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Dog boarding services: your essential guide

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Everything you need to know about finding the right dog boarding services for your dog.

Our dogs aren’t just our best friends – they’re members of the family. We’d love to take them with us when we’re away from home, but sometimes that just isn’t possible. It’s therefore vital to find a local dog boarding service that will keep them safe, healthy, comfortable and stress-free – as well as providing peace of mind for us! Here we provide all the information you need to help you find the best dog boarding option for your dog.
Woman and dog in dog boarding service

Finding dog boarding services near me
It’s likely that there are a number of options for dog boarding services – or dog kennels – in your area, which you can easily find online. However, a recommendation from someone you trust is ideal – whether that’s fellow dog-walkers, your local pet store, family and friends or your vet, who may be able to recommend one or more places. We suggest creating a list, and then whittling it down to find the right service for your dog.

Choosing the right dog boarding service
It’s worth investing some time in making this important decision – don’t leave it to the last minute, when the best options might already be booked up. Giving your dog up for a week or two is stressful at the best of times, and even more so if done in a mad rush in the few days before you go away.

We suggest the following steps to help you whittle down your short list and find the best possible dog boarding near you.

Start with a phone call: Call each of the options and discuss your needs with them. First impressions are very important – if the person you speak to is friendly, confident and knowledgeable, then this is a good sign. However, if they don’t want to talk or answer your questions (or at least schedule a time to talk when they are less busy), then this could be a sign that this dog boarding service is not professionally run. Key questions to ask at this stage include:

  • Do ‘guests’ need to be vaccinated and treated against parasites such as worms, ticks and fleas? This is very important, as you don’t want your dog picking up diseases from fellow guests, such as kennel cough, which is very infectious but easily vaccinated against. If the kennel doesn’t requite up-to-date vaccinations and parasite treatments, then it’s best to avoid it
  • Are the boarding kennels staffed 24 hours a day?
  • How often are guests fed – and can you supply their usual food?
  • What veterinary services do they have, and what happens when a guest falls sick?
  • What other services do they have – if your dog is longhaired then grooming may be a vital part of their boarding experience
  • What kind of insurance do they have?
  • Are guests taken out for regular walks and exercise?

Visit the facilities: It’s important to also visit the kennels on your shortlist in person – check on the phone the best time to do this because dog boarding services can get quite busy around feeding time! Things to look out for are:

  • Does the place look and smell clean? Does it have a nice, safe ‘feel’ to it?
  • Is the place where your dog will stay light and well ventilated – without being draughty or cold? Is there enough outdoor space for your dog to move around, plus a kennel or doghouse for him to sleep in? Is there bedding inside and a place to sit outside that isn’t cold concrete?
  • What is the exercise schedule – how often are dogs walked, and for how long? How many dogs are walked together at the same time – any more than four or five per walker can cause problems including lost dogs!
  • What kind of social interaction and stimulation do the dogs get during the day? Are there group play sessions for the more social dogs?
  • Pay attention to your gut – would you feel comfortable leaving your furry friend with this dog boarding service? Are the staff kind, friendly and knowledgeable? Do they clearly love dogs, and looking after them?

By the time you’ve spoken to and visited a number of dog kennels, you should be well-placed to make the best choice for your dog.

Preparing your dog for boarding kennels
It’s important to minimise your dog’s stress (and yours!) by making some basic preparations for his stay.

The most important thing you can do is make sure your dog is used to being around other people and dogs, and that he knows some of the basic commands – sit, stay, come here! This will make his time in kennels much easier for all concerned.

You should also make sure that you provide the dog boarding service with all the appropriate information they need – contact numbers, instructions for medications, any special needs or unusual behaviours.

Finally, it’s a good idea to make your dog’s first visit to the kennels a short one – just a night or two – so that he understands that it’s a temporary arrangement, and you’ll be back to pick him up soon!

Alternatives to dog boarding services
If you’re not comfortable leaving your dog at a dog boarding service, or you are unimpressed with the local options, there are a number of alternatives you can try:

  • Home from home dog boarding: you may be able to find a professional dog carer in your area who will look after your dog in their home while you’re away. This option means that your dog will get more attentive one-on-one care in a home environment, and may be a good option for you
  • Home dog boarding: if you would rather your dog stay in his own home, then it’s also possible to hire a professional dog-sitter, who will come and stay in your home while you’re away

You can find advertisements for both these options at your vet or local pet store. Alternatively, try searching online – but be sure to read as many customer reviews as possible and to ask a lot of questions…and most importantly, trust your gut!

Don’t want to use a dog boarding service this time? Check out our handy guide to travelling with your pet.

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