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If we could take our dogs everywhere, life would be even better for us dog-owners. Sadly, that's not possible. And while some dogs are fine on their own while you're away at work, this isn't the case for every pup. In addition, no dog can be left alone for extended periods of time, like when we go on vacation. Fortunately, dog boarding provides a great option for those times our dogs can't be left alone. Here's a checklist for taking your dog to boarding:
Before we get into things you'll want or need to do prior to taking your dog to boarding, we need to start from the beginning - choosing a dog boarding facility.
Boarding facilities can take a variety of approaches to doggy daycare and some may work better than others for certain dog personalities. For example, some boarding facilities offer more group playtime, while others offer more one-on-one attention from caretakers. So if your dog loves playing with other dogs or has a lot of energy, the former may work better. But if your dog is a little more timid or aloof, the latter may be the way to go. It's all about finding the right mix of exercise, attention and relaxation for your particular pup.
Pro Tip: While picking the right place is most important for your dog, it's also important for you and your peace of mind. For extra reassurance, tour the boarding facility and take your dog for a daycare session. You can try out multiple facilities too to make sure you get the right place.
Once you've picked a boarding facility, the list becomes a lot more straightforward. To start, you'll want to make sure your dog is up-to-date on his or her vaccinations. This is important for the health and safety of your dog and the other dogs who are boarding.
The most common vaccines that facilities require your dog be up-to-date on are: Bordetella (for a canine respiratory infection known as "kennel cough"), rabies, distemper (DHPP) and canine influenza (CIV). Some facilities require other vaccinations as well, so make sure to ask or look those up.
Pro Tip: Take your dog to get their vaccinations in advance of boarding as it takes a few days for the vaccines to kick in and become effective.
You'll also want to make sure you're protecting your dog against heartworm, fleas and ticks. This is especially important if your dog will be playing or running around outside. Dogs can get heartworm from just one bite by an infected mosquito and ticks can hop on your pup at any time, putting him or her at risk for Lyme disease. In addition, protecting your dog from fleas is always a good idea when he or she will be interacting with other pups. All of these medications can be administered orally, once a month.
Most boarding facilities will provide food or allow you to bring your own. The latter is recommended because sudden changes to your dog's diet can cause gastrointestinal issues such as upset stomach, diarrhea and vomiting. Bringing your own food is especially important if your dog has a special diet or allergies. Plus, your dog will enjoy the familiar taste of his or her own food.
Speaking of allergies, it's a good idea to provide important information about your dog to the caretakers at the boarding facility. This can include allergies, likes and dislikes, triggers, anxieties and personality traits or quirks. The more the boarding facility caretakers know, the better they'll be able to care for your dog.
Most boarding facilities will also allow you to bring a few belongings from home, such as toys or bedding. These can include chew toys, stuffed animals, blankets, pillows or even your dog's very own bed. Bringing familiar items to boarding can help your dog feel more comfortable and secure during their stay.
Pro Tip: You can also bring something of yours that smells like you, to give your dog a familiar and comforting scent.
Some dogs may feel nervous or uncomfortable the first time they go to boarding. One way to avoid this issue is by bringing your dog to the facility for a few hours of daycare prior to his or her extended stay. This allows your dog to become familiar with the sights, sounds and smells of the facility and its caretakers. It also provides an opportunity for a little socialization, so your dog can get used to the environment he or she will be in.
Pro Tip: Other ways to prep your dog for the social side of boarding includes taking them to the dog park or arranging some doggy playdates.
While many dogs won't have trouble sleeping in the new and unfamiliar boarding facility (especially after a full day of playing!), this isn't the case for all dogs. If you think your dog will struggle to sleep, you can try to ease their transition by mimicking at home the sleeping conditions they'll experience. To do so, have your dog sleep in their crate with any toys or bedding you'll bring along to boarding. And if this doesn't work for your dog, (often the case when your dog sleeps with you) it may be best to find a boarding facility that offers private rooms or suites.
If you have the time, it's always a good idea to get your pup some extra exercise before dropping them off. This can help your dog be more relaxed heading into boarding and relieve any anxiety he or she may experience when you leave. Plus, it's a great way to spend quality time before you temporarily go your separate ways. Your dog will appreciate it, whether you two go for a run, play fetch in the yard, go hiking or do other fun dog-friendly activities.
One last thing to remember before you drop your dog off is that you want to make the transition as easy as possible. So you'll want to avoid a long, drawn-out goodbye, which is usually tough for us humans. But it's important to show your furbaby that it's okay because our dogs are very good at reading our body language and emotions. This means they will pick up on any sadness or anxiety you show and that can cause your dog's anxieties or stress to worsen. It's best to act as though you'll only be gone for a short while to avoid these issues.