Preparing Your Puppy for Their First Time at a Boarding Kennel
Boarding your puppy for the first time can feel nerve-wracking for any dog owner. But with some preparation and insider tips to make sure your pup has an amazing boarding experience, you can leave town worrying about whether you remembered to lock the front door instead of worrying about whether your pup is happy and properly cared for. This guide will provide you with all the information you need to ensure your dog’s first boarding experience doesn’t put a damper on your travels.
How Do You Know if Your Puppy is Ready for Boarding?
As a new puppy owner, the first time can be stressful for both you and your dog. While every dog adapts differently to new environments, there are a few things you can do to make sure your dog will be happy at a boarding kennel while you’re away:
- Make sure your dog is up-to-date on vaccines – Most boarding facilities require the bordetella vaccine, plus distemper and parvovirus vaccines. Rabies may also be required. Having up-to-date vaccination records on file will make you and the kennel staff feel more comfortable.
- Give your dog time to adjust to daycare – Many boarding facilities offer daycare a few times a week leading up to overnight boarding. Getting your pup acclimated to their new friends is a process – daycare is the way to ease them into boarding.
- See how they do on sleepovers – If you have a friend or family member willing to puppy sit, see how an overnight away from you goes over first. This can help you know if your pup is ready for boarding.
- Take them to dog parks and arrange play dates – Socialization will help your pup feel more comfortable in a new environment surrounded by unfamiliar people and other dogs.
- Make sure your dog is crate trained – Whether your dog will sleep in a crate or room at the facility, crate training ensures they see their kennel as a safe space when they need peace and quiet.
How Do You Find the Right Boarding Facility for Your Puppy?
Finding a boarding facility you can trust to provide excellent care for your dog in your absence can take some research. Here are tips on finding the best place to leave your puppy:
- Tour facilities in your area – Make sure to visit a few different boarding kennels before deciding. You’ll want to look for cleanliness, how friendly the staff are, size of spaces, playgrounds, and safety protocols.
- Ask for a trial day stay – Many kennels will allow a short trial day stay for new customers before booking a long boarding reservation. This can help you and your puppy determine if it’s the right fit.
- Read recent reviews – Check review sites to see what other dog owners’ experiences have been with facilities in your area. This can give you insight into everything from cleanliness to quality of care.
- Make sure your puppy will get plenty of play and exercise – Look for boarding facilities that have large indoor and outdoor play spaces, and be sure to communicate your puppy’s energy level so they get adequate exercise and playtime.
What Information Should You Provide to the Kennel?
To make sure the kennel has all the information needed to keep your puppy happy and healthy, provide the following:
- Vaccination records
- Spay/neuter records
- Microchip number
- Your vet’s phone number
- Emergency contact info
- Feeding schedule and dietary needs
- Medication info if applicable
- Favorite toys/blankets from home to reduce stress
- Personality traits and quirks so they can provide appropriate care
- Note if your puppy is crate trained
- Activity/play preferences – high energy? shy?
Also be sure to let the kennel know the best way to contact you while you’re away – this is usually email – so they can provide updates on your dog if needed.
How Can You Prepare Your Puppy for a Less Stressful First Boarding Stay?
The first time leaving your puppy at a boarding kennel can induce anxiety for dogs big and small. Here are tips on preparing your four-legged friend for a less stressful boarding experience:
- Take them on car rides – Get them used to car travel so the drive to/from boarding isn’t frightening.
- Introduce the kennel slowly – Bring them by the facility for visits before their stay so it feels familiar.
- Help them get to know the staff – Meeting boarding facility staff during trial visits can help ease separation anxiety.
- Pack familiar items from home – Favorite toys, treats, or your unwashed t-shirt can help it smell more like home.
- Keep up with their routine – As best you can, stick to your puppy’s usual feeding, walking, playtime schedule.
- Spend extra time together before drop off – The days right before, give them some extra love and attention.
- Keep drop off brief – Minimize prolonged goodbyes to avoid getting them worked up.
- Ask about email updates – Many facilities will send photos or email updates so you know your pup is doing ok.
What Should You Ask and Look for When Touring a Boarding Facility?
Touring a potential boarding kennel for the first time? Here are important things to ask and look out for:
- Is the facility clean? – All areas dogs access should be tidy, odor-free, and sanitized regularly.
- What sizes are boarding spaces? – Make sure spaces seem comfortable for your puppy’s size.
- How often are dogs let outdoors? – Pups should have regular potty and play breaks.
- Is the staff friendly? – You’ll want your pup cared for by kind, passionate dog lovers.
- What types of playgroups? – Some group play by size/energy level for socialization.
- Is there outdoor space? – Your pup should get fresh air and outdoor playtime.
- What are mealtime procedures? – Make sure they stick to your instructions.
- Is medication administered properly? – Kennel staff should be trained on pet meds.
- What if my dog gets anxious? – They should have techniques to soothe anxious pups.
- How do I get updates? – Ask about photo emails, report cards, etc.
- Can I tour the play/sleep areas? – You’ll want to see all areas your pup will access.
- What veterinary relationship is in place? – They should have a vet on call.
5 Insider Tips for a Seamless First Boarding Stay
As a first time puppy boarder, how can you make sure your dog’s stay goes smoothly? Follow these pro tips:
- Book early – Popular facilities book up fast, especially holidays. Reserve your pup’s spot well in advance.
- Get required vaccines – Bordetella and other required vaccinations keep your puppy and others healthy.
- Familiarize your pup – Bring them by for visits before their stay so the place feels familiar.
- Label belongings – Use a permanent marker to label food, meds, toys. Less chance of mix-ups.
- Provide ample contact info – Give cell, email, emergency contacts, and flight info in case of delay.
- Send their usual food – Feed the same food as at home to avoid tummy upset.
- Extra snuggles at drop off – Some additional snuggling eases the separation.
- Get contact card – Save contacts for the facility manager in case you need to be reached.
- Share personality details – The more staff knows about behaviors, the better the care.
- Ask for photo updates – Seeing your pup playing and happy can give you peace of mind.
Final Thoughts on Your Puppy’s First Time at Boarding
The first time leaving your furry family member can be hard, but taking steps to prepare your puppy for boarding can make your time away less stressful for humans and pups alike. Booking a clean, caring facility, providing information to the staff, familiarizing your dog to the place, adhering to vaccine requirements, packing familiar items from home, and brushing up on boarding best practices can help ensure your pup’s first overnight stay is a success.
While it’s natural to have some worries, knowing that your dog is in caring hands, getting playtime with new friends and enjoying some newfound independence can actually be an enriching experience for your well-prepared pup. So don’t let anxiety get in the way of needed travel – just be sure to give your pooch some extra squeezes before drop off!