A Beginner's Guide To Dog Boarding (And What To Look For)
We've been there a million times in the past. You can't wait for the vacation coming up, but at the same time you have the creeping anxiety in the back of your head that says "what the hell am I going to do with Spike?" One of the worst calls you can receive while on vacation is one from the person watching over your dog, saying that something happened and they can no longer watch them. We have been there, and it puts a huge damper on the day when you have to scramble, and in our case from a different country, to get a new care provider for your pup. You feel bad for the person who is watching the dog because you know they are stressed, and you feel even worse for being the person that put your dog in that situation. So, in order to avoid the mid-vacation pet crisis, here are a few things you can do to make sure your vacation is worry-free and your furry friend has a good time, just like you.
check out the facility
Have you ever blindly booked a reservation at a hotel when you were in a pinch? I have, and although it might make for a great story down the road, you usually end up miserable or disgusted by the smells and stains in the place. Plus I will venture to guess that those last-minute bookings were probably only for 1 night. Imagine blindly booking for 1-2 weeks or more!
So, make sure that you ask to see the facility and kennels of the business you are interested in, and if you call in advance, your chances of getting a more thorough walkthrough are much
higher. In our opinion, if a dog care business does not let you even peak through a window, it might not be the best place to put your dog. When you do get out to the business, keep an eye out for the following things:
Yes, the dog smell is usually unavoidable to an extent, but if the living and play area looks gross and unkept you might want to go elsewhere.
Quality of fencing and kennels
This is especially important if your dog is a known escape artist. Check out the fencing and kennels to make sure they are of high quality, and it might be helpful to check reviews online or ask if they have lost any dogs in the past.
What was your experience with the person(s) who showed you around/talked to you? When it comes down to it, the workers at every dog boarding business are the main determining factor in the quality of your dog's stay, so if you got a good vibe from them, great!
If you have a high-energy dog or a dog that prefers to be moving all day, you probably want to find a location that can offer exactly that. Ask them what they offer during the day for the dogs, and if they offer any special enrichment programs to keep your pup happy and active.
You have picked your spot, what's next?
So now you have been to the facility you think is the best fit for your animal, now what? The following are steps and requirements you should make sure to fill out and do so your dog can have a happy and safe vacation:
Have your dog do a "Trial Day"
Whether or not the facility you choose requires it (we do), it is always a good idea to schedule a "trial day" to make sure that the environment they provide is a good fit for your dog. A trial day can be a normal daycare day or 1 night where the staff present evaluates the dog and determines if it will do well during your time away. A trial day is one of the single best ways to prevent a mid-vacation meltdown, so we strongly advise this step is not skipped!
Fill out your boarding/daycare application as thoroughly as possible
Some of the questions in the application may seem unnecessary, but they are all there because time and experience put them there. We can assure you that every question and piece of information requested on our applications is there because they have been needed in the past. From emergency contact information to questions about your dog's behavior, they are all important in keeping your dog (and us) safe and happy.
Make sure to check which vaccinations or flea, tick, and worm prevention your location requires, and contact your vet to confirm. In Montana, you can usually count on the following requirements:
-DHPP (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus) Vaccine
Ask your facility if they allow personal items for your dog. Usually (and they should), boarding facilities allow the dogs to have their own beds, blankets or toys. Having something that smells like home will help keep them comfortable while they sleep in their room/kennel.
Bring ample amounts of food!
All too often we have dogs with us that run out of food, or the owner forgets entirely. Life happens of course, and it is not the end of the world, but it will help your dog avoid discomfort while they board. Disrupting their diet on top of the stress of a new environment can mean GI issues, and let's be honest, no one wants that.
Ask about updates
Lastly, ask your boarder if they offer any form of updates on your dog. Most of the time places will post regularly on social media, and even provide special updates upon request so you know your pup is having a good time. We offer personalized video edits to those who ask for them (which you can check out on our Instagram page).
dog boarding should be fun & safe
At the end of the day, boarding should be a fun, enjoyable experience for your dog, and an opportunity for it to grow and work on important social skills. If you pick the right place for your dog, that creeping anxiety should subside, and you and your dog will rest easy on vacation.