Boarding your dog during your summer vacation can be a stressful process. Finding someone you trust that has availability is getting more and more difficult (and expensive). This process is made even more difficult if your dog is less than accepting of new people because they are anxious, or display aggressive behaviors. In this blog, I’ll outline several options for boarding, as well as the pros and cons of each, so that you can make an informed decision as to who you should leave your best friend with while you are on vacation.
interactive dog daycare/boarding facilities
Interactive dog daycare and boarding facilities have seen a big jump in popularity over the last 5 years. Their main selling point is that they allow all the dogs to play with each other throughout the day, whether that be in one large group, or in several smaller groups. These facilities range in size with smaller ones able to accommodate up to 25 dogs at a time, and large ones able to accommodate upwards of 200 dogs at a time. I worked at one of the large facilities for several years and have a lot of experience in how they run.
In my experience (and opinion), interactive dog daycare and boarding facilities are last on the list; mostly because finding one that is well run is incredibly difficult. Your dog is at a higher risk for illness (kennel cough, papilloma, worms, etc) because of the sheer volume of dogs, and at a higher risk of injury (bite wounds, broken bones, muscular injuries, etc) because the dogs are allowed to play with each other in groups; and yes, dog fights do occur. Your dog is also required to have multiple vaccinations, even non-core vaccinations like lepto and influenza. A higher volume of dogs usually means less individualized care. These facilities are also more expensive than most of the other options on the list.
Large facilities often have availability
Most will have staff in the facility around the clock
Higher chance of injury/illness
Often don’t accommodate dogs with aggression issues
Decreased quality of care due to high volume
If you decide that this is the right fit for your dog, here are some tips to help you find the right one:
Ask to see the area where your dog will be boarded
Make sure their website has pictures of the area your dog will be boarded
Look for a smaller operation, no more than 50 dogs at a time
Ask about their policy for illness/injury
Don’t just read customer reviews, read employee reviews as well
non-interactive boarding facilities
These types of facilities offer a more traditional style of boarding. At one of these facilities, your dog will generally have access to an indoor-outdoor run that is separate from other dogs. Depending on the business, your dog may get walked several times a day by a member of staff, or be able to enjoy other enrichment activities separate from other dogs. These types of businesses offer a more individualized level of care with minimal risk of injury. The risk for illness is still prevalent, but reduced because your dog is not interacting with other dogs. Unfortunately, these types of businesses are becoming more difficult to find because of the interactive dog daycare craze right now. In addition, they typically book much more quickly so if you are interested in this option make sure to plan ahead with enough advance notice to reserve a spot. Do your homework, read the reviews, and speak with staff to figure out if this is the best option for you.
- Lower health risk than interactive facilities
- Accommodate more types of dogs (fear and aggression)
- Higher level of care
- Less prevalent and increasingly difficult to find
- Book quicker
Boarding your dog with your vet is probably the safest and least risky option out there, but not every vet can accommodate this type of service. Veterinarians generally offer a no frills type of boarding service; occasional walks, but not much in the way of enrichment or socialization, Due to the fact that they are a vet first, and boarding facility second. Every vet has different rules, and not all have an employee on site around the clock. If you trust your vet, and they have a solid boarding service, then this is a great option.
- Probably the safest option
- Can be cheaper than the other options
- In the care of certified health professionals
- Usually a no frills option
- Not much in the way of enrichment or socialization
- May not have overnight staff on site
A dog sitter is a great option if you find one you trust and get along with. There are a record number of pet sitting businesses nowadays and the market is saturated, which means finding a diamond in the rough can be difficult, but absolutely worth the investment. Every sitter has a different style of program. Some will stay overnight but be gone during the day, and others stay 24/7 for the entire duration of the service. Some will just hangout with your dog, others will fill the days with enriching activities and mental stimulation. Interview any prospective pet sitter thoroughly, and read any review you can find.
- If you find a good one, you’ll always have them
- High degree of personal care and bonding
- Low level of risk
- Generally cheaper than other options
- Can accommodate a wide variety of temperaments, ages, and varying levels of health
- Finding a good one is tough
I’ll preface this section by acknowledging my bias because I am a dog trainer, but I will do my best to stay neutral and unbiased, while refraining from using this blog to advertise my services.
Many dog trainers offer board and train services where in addition to boarding, your dog will also go through a training program. Some dog trainers also offer a boarding service to dogs that have previously gone through a board and train program. Board and train programs offer a high level of enrichment and socialization, while accommodating even the most aggressive or fearful of dogs. Finding the right dog trainer for you can be exceedingly difficult, and board and train programs are far and away the most expensive option on this list. The risk of injury/illness is low if you find a reputable trainer, and there is 24/7 care. Just like with pet sitters, the market is currently saturated with dog trainers, making it exceedingly difficult to find a reputable business. Do your research and be careful when searching for a trainer. Read reviews, call multiple places, check websites, and ask questions.
- High degree of personal care and bonding
- Can accommodate most dogs
- Receive a fully trained dog upon pick up
- 24/7 care
- Can be difficult to sort the good from the bad
- Not as flexible; usually a waitlist
Knowing your dog’s likes and dislikes, as well as what they are comfortable and not comfortable with plays a key role in this decision. No matter who you choose to leave your dog with, the most important part is that you trust them. Read customer (and even employee) reviews, read everything on their website, speak with them on the phone, ask to see the facility if possible, etc. Make sure you do your homework so you can feel as comfortable leaving your dog in their care.