How To Board Your Dog on Vacation and Have Peace of Mind!

dog boarding tips puppy

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It’s so hard to leave a dog when we go on vacation. Ideally, we’d be able to bring our furry family member with us everywhere, but a 12+ hour flight is a little much for Roxy and Rico, and I know many others have similar issues.

It’s especially difficult when boarding them for the first time. There are so many factors to consider, from whether to do in-home boarding, hire a pet sitter, or use a dog boarder or boarding kennel, to finding someone you can trust with your dog so you have peace of mind that your dog is safe and well cared for during your travels.

These dog boarding tips will make your pup more comfortable and let you trust those taking care of them at dog boarding facilities.

Determine The Best Type of Dog Boarding For Your Family

We returned from a trip back home (hello, sunny Florida!) and had to leave Roxy & Rico here in Alaska. When we lived in Puerto Rico, I had close friends I was able to leave them with.

dog boarding tips

We hadn’t found anyone locally we were comfortable trusting them with in our house in Alaska. In-home pet care may work wonderfully for you and your pet, though!

It keeps them in familiar surroundings which helps them from feeling stressed in a new environment on top of their family being away.

A home away from home can also be a great option, where pet sitters watch your dog in their home. is a great resource for this! For us, a dog boarding facility works best.

Research Dog Boarding Facilities Near You

It’s important to do plenty of research to find the best dog boarding for your dog.

For our trip, I did tons of research on local reputable boarding facility options to determine the best options for my pair. Checking Facebook and Google reviews is a good way to scope out any issues. If it has lots of negative reviews, definitely stay away.

I also utilized local Facebook groups such as a who-to-use and a local pet parents page. They were great at providing relevant information on the different options nearby.

It was very important to me that the place I chose was active on social media, and posted pics of the dogs so I could see how they’re doing.

I had a fairly negative experience once with no updates or even a single returned phone call and that made me nervous, so seeing their happy faces online eases my fur-mommy heart. 

Take a Tour of The Boarding Kennel

Once I’d narrowed down the local options to two great possibilities with fantastic online reviews, I contacted them to check availability for my dates and set up a tour.

One even had me bring R&R for the tour so they could get a feel for the place and be less anxious when we brought them.

It made a world of difference for all of us, as I got to see the room they’d be in, how they introduced the dogs, and how playtime was managed. It’s also a good idea to find out how they handle any medical emergencies, should they arise.

We boarded them there for a short stay and they had a great time. Then for future trips we chose the other boarding place as the rooms have actual sofas and televisions tuned to dog channels!

Rico loves watching dogs on TV and definitely enjoyed that, while we all know how much Roxy loves sprawling out on the sofa! 

dog at vet

Verify Vaccinations Are Up-To-Date

As soon as you’re ready to book your dog’s vacation stay, make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up-to-date. Most, if not all boarding facilities require your dog to be fully vaccinated for rabies, canine parvovirus, distemper, and bordetella.

Those requirements help keep your dog and the others at the facility safe and healthy and avoid catching illnesses such as kennel cough.

Confirm Your Vacation Dates

You also want to double triple-check your dates! I sorta glitched on this last trip since we had a red-eye flight, and I accidentally booked the pups for AFTER our flight left.

OOPS. Cue the panic attack when I realized it the week before our trip! Luckily the boarding facility had a room open for that day, so it ended up not being an issue, but man was I stressed until it got resolved!

Packing For Your Dog’s Boarding Kennel Stay

When you’re in the middle of packing your suitcase, plan to spend some time packing a kit for your dog. Some boarding places provide food, but we always bring our own for them to use.

For one, Rico is a picky eater and would most likely turn his nose up at their offer. Plus, abrupt changes in food can cause upset tummies, so it’s best not to add to their stress levels by making them feel sick with a new diet.

The last thing your fur baby needs is to be dealing with stomach upset, especially in a new place. Plus, if your dog is on a special diet, this allows them to stay on it while you’re away.

We also send them with a bit of home. My husband and I will both use one blanket for cuddling with a few days before, and then we send it with them so they have something that smells like us.

You can send them with a favorite toy, their coziest dog bed, or a dog puzzle, just make sure you remember it when picking them up! (For some fun puzzles, check out this post!)

I use this container for Roxy and Rico, and it’s been great! The 2 compartments work well for daily life and it’s easy to bring with them.

We fill the tall one with their food, and put the toys/blanket in the small one so it all stays together. Plus, it helps with remembering to bring the toys back home with us when we pick them up!

The company that makes it, IRIS USA, has an excellent warranty. We’ve had their Elevated Food Feeder for years and the handle had broken off during one of our moves.

It wasn’t an issue with Ginger or Roxy, but Rico figured out how to push it open and start snacking. I emailed the company asking if they sold replacements handles, and they mailed me one free! I love giving great customer service a shout-out!

Dropping Your Dog Off at The Boarding Kennel

The big day is here, and you’re heading to drop off your dog! Try to remain upbeat and chill, as your dog will likely pick up on nerves if you’re stressed.

If you have an anxious, velcro dog like our Rico, who tends to have a bit of separation anxiety, I find it easier to give him his hugs and kisses at home.

Then when we arrive, I let one of the kennel staff members take the leash and we’ll walk back together and he happily goes in the room before he notices I’m leaving. Then he heads out for playtime and all is fine once he’s in the company of other dogs!

Before you leave, you’ll want to make sure the dog kennel has your up-to-date emergency contact information

Sign up for our list and get a FREE printable pet identification sheet! It’s super helpful for pet sitters or if your dog wanders away for home!

Enjoy Your Vacation

You’ve done your research and now it’s time to enjoy your vacay! Relax and enjoy your trip and trust that your dog’s needs are being met.

If you’re like me, you’ll catch yourself scrolling through saved photos/videos, but know that they’re safe and happy and will be so excited to see you when you get home! Hopefully, your boarding kennel is active on social media and will post updates like the one below to reassure you.

Rico dog boarding

Continue Building a Relationship With Your Dog’s Kennel

To keep Roxy and Rico as calm and comfortable when away from home, we used the same dog boarding facility every time we left Alaska.

This worked wonders at keeping them happy, and has made it a thousand times easier to address last-minute needs that come up. 

For example, my husband Dan had to have spine surgery with only 10 days notice. It involved an overnight stay in the hospital, possibly more than one depending on how the recovery went.

Having a reliable place that Roxy and Rico had plenty of friends to play with was such a huge relief when dealing with so much stress! They all adore R&R there, and I know R&R love them as well. They were super flexible and helpful!

How does your dog do while being boarded? Share any tips to make it easier below, and pin this for later!


Hi, I’m Natasha!

I’m an active dog rescue advocate and love all things dog! I live in the mountains of Colorado with my husband Dan and our two crazy rescue pups, Roxy & Rico. See more here or reach me

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  1. Ana @ HJRT says:

    Excellent tips!

    It’s always hard if we have to leave our beloved four legged companions with somebody who will take care of them when we are away. Thorough research beforehand is a must.

    1. omshantipups says:

      Thank you! I always dread leaving the babies, but luckily by following these steps I’ve been pretty lucky with positive boarding experiences for them and they’ve made friends there. <3

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