Are pet hotels scary for dogs?

Leaving your dog behind while you go away can often cause concern for most pet owners. Here are a few tips to calm your dog during its boarding stay.

By Guest Blogger, Kevin Peterson

Once you factor in the new environment, interactions with new people and dogs, trusting staff to care for your dog, and the attachment your pet has to your family, many pet owners worry about the stress levels for their dog. Although this transition can be stressful on your pup, there are several things you can do to minimalize the impact.

To help get you started, here are a few tips you can use to calm your dog during their boarding stay.

Always research the facility before booking.

Just as you’d look up reviews for a hotel before staying there, using a reputable website can help provide honest descriptions of the facilities, reviews, and photos of a pet hotel without you having to leave your house. Then, once you’ve narrowed down the search, contact the hotels to arrange an in-person visit.

During your tour, take note of any dogs currently staying there. Monitor how they interact with each other (or if they’re isolated). Note the spaciousness of the kennel and how many staff members are on hand. Make sure you ask any questions about their daily schedules and operations (for example, about feeding schedules) until you’re comfortable with your decision.

Book a Test Run Before Your Vacation

Depending on your dog’s temperament, adjusting to a new environment may be effortless or overwhelming. Therefore, you want to note any behavioral changes during the trial run that indicate kennel stress. Kennel stress symptoms often include pacing, digging, barking, depression, or loss of appetite. When booking the trial run, ask staff to keep a close eye on these symptoms and report back to you at the end of the stay.

Ensure Vaccinations are Up-To-Date

Any time there are multiple dogs in close quarters, it’s always a good idea to make sure all vaccines are current. The essential vaccinations are DHPP, Bordetella, and Rabies. DHPP protects against canine distemper virus, parvovirus, parainfluenza virus, infectious hepatitis, and adenovirus 2. Each of these is highly contagious and is often fatal to dogs. Bordetella often referred to as “kennel cough,” is another contagious respiratory infection spreading between close-quartered dogs. Finally, the Rabies vaccine is a government-mandated vaccine to safeguard both pets and people. Unfortunately, rabies is 100% fatal to both animals and people unless early treatment is received.

Bring Comforts from Home

When speaking with the pet hotel at booking, ask the staff about their policy on bringing items from home. Sometimes, a towel that smells like the family, their favorite bed, or a beloved toy, can alleviate stress when arriving at the facility. Although many dogs will ignore the items at first, they may find comfort in them in the evenings when they return to their private space. Some facilities may not allow items from home, so always confirm their policies before arrival.

Try to match the boarding facility schedule.

If your dog thrives on routine, you may find it helpful to ask the pet hotel for a schedule of daily activities. This schedule includes feeding times, walks, playtime, and any independent time in their crate. Then, slowly transition your pup to the new routine for a few days (or longer, if needed). By having the same routine in place before arrival, your dog may find it less stressful during its stay.

Always Keep Their Diet the Same

Some boarding facilities will charge extra to feed your dog their food, but the fee is almost always worth the cost. Suddenly altering this can cause significant gastrointestinal upset, adding to the stress of being away from home. If this is not an option at the facility you’ve chosen, ask the center for the type of food they feed their boarding dogs and slowly transition them to it before arrival. This may require a few weeks to complete properly, so always consider this before your booking date.

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