The Hidden Risks of Dog Boarding: What Every Dog Owner Needs to Know

Risks of dog boarding

The Hidden Risks of Dog Boarding: What Every Dog Owner Needs to Know

Boarding your dog can be a double-edged sword; while it provides your pet with care when you are unable to do so, it also exposes them to unfamiliar environments, new routines, and unforeseen risks. The process of choosing a boarding facility comes with its own set of concerns—will your dog receive the personal attention they’re used to? How do you trust the caregivers? This introduction unpacks the top concerns dog owners face and sets the stage for a deeper dive into ensuring the safety and happiness of your pet while you’re away.

Why You Should Be Concerned About Dog Boarding Risks

No matter how long you plan to be away, your dog’s health and happiness are non-negotiable. Risks ranging from exposure to illness to psychological distress are real possibilities in some boarding situations. Let’s take a more detailed look at why these risks warrant your full attention.

Exposure to Illness and Disease

Social settings like boarding facilities can become hotspots for the spread of illnesses, from the common kennel cough to more serious diseases. Despite vaccination requirements, the risk of transmission in communal environments persists. Preventative measures, such as ensuring a facility requires proof of vaccinations and has a clean record of health standards, are vital steps to mitigate this risk.

Stress and Anxiety in Dogs

The emotional state of your dog is equally prone to the stresses of boarding. Separation anxiety and stress from a new environment can take a toll on your dog’s mental well-being. Identifying signs of distress and understanding how boarding facilities cater to an individual dog’s emotional needs is crucial.

Lack of Proper Supervision

Perhaps the most immediate concern is the level of supervision provided. Understaffing or inattentive care can lead to accidents or neglect. It is essential to understand a facility’s staff-to-dog ratio and how they ensure each animal is monitored and cared for adequately.

Safety Hazards at Facilities

Physical safety hazards can be hidden in plain sight. From unsafe play equipment to insecure fencing, potential dangers abound. Assessing the physical safety of the facility before admitting your dog is a non-negotiable step in the boarding process.

Negative Social Interactions

Not all dogs are social butterflies, and negative interactions can have lasting effects on your dog’s behavior and psyche. Ensuring the boarding facility understands your pet’s social needs and has measures in place to manage interactions is key to a stress-free stay.

Key Takeaway: Being proactive about identifying and addressing these boarding risks is integral to your dog’s health and well-being. Your due diligence can be the difference between a positive boarding experience and an unfortunate incident.

Risks Analysis

Exposure to Illness and Disease

The thought of your dog falling ill is certainly unsettling—especially if it happens when you’re not around to comfort them. Canine influenza, parvovirus, and kennel cough are a few of the diseases that can spread quickly in a communal dog boarding environment. The key lies in choosing a boarding facility that enforces strict vaccination policies and maintains high standards of cleanliness and hygiene.

Inquire about the protocols in place for sick dogs and preventive measures like isolation areas. Regular disinfection of surfaces and air filtration systems are commendable practices that can greatly reduce the risk of disease. Furthermore, a thorough health check of your dog before boarding can preempt potential health issues.

Stress and Anxiety in Dogs

Stress and anxiety can manifest in many ways—from a loss of appetite to sudden behavioral changes. A quality boarding facility will provide a calm, structured environment that mimics, as closely as possible, the home environment that your dog is accustomed to. This includes regular exercise, playtime, and quiet areas where dogs can retreat and relax.

Ask the facility about how they acclimate new boarders and manage stress. Do they have staff trained in canine behavior? Are there provisions for extra care and attention if a dog seems particularly anxious? These considerations are paramount for the emotional health of your pet.

Lack of Proper Supervision

Proper supervision is not just about having enough eyes on the dogs—it’s about ensuring those eyes are trained to recognize and respond to behavioral cues and potential emergencies. The best facilities have a good ratio of experienced staff to dogs and protocols in place for constant monitoring.

Visiting the facility beforehand can give you a sense of how attentive the staff is. Look for evidence of structured routines, as predictability can greatly reduce stress for boarding dogs. These routines should include regular feeding times, exercise sessions, and opportunities for one-on-one attention with caregivers.

