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

Updated: January 4, 2021

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Boarding your dog is probably the first solution that comes to your mind when thinking about a temporary stay for your dog while traveling, business trips, hospitalization of the owner, or just any other strange situation that may occur in a human’s life.

Leaving your dog alone for the first will probably worry you a lot. Especially when you think about issues like kennel stress that your dog may have to deal with.

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.

What should you do if you’re boarding a dog for the first time?

When boarding your dog for the first time, you should thoroughly evaluate the kennel beforehand and make sure your dog is up to date on all the vaccinations. Be upfront about behavior issues and leave a contact number and clear instructions for medication and emergencies.

A test period where you bring your dog in for a couple of days might also be a good idea to see how well your dog copes with kennel stress.

Kennel Stress

Without proper preparation, your dog might experience kennel stress.

You’ll find out more below on how to choose the right kennel and how to prepare your dog in order to avoid kennel stress.

Common kennel stress 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 for him before.

Loss of appetite – Depression, stress, and anxiety may cause a loss of interest in eating or drinking. But a change in diet and diseases can also 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.

Ask the staff to evaluate your dog’s body language and overall mood during the first days but also make sure to exclude any behavioral issues your dog might have had before already like separation anxiety.


Choose the Right Boarding Kennel

To minimize the amount of stress your dog has to go through, do your research and find the best kennel near you.

You can ask your friends and veterinarian about some recommendations and what you should be looking out for.

Before deciding on a candidate, you should visit every boarding facility and take notes 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. Check a couple of anti-anxiety and chew-proof dog beds here.

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 and disease-free? Any cases of 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.

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, they should be divided into separate groups instead.


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. Even if you plan on boarding your dog, you might have to travel there by car.

In an airplane, your dog can either sit with you in the cabin (only very small dogs) or he will have to be put in the cargo. 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.

On the other hand, the proximity to other dogs may have the disadvantage of diseases that 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.

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


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.

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.