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Boarding A Dog For The First Time

Boarding A Dog For The First Time

If I could take Allie everywhere, I would – but that’s not always the case. Unfortunately, there are some places that just aren’t practical for toting a dog along.

Leaving your dog when you travel is inevitable at some point during your dog’s life, so finding a safe and trustworthy location to board your dog is super important.

Entrusting your beloved furry pal to someone else isn’t something you should take lightly – and it can cause a lot of anxiety.

That’s why it’s important to put in the time and effort to find the perfect boarding facility for your German Shepherd. This article will help you confidently choose a place to board your dog – a place both you and your dog will love!

boarding a dog for the first time

Why Might You Need to Board Your Dog?

Consider, for example, a honeymoon, hospital stay, or business trip, all of which take you away from home and leave your four-legged family member stranded.

Or maybe you are renovating your home or having a house full of company and you don’t want to put your dog through any unnecessary stress.

Of course, there are other options instead of boarding. For example, you may have a trusty family member who loves to watch your dog or a great dog sitter who’s always on standby.

However, It’s still a good idea to have a place in mind for those unexpected situations or emergencies when you’re all out of options.

Types of Boarding Facilities for Dogs

When considering boarding your dog for the first time, you should ask yourself what type of boarding facility will my dog be most comfortable. Many people don’t know that there are actually several types of boarding facilities to choose from.

You can narrow down the best type of boarding for your German Shepherd based on his or her personality, as well as your budget.

Traditional kennel boarding

This type of facility uses small runs or crates where dogs spend most of their time. Depending on the additional amenities and activities offered, your dog might have both indoor and outdoor areas and may even get playtime with other furry friends.

Resort-style boarding

These are high-end boarding facilities that go above and beyond a traditional kennel. These resort-style facilities often have doggy “suites” with furniture and other amenities to make your dog feel more at home. Activities may include upscale adventures, like nature walks, swimming, or even training lessons.

Free-range boarding

Just as it sounds, free-range boarding is a cage-free facility where doggy residents can mingle and play with other boarders at all times.

In-home boarding

As I mentioned before, you may have a trusted pet sitter, friend, or relative who loves to watch over your dog when you’re away. But again, it’s always good to have a backup plan! Check out online services and companies that pre-screen their pet sitters. Some will even watch your pet in your own home.

Benefits of Locating a Good Dog Boarding Facility (Before You Need One!)

Timing & Stress

Think about the reasons why you might need to board your German Shepherd.

Maybe you’re going on vacation, which means a lot of packing and planning. Or maybe it’s an emergency that you didn’t see coming, and you have zero time to prepare.

In these scenarios, you’re already in a frantic rush and stressed – so in that moment, you won’t have the time to properly research the right place for your pooch.

When boarding a dog for the first time, do your research ahead of time and find a good dog boarding facility before you actually need one.

Comfort & Peace of Mind

Taking the time to do your research and meet with the staff members at a boarding facility gives you peace of mind – and that’s priceless!

When you choose the perfect facility in advance, you’ll be more comfortable leaving your dog when the time comes.

Socialization & Activities

When you choose a place to go on vacation, you put a lot of thought into what you want to do on your getaway. In the same way, think of boarding as a vacation getaway for your pampered pooch.

The best boarding facilities for dogs should offer lots of services and fun activities to keep your dog busy and happy while you’re away.

Plus, your dog should have lots of playtime and socialization with other dogs – it’s a great way for your pup to make new friends!

boarding a dog

Steps in Selecting a Dog Boarding Facility

Step 1: Do your research.

Research boarding facilities near you (or within the distance you’re willing to travel) and make a long list. You’ll narrow this list down as you work through the following steps.

Get really detailed and look for reviews online by searching “German Shepherd boarding near me.” Remember, not all reviews are accurate – but if a certain facility has overwhelmingly negative reviews, cross it off your list.

You can also ask around – recommendations from trusted family or friends are a great way to gain more insight into a facility.

Once you’ve narrowed down your options, call the top facilities on your list and inquire about their boarding services.

You can get a good (or bad) vibe from that very first phone call. The staff should be willing to answer all your questions without trying to rush you off the phone.

Step 2: Take a tour of potential boarding facilities.

This is arguably one of the most important steps. Nothing beats a good first impression! And the opposite is also true – a bad first impression will help you mark some places off your list immediately.

When I called around looking for a great boarding place for Allie, the staff told me I was more than welcome to stop by ANYTIME during their regular hours to take a tour. This is very important!

The boarding facility should be willing to show you around anytime – not just when they have the place spic and span specifically for tours.

