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Boarding A Dog For The First Time

The goal of boarding a dog for the first time is to find a place where your dog will be safe, cared for and happy. Your choices are a dog kennel or in a pet sitters’ home.

The best choice is boarding in a home environment, but there are not a lot of pet sitters who offer this service. So you may have to choose a dog kenneling service.

No matter which one you choose, there are many things to consider to make your dogs stay a great experience. It all depends on your dog’s particular needs and behaviors.


What To Expect Boarding A Dog For The First Time

There are things that you need to do and things your pet sitter or kennel needs to provide. Some of your main thoughts should be communicating your dog’s needs, habits and behaviors with the person who will be watching him. But let’s define the meaning of dog boarding first.


What is Dog Boarding? Dog Boarding Meaning

Boarding is when your dog stays at a pet sitters’ home or a professional dog kennel facility.

Think of the phrase “room and board”, which is just shortened to board or boarding. Check out the wiki page on this phrase, but the “room” means a private bedroom, and “board” refers to daily meals.

What is dog boarding? A place to sleep and eat away from home.
Sorry, but my dog boarding does not provide bones this big for your dog to chew.


I like to equate boarding in a pet sitters’ home to sleeping at a bed & breakfast in a private home. There is a domestic feel to B&B’s which is why they are a preferred option over hotels. I consider a kennel facility more akin to a hotel – less personal and they pack in the “guests” for maximum profit.

Read my article on Definitions of Dog Walking, Pet Sitting & Pet Boarding for a more in-depth description of dog boarding.


What Should I Expect Boarding My Dog for the First Time?

So you are going away and you can’t bring your dog with you. Your first choice would be the free option – dump your dog off with a friend or family member. That’s what I would do.

Make sure you only have another dog owner watch your dog. You don’t want your friend to take liberties with your dog (letting him off-leash) ending with a bad result. Choose only other dog owners.

But if you are here then that is not an option or you already tried that without luck.

That leaves two choices: boarding in a home or staying at a kennel. The kennel could be at your vet or daycare center, or a facility dedicated to kenneling dogs.


Boarding In-Home or at a Dog Kennel Facility

I won’t go into great detail boarding your dog at a kennel because I have no experience with that. And also because I believe boarding your dog in a pet sitters home is the best option.

However, I’ll cover issues and questions that you need to think about when it comes to boarding, which will apply to kennel facilities as well.

boarding a dog for the first time in a kennel facility

So the picture above is of a dog kennel facility. I could show any photo of a dog on a couch as contrast and you’ll understand the difference between the two. I’m sure most reputable kennels provide interaction and supervised play space, I just don’t think it’s the BEST option.

Regardless of your choice, you have to bring your dog and take a look at where he will stay. Make sure everything looks good and ask as many questions as you need.


Questions to ask the Person Boarding Your Dog

The bottom line is you want things to be as close to possible as if your dog was in your home. You just need some common sense in choosing a dog boarding service.

If your dog is the average dog with average needs, activity, energy, etc., then it’s simple. No special instructions required, you just need his basic needs taken care of.

But if your dog has health, medical or behavior concerns, then those need to be communicated to the person(s) boarding your dog.

What you want to know is:

  • If there are other animals at the location, are they up to date on shots and have flea & tick prevention? (Your dog must be up to date as well.)
  • If medicine is required, can they administer it?
  • Will they take your dog to my vet in an emergency?
  • How often will your dog be walked?
  • Will they feed your dog on the same schedule as you do?
  • Where will your dog sleep?

The answer to the first 3 questions should be yes, and they should walk your dog at least 3 times a day.

As for the feeding schedule question, a kennel facility probably have set times they feed all the dogs. A pet sitter boarding in their home can feed your dog as you request.

Where your dog will sleep depends on where you are boarding him and other factors.

If dogs want to sleep with me in my bed they can, though my dog is an attention hog. He tends to nudge dogs away from me so he can get close, which makes the dog I’m boarding jump off the bed. Then I have to push my dog out of the way and woo the other dog up. Getting to sleep can be a chore.


Things to Bring When You Board Your Dog

Bring your dogs’ favorite things to help make his stay as comfortable as possible. Anything with a familiar scent from home is fantastic like blankets, a dog bed or even one of your t-shirts. My dog often naps on my clothes.

Bring a bed or blanket when boarding your dog
Bring his favorite bed or blanket when you board your dog


Obviously, bring his food and treats but also his favorite toys. Chew toys will help ease any anxiety at being in a new environment.


Miscellaneous Dog Boarding Concerns

Make sure to book early especially close to the holidays. This is a must for in-home boarding as most pet sitters only board one dog at a time. My rule is only boarding one dog at a time, though I have made exceptions.

I would suggest sending an email 4 weeks in advance of your trip. Then you can schedule a meet-and-greet a week later. If all goes well book your dates at that time.

Give the person boarding your dog your contact information, as well as your veterinarian’s phone number. And consider giving them contact numbers for a friend or family member in case of an emergency.

You can ask for an update on the first day of boarding to see how your dog is doing, but don’t ask for updates every day. Let the professionals do their work. We will let you know if there is a problem, so hope that you don’t hear from us.

