The Emotional Toll of Dog Boarding: How to Ease Your Pet’s Stress

Happy dog in a boarding facility

The Emotional Toll of Dog Boarding: How to Ease Your Pet’s Stress

Saying goodbye to your furry friend at a boarding kennel can tug at your heartstrings. But have you ever wondered about the emotional toll of boarding on dogs? As pet owners, we’re often consumed with the logistics of boarding, focusing on the practicalities rather than the psychological effects. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into what our dogs actually experience — from the distress signals they may exhibit to strategies for making the separation as stress-free as possible.

Our aim is to bridge the gap between human understanding and canine emotion, ensuring your dog’s tail keeps wagging, even when you’re away.

Understanding the Emotional Impact of Dog Boarding

It’s the moment you dread. Your dog’s face, brimming with a blend of confusion and apprehension, watches as you leave the boarding facility. But what ensues within their furry heads during your absence? To grasp this, we need to recognize that dogs are creatures of habit, thriving on routine and familiarity. The disruption caused by boarding can ignite a firestorm of anxiety and stress.

Signs of Stress and Anxiety in Dogs

Dogs communicate their discomfort through an array of signals. This canine Morse code includes symptoms such as excessive panting, whining, pacing, or behavioural changes like withdrawal or aggression. These manifestations of stress are not just mere quirks, but cries for help that we, as pet guardians, must heed. Spotting these early can prevent a cascade of emotional turmoil.

Dog Psychology: Attachment to Owners and Territory

Fun fact: did you know that dogs have an area of their brain that lights up when they smell their owner’s scent?

This highlights the deep-seated bond between dogs and their owners, a connection stressed when sundered by boarding. Moreover, the territorial instinct of a dog makes the unfamiliar environment of a kennel more distressing. This psychological upheaval can be akin to us humans moving to a foreign country without any prep.

Dogs aren’t just missing you; they’re grappling with a profound emotional and psychological shift that boarding can introduce. Their emotional attachment to you and their home turf is paramount, making our role in easing this transition incredibly vital.

The Boarding Experience Through a Dog’s Eyes

The clink of a kennel door closing can be the start of an unfamiliar journey for a dog. While some adapt with remarkable resilience, others may feel as if they are being exiled from their pack. The boarding experience varies greatly from one dog to another, and understanding it from your dog’s perspective is essential for mitigating its emotional impact.

The First Night: What Happens to Your Dog?

The first night is often the most challenging hurdle for a boarded dog. Stripped of their usual comforts, they face the night surrounded by strange noises, smells, and other anxious animals. Many will display an increase in stress behaviours, such as relentless pacing, yowling, or even attempting escape maneuvers. It’s a dog-eat-dog world in the kennel environment, and the alpha dogs may assert dominance, adding to the stress of more submissive canines.

Coping Mechanisms Dogs Use in Boarding

Just as humans develop coping strategies in times of stress, so do dogs. Some might find solace in the presence of other dogs, while others may retreat into their own shell, using solitude as a shield. It’s not uncommon to see dogs excessively licking paws or chewing bedding as a form of self-soothing. Be assured— experienced kennel staff are well-versed in these habits and often help our four-legged friends find constructive outlets such as playtime or one-on-one interaction.

Remember: Empathy is key. Imagine if you were suddenly dropped off in an alien environment — you too might find comfort in a familiar blanket or photo. Hence, the emotional welfare of dogs in boarding can hinge on continuing those small gestures of comfort and routine.

How to Choose the Right Boarding Facility for Your Dog

The Adventure Den facility at Jet Pet Resort

The Adventure Den facility at Jet Pet Resort

Finding a boarding home that’s less ‘ruff’ on your pet requires a keen eye and a little canine intuition. It’s about sniffing out the place that doesn’t just look good on paper but feels right in the spirit of your bond with your dog.

Facility Features That Support Emotional Health

A stellar facility will offer more than just bowls and blankets; they’ll have a staff that throws a bone to the emotional needs of their charges. Look for places that bolster canine spirits with music, play areas, and a schedule that includes plenty of human interaction. Consider it a win if the kennel space resembles a canine Ritz—it’s about luxury of care, not just amenities.

Staff Training and Attitude Towards Dogs

Make no bones about it— the staff’s training and attitude can make or break your dog’s boarding experience. These individuals should not just tolerate barks and tail wags but understand the symphony of canine communication. They’re the ones ensuring your dog is not just surviving, but thriving. An excellent facility will have a team that’s passionate about pooch happiness—chewed slippers and all!

A ‘pawsitive’ attitude: Ensuring the boarding facility has a staff that loves dogs is non-negotiable. You’re not just looking for a kennel; you’re looking for an extended family for your four-legged companion.

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Preparing Your Dog for Boarding

Getting your dog geared up for boarding doesn’t have to be akin to Mission Impossible. With thoughtful preparation, you can transform this from a ‘ruff’ patch to a walk in the park. It’s all about making the unknown known, and the unfamiliar, familiar.

Easy Adaptation Strategies

Acclimating your dog to boarding can be as simple as doing a few dry runs. Short stays at the facility or fun visits in advance can act as a primer, ensuring the real deal isn’t a shock to their system. Introduce the concept slowly, and let them sniff out the prospect of boarding at their own pace. A happy dog is one that knows the playpen isn’t a penitentiary.

