The whole point of a vacation is to relax with those you love. If a dog-friendly road trip is out of the question, leaving your dog behind shouldn’t be anxiety-inducing. Boarding your dog at a reputable kennel is a great option (and an ideal solution for some pups!). For most dogs, two weeks is the longest you want to board them. Of course, every dog is different and how long you can board yours depends on her age, temperament, experience with boarding and social skills.
How Long Can You Board a Dog (and How Long Is Too Long?)
How long can you board a dog?
Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM and veterinary expert for Pumpkin Pet Insurance, says generally, most dogs can tolerate two to four weeks of boarding. “It really depends on the individual dog. Some dogs start to react negatively after two weeks, others can stay for months and not be fazed,” says Dr. Wooten. In most cases, anything beyond four weeks is considered too long—and many kennels have their own limits.
Dogs with histories of separation anxiety or anti-social behavior could react negatively to boarding after just a few days. In these situations, or if you need to board your dog longer than four weeks, it’s worth considering alternatives. Dr. Wooten says hiring a pet sitter who can stay at your home or dropping your dog with a trusted friend or relative are options, as long as that person knows what they’re getting into.
Any dog with serious medical issues or illnesses may be eligible for boarding services from a vet clinic, according to Dr. Linda Simon, MVB and consulting veterinarian at FiveBarks. “Dogs with chronic diseases that require monitoring (such as diabetes) should consider using a boarding facility offered by a veterinary clinic. Some vet nurses will offer pet-sitting services for these pets.”
Mixing and matching work well, too! A two-week stay at a kennel complimented by a two-week pet sitting stint mixes it up and allows your dog to spend at least some time at home.
A slightly different take
Kevin Ryan, of SuperbDog, is an accredited dog trainer in California with decades of experience under his belt. He was the outlier in our research who said there’s really no limit to how long you can board your dog, as long as conditions and treatment are good. “Dogs live in the moment, and their memories work much differently than ours,” says Ryan. “Once they adapt to a new routine, they are quite content. It is changing their routine that stresses them.”
Basically, according to Ryan, dogs don’t spend their time at a kennel pining for you. Sure, they may be excited to see you when you pick them up, but that doesn’t mean they’ve longingly stared out the window dreaming of you since you drove off.
Ryan does note boarding a dog for a long amount of time at a new facility isn’t wise. “It can be an overwhelming change for the dog,” he says. All the experts we spoke with encourage dog owners to do a test run (or two!) at a boarding facility before leaving their dog there for more than a few nights. This allows your dog to get used to a new place and reminds her that you will return. If possible, do a second overnight trial to gauge your dog’s reaction to the facility. “If they are enthusiastic when returning, it will give you confidence that the dog enjoyed their stay and helps lessen your guilt when leaving them,” says Ryan.
What to look for when boarding your dog
Don’t just Google a kennel and call it a day! Do some due diligence to know where your dog will be living while you’re away. Use Dr. Wooten’s questions below to make sure you board your dog at a reputable facility.
- Are the kennels clean?
- Is there a bad odor?
- Are there non-slip surfaces?
- Are the outdoor spaces clean and secure?
- Is there environmental enrichment?
- What is the bedding like?
- Are staff trained in pet CPR and first aid?
- What training techniques are used? (Positive reinforcement is best)
- Is there a local veterinarian who provides emergency care?
- How do staff interact with dogs?
- What happens if dogs get into a fight?
- Are staff onsite 24 hours a day?
- What is included in the rate?
- What types of temperature and noise control are provided?
This is just the start. Most reputable boarding facilities list answers to many of these questions on their sites, but nothing compares to visiting yourself. Once you’ve found one you and your pup enjoy, Dr. Simon advises sticking with it. “When you use kennels frequently, try to stick to the same boarding facility so your dog becomes used to the surroundings and the staff.”
Fun tips for boarding your dog
If your dog has been boarded for a long time, chances are they’re gonna smell like…well, dog. Lots and lots of dogs. Check to see if the facility offers grooming services, and if they do, ask for a bath on the day of or the day before you pick up your pooch.
Folks worried about leaving their dog at a boarding facility for a few weeks should opt for a place that allows you to watch your pup from afar. Many kennels are incorporating live feeds of doggy play areas into their services, which gives you peace of mind.
Dr. Simon notes prolonged stays can cause your dog to grow anxious and unsettled, even if this isn’t in their nature. “It can help to send them with something familiar to them, such as their bed and a blanket from the family sofa.”
So next time you have to hit the road sans your pup, remember all of these boarding guidelines so your dog has the happiest time possible.