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8 Dog Boarding Secrets

Julie Morse
Oct. 16, 2014

Looking for a place to board your pet? Keep these tips in mind.

When you're going on vacation or traveling for work, what do you do with your beloved pup? A pet boarding facility or kennel may be the answer.

Leaving your pooch in the care of facility can be an emotional step, so it's important that both you and your dog are prepared. Here are eight expert tips and secrets to help:

  1. Reserve in Advance
    Kennels fill up quickly, so you need to call as soon as you know your plans. "Reservations should be made 2 to 3 weeks in advance," shares Holly Coleman, manager at Derbyfield Kennel in North Harwich, Massachusetts. "If you're traveling during Christmas or Thanksgiving, it's best to book at least 2 months before your trip."
  2. Think about Specific Needs
    No two kennels are the same. "Visit the boarding facilities and ask questions as to what housing, feeding, social interactions will be offered and match them with your dog's needs," recommends Dr. Jeannine Berger, director of behavior resources at The San Francisco SPCA.
  3. Get a Deal With Package Rates
    If you're looking to save money on boarding, many centers offer packages with discounts and bonus amenities. For example, Now Boarding Pets in Minneapolis caters to people leaving from Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. It offers reduced rates for pups that stay five days or longer, and gives 10 percent off boarding and parking fees if you leave your car on-site.
  4. Start Young and Small
    "It is always a good idea to start boarding when your dog is young," shares Dr. Berger. Check with the kennel to see what their minimum age is for dogs. And start slowly: "Begin with a weekend getaway first before leaving your dog for long periods of time."
  5. Leave a Little Piece of Home
    It's important that your pup doesn't feel freaked out by his or her new surroundings. Send your dog off with their favorite toy, rug or food bowl. If he or she is skittish or has weak nerves, a familiar object can act as a stress reliever. The smell of home may relax your dog and will make the transition a smooth one.  
  6. Give Too Much Information
    Provide your dog boarding center with as much info on your dog and ways to contact you as possible.

    "We insist that dog owners give us information on everything: their dog's behavior, previous health issues, their cell number, email, emergency contact and veterinarian's number," says Victoria Robinson, owner of High Tail Hotel in San Francisco.
  7. Ask About Staffing
    If your dog will be staying overnight, "It's absolutely imperative to ask a prospective dog boarding center if it's staffed 24/7," says Robinson. Find out if overnight staff is awake during the night or sleeps in proximity to the dogs. "It's in your best interest that pooch be under round-the-clock care."

    In addition, check out these 11 Questions to Ask When Picking a Kennel
  8. Don't Make a Show
    It's important that when you drop your dog off, you save your tears for the road. Showing too much excitement or emotion can incite separation anxiety in your dog. Likewise, going overboard with welcoming smooches and cuddles when it's time to bring your dog home makes the boarding experience seem like a much bigger deal than it really is, which can confuse or agitate your dog.

Julie Morse is a creative arts teacher and freelance writer living in San Francisco.

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