Packing for Comfort: Familiar Items to Include

When it’s time for the main event, pack a suitcase that would make even the most sophisticated tail-wagger jealous. Familiar items like their favourite blanket, a much-loved toy, or even a garment with your scent can be the linchpin in maintaining their emotional equilibrium. It’s all about creating a home away from home, in a doggy-sized duffle bag.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to include a piece of home. Something as simple as a well-worn T-shirt with your scent can provide an olfactory hug to your furry friend while you’re away.

Alternatives to Boarding: Minimizing Separation Stress

If the thought of boarding has you and your dog howling in unison, fear not. There’s a veritable dog park of alternatives that can keep those tails wagging happily, even in your absence.

Pet Sitters and Doggy Day Care

Consider a pet sitter—like a babysitter but furrier. They offer the familiarity of home with the addition of human companionship. Doggy daycares, on the other hand, can be like a never-ending canine carnival where your dog can socialize and play, diffusing any inklings of loneliness.

Technology to the Rescue: Stay Connected with Your Dog

In our tech-savvy world, staying connected with your canine companion is just a click away. Interactive cameras allow you to beam into their world, offering reassurance with your voice or even treats dispensed remotely. It gives the term ‘watchdog’ a whole new meaning and keeps both ends of the leash tangle-free.

The Return Home: Reassuring Your Dog After Boarding

The homecoming can be a jubilant affair, fraught with wagging tails and exuberant leaps or it might be tinged with a hint of anxiety. The post-boarding phase is crucial in re-establishing normalcy and ensuring your dog understands that being left at a boarding facility is neither punishment nor permanent.

Post-Boarding Behavior: What to Expect

Upon returning home, your furball might showcase an array of behaviours ranging from clinginess to temporary aloofness. This period of adjustment is normal; your dog is just processing the recent ‘vacation.’ Some might bolt for their familiar spots, while others might stick to you like Velcro. Remember, patience here is more than a virtue – it’s a necessity.

Strengthening the Bond After Separation

Those first few days back are an opportunity to rekindle the bond. Engage in favoured activities, whether it’s a game of fetch that could give a pro athlete a run for their money or a cuddle session worthy of a lazy Sunday. These gestures reassure your dog that the status quo is restored and all is well in their world.

Quick Sniff: Sometimes, all it takes is your familiar routine to remind your dog that they’re back where they belong – with their beloved pack leader.

When Boarding Is Inevitable: Long-Term Emotional Health

Life’s obligations can make boarding an inescapable reality for some dog owners. But surrendering to the situation doesn’t mean surrendering your dog’s emotional health to the winds.

Professional Help: Training and Therapy for Boarding Stress

If your pooch is a frequent flyer of the kennel club and seems to suffer for it, it might be worth investing in professional help. Dog trainers and behaviourists can work wonders in teaching your dog that boarding isn’t all doom and gloom. They can introduce coping skills, stress-busting tricks, and even turn the boarding experience into a game.

Regular Boarding: The Pros and Cons

There’s a delicate balance when it comes to regular boarding. On the one paw, frequent stays can desensitize your dog to the experience, transforming trepidation into nonchalance. On the other, it’s vital to ensure that boarding doesn’t become a substitute for the love and attention only you can provide.


In the tail-wagging journey of pet ownership, boarding your dog is never going to be the highlight. Yet, understanding the emotional toll it can take on our canine companions is the first step towards making it a tolerable, if not positive, experience for them. Every bark and whimper tells a story, and as the authors of their care, it’s our role to ensure it’s a tale filled with as much joy as possible.

The Takeaway: Whether you’re parting with your pup for a day or a week, remember that their emotional well-being rests in your hands. With the right prep, the best care choices, and a heartfelt reunion, boarding can become just another chapter in your dog’s happy life narrative.


Do cameras in kennels help reduce stress for dogs?

Cameras in kennels can be a boon for owners, offering peace of mind by allowing you to view your dog while you’re apart. For dogs, the benefit lies more in interactive technology — such as two-way audio systems — which can allow you to offer comforting words and maintain a sense of presence. While cameras themselves don’t alleviate stress directly for dogs, they enable kennel staff to monitor pets closely and respond to any signs of distress more promptly.

How long does it typically take for a dog to adjust to boarding?

The adjustment period for boarding varies from one dog to another. Some may take a day or two to settle in, while others can take longer, especially if they’re prone to anxiety. Providing a familiar item from home, such as a blanket or toy, can help your dog adjust more quickly. Additionally, regular short-term boardings may help them acclimate and understand that you’ll always return for them.

Is it a good idea to visit the boarding facility with your dog beforehand?

Yes, visiting the boarding facility with your dog before an extended stay can be extremely beneficial. It familiarizes them with the new environment, the caretakers, and the scents and sounds they’ll experience during their stay. These visits can reduce the shock of separation when it comes time to board and make the transition smoother for your dog.

Can a dog’s breed affect how it handles boarding?

Certain breeds may be more prone to stress and anxiety than others. For example, breeds known for their strong attachment to their owners, such as Velcro dogs like the Vizsla or Weimaraner, might find boarding more challenging. However, individual personality and past experiences often play a larger role than breed alone. It’s important to consider your dog’s unique temperament when planning for boarding.

What are the long-term effects of repeated boarding on a dog’s mental health?

While occasional boarding shouldn’t have detrimental long-term effects on a dog’s mental health, frequent and prolonged boarding experiences can be stressful for some dogs. It’s vital to ensure these stays are as comfortable as possible and to provide plenty of love and attention when they’re home. Building positive associations with boarding, such as rewards and playtime at the facility, can also help mitigate potential negative effects.