Making the decision to board your dog for the very first time can be stressful for human and pup alike, but knowing what to expect can help both of you have a positive experience. If you are considering boarding your dog, here are some insider tips to minimize the stress.
Find a facility that suits your dog’s needs
All facilities are unique, and it’s important to do some research to find one that offers your pup the specific level of care they need. Don’t just go for the first one you come across, the cheapest, or the one closest to your house. Go on a tour to meet the staff and see the space in person, and have your dog take an assessment. Afterwards you should have a general sense if it’s the right place.
Don’t avoid the assessment process
It’s common for pet parents to want to check out facilities without their dog to see if it meets their initial standards. But if you go alone you’re missing the opportunity to find out if your dog likes it, which is more about the interactions they’ll have with the staff than the paint color on the walls. Every dog behaves differently in daycare environments. Some run into the open play yard, and love it from start to finish. Others need more time to adjust and get to know the staff and environment. And others may just never love it at all. You won’t know unless your dog meets the staff and the dog pack. Don’t worry if your dog doesn’t seem to like it at first—many pups get nervous in new environments. The assessment is more about seeing their connection with the handlers and ensuring their style fits with your dog’s needs.
Bring your dog to daycare a few times before you board
Dropping your dog off the first time they have ever seen a facility or met the people can be very stressful for them. Bringing them to daycare a few times before boarding helps your dog become acquainted with the staff and the regular daycare dogs and understand the daily routine (including the feeding schedule, which can be super important for most pups). It also demonstrates that you will always return to pick them up, creating a positive memory and association with their visit and playtime.
Have correct contact information on file
Avoiding email marketing is not a good reason to enter a fake email account at a dog facility. And putting yourself as an emergency contact doesn’t work if you are out of town. In general, facilities use email to distribute a lot of important information such as holiday hours, vaccination reminders, and behavior report cards. The staff should have multiple ways to get in touch with you, particularly if you’re going somewhere with limited phone reception or opportunities to take a call. Whether your dog ran out of food or is experiencing a health related issue, you must be accessible.
Book one to two months ahead for holidays
Finding the perfect place for your dog and getting them acclimated to their new friends is a process. But what’s even more frustrating is finding out your new favorite place has no spots available over the holidays, and now you’re left scrambling last minute. Don’t risk it. Book ahead and be prepared to put down a deposit to hold the reservation. If your plans change, most will refund your money if you cancel within a certain number of days, so check their policy before booking.
Make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date
Vaccinations keep dogs safe and minimize the risk of communal diseases such as kennel cough. In addition, facilities are legally required by the state to maintain vaccination records for dogs. As such, most facilities do not let dogs play, or won’t let you drop off your dog at all, if their vaccinations/titer tests are expired. Make sure you update your account or bring the records in so there are no last minute surprises and absolutely no question that your dog can interact with other dogs during her stay.
Let the staff know your needs
Setting your dog up for success is a big component of first time boarding, but there is another part to dropping off your dog—you! If you are the type of dog parent that wants pics or email updates, let them know. The staff will share their capabilities and the types of accommodations they can make to meet your needs. By not saying anything, you may be left disappointed depending on the facility’s protocol.
Follow these tips and you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that your dog is in good hands during your trip. Happy travels!
Andrea Servadio is the co-founder and CEO of Fitdog Sports Club, a fast-growing pet company that aims to make it easy for busy pet parents to create a healthy and active lifestyle for their dogs by providing high quality, innovative services.