And that leads me to tips for pet sitters who are boarding a dog for the first time. This may be of interest to you if you are boarding your dog as it should give you further insight into boarding in general.


First-Time Dog Boarding for Pet Sitters

You want everything to go smoothly. You don’t want to have to contact the owner. When in doubt, think of the dogs’ well-being first. If you are new to boarding dogs, then here is a list of my requirements:

  • Dog feeding instructions and food for the duration of the boarding
  • Notes on medicine if applicable
  • Bed, crate or blankets to help the dog settle in at my place
  • Dog treats and their favorite toys
  • Leash and collar \ harness
  • Notes on anything else I need to know

If I have answers to those questions, then I’m good. Let’s look at the last question.

I need to know how the person’s dog reacts on a leash:

  • Is he or she aggressive towards other dogs? If so, then avoid all dogs.
  • Will your dog jump on people, knocking them down potentially injuring them?
  • Will the dog rip my arm off when he sees a squirrel or stray cat?

Hopefully, the answer is no to all of those questions. If you are a dog owner, be honest to the person boarding your dog. It is better to know about problems before they happen.

The point is that you need to know what to expect so that you can be prepared for it. If you are new to boarding a dog, then focus only on the safety of the dog.

I have boarded dogs that are easy and dogs that are difficult. They need food, water and to be walked. If you have difficulty walking a dog, then walk them no longer than it takes to relieve themselves. Safety first!

You will get better with boarding dogs in time. But if you are a dog walker you should be fine. And you will get a feel for a dog after boarding him or her a couple of times.


Boarding a Puppy for the First Time

All the points above for boarding a dog for the first time applies to puppies as well, but with some additional notes:

  • Puppies need to have their final vaccination shots if they will be in contact with other dogs or pets.
  • Owners need to bring a crate, pee pads and whatever else is being used to house-train their pup.
  • Chew toys: bring all their chew toys. And if you are new to boarding a puppy, then hide things you like or else they will be chewed.
  • For pet sitters, puppies cannot hold their bladder as long as adult dogs. Count on more walks for quick pee breaks.

Take a look at my article on How Much Exercise Does a Puppy Need to gain some further insight if you are boarding a puppy for the first time.


Boarding a dog with separation anxiety

Boarding a Dog with Separation Anxiety

Some dogs do not do well when left alone for many hours. Pet sitters only do three visits per day, which leaves a lot of alone time for those dogs.

Dogs suffering from separation anxiety fear the isolation and can develop negative behavior changes. They may bark constantly until you return. Chewing or destroying things is common.

They may also have “accidents” in the house or try escaping by scratching at doors or digging under fences if left in a yard.

This is why in-home boarding is best for dogs that suffer from separation anxiety. A kennel can be a lonely place for the nervous dogs needing regular attention.

Plus kennels can look and feel like a dog shelter, possibly creating fear in your dog. If they had a bad experience in a shelter before you adopted them, then they may become uncooperative.

I have an article on Crate Training At Night and First-Time Dog Owner Tips that covers using a crate for training and anxious dogs. The crate can act as a personal space, or den, where they feel safe.

Note that if your dog tries to escape out of a crate, you need to take him to behavior classes. Dogs can injure themselves from the metal parts of the crate. Hopefully, your dog does not have this level of anxiety.


Dog Behavior after Boarding

If your dog appears different after boarding, then something went wrong. They, of course, will be happy when they see you, but they shouldn’t be traumatized.

In-home boarding should always be a pleasant experience for a dog but staying at a kennel may not. The noise of other dogs barking or a scuffle with another dog could negatively affect the shy types.

Your dog may be hungry when you get him home. Some dogs will not eat as much in the new environment. I often experience this. I’ve had to buy meat to feed to a dog I was boarding because he was not eating his food.

If your dog is not used to a crate, then staying at a kennel may not be the best option of boarding.

I personally let each owner know how things went. If it didn’t go well I tell them, but most often things are fine. It’s usually the first time boarding that is difficult for a new dog. If you are a pet sitter boarding for the first time, then try to make the dog’s first stay a great one.


Dog Traumatized after Boarding

If you experience serious behavior changes then your dog did not do well. Check with the person who watched them find out what may have happened.

If they don’t know, then that’s a problem. If it was a kennel your dog stayed at, then they either failed in their duties, or the overnight conditions were bad for your dog.


Dog Boarding Philadelphia Area

If you are near Philadelphia, PA I have an article on Dog Boarding Rates in Philly. I have a link to their websites and include where they are located.

There are 13 pet service companies in Philly who offer dog boarding, only 7 board dogs in their home. The dog boarding prices \ costs range from $30 to $100 per day with an average of $60.



Make sure to do your research on what type of boarding you want. Then start looking at various homes or kennels to find the best fit for your dog.

I’m curious if anyone has experiences with both kennels and in-home boarding. Do you have a preference for one versus the other? Comment below with your experiences and good luck finding the perfect boarding location for your dog.


Jim Kernicky

I have been a dog walker and pet sitter for my business Fairmount Pet Service in the Art Museum area of Philadelphia since 2008.