What To Expect When Boarding Your Dog

Tips to help your dog have the best boarding experience

While boarding your dog with a vet can often be a better choice than leaving your dog with a friend or family member, there is no question that boarding causes stress for both pet owners and their dogs. You worry is your pet getting the best possible care? Is your pet behaving himself?  Is he being loved on enough, while you are away? While your pet tends to be most comfortable in her home environment, she experience separation anxiety, or loss of appetite while her owners are away.
At Ambassador, we are always happy to walk our clients through the boarding process and to work with dog owners to make their dog’s stay more worry-free. We also dispense medications and offer extra playtime for dogs who are boarding with us at no extra charge. We encourage our clients to plan and prepare for dog boarding, and to look at any extra time they spend getting ready for their trip as a long-term investment in their dog’s well-being and happiness.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Dog Boarding

Following these simple steps will help ensure that your dog has the most comfortable, fun stay possible—and will reduce the anxiety that both of you feel while you are away.

Do Discuss Your Dog’s Needs With Your Boarding Facility. It is a good idea to talk to your kennel manager about any illnesses, allergies, or other sensitivities that your dog has. Of course, if you board with your primary care vet, the staff will already have all of this information on hand, as well as having qualified, licensed veterinarians in the next room who can properly dispense medicine and be on call in case anything goes wrong. At Ambassador, we ask that all new boarding clients fill out our dog boarding form before dropping your dog off so that we will know basics such as feeding instructions and medications.

Do Leave Your Contact Information. You should always leave a number where you can be reached easily in case we have a question about your dog or about your instructions. Remember to add Ambassador’s phone number to your contact list so that you recognize who is calling quickly. You may also consider adding a secondary contact number who we can call if we can’t get ahold of you in an emergency.

Do Schedule a Walkthrough with Your Dog in Advance. We understand that this isn’t always possible, but the more familiar your dog is with our staff and our facility, the less likely your dog will be to experience separation anxiety while you are gone. In addition to regular vet visits, feel free to bring your dog by to say hello and to get a treat while you are out running errands together. Of course, we are working—but there will always be one or two staff members who are available to pet and play with your dog for a few minutes. Another option is to enroll your pup in our Doggie Daycare Program for a couple of days a week. This is especially helpful in the weeks leading up to a long trip of five days or more. Getting your dog accustomed to Ambassador Animal Hospital as a fun, playful place will go a long way toward making sure your dog’s stay is comfortable.

Do Bring a Favorite Blanket or Toy. We encourage pet owners to bring in a favorite blanket, toy, or a dog bed. Some pet owners have even found that bringing in an old shirt that smells like them brings their dog comfort and relieves separation anxiety. While you shouldn’t drop off everything your dog uses day-to-day, letting your dog have one or two items from home during a boarding stay can make a huge difference.

Do Bring a Small Container of Your Dog’s Favorite Food. We are happy to feed all of the dogs who board with us from our hospital supply. We use Purina Veterinary Diet EN, which is a food especially formulated to mitigate the effects that boarding may have on the tummy.  It contains prebiotics, is highly digestible, and is approved for all life stages.  However, even if your dog isn’t on any kind of specialty diet, it might be a good idea to bring a small container of your dog’s favorite food or a favorite treat in order to appetize your dog. Dogs can often be picky or food-sensitive, so changing up your dog’s diet at the same time that you are leaving can lead to upset stomachs and increased anxiety.  Again, there is no need to bring in a dozen cans or a 40-pound bag of kibble, but a small taste of home is a good idea.

Don’t Prolong Your Goodbye. When you bring your dog in for boarding, pet your dog and hand the leash over to the kennel manager, but don’t drag out the process. If you’ve spoken to the facility in advance and filled out the dog boarding form, the transition should go smoothly. Dogs are empathetic animals, and they are most empathetic to their owners, picking up on your feelings and stress instantly and intuitively. While shedding lots of tears and giving lots of hugs and kisses might make you feel better, it will most definitely make your dog feel worse. Your dog will worry that something is wrong; however, if you act as though nothing is wrong or out of the ordinary, your dog will follow suit and have a better stay.  

Don’t Be Surprised if Your Dog Doesn’t Eat. Many dogs simply refuse to eat while their owners are away—at least for the first few days. When we board dogs at Ambassador, we do everything we can to make sure your dog remains on a proper feeding schedule while with us. If we have a dog who isn’t eating, we try to appetize the dog with canned food mixed in, or with special treats, or gels. However, we cannot force a dog to eat. Don’t be surprised if your dog may even lose a couple pounds while boarding, and don’t worry too much about whether or not your dog may refuse to eat. No dog is going to starve itself or do any real damage because the owner is gone. We do recommend that you discuss the stay with your boarding facility when you return. If you find out that your dog didn’t eat much for a couple of days, reintroduce your dog to food slowly when you return home rather than feeding a big meal right away. This will decrease the likelihood of stomach issues.  Also it is wise to ration water and food both when arriving home, because some pets tend to gorge on water or food out of excitement, causing them to then vomit, or have other issues such a painful abdomen, or gas.  

Don’t Be Surprised if Your Dog Gets GI Issues.  Dogs use their intestinal tracts as a stress organ.  It is not uncommon for a dog to develop diarrhea while boarding, a phenomenon called stress colitis.  This does not mean your dog is miserable, it just means he/she is super excited and active, and maybe a little anxious, causing the colon to underperform, allowing stool to be expressed before it is “ready.”   At Ambassador our staff is trained to recognize the signs of stress colitis and have one of our doctors start treatment immediately.  Treatment is just in the form of oral medication to firm your dog’s stool back up.  You may see your dog received some diarrhea medication while boarding when you come to pick-up, or you may be sent home with some remaining medication to finish at home.  Stress colitis is not life-threatening, and some pets are just simply prone to this condition.  Be sure to discuss your pet’s typical bowel habits at drop-off so the staff can be prepared if you feel your pet may be likely to have an overactive GI tract.

Don’t Be Surprised if Your Dog Seems Tired. Often, dogs are worn out after they return home from a boarding stay, especially only dogs who are used to being alone most of the time. This is quite common and normal and should be no cause for alarm. If you indicated that your dog is allowed to play in a like-sized group, your dog got more time with other dogs than normal, which can be exhausting (in a good way) for a pup. Plus, just like traveling and being away from home makes people feel tired and worn down, being out of their comfort zone makes dogs tired, too. So relax and schedule some downtime with your dog when you get home.

Remember, your dog is always going to prefer you and is always going to prefer to be in your home. But that doesn’t mean that your dog can’t have a fun time while you’re away, especially if you’re willing to plan and prepare for boarding success.


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