog at a professional boarding facility. If you take this option, which is among the safest for your pet, be sure to ask to inspect the kennels so that you know that the cages are kept clean? Examine the floor: Is it concrete, asphalt, gravel, dirt or wood? Concrete would be my preference. Asphalt and wood absorb odors and I’m not sure one can truly disinfect them. Gravel or dirt will likely also have hygiene issues. Also, even a dog who never would have considered such a project will think to dig under a fence when he’s being held captive in a strange land. Do the dogs in the kennel have water? Is the kennel kept at a comfortable temperature? Are they all fed the same diet, or are special diets and medications accommodated? Are old or timid dogs given special consideration in terms of being kept away from noisy or aggressive dogs? If there are outdoor runs, be sure that there is a security fence around the runs.

A fourth option is to send Fido to school. If you are working with a trainer who has an appropriate facility, having your dog boarded and trained while you’re away can be a great experience for your dog. You’ll know he’s safe and he certainly won’t be bored! If you exercise this option, try to also schedule a training session with you, your dog and the trainer upon your return. I have left Wil twice with trainers. Both times I felt at ease knowing that there was no way he could get into trouble and that he would have other things to think about other than being separated from his Chief.

The next option is to use a service such as Rover or Dogvacay. I left Alice with a DogVacay sitter and found it to be quite comforting. My sitter, Troy, sent me photos of Alice every day that clearly communicated that she was quite content and getting on well. He also gave me an accounting of how she’d got on each day.

The last option I’ll mention would be totally inappropriate for dogs like Alice & Wil but would be fine for dogs who love to be with other dogs– This is a “free range” style boarding which is similar to doggy-day-care places. The dogs would be kenneled at night but would have playground time during the day. If your dog is antisocial or aggressive toward other dogs, this is NOT a good option.

Tips for boarding:

Make your reservations in advance of your trip.

If you board your dog, you will want to be sure– for your dog’s protection and that of the other dogs being boarded– that your dog is up to date on (or still has immunity from) vaccinations.

If your dog has special medications or a special diet, be sure that the staff will administer these appropriately.

Ask if you will be able to leave your dog with his bed. This can be quiet comforting to your dog.

If you leave a toy, be sure that it’s one that your dog won’t eat and choke on when unsupervised.

Leave contact information:

  • Your phone/e-mail
  • Your vet’s phone and address
  • A friend/ relative who might act in your behalf if need be.

And when you leave your dog, don’t make a fuss. A quick hug around the neck or peck on the cheek will suffice. Gushing on and on will only work up the dog and make your disappearance more dramatic for him.

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