Going away this summer and looking to board your dog? Start prepping now to ensure a smooth stay for your dog, your boarding provider and you!
The first decision regarding your dog when planning a summer trip should be to consider what’s actually best for your dog. It’s nice to bring our dogs with us places, but make sure it’s really in their best interests. Are you going camping or on a road trip somewhere that might be very dog friendly? Then taking them with you could be fun! Are you flying somewhere that the dogs may enjoy, but they’ve never flown before and are nervous in new situations? Bringing them may not be worth the stress they could experience flying. Would staying in a boarding kennel and making friends be fun for your puppy? Or would your older dog prefer to relax at home with a pet sitter or family friend? We can discuss prepping your dog for a camping or flying adventure another time, but for now let’s discuss prepping your dog for boarding away from home.
1) One of the easiest things you can do to prep your dog for boarding is to crate train. A crate trained dog will experience far less stress being crated at a boarding kennel or spending time in a kennel run, than a dog that’s never experienced being contained before. Crate training a dog also opens up opportunities to wrangle friends into being willing to board Fido for a weekend while you get away! Having an 85 lb drool monster run all over their house may be off putting, but being able to safely contain the drool, hair and energy in one place makes everyone a bit more open to having him stay for a visit. Another nice benefit to crate training is the ability to send their house with them! It’s a lot less stressful for your dog if their own personal “room” comes with them, even if everything else has changed.
2) Set a feeding schedule two weeks before you leave. Lots and lots of dog’s hunger strike during the first few stays of their boarding, stress and change can be hard on the appetite! Having a schedule makes it much easier for boarding providers to tell when a dog is eating, and how much they are eating. If you’ve opted for “cage-free” boarding,
your dog will have to be put on a feeding schedule anyway, as for most of those situations, leaving out food would be a recipe for resource guarding. In addition, most commercial kennels have set feeding times and appreciate not leaving food out all day. There are many MANY reasons not to free feed your dog, but setting scheduled feeding times well in advance is an easy way to de-stress another component in the massive change in routine that always comes with boarding away from home.
3) Create some distance! Lots of dogs are a bit spoiled, and while there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, it’s REALLY hard for a dog to go from sleeping every night in bed with you, to sleeping by themselves in a kennel run. Instead of having to go cold turkey on night one of boarding, start creating a bit of separation 2-3 weeks before your boarding stay. For example, every 3rd night for the month before boarding try crating your dog in a different room overnight. Maybe drag the dog bed into the laundry room or bathroom and have them sleep there off and on. If your dog is normally loose every day, crate them occasionally on trips to the grocery store or other errands. Giving them a bit of separation will make those first few days of not having their creature comforts just a little bit less stressful for both your dog and your boarding provider.
4) Try a familiarization stay! Book a 1 or 2 night stay in the weeks before your big boarding stay. This gives your dog a chance to experience the environment and adapt a little more gradually. Booking a short stay first is always a good idea for a dog that’s never stayed in a boarding kennel before, and can be a great way to identify whether or not your dog will be ok with a longer stay. This also gives the kennel or boarding provider an idea of your dog’s normal behaviour and what they should be prepared for during your longer stay.
When it finally comes time for drop off, make sure you have
-your vaccinations or titre tests up to date
-your flea and tick prevention handled
-a copy of your vet’s info
-a copy of all your dog’s medical conditions or allergies
-an agreeable emergency contact with up to date information
-enough of your dogs preferred food for your entire stay (plus a day or two)
Lots of dogs end up in lots of different boarding and travel situations over the summer, it’s well worth the effort to put a bit of work into ensuring it’s less stressful than it could be.
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