Things to Consider
Even if you take your dog on vacation, or you have a supportive network of family and friends who can watch your dog when you are out of town, most dog owners run into a situation at one point or another where they have to seek out a boarding kennel for their dog. Leaving your dog in the care of strangers can be uncomfortable for dog owners, but taking some time to research and visit a kennel can help make boarding your dog a stress free situation for everyone.
Choosing the Right Kennel
If you've never boarded your dog before, you should first ask people who you trust if they have any recommendations. Seek the advice of family, friends, neighbors you trust, your dog groomer and your veterinarian. Once you have a few kennel names, look them up online and see if they have a website or online reviews. If you're comfortable with what you find there, the next step is to visit the facility.
All reputable kennels allow owners to visit them to see what the facilities are like. Some allow drop-in visits while others require you to make an appointment ahead of time. The day you visit, leave your dog at home. Take your time as you tour and ask as many questions as you have – the staff is probably used to nervous owners and they understand where you are coming from.
Ask about emergency procedures, whether or not staff is trained in first aid for dogs, what their staff to pet ratio is, what their medication policies are and how they handle playtime or walks. Each kennel is different, so don't assume that once you've seen one kennel, you've seen them all.
You may also want to try and choose a kennel that has webcams. Webcams can help set nervous owners minds at ease by allowing them to check in on their dogs to see how they are adjusting. It is also ok to call and check on your dog. You won't be the first or last owner to call the kennel to check in, and staff are more than happy to give you progress reports.
Once you find one or more kennels you like, see if they offer daycare or a trial session for new dogs. Many kennels will allow you to try them for free for a few hours or offer discounted rates for one overnight stay. This helps get your dog used to the facility, staff and being away from you. Usually, this first visit is harder on the owner than it is on the dog.
Getting Your Dog Ready For Boarding
Kennels require all dogs to be up to date on all of their vaccines. You can call your vet and ask your vet if you dog is up to date on all the shots he will need to go to a kennel. If you need to update any, do that as soon as possible. You will also want to make sure that you have treated your dog with preventative medicine for fleas, ticks and heartworm. Some owners are lax on these treatments because their dogs never leave the house, but when they are exposed to other dogs in close quarters, these treatments can be invaluable, and in the case of heartworm prevention, life saving.
The day you drop your dog off at the kennel, don't let your pet see that you are stressed or upset. Make the day fun and exciting, so that they associate the trip to the kennel with fun and play. Sometimes it helps to call the kennel "camp," associating it with fun and games. Your dog will have no idea what "camp" means, but it will help to put you in the right frame of mind for the drop off.
Will Your Dog Forget You?
A common fear among first-time boarders is that their dog will forget them if they are gone for an extended period of time. This is simply not true, as it is well documented that dogs who have been separated from their dogs for a period of years remember their owners. But all the evidence in the world is often not enough to convince us that our dogs won't forget us. So, in order to help your dog relax at the kennel and set your own mind at ease, it may help to send a blanket/toy/old sweatshirt or other items that smell of home. Your feelings will be completely assuaged when you pick your dog up and he can barely contain himself when he sees you.