Boarding Your Dog For The First Time

Amy Tokic
by Amy Tokic
For a stress-free vacation, follow these tips on boarding your dog for the first time

You’re going on an extended vacation and you’re worried about boarding your dog for the first time. After all, this is your fur baby and you want some peace of mind when leaving her behind. Boarding isn’t for everyone and perhaps in this instance, you have no other choice. You’ve done your homework and picked a dog kennel that suits both you and your dog’s needs. Here are a few ways to make the process smoother and ensure you don’t have a breakdown when you leave your dog behind.

  1. Call your veterinarian and confirm that all your dog’s vaccinations are up to date. Many kennels will require proof of up-to-date vaccinations. Even if they don’t, you want to be sure that your dog is fully covered and not at risk for any dangerous illnesses. This will also be a great time to discuss any optional vaccinations that you should consider in a boarding situation with your vet so that you can make an informed decision.
  2. Make sure that your dog has proper identification and that all relevant contact information is up to date. This includes any numbers on your dog’s ID tag as well as the information associated with your dog’s microchip, if she has one. While it is not a common occurrence for dogs to escape from a kennel, there is always a risk. It is better to be safe than sorry!
  3. Consider starting with doggy daycare if time permits. This will give your dog the opportunity to get used to visiting the facility and being around the staff without staying overnight.
  4. Make an appointment. Be sure that the kennel knows when you’re dropping off your dog and when you’ll be picking her up. Respect the kennel’s hours of operation and drop off and pick up your pooching during those time frames. If you’re running late, call to let them know.
  5. If possible, try to plan a morning drop off. This may sound counterproductive, as that means that she will be spending more time in the kennel. However, by dropping her off early, you are giving her more time in the daylight to adjust to the new surroundings. This will help to lower her anxiety levels as she calms down before bedtime allowing her to enjoy a good night’s sleep.
  6. Start crate training before your dog’s kennel stay. If you have a dog that has never spent a night in a crate or kennel, their first night being boarded is going to be far more stressful. They are already adjusting to a new place with new sounds and smells. A little effort put into crate training your dog at home will help your dog adjust to this arrangement.
  7. Pack your dog’s favorite things. This includes her toys, blanket and bed. If you’re afraid your pooch will miss you, leave a t-shirt with her. It will smell like you and she’ll be able to cuddle up with it at night to have sweet dreams. Don’t go overboard with over packing. Things may get lost and the staff will not want to be responsible for a trunk load of toys.
  8. Bring your own food and treats. This is especially important if your dog has a sensitive stomach. Again, bring enough for the duration of your dog’s stay. Put the food in a re-sealable container and leave instructions as to how much kibble your dog gets per day. As well, leave instructions if your dog needs to eat at certain times of the day.
  9. If your dog is currently taking any type of medication, provide the kennel with a detailed breakdown of what medications she is taking, when she should take them and any other important information. If her medication needs to be taken with food, they will need to know this. Place this breakdown and all medications in a well-labeled Ziplock bag.
  10. Be honest and open about your dog’s personality and regular behaviour, even if it isn’t all positive. The staff are trained to manage a wide variety of different behavioural concerns, but they can only do so effectively if they know what they are dealing with. For example, if she doesn’t like to have her collar touched, you would rather the staff find out from you. An ‘incident’ from lack of information could make the experience stressful for your dog, the other dogs at the kennel and the staff caring for her.
  11. Your departure shouldn’t be dramatic. Nobody likes goodbyes, so make yours quick. A drawn-out and tearful fairway will only make things more stressful. Your dog will react to your energy, so as hard as it may be, try to remain cheerful and calm as you’re leaving.
  12. If your dog is usually anxious or worked up in new situations, you may want to consider a natural calming chew or calming treat. These helpful treats will work to calm your dog’s nerves on the day that she is dropped, giving her time to adjust to her new surroundings.
  13. Always leave your contact information. The kennel staff will need your cell phone or a contact number where you can be reached while you’re away. They may have questions about your dog or an emergency that requires your attention.
  14. Don’t worry so much! Your dog is going to have a great time. She’ll be playing with other dogs all day, meeting new friends and getting plenty of exercise. In fact, don’t be surprise if your dog comes home all tuckered out. This was an energetic and exhausting vacation for her too!

Following these tips when boarding your dog will prepare you for the big day. Now, go enjoy your vacation knowing that your dog will be having a wonderful time as well.

Amy Tokic
Amy Tokic

Amy Tokic, Editor of, is a passionate animal lover and proud pet parent of Oscar, a Shih Tzu/Chihuahua cross, and Zed, a Japanese Chin. Her love of animals began in kindergarten, when she brought her stuffed dog Snoopy into class with her every day. Now, she writes about her adventures in pet ownership and tirelessly researches products, news and health related issues she can share with other animal enthusiasts. In her free time, Amy loves perusing used book and record stores, obsessing over the latest pet products available and chasing squirrels with wild abandon (a habit attributed to spending too much time with her pooches).

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