Boarding your pets when you go on vacation

This post is part of a series about pet care options when you travel.

If you’re a pet helicopter parent like me, you’re a bit neurotic about ensuring your fur baby’s care when you go out of town.

My fears are rooted in two places: my worry that something bad will befall my beloved pet while I’m away and my worry that he will do something offensive while under someone else’s supervision.

As discussed in previous posts, we are fortunate to have friends and family members who are willing to help us out by taking care of our pack — in their home or in ours — when we travel.

However, there are times when neither of those two options are feasible. Maybe no one is available. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable letting someone stay at your house. Maybe your pet needs so much special attention that you feel bad making someone who isn’t you or a professional deal with it.

In these cases, boarding your pet can be a great alternative.


After years of resisting, we began incorporating boarding into our options for pet care solutions in 2011.

Simply put, we had too many pets to saddle any sitter with.

Our solution was to split the animals up – sending the problem pets out of the house and letting in-home sitters have fun with easy Luke, Minnie and Luxor.

My precious Scooby-with-the-leaky-bladder typically went to someone else’s house. We took to dropping not-yet-fully-socialized foster dog Charlie Machete at the vet’s office, where boarding was really cheap and we felt reasonably sure the staff could handle his willfulness.

That worked well until he came home with kennel cough that spread to Minnie (even though both were current on their bordatella vaccinations) and ultimately cost us a whole lot of money.

We swore off boarding.


Then, we realized that we just needed to find a quality boarding facility.

For us, the fix was to stop being cheap. By paying a little more, we purchase peace of mind for ourselves and, as far as we can tell, comfortable accomodations for our pets.

Tomorrow’s post will review the particular Kansas City-area pet boarding facility we have become partial to.

For now, here are some recommendations for choosing a place to board your pets when you travel:

  • Get recommendations. Ask fellow pet people you trust where they take their animals and why they like their favorite place.
  • Go to the kennel before you send your pet there. See if you can tour the facility and get a sensory idea of the experience your pet will have. Does the place smell bad? Is it noisy? What is the staff like?
  • Consider your dog’s personality and how the kennel’s exercise and socialization routines will serve him. Is he socialized enough to participate in a playgroup? If not, how will he be exercised?
  • Ask lots of questions. Is the facility up to date with any state-required licenses? What is the staff’s solution for an animal that refuses to eat? How much interaction with people do the animals get daily? What vet service do they contact in case of an emergency?
  • Find out what additional services the facility offers. Can you pay more to ensure your pet gets special attention or extra treats? Can you schedule a groom? Is it OK for you to call anytime just to check in?
  • Be sure your pet is up to date on any vaccinations required by the facility.
  • If you have a pit bull or any type of dog impacted by breed specific legislation, make sure the facility can and will board your pet legally.

What is important to you in a pet boarding facility?

About crystalwayward

I live with two formerly wayward dogs. I care deeply about the environment, and I think gardening is a revolutionary act.

Posted on June 25, 2012, in Dogs, Machete, Travel and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Such a critical topic. Litchi Love, the dog, is one lucky little critter. She never goes into boarding and always comes on holiday with me. Sometimes the ever patient grandparents get to spoil her for a couple of days though. The cats have the fantastic Cat-A-Holics Shelter to go to. Their boarding facilities are marvellous

    • When in-home pet care isn’t possible, I have to say it’s a huge relief to find a professional facility where your pets can go and be comefortable. Sounds like you have good solutions for all of your pets.

  2. With 3 dogs, I’m starting to move away from boarding and to in-home pet sitting services (it usually costs about the same or less). We are boarding our youngest, Hurley, in July so that he can have that experience while he’s young in case we ever have to board in an emergency in the future. I agree that being too cheap can lead to insufficient care but you also don’t have to break the bank. There are plenty of in-between priced good places. We have to drive 45 minutes to drop our dogs off at our favorite place, which is more like camp for dogs than boarding. It’s cheaper than the boarding places in town so long as we’re OK with making the drive.

  3. I have no choice but to do in home (farm) pet sitting, but my twist on that is I have the girl who helps me when I am away be a part of my dogs lives all year round.. she comes over once a week for a visit, i make a cake or special lunch, and she helps me bath or groom, and we all happily pass an afternoon together. She has been a constant part of my dogs lives for 3 years now, and when I do have to leave them (sob) I know that they are so happy with her, and that she is totally comfortable with all of them.

    • That sounds like an ideal situation! Back when I was a single girl with a cat, a dog and a roommate, I always had the luxury of someone to watch the pets when I was gone — and often help out with the chores!

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