How to Help Your Pup Have a Great First Boarding Experience
It’s time to go on vacation, but oh no! Your destination is unfortunately not pet-friendly. Don’t let the stress of leaving your furry friend behind put a damper on your travel plans. After all, your pet deserves a vacation, too!
When you have to go out of town, boarding your dog is a great way to ensure they will have just as much fun as you do! While leaving behind a pet can be stressful and emotional for everyone involved – including your fur baby – it doesn’t have to be.
Here are some tips to make sure both of your vacations are as stress-free as possible!
No Vaccination = No Vacation
A good way to tell if you’re talking to a reputable boarding facility is if they ask about vaccinations and whether your dog is up to date or not. Vaccinations keep dogs safe and minimize the risk of communal diseases such as kennel cough, rabies, Bordetella, and canine influenza. That’s why it’s important to make sure the “pet hotel” you are planning to have your pup stay only allows dogs who are all up to date.
Also, don’t assume your dog meets their requirements. Ask the kennel which vaccinations they require for overnight stays: for example, immunization against canine influenza is becoming much more popular for dog boarding institutions, but this vaccine is not part of a dog's normal 6-month or 12-month checkup. The last thing you want is to show up at the boarder two hours before your flight and find out your dog is missing a booster shot!
Don’t forget: some vaccinations take a few days to become effective, so don’t wait until the last minute to see your vet if your pup is not up to date. The same goes for their flea, tick, and heartworm prevention! All in all, money spent on preventative veterinary care is money saved on emergency treatment.
Socialization Before Vacation
The kennel is like the first day of school. Your puppy is going to be thrown in a space with dogs of all shapes, sizes, and temperaments. If they are unaccustomed to being around other dogs, this can be stressful -- and dangerous for humans and pups alike.
It’s a good idea to take your pup to a dog park to let him meet and greet other pups. If you've picked out a boarder already, you can also inquire about daycare options at your kennel before your dog’s overnight stay. (Many boarding facilities actually require a half-day of supervised day care or an on-site "temperament test" before dogs can be cleared for overnight stays.)
During this test run, your pup will become more familiar with the sights, sounds, smells, and some of the other clientele. It will also give your dog the opportunity to visit the facility and interact with the staff prior to an overnight stay. The more comfortable your dog is, the better they will be able to handle being around - and partaking in - all the barking!
Adjust Sleeping Habits
Raise your hand if your dog sleeps with you in the bed each night. Now tell us this: if someone were to drop you off in an unfamiliar place and expect you to sleep in a crate alone for the first time, wouldn’t you be pretty upset?
Puppies who are used to sleeping with their owners have a much tougher time acclimating to kennel life. Instead of getting the rest they need, your puppy will most likely spend the night crying and looking for the warm bed they’ve grown accustomed to sleeping in. We recommend preparing your puppy by crate training a couple of weeks before boarding to get her used to this new and confusing situation.
Pack Your Pet's Favorite Things
While getting away for a few days sounds lovely to us, for your pup, there’s no place quite like home. So regardless of the playtime and pampering available at a boarding facility, you'll still want something in your dog's kennel that reminds her of home and tells her everything is going to be okay.
There’s nothing like the comfort of her favorite blanket, Frenchie Bulldog toy, or even a t-shirt that smells like you -- familiar sights, scents, and sensations will make your dog's stay less stressful.
Packing these familiar items for your dog while she is away from home will help her feel more secure and prevent separation anxiety. Just make sure to ask your kennel in advance if there are any items they would prefer to stay at home (i.e. some smaller kennels won't have space for Princess Flufferton's six-tiered mansion-style dog bed).
Drop Off Early & Say Goodbye Quickly
We understand you will probably want to soak up all the cuddles, kisses, and belly rubs you can before having to say goodbye, but you should really drop your pup off earlier in the day if possible. This will give your fur baby the entire day to adjust to their surroundings before it’s time to go to bed.
Also, put on a brave face and save your tears for the car ride home. A long, drawn-out goodbye at the kennel will tip your dog off that something is amiss -- and can make it harder for him to adjust to his new environment once you leave.
In fact, many pups (especially if they are rescues or new to the whole boarding "thing") will put on a bit of a show once Mom and Dad make a display of leaving, just like they do when you grab your keys in the morning to head out for your workday. The best thing you can do in this situation -- if your dog is crying, pawing, or trying to get back to you -- is to turn your back with a cheerful, "Bye, puppy!" and walk right out that door.
Odds are, the second your puppy can't see you anymore, she'll switch over into, "Ooh, new friends!" mode and be perfectly content begging the staff members for belly rubs, instead.
Stress is part of vacation -- even the ones where stress relief is the ultimate goal.
Following these tips when planning to board your dog will have you ready for the big day -- and get rid of as many pre-vacation jitters as possible. Now, go enjoy your vacation knowing that your pup will be having a wonderful time as well!