What To Look For In Pet Boarding Services

Should you opt for a pet sitter, a cozy home environment, or a high-tech boarding service? Here’s what to consider when boarding your pet.

Sydney Chamberlain

Updated November 02, 2022 • Published June 07, 2019

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What To Look For In Pet Boarding Services

Here’s what you should know before you leave your fur baby in someone else’s care.

Sometimes travel plans or family emergencies mean you have to board your pet. Whether you’ll be gone for a few hours or a few weeks, it can be hard to leave your fur baby in someone else’s care. Will your pet get enough attention? Get everything they need? Know you still love them and are coming back for them?

When it comes down to it, choosing the right pet boarding service can give you peace of mind when leaving your pet with someone else. A reputable place will keep your pet engaged and happy, and take good care of them.

But finding “the one” can be tough — even more so if your pet has separation anxiety or special medical needs.

Boarding vs. Pet Sitting

First things first: If you can, choose a sitter over taking your pet to an unfamiliar boarding facility.

"Without a doubt, an in-house pet sitter would be my preference," says Rebecca Greenstein, DVM, chief veterinarian and owner of Kleinburg Veterinary Hospital in Ontario, Canada. "What I find the most appealing about in-house sitters is the ability to individualize the care and attention that your pet receives. Plus, you'll be keeping them in a familiar and comfortable environment."

Of course, sometimes a pet sitter isn't an option. In that case, you can find a facility that will take great care of your pet while you're away. "Reputable boarding facilities are also fantastic” adds Dr. Greenstein. “Many of them employ experienced pet lovers and provide ample space to play, explore, and socialize."

Finding The Right Boarding Service: What To Consider

It takes time and due diligence to find the right boarding service for your pet. Here's what to consider as you start your search.

Is Your Pet Social?

Your pet's personality should play a role in your decision.

For instance, if you have a very social dog, look for a facility that provides playtime with other dogs so your pet has a more active and engaging stay. If your furry friend craves more human interaction, ask the facility how much your pet will get during their visit.

Though if your pet isn't super social, that doesn't mean they have to stay in isolation. Ask the boarding facility what your pet's daily routine will look like if they cannot interact with other animals. The facility should instead offer ample one-on-one time with your pet.

How Much One-on-One Time Does Your Pet Need?

If your pet need a lot of human interaction throughout the day, be sure to ask questions. Will staff only drop in to feed them, clean up, and let them into a playgroup? Or, will your pet get one-on-one walks and human playtime as well to keep them engaged? Since your pet will be in a brand-new place away from its pack (i.e., you!) you should be certain that they are getting plenty of human affection, says the American Kennel Club (AKC).

At a high-end boarding facility, this may mean more walks for your dog each day. It could also mean playtime in their own private room. Other facilities may only take pet-friendly animals, as one-on-one human interaction can be time consuming for their staff — so be sure to ask up-front.

Does Your Pet Have A Lot Of Energy?

Even with human and animal interaction, a high-energy pet may have additional needs. Some boarding facilities offer customized walking and playtime routines to keep your pet happy.

For instance, a low-energy pet may only attend one play session each day. Meanwhile, a high-energy dog may attend two or three. Most facilities try to match dogs with one another, with low-energy pets in one playgroup, and high-energy pets in another.

In any case, ask how long playtime lasts each day and think about whether or not it meets your pet's needs. Does Your Pet Have Special Needs? "When boarding a pet with special needs — whether we’re talking about separation anxiety or epilepsy — always have an honest conversation. Ask every boarding facility if they are comfortable caring for pets who need that extra TLC," says Greenstein.

This is especially necessary if your pet is on medication. "Ask about their experience with giving any medications your pet takes,” says Greenstein. Also check if the boarding facility charges extra for medication administration or special feeding.

How Do They Handle Emergency Situations?

"You need to know if the facility can help coordinate reputable veterinary care in an emergency," adds Greenstein. Some facilities have trainers and veterinarians on-site in case of an emergency, which can give you peace of mind while you’re away.

Tour The Facility

Most boarding facilities will be more than happy to welcome you in and show you around. Touring the facility will give you a feel for its atmosphere. A home-based facility may help keep your pet cozy. A high-tech facility decked out with monitoring equipment can help you keep in touch. Whatever the case may be, the tour will help you decide if it’s a good fit.

Give Your Pet A Great Vacation

While your pet wants nothing more than to be with you, when you have to travel without them, a quality pet boarding facility is a great option. Leaving your pet in a facility that will interact with and care for them around the clock will give you extra peace of mind and ensure your pet gets plenty of playtime and affection.

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