Dog Boarding: What To Look For

dog boarding

Planning a trip or vacation, and wondering what to do with your dog while you’re away? It’s always a worry leaving your dog with strangers … and if your dog is unvaccinated, it’s even harder to find good dog boarding. We’ll discuss some ways to handle that situation below. 

What Is Dog Boarding?

Dog boarding is any service that provides a temporary home for your dog while you’re away. Boarding provides care and attention for your dog in your absence, in a safe and comfortable environment. 

Dog boarding facilities will often offer various other services, including exercise, grooming, playtime or socialization, training, giving medications, and veterinary care. There are different types of dog boarding options available, including kennels, pet hotels, and in-home dog boarding or dog sitting services.

How Much Does It Cost To Board A Dog?

The cost to board a dog ranges from $25 to $85 per dog per night. 

That’s a wide range because boarding costs depend on several factors … the location, the type of facility, length of stay, and services provided. If you have more than one dog, some facilities will offer a lower rate for additional dogs. 

How To Find Reliable Dog Boarding

You’ll want to do your research well ahead of time into boarding facilities in your area, especially if you’re going away during a busy holiday period when dog boarding will fill up early.

As well as searching online, it’s a good idea to ask your neighbors or post on local social media groups for recommendations. Then, make a shortlist and visit each facility to get a first-hand view of the care they provide. Here are some things to look for or ask about …

  • A clean, safe environment, including your dog’s sleeping, play/exercise and potty areas.
  • Will they ask your dog to come for a “meet and greet” before his stay?
  • Can you meet the main caregivers who’ll supervise your dog?
  • How many dogs is each caregiver responsible for?
  • What will your dog’s daily schedule look like?
    • How many potty outings?
    • How much exercise/playtime?
    • Is there an option for extra one-on-one walks for a fee?
  • Do they have spay/neuter requirements? If your dog’s intact, are there any special arrangements or schedules?
  • What happens at night? Is there 24 hour supervision?
  • What do you need to bring, other than your dog’s food/medication?
  • What will they do if your dog needs emergency veterinary care?
  • Check any local compliance/certifications/liability insurance.

Dog Boarding Extras
Some facilities have some nice extras like webcams so you can watch your dog playing, or one-on-one “cuddle time,” training or sports activities for a fee. 

In all cases, you’ll want to ask for (and call) recent references. 

Dog Boarding For Unvaccinated Dogs

Unfortunately finding good dog boarding becomes even trickier when your dog is unvaccinated … 

Most dog boarding options require proof of vaccination (usually rabies, parvo, distemper, and often Bordetella) … so dog owners often ask us for advice on alternative dog boarding options for unvaccinated dogs. 

Do They Accept Titers?
Some facilities will accept titers for core vaccines like parvo and distemper, so be sure to ask about their titer policy. 

RELATED: Read more about titer tests for dogs …

Be aware that if you do find a boarding facility that doesn’t require vaccinations, some may charge extra for unvaccinated dogs, or they may require extra precautions and isolation measures. These facilities aren’t ideal for your unvaccinated dog, so keep looking!

RELATED: Which dog vaccines are necessary?

4 Dog Boarding Options For Unvaccinated Dogs

Many dog boarding facilities require proof of vaccination. However, there are some dog boarding options available for unvaccinated dogs:

  1. Holistically Minded Boarding Facilities

Some more holistically minded facilities will accept unvaccinated dogs … and in some cases, won’t even accept dogs vaccinated for Bordetella/kennel cough. That’s because vaccinated dogs can shed the live bacteria or viruses for several weeks …and in some cases, these policies can prevent kennel cough outbreaks. 

It’s not easy to find these more enlightened boarding facilities, and it’s not usually something they’ll state openly on their website. So you’ll need to call a few places or ask your neighbors.

RELATED: Does your dog need the kennel cough vaccine?

  1. In-home Dog Boarding

Some smaller companies will offer private boarding in their own home, or with a host family, without requiring vaccines. Be sure to research the home thoroughly to verify they have appropriate experience and a safe home environment. 

  1. Pet Hotels

The major pet hotels typically require vaccinations. However, you may be able to find local smaller boutique pet hotels that are more flexible. Be sure to contact the hotel ahead of time to verify their pet vaccination policy and any additional requirements or fees. Some hotels may require other tests in lieu of vaccination, like proof of recent vet exams, titers or negative fecal tests.

  1. Dog Sitters

Usually the best alternative to traditional dog boarding is to hire a dog sitter. Dog sitters are experienced pet caregivers who’ll care for your dog in your home. This is also a great option for dogs who may be stressed or anxious in unfamiliar places like boarding facilities.

The other benefit of a dog sitter is that they provide one-on-one care and attention to your pet, usually including daily walks. It’s important to ensure your dog sitter is trustworthy, experienced, has good references and is bonded or insured. Many dog sitters will also look after other pets like cats, guinea pigs, fish or birds, or water your plants!

No matter what type of boarding you choose for your dog, ask for (and call) references.  

The Best Way to Board an Unvaccinated Dog

For most people, hiring a dog sitter is your best bet. Even if you have the option to board your dog with an in-home service or pet hotel, the one-on-one attention a dog sitter provides makes it an ideal choice. Plus, your dog gets to stay in his own home and doesn’t have to adapt to a new environment. 

Another good idea is to ask a trusted friend or neighbor if they’re interested in making a little extra cash by looking after your dog. Other dog-owning friends may trade vacation care with you, so that you both look after each other’s dogs when the other is away. 

No matter what your specific needs are, be sure to plan ahead so you have access to the best options.

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