Safety Hazards at Facilities

No detail is too small when it comes to the physical safety of the boarding facility. Are the play areas free of sharp objects and harmful materials? Is the perimeter securely fenced to prevent escapes? Is there appropriate shelter from extreme weather conditions?

Take a tour of the facility and ask questions about their safety protocols. Good signage, well-maintained equipment, and clear pathways all indicate a facility that takes safety seriously. Additionally, consider the emergency plan—both for natural disasters and individual pet emergencies. Knowing there’s a vet on call or a solid action plan can bring peace of mind.

Negative Social Interactions

Even friendly dogs can have bad days, and the mix of different temperaments in a boarding situation can lead to conflicts. Understanding how a facility manages playgroups, and whether they offer separate areas for dogs of different sizes and energy levels, is critical.

Awareness of each dog’s social preferences, paired with constant supervision, can avert negative encounters. Inquire about how staff intervene in the case of aggression and what training they have to manage such situations.

Fun Fact: Did you know that some facilities offer webcam access for you to check in on your pet? It’s a great way for you to stay connected and to witness firsthand the care they’re receiving.

Choosing a Safe Boarding Facility

A picture of The Adventure Den at Jet Pet Resort

A picture of The Adventure Den at Jet Pet Resort

Finding a boarding facility where your dog will be safe and happy requires careful scrutiny and a checklist of your own. Below, we’ll explore the primary considerations when selecting a safe and reliable place for your dog’s stay

Key Certifications and Standards

Start with verifying the credentials of the facility. Are they licensed and insured? Do they adhere to the standards set by responsible pet care organizations such as the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada (PIJAC Canada)? Such certifications can be indicative of a facility’s commitment to best practices in pet care.

Don’t hesitate to ask for proof of these credentials, as any reputable facility will be happy to comply. Standards to look out for include:

  • Provincial licensing
  • Staff training and qualifications
  • Animal care and management protocols
  • Emergency preparedness plans

Vaccinations and Health Checks

Ensure that the facility requires all boarders to be up-to-date on vaccinations. This not only protects your dog but also contributes to the overall health of the boarding community.

Consider a pre-boarding health check with your veterinarian to ensure your pet is fit for their stay. This is also a good time to discuss any concerns or special care instructions with the boarding facility.

Familiarization and Trial Stays

If possible, schedule a visit or a trial stay for a few hours or overnight to see how your dog adjusts to the boarding environment. This can help reduce stress for your dog when it’s time for the actual stay, as the surroundings will be more familiar.

Observe how the staff interacts with your dog and whether they ask pertinent questions about your dog’s behavior, medical history, and preferences. The attention to detail that staff shows during a trial can be indicative of the care they will provide during a longer stay.

Communication with Facility Staff

Open communication with the facility’s staff is imperative. Provide them with detailed information about your dog’s routines, dietary restrictions, and any medication requirements.

Clear and honest communication about your dog’s needs and any concerns you have can go a long way in ensuring a safe and comfortable boarding experience.

Preparing Your Dog for Boarding

Preparation is key to a successful boarding experience. From health checks to emotional readiness, here’s how to prepare your furry friend for their stay away from home.

Vaccinations and Health Checks

Ensure your dog is current on all vaccinations required by the boarding facility. It’s also a smart idea to have your veterinarian perform a comprehensive health check to address any underlying conditions that could flare up during their stay.

  • Rabies
  • Distemper
  • Canine Hepatitis
  • Parvovirus
  • Bordetella (Kennel Cough)

Familiarization and Trial Stays

Acclimating your dog to the boarding facility can help ease their anxiety during their stay. Many facilities offer trial stays or daycare options to help your pet become familiar with the new environment and routine.

A successful trial stay can be a good indicator of how well your dog will adapt, and it provides an opportunity for the staff to get to know your pet’s unique personality and needs.

