Boarding Your Dog for the First Time: A Simple Guide to a Stress-Free Experience

Boarding your dog for the first time can be nerve-wracking. Will your dog be happy and safe while you’re away? This guide will help you choose a good boarding facility, prepare your dog, and set realistic expectations. Follow these tips to make sure you and your dog have a great boarding experience.

Is Your Dog Ready for Boarding?

If you’re boarding your dog for the first time, knowing what to expect can help ease your worries. Here are signs your dog is ready for boarding:

  • Older Than 6 Months: Most places require puppies to be at least 6 months old due to vaccine rules. Older puppies or adult dogs usually handle boarding better.
  • Spayed/Neutered: This helps reduce behaviors that could cause problems with other dogs.
  • Friendly With Dogs & People: Sociable dogs do best in new environments. While less social dogs can still board, they might find it more stressful.
  • No Severe Separation Anxiety: Dogs with mild anxiety may be okay, but severe cases should be addressed before boarding.

Try starting with daycare to see how your dog does before an overnight stay.

boarding your dog for the first time

How to Choose the Best Boarding Facility

Picking the right boarding place is key to your peace of mind. Start your search early and visit facilities in person. Here are 5 tips to help you choose:

  1. Require Proof of Vaccinations: Good kennels need dogs to be vaccinated against common diseases like distemper, parvovirus, rabies, and kennel cough.
  2. Check Cleaning Practices: Make sure the kennel is clean and smells fresh. Good cleaning routines and ventilation are important for your dog’s health.
  3. Assess Staff Experience: Look for well-trained staff who know about dog behavior and health. They should interact well with the dogs and have low turnover rates.
  4. Validate Size-Appropriate Facilities: Ensure the kennel has enough space for your dog to play safely. Different breeds need different amounts of room.
  5. Read Recent Reviews: Check reviews from other pet owners, especially first-timers. Avoid places with complaints about cleanliness or communication.

Choosing the right place gives you and your dog the best chance at a stress-free experience.

Preparing Your Dog for Boarding

Dropping your dog off at a kennel can be overwhelming, but preparation helps. Here’s how to get your dog ready:

  • Keep Health Documents Current: Have your vet check your dog and update vaccines before boarding.
  • Adjust the Food Routine: Transition your dog to the kennel’s food gradually to avoid stomach issues.
  • Avoid Pre-Stay Stress: Stick to your dog’s regular routine the week before boarding.
  • Practice Time Apart: Spend occasional nights away from your dog to help them get used to your absence.
  • End on a High Note: Take your dog on a fun activity before you leave, like a hike or play session.

Preparing your dog mentally helps them adjust better while you’re gone.

What to Pack for Boarding

Packing for your dog’s boarding stay is important. Here are the essentials:

  • Food: Bring enough food for the entire stay with feeding instructions.
  • Medications: Pack twice the needed amount with clear instructions.
  • Vet Contact Info: Provide your vet’s name and phone number.
  • Familiar Bedding: Bring your dog’s favorite blanket or bed.

These items will help your dog feel more at home.

What to Expect at Drop-Off

Dropping off your dog can be nerve-wracking, but knowing what to expect helps. Here’s the typical process:

  • Plan Extra Check-In Time: Arrive early to complete paperwork and introductions.
  • Verification of Vaccines: Staff will check your dog’s vaccination records.
  • Intake Interview: Staff will ask about your dog’s routine, temperament, and health.
  • Kennel Walk-Through: You’ll tour the facilities to see where your dog will stay.
  • Meet the Staff: Key staff members will interact with your dog to start the acclimation process.

Most places aim to make the transition smooth for both you and your dog.

Tips to Ease Your Worries

Feeling anxious about boarding your dog for the first time is normal. Here are 10 tips to ease your mind:

  1. Do Your Homework: Choose a quality boarding facility you trust.
  2. Read Reviews: Positive reviews reinforce your decision.
  3. Meet the Staff: Knowing who will care for your dog helps.
  4. Call to Check-In: Many kennels welcome updates and offer webcam check-ins.
  5. Focus on Your Trip: Enjoy your travels knowing your dog is in good hands.
  6. Leave an Old T-Shirt: Your scent on a shirt gives comfort.
  7. Bring Their Favorite Toy: Familiar toys make a new place feel like home.
  8. Pack Extra Meds: Extra medication prevents running out.
  9. Leave Clear Instructions: Detailed care instructions help the staff.
  10. Plan a Short Stay: Start with a short boarding stay to see how your dog adjusts.

With these tips, you’ll feel more at ease while you’re away.

Picking Up Your Dog

Picking up your dog after boarding can be exciting. Here’s how to make the transition smooth:

  • Check-Out Early: Arrive early to get a detailed report from the staff.
  • Observe Their Energy Level: Note if your dog is more wound up or withdrawn.
  • Ease Back Into Routine: Gradually return to your normal schedule.
  • Watch for Medical Issues: Monitor for signs of illness and consult your vet if needed.
  • Let Them Decompress Slowly: Give your dog time to adjust back to home life.

Top Tips for Boarding Success

Summarizing, here are the top tips for a successful first-time boarding experience:

  • Vet Prep: Schedule a wellness exam and update vaccines.
  • Boarding Bonafides: Visit facilities and check for cleanliness and safety.
  • At-Home Prep: Practice separations and stick to routines.
  • Pack Familiarities: Send bedding, toys, and enough food/meds.
  • Check-In Politely: Arrive early to complete onboarding.
  • Double Docs: Bring both paper and digital copies of health records.
  • Low and Slow: Start with short stays.
  • Check-In Calls: Keep in touch with the facility.
  • Easy Entry: Gradually reintroduce home routines.

With careful planning, your dog’s first boarding experience can be smooth and stress-free for both of you. Follow these tips, and soon your dog will be excited for their next boarding adventure!