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5 Things to Consider Before Boarding Your Pet

German shepherd dog in pet hotel
Bussakorn Ewesakul/Shutterstock

Not all boarding kennels (or pet hotels) are created equal. And a kennel isn’t the only option you have when it comes to finding someone to care for your pet while you’re away.

Dogs, cats, and other small animals can’t be left alone when you go on vacation, even if you’re only going to be gone for a couple of days. You need to find someone you trust to care for your pet, but how do you find them?

Who Should Care for Your Pet?

Having a friend watch your pet can be both a good idea and a bad one. If you have a friend that has experience in veterinary care or has worked as a pet sitter, then, by all means, hire them to watch your pet. However, if you have a friend offering their teenager up to dog sit for you, think twice unless you know they have the experience.

Your best bet is to hire a professional, whether you have someone come to your home to check on your dog a few times per day, have someone that will pet and house sit for you, or need to load the animals up and take them to be boarded.

What Should You Look For?

Common cute domestic animal pets against white background
Susan Schmitz/Shutterstock

Your pet is part of your family, so you want to make sure that they are getting proper care while you’re away. Here are some things you should look for when deciding who will care for your animals.

Visit the Boarding Kennel or Veterinary Office

If you’re boarding your pet with the veterinary clinic that you already use, then you’re likely familiar with the facility and trust the people working there. However, if your clinic doesn’t offer to board and you have to take your small pet somewhere else, make sure you take a tour and talk to some of the employees before committing.

If a boarding kennel won’t give you a tour, consider that a red flag. While they may not walk you through all of the runs (as it can upset current borders), they should be willing to show you an empty run and other aspects of the facility.

Schedule a Meeting with the Pet Sitter and Your Pet

If you’re hiring a pet sitter (or someone to house and pet sit), schedule a meeting with them first. Let them get to know your pet and ensure there’s a good connection.

Care.com and other similar sites offer a place for you to find reputable pet sitters and see what other people thought of them. If you’re still not sure, talk to your veterinarian and find out who they recommend.

Check Out Online Reviews and the Better Business Bureau

Even if you’re thinking of using a boarding kennel or pet sitter that has been in business for decades, you still need to research the reviews. Not all people work well with all kinds of animals. Find out things like:

  • Whether they’ve had issues with your specific dog breed in the past
  • Whether they have the proper experience to care for exotic pets
  • Whether they have a reputation for letting pets get loose

Some of the ways you can discover the good and the bad about a boarding facility are through online reviews, as well as the Better Business Bureau. But don’t stick with those only. Talk to local veterinary clinics and even your friends with pets.

Know the Risks of Boarding Pets

From illnesses to injuries, there are risks to boarding your pet.

Diseases can be spread from one dog to another, and the same is true for other types of animals. This is why boarding kennels usually require that pets’ vaccinations be up to date (one of the most important being the vaccination for kennel cough). If the place you are considering keeping your pet at while on vacation doesn’t have any rules on vaccines, don’t leave your pet there.

Some boarding places won’t allow you to bring your dog’s regular food. Changing a pet’s diet abruptly can have adverse effects on their stomachs and bowels. Find a place that will adhere to your pet’s special diet.

You also want to know if they always keep your pets separate from other borders, or if they offer “play times.” Aggressive pets may get into scuffles, and your pet could get injured. Request that your pet is kept away from other animals and only have one-on-one time with an employee (or with your other household pets if you’re boarding more than one).

Know the Risks of Having a Stranger in Your Home

If boarding your pet sounds like a nightmare and you’d prefer to have a pet sitter, consider the risks of that option as well. It may be worthwhile to do a background check on a potential pet sitter to make sure they are the right person for the job. Check their references as well. You don’t want to hire someone that has a habit of trashing homes, stealing things, or just not taking adequate care of animals in their charge.


Your pet is an integral part of your family. It can be hard to leave them behind when you go away for a few days, so make sure you do what you can to ensure they have a safe place to stay until you get home.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow has been a professional writer for almost two decades. Yvonne has worked for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and much more as a writer and editor. She's also a published poet and a short story writer. Read Full Bio »

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