Communication with Facility Staff

Open communication with the staff at the boarding facility is essential. Share any necessary information about your dog’s diet, medical history, behavioral quirks, and daily routine to ensure they can provide the best care possible during your absence.

Don’t forget to provide the contact details of your veterinarian and an emergency contact. A well-informed staff is well-equipped to handle any situations that may arise.

Key Takeaway: Preparing your dog for boarding involves more than just packing their bag. It’s about ensuring they’re healthy, familiar with the boarding environment, and that the boarding staff has all the information needed to provide the best care.

Questions to Ask Before Boarding Your Dog

Arming yourself with knowledge is your first line of defense. Here are some key questions to ask to make sure you’re choosing the best boarding option for your pet.

  • What is the staff to dog ratio?
  • How are medical emergencies handled?
  • How often are dogs taken out for exercise?
  • Can I tour the facility and see where my dog will be staying?
  • Are there any breed-specific rules or restrictions?
  • What are the check-in and check-out times?
  • Do you offer any additional services like grooming or training?
  • How do you handle dogs that become stressed or anxious?

These questions will give you a clear picture of what to expect and will help you assess the facility’s suitability for your dog’s needs.

Emergency Planning

No one likes to think about emergencies, but it’s necessary to be prepared. Understand the facility’s protocol for dealing with emergencies, whether they’re related to your dog’s health or an environmental issue at the facility.

Steps to Take in Case of an Emergency

Verify that the facility has an emergency evacuation plan and that staff are trained to implement it. Additionally, ensure that there is a system in place for communicating with pet owners during an emergency situation.

By taking the time to evaluate the facility’s emergency preparedness, you’re taking an important step in safeguarding your dog’s well-being.

Alternatives to Traditional Boarding

Traditional boarding isn’t for every dog, but thankfully, there are alternatives. Let’s explore some other options that might be a better fit for your pet’s personality and your peace of mind.

Home Boarding Services

Home boarding services offer a more personal touch, often limiting the number of dogs to ensure each one receives ample attention. Your dog may find this homier environment less stressful than a traditional boarding kennel.

Pet Sitters

For dogs that prefer the comfort of their own home, hiring a pet sitter could be the ideal solution. Experienced pet sitters can maintain your dog’s regular routine, giving you assurance they’re being well cared for in familiar surroundings.

In conclusion, when boarding isn’t the right fit, consider home boarding or pet sitters as viable and often comforting alternatives.

In Summary: Ensuring Your Dog’s Safety

Whether you opt for traditional boarding, home boarding, or a pet sitter, your dog’s safety is the highest priority. Careful preparation, thorough research, and clear communication with your chosen facility or sitter are the cornerstones of a positive boarding experience for your beloved companion.

Remember to listen to your instincts—if a facility doesn’t feel right, keep looking. There are many caring and professional options out there, and with the right preparation and questions, you’ll find the perfect fit for your dog.


Is it better to board my dog or hire a pet sitter?

It depends on your dog’s temperament and your preferences. Boarding facilities offer professional care and socialization with other dogs, while pet sitters provide personalized care in your home or theirs. Consider your dog’s anxiety levels, health, and habits when making this decision.

How do I know if a boarding facility is reputable?

Look for facilities that are licensed, have good reviews, and are transparent about their policies and procedures. Also, check for necessary certifications, ask for a tour, and see how the staff interacts with the animals.

What should I do if my dog has never been boarded before?

Start with a trial stay to see how they adapt. Prepare them by packing familiar items like their bed or a toy to make the boarding feel less daunting. Ensure the staff is aware it’s their first time and might require extra attention.

Can boarding have long-term effects on my dog’s behavior?

It can, especially if your dog is prone to anxiety or has a negative experience. Choosing a reputable facility, preparing your pet properly, and ensuring they are well cared for while you’re away can mitigate these risks.

Are there any signs that my dog might not be suited for boarding?

If your dog is extremely anxious, aggressive towards strangers or other dogs, or has significant health issues, boarding might not be the best option. Speak with your veterinarian and consider alternatives like pet sitters or home boarders.