It’s a sad day for both you and your dog when you have to leave your buddy for a long boarding stay. Knowing you’ve done all you can to make his stay as comfortable and stress-free as possible won’t help you miss him any less, but it will give you the peace of mind that will allow you to enjoy your trip.
You know your dog better than anyone, so shop around to find the best boarding facility to fit both his needs and his temperament. Visit each kennel and meet the staff in person to help you evaluate exactly who will be caring for your dog. Look for a kennel that’s certified by the Pet Care Services Association, which requires kennels to adhere to a strict code of ethics. Find out the kennel’s policies for handling emergencies, as well as for exercise and group play. Ask them about any special needs your dog has, such as a special diet, and make sure meeting those needs won’t be a problem. Let them know if your dog has aggressive or nervous tendencies, or if he hasn’t been properly socialized with other dogs, and ask what kind of experience they have handling dogs with the same temperament.
In the weeks leading up to your absence, do what you can to acclimate your dog to a boarding facility environment. If possible, take him to visit the kennel where he’ll be staying and let him become familiar with the staff and surroundings. Schedule him for shorter stays at a doggie daycare to get him used to the idea of staying away from home and being separated from you. You can also practice at home by confining your dog to a crate, pen or small room while you leave for a few hours at a time. If you have more than one dog, practice keeping them separated for long stretches of time as they will be in the boarding facility.
Different kennels have different policies on bringing items from home. If your kennel allows it, a toy or bedding that smells of home will provide comfort for your dog. Toys might get lost or chewed up, so leave his favorite at home to be safe. Be sure that any bedding you provide is machine washable in case of accidents. If the facility doesn’t allow toys or bedding from home, see if they’ll let him have an old T-shirt that’s covered with your scent.
When you drop your dog off on the first day of his boarding stay, stay calm and relaxed and avoid making a scene. It’s easier said than done; but dogs are very good at tuning in to our emotions, and the more you make a big deal out of saying goodbye, the more stressed he’s likely to be by your departure. Similarly, when you pick him up at the end of his stay, try not to go overboard in showing him how happy you are to see him; doing so could create anxiety that will make it more difficult to transition him back to his home.
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