Your Dog's First Boarding Stay: Tips To Alleviate His Stress And Yours
Even if you opt out of vacations because you can't bring yourself to leave your canine companion behind, things come up in life that could require you to board your dog at some point in his life. If dropping your dog off at a boarding facility for the first time fills you with apprehension, imagine how your dog may feel. If you have to leave town for an unavoidable event, make the boarding experience less worrisome for both of you by taking a few extra steps that go beyond booking his stay.
Visit the Kennel
From posh pet hotel settings to no-frills kennel environments, there are numerous boarding options available. Elaborate setups include such amenities and activities as web cams for owners to view their boarding dogs, group playtime, nature walks, soothing spas, scheduled cookie times, and even unique settings to romp and play, such as shallow wading pools with fountains. As luxurious as a place may seem, however, it is important to tour the facility before your trip. Don't be put off if a scheduled visitation time is required. Such restrictions are often put in place to keep the boarders calm as well as safe. When you tour the facility, assess the following:
- Does the place smell clean?
- Where will your dog be spending the overnight hours?
- What will your dog's daily routine be like?
- Do the boarders in the facility look happy and relaxed?
- Does the staff appear to be attentive and affectionate toward the boarders?
- What measures are in place to prevent escapes?
- How does the facility address emergency situations?
When scheduling your tour, ask if you can bring your dog along. Some facilities may not want to disrupt and excite the boarders, but if the place allows it, this provides the opportunity for your dog and the staff to meet. Observe how they interact and how your dog receives their attention.
Pack the Comfort of Home
Choose a boarding facility that allows owners to send along a blanket and toy from home. These items can provide your dog with some comfort of familiarity in a strange setting. Only pack a toy that is safe for your dog to play with and snuggle without supervision. Leave the rawhide chews at home for your dog's homecoming. Be aware that a blanket, towel, or bed may become soiled during his stay, so ask the staff if such items are laundered. To send your scent along to comfort your dog, consider the following ideas:
- Sleep in a t-shirt or on a towel for a few nights prior to the boarding event, and pack this unlaundered item for the staff to place where your dog will sleep.
- If your dog is not a destructive chewer, collect your family's dirty socks over the course of a week. Place the socks inside a pillowcase, and securely stitch the pillowcase closed.
When packing personal belongings for your dog, be sure to label everything so that the items do not get mixed up with other boarders' belongings.
Food and Medication
Abrupt changes in diet and stress can result in diarrhea. Unless your dog already eats the exact same food that the boarding facility feeds its furry guests, provide your dog's usual diet for his stay. Pack dry food into food storage bags, using one bag for each meal and measuring out the meal to place into each bag. Include three extra days of meals in case your return is delayed unexpectedly. Place all of the bags and any cans of food that your dog normally eats into a larger bag or box, and insert a sheet of simple feeding instructions that include how many times a day your dog eats and what he eats with each meal. If your dog has a sensitive stomach to begin with, consider including an unopened package of his favorite cookies to send along as well.
If your dog takes medications for a health condition, be sure to ask the boarding facility if they are able to administer drugs. Label each medication and provide specific instructions for how much and how often the drugs are to be given to your dog. You should also provide an emergency contact number for yourself and for your veterinarian in case your dog requires medical attention during his stay. Notify your veterinarian of your dog's planned boarding event, and express to him or her how you would like your dog treated if a medical situation arises.
If your trip is planned far enough in advance, schedule a trial boarding event or two for overnight stays before the extended stay. The first time you and your dog go through the emotional trauma of checking in will be the hardest, and bringing your dog home the next day will help to minimize his stress and reassure him that when he is left in the facility, you will return for him. This practice run will also provide some insight as to whether or not he is happy there. Does he seem happy and healthy when you pick him up and during the days that follow? When you bring him to the facility a second time, does he eagerly pull on his leash toward the door as if he can't wait to see his newfound friends again? If the answer is yes, then the facility is a good match for your dog.
Remember that dogs pick up on human emotions, and they react accordingly. Remain calm when you check your dog in at the facility, and do not drag out an emotional goodbye. Your dog will be less stressed with a simple quick hug and reassuring words that you will be back soon.