Dog Boarding

When dog owners plan to be away from home for an extended period of time, the question always arises: what to do with the dog? Many owners turn to boarding kennels to overcome this obstacle. Kennels are secure, dependable, and provide proper care for your dog. Choosing the correct kennel can ease the mind of dog owners while they are away.

Choosing a Boarding Kennel

Many factors should be considered before choosing a boarding kennel where you are comfortable leaving your dog:

  • What kind of kennel is it?
  • Can I tour the boarding kennel?
  • When can I drop off and pick up my dog?
  • What should I bring with my dog to the kennel?
  • Are the dogs let out in groups or individually?
  • Are there extra exercise options for my dog?
  • What happens if my dog has an emergency?

These are just some of the questions that could arise when deciding where you are going to board your dog. These questions will also help you evaluate different boarding kennels to choose the kennel that is appropriate for you and your dog.

Kennel Staff

When choosing a kennel, you want to choose a kennel whose staff is not only knowledgeable about dogs, but provides excellent customer service. You want a staff that puts your dog first. Your dog will already be nervous and scared going to a new place, so you want to choose a staff that will create an atmosphere that is beneficial and less stressful to the dog. You also want a staff that supervises your dog throughout the day. Dogs need to be checked regularly during the day in case they are showing signs of illness or distress. An experienced kennel staff will be able to notice these signs and evaluate the situation in case veterinary assistance may be needed.

You may want to ask the following questions when evaluating the kennel staff:

  • What type of experience do you have working at a kennel?
  • How long have you been working at the kennel?
  • Do you own a dog?
  • What type of experience do you have with dogs?

Boarding Kennels

Several styles of boarding kennels exist and all have their pros and cons. Most kennels will house your dog individually, unless instructed otherwise. Many kennels house your dog in an inside facility and then will let your dog outside into an exercise yard several times a day. Some boarding kennels have inside/outside runs that allow the dog to be inside or outside depending on what the dog prefers. For smaller dogs, some facilities may offer smaller dimensioned kennels that will better accommodate these dogs. Kennels may be equipped with an elevated dog bed or crate and two separate bowls, one for food and one for water. Elevated crates give the dog another option on which to lay or sleep other than the floor. Kennels today may also provide luxuries like TV, spas, and pools for your dog. There is a wide variety of boarding kennels; boarding kennel owners choose the style of kennel based on their boarding perspective.

Touring the Kennel

Touring a kennel will give an owner a better sense of what the kennel is like and how it functions. When touring different boarding kennels, owners should look to make sure that the kennels are safe and secure. Kennels need to be secure to ensure owners that their dog will not escape and try to come find them. This will help relieve some of the stress owners have when leaving their dog at the kennel. Owners should also see if the kennel area is temperature-controlled. Having a kennel that is temperature-controlled will help relieve stress on the dog and provide a comfortable temperature for the dogs.

Another aspect owners should consider when touring is if the kennels are clean and sanitary. They should be free of dirt, fecal matter, odors, and parasites. Boarding facilities should maintain a strict schedule on disinfecting kennels in between each customer. A dirty kennel will not only lose a kennel’s reputation, but it could also transfer diseases from one dog to another, potentially infecting all boarding customers. By touring potential kennels, you will be able to meet the staff taking care of your dog and get to see the facility to make sure it meets your standards.

Common Questions

Can my dog receive extra exercise opportunities?

A lot of kennels have additional exercise programs for your dog when it is being boarded. If you have a dog that gets a lot of exercise during the day, these programs may be beneficial. The programs are designed to let your dog relieve excess energy. Options can range from taking your dog on walks to letting them spend more time in the exercise yards. Also, this is a great way for dogs to interact with the staff. Often, these extra opportunities will cost extra, in addition to the standard boarding fee.

Should I bring my own dog food?

Kennels usually feed a diet that meets the basic nutrient requirements for most dogs. This is a basic diet that can be fed to all dogs. It is recommended that a dog is fed the same product it receives at home so you are not switching the diet on your dog. Switching your dog’s diet may cause your dog to become stressed or cause gastrointestinal problems. By feeding your dog its normal food, the staff will be able to monitor the dog’s intake and won’t have to worry about how your dog may act with the new diet. Make sure you provide more than enough food for the time you will be gone.  

Are dogs let out individually or in a group?

This depends on the particular kennel. Many kennels will let dogs out individually or only with dogs belonging to the same family. This prevents fights between dogs that don’t know each other. Other boarding facilities may let dogs out based on their size — first, a group of smaller dogs, then medium-sized dogs, and finally large dogs. Kennels use this philosophy so that the dogs will be able to socialize with other dogs to help relieve stress and anxiety of being alone. Kennel owners have their own views based on their experience and success using particular procedures. You should let the staff know if you do not want your dog socializing with other dogs, if your dog has any aggression issues, or if your dog doesn’t interact well with new dogs.

Does my dog require specific shots to board?

Boarding kennels usually require specific vaccinations to allow your dog to be boarded. These vaccines may include rabies, parvovirus, distemper, and Bordetella. Kennels may also require other vaccinations. Most kennels require a vaccination record from your veterinarian stating that your dog is up to date on its shots and has had all the required vaccinations. Because diseases are more readily spread between dogs in close quarters, it is important to discuss your dog’s vaccination needs with your veterinarian well in advance of the proposed kennel stay.


Choosing a boarding kennel that you are comfortable with may be a difficult task. To ensure you are content with the kennel, ask if you can take a tour to look at the facilities and meet the staff. This will give you a good feeling about the kennel you are going to leave your dog at. While on the tour, ask questions about items you are unsure about and what may be mandatory to do before you drop your dog off. By visiting the kennel and asking questions, you will know what to expect when you drop your dog off and while it is at the kennel.


Jared Mracek and Lisa Karr-Lilienthal, Ph.D. – University of Nebraska-Lincoln