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What to look for in a dog boarding facility

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

There are many reasons you might need to book your dog into a boarding kennel, such as a holiday where you can’t take your pet, home renovations or moving house. If you are in the first two or three months of settling in a new puppy, you should strongly consider taking your puppy with you on a trip, as you don’t want to miss out on important bonding, training and socialisation opportunities at this key age.

For older puppies and adult dogs, boarding facilities come in many different styles. You should select one based on how well you feel they will suit the needs of your specific pet.

dog on holiday wearing sunglasses

Boarding Kennels/Pet Hotels

Purpose-built facilities who specialise in boarding dogs will range in size, facilities, and experiences they can offer your dog. If you have an athletic breed that requires a lot of daily exercise, look for a kennel who can offer daily walks, activities, or socialisation with other dogs, if appropriate.

For dogs who are very social, many kennels offer day-care style play time with other dogs. You should investigate their policies thoroughly before booking in however, to check exactly how they match suitable dogs together, how closely they are supervised, and what they will do if your dog is either more shy or more boisterous than expected.

Many kennels or pet hotels have a range of different creature comforts they can offer your dog, and you may be able to select between different options depending on what you think your dog would be most comfortable with.

woman hugging brown Labrador


If you have an anxious or shy dog, or a dog suffering from separation anxiety, then you may need an in-home pet sitter who can come to your house or can have your dog staying in their home. Pet sitters can be a great option for dogs who need lots of individual attention to feel comfortable. Picky eaters, nervous dogs or smaller breeds often cope best with a pet-sitting arrangement. This is also the best option if you do end up having to do emergency boarding for a new puppy during their critical socialisation phase. Pet-sitting can be one-on-one, or in pairs or small groups for social dogs.

Vet Clinic Boarding

Some vet clinics offer boarding facilities. This can be ideal for older, frail pets with complex medical needs, as you know your pet will be medicated and supervised by an expert team while you are away. This type of boarding is often best suited for shorter-term stays, as the busy vet staff may not have a lot of time for walks and playtime and their kennels and outdoor facilities may be smaller than in a purpose-built boarding facility.

five different dogs in a row along a log

Check requirements for boarding

Most boarding facilities will require your dog to be up to date with a C5 vaccination, covering for Parvovirus, Distemper, Hepatitis and Kennel Cough. They will usually ask you to provide a vaccination certificate when your dog arrives for their stay. Being up to date with vaccinations reduces the risk of your dog catching an infection from another dog during their stay. Bear in mind that vaccination boosters generally take one to two weeks to fully kick in, so you should organise your booster at least fourteen days prior to checking in your dog. Most kennels also require your dog to be up to date on their parasite prevention including flea, tick and worming cover, to reduce the risk of these parasites spreading between dogs.

Many boarding facilities book up well in advance, especially around peak holiday periods like Christmas or school holidays. Make sure you book well in advance to avoid disappointment. Bear in mind that some kennels may require your dog to do a ‘trial day’ before confirming their booking, so you may have to allow time for this before your trip.

young woman on a phone at a train station

Tips for ensuring a smooth stay

  • Make sure the kennels can contact you. If you will be overseas or will not be contactable by phone, always leave an alternative contact number of a trusted friend or family member who could authorise emergency vet treatment or make other quick decisions if required.

  • If this is the first time your dog has tried boarding, or if you know your pet is on the anxious side, then speak to your vet about short-acting anxiety medications your pet could take in boarding. These can be perfect to help your dog settle in and be less nervous in a new environment with strangers and other dogs.

black and white dog with yellow toy on the lawn

Things to ask

  • What training and experience do the boarding staff have? Who will be the main staff interacting with your pet? If this is one-on-one pet sitter, ask for references and try to meet the person in advance, along with your pet, so you both feel comfortable with them before you leave.

  • Does the boarding facility have an arrangement with a local vet clinic? What is their protocol if there is a dog fight, or if a dog is unwell during their stay?

  • It is common for dogs to not eat very well in boarding, either due to stress, over-excitement, or a sudden change in diet. What is the facility’s protocol if your dog isn’t eating well?

  • What are the opening hours and when are staff present in the building? What will happen if you are delayed picking up your pet?

  • Do you need to provide your pet’s own food, bedding, harness and lead? Does the facility allow your pet to bring their own toys, bowls or blankets?

  • Is there an additional charge for prescription food, medications, walks or playtime?

  • How much individual attention and stimulation does each dog get each day?

  • Are play sessions, grooming sessions and daily walks available?

  • Are the staff able to provide you with updates or pictures of your pet during their stay?

  • Is it possible to tour and see the facilities before booking in? If you do get a chance to tour, keep an eye out for the cleanliness, temperature, and noise levels in particular.

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