During the tour, you can gauge both the environment and the staff. When it comes to the facility itself, check for cleanliness and organization. Ask to see where your dog will sleep and any play areas your dog will have access to.

When engaging with the staff, you’ll get an idea of their expertise and attitudes toward the dogs, as well as their friendliness toward you. Also, check out the demeanor of the dogs that are currently being boarded there – do they seem happy and content?  

Step 3: Ask lots of questions!

Here’s a quick printable checklist of questions to ask when doing your research and visiting potential boarding facilities for dogs.  

  • Dog Boarding Facility Questions Checklist

    • What are the typical prices for different services? Make sure each place is affordable for you, even for extended stays.
    • How often do the dogs go outside per day?
    • Is someone on the premises all day and night?
    • Do dogs have access to water all day?
    • What would your dog’s typical boarding day look like (without adding any additional services)?
    • Are there additional services you can add?
    • What is the protocol if your dog gets sick or injured?
    • What is the facility’s vaccine policy?
    • How are medications administered?
    • How should you package medications for boarding?
    • What times are the dogs fed?
    • How should you package food for boarding?
    • Can you bring special treats for your dog?
    • Can you bring special toys or other comfort items for your dog to keep in their boarding space?

Step 4: Try out your top choices.

After a few visits to different places, your list will be narrowed down to one or two boarding facilities that earned the top spots. How do you make your final choice?

Schedule your pup for another one of their services before you take the plunge and board your dog for an extended period.

This serves two purposes: It familiarizes your dog with the facility and the staff, and it tests how your dog will react when you leave her.

Trust me, this is an important step – and it can be a game-changer when boarding a dog for the first time (as you’ll see in my story in the next section).

A Tale of Two Boarding Facilities (My Personal Experience)

Let me share a little about my own experience when I was boarding a dog for the first time and choosing a boarding facility for Allie.

I went through all the right steps that I’ve already talked about and narrowed down my choices to two places. Both seemed great on paper and in person.

Thankfully, I took my own advice and decided to test them out with a day of doggy daycare at each facility. Since daycare was only for a short time, I figured it would be a good test to see how Allie would do on her own (and also tire her out!).

The First Boarding Facility

When I picked Allie up from the first place, the staff assured me that she did great – but when I asked specific questions, the truth came out.

The staff at the front desk hadn’t actually interacted with Allie directly – they just assumed all went well because they didn’t have any notes about her in their system.

This wasn’t a deal-breaker, but I did want to talk with someone who had personally supervised Allie during her stay. After all, this was a test run at a new facility, so I wanted to get as much detail as possible.

The staff agreed to have someone call me later that day to give me more information – but no one ever called. And that ended up being the deal-breaker.

The staff knew this was Allie’s first visit, and they were aware that I was testing out the facility. It was strange (and worrisome) that they didn’t call me to chat about her day, eliminate any of my worries, and answer my questions.

The Second Boarding Facility

The second boarding facility was totally different.

When I picked up Allie, the staff at the front desk had firsthand knowledge of her day (and knew her by name!). They were able to tell me how well she played with the other dogs, and even what dogs she made friends with and enjoyed playing with the most.

The trainer who oversees the daycare brought Allie upfront to me himself, and he gave me even more details about Allie’s day.

Apparently, she gravitates toward playing with other German Shepherds and loves to sniff around the yard and explore. Plus, she loves attention and followed the staff members around for a head pat or treat. That sounds just like my Allie!

The Perfect Match

Boarding a German Shepherd

As you probably guessed, the second place is now Allie’s official boarding facility.

With the first facility, I had no idea if Allie got to frolic and play or if she was in a crate all day. The staff offered no specific information when I picked her up and didn’t give me a call like they promised.

At the second place, however, I was reassured with a play-by-play account of Allie’s fun-filled day, and they even have cameras in the lobby where you can see the dogs outside rolling around and playing.

I was able to make a confident choice, knowing that this was the perfect boarding facility for both pet and parent!

Through this process, I also discovered that Allie has no problem with me leaving her – she’s willing to go with just about anyone. While this may not always be the best trait, it does give me peace of mind when I need to board her.

Allie loves her home away from home! I always miss her when I go out of town and need to board her, but it’s a huge relief to know that she’s a happy girl, hanging out with her friends.

She’s also started her own ways of saying “see you later” – she’ll give me a lick or rub against my leg for one last pet when I drop her off, and that makes me a happy dog mom!

How does your German Shepherd handle being away from home (and how do you handle being separated from your furry pal)? Do you have any other tips for boarding a dog for the first time? Share your thoughts below!

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