Making Your Pet’s Boarding Experience a Great One

By: Heather McCauley, DVM

TVMA Member
Rockwall, TX

Published December 2015

You’ve found a great boarding location for your pet that meets all your requirements. You’ll have peace of mind while you’re away. Here are a few tips to ensure your pet’s boarding experience is a great one.

  • Provide legible copies of vaccinations. If you can’t read them, neither can the staff. Check-in may be delayed with a request for records. Unverified vaccines may have to be repeated to protect your pet and all other guests.
  • When boarding a “nervous newbie” for an extended time, schedule daycare or a few overnight trial runs. Your pet will begin to feel at home with their new friends and handle a longer stay much better.
  • Label meal-size baggies and print instructions clearly to make it easy for staff. Use insect-proof containers. Be considerate of available space, and avoid bringing a huge supply of food. Try a plastic locking-lid container with the appropriate scoop and waterproof instructions.
  • Assume bedding and toys may become damaged or mixed up in the wash as they can be chewed and swallowed. Pets may do this as a result of being away from home. (Surgery may be needed.) If your pet has already exhibited this tendency, don’t send toys that can be eaten, and warn the staff.
  • Leave medications in original containers. Make sure the label reflects the current dosage (if the dose has changed since starting therapy). Do not place loose pills in baggies or mix with food. If your pet becomes ill, the supply runs short and must be refilled or there is an accidental ingestion by another pet, it is important to know the exact name, strength and brand.
  • With a new routine and new scents, an otherwise housebroken dog may eliminate in its boarding area even if it is being walked as instructed. For this reason, lightweight raised frames of various sizes are available to keep bedding off the floor. If they are not in use at the facility you’ve chosen, you may be able to supply one that fits.
  • Make sure your pet is completely healthy. If the animal is squinting, scratching or just not quite up to snuff lately, have your veterinarian examine your pet prior to boarding.
  • Make sure your pet is flea-free, neat and clean, or schedule grooming as part of the visit. Pets that are heavily matted or soiled may take longer at drop-off (if health assessment at intake is as thorough as it should be).
  • Allow plenty of time for check-in, at least 15 minutes. This is not the time to have a tight flight connection. Check-in the night before, and complete paperwork ahead of time.
  • Be clear and detailed about any behavioral quirks prior to drop-off. Some animals need a special command (“Go tee-tee, Fred!”) or activity (a 10-minute walk on real grass) prior to eliminating, while others are protective of their food or super-friendly until their paws are touched. If the animal has ever growled at anyone, snapped or tried to bite (without breaking the skin) or bitten, (even if you feel the animal was provoked, frightened or defending itself), you must disclose this information for the safety of the staff and the animal itself. Bites can have serious medical and legal consequences. An experienced, professional staff can deal with these situations much better with advanced knowledge. If the regular staff is not prepared to handle a given situation—say aggressive behavior from a larger breed—alternate arrangements should be made in advance.

This should help the boarding staff do a great job of pampering your pet! Enjoy your trip!

Heather McCauley, DVM, is a graduate of University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine who lives near Rockwall, Texas. Dr. McCauley practices as a relief veterinarian serving the eastern Dallas metroplex to Tyler areas for McCauley Veterinary Services.