Even if you are a busy Washingtonian dog parent and don’t take too many vacations, chances are that dog boarding at some point in your pup’s lifetime is almost inevitable – hopefully you’ll choose one that offers dog day care and grooming as well! Whether you’re traveling, a friend is unavailable, or there’s an emergency, putting some thought into which belongings to pack for your pup if you have to leave Northern va can really make the difference between a relaxing stay and a stressful one for your best friend.
Dogs don’t have the ability to understand why they’re being left somewhere without you, and can’t anticipate how many days they’ll be staying. Therefore, dog boarding (especially the first few times) can potentially be a source of stress. Even if the facility takes very good care of your dog and does their best to make them comfortable, the change in routine can be overwhelming, especially if they don’t attend regular doggy daycare or frequently stay overnight. That’s why one of the best things you can pack are things they go to for comfort at home. If the facility allows toys or bones, pack the ones they keep near their bed or pick up the most. Even if they don’t end up playing with them during their stay, just seeing them in their kennel at the end of the day can help keep them calm. Unless your dog is a true dog boarding veteran, large rawhides and brand new toys may not be as exciting to them as you hope, although you might consider getting them something like this as a high-value reward for when they come home!
Bedding is also important, although if this is your dog’s first stay, you may want to pack their secondary bed or use one of the kennel’s beds until you know whether or not your dog rips things up when they board. Whether or not you choose to leave their regular bed at home, definitely consider packing something of high emotional value: a pajama shirt you’ve slept in (and don’t mind if it gets torn) or a quilt from the bed or couch that they’re familiar with.
Make sure not to change up any of your dog’s food before a boarding stay. Since the new environment can already cause some mild gastric distress or lack of appetite, stick to foods that they’ve been eating for at least a few weeks. Consider also packing a can or two of wet food that your dog tolerates, if they only eat dry, just in case the staff notices they are not eating and want to make mealtime a little more exciting. Some owners even pack deli meat or shredded cheese! If dog boarding is something that will happen regularly, spicing up meals can help your them see boarding as a positive experience. If the boarding kennel you choose offers group dog day care during the day, consider packing slightly more food than you normally feed or ask if the facility offers lunch midday, since they will likely be far more active during the day than they would be at home.
If there are any situations that make your dog uncomfortable, such as being picked up or touched on the paws, or if they have any fears such as thunderstorms or people with beards, let the staff know before you leave. They’ll alert everyone who will be working hands-on with your dog, avoiding any accidental aggression or reactivity. And if this is their very first time boarding anywhere, mention that as well!
And finally, be sure to give your pet a warm welcome when you see them again. Once they realize all their worst fears haven’t come true, they’ll be both delighted and exhausted, and some solid sleep and cuddles are a must. There are some wonderful pet boutiques in the area, such as Pet Supplies Plus in Chantilly, Loyal Companion in Herndon, or Something Special Pet Supplies in Sterling where you can stop on your way home to get them a present for being such a good dog while you were away! Over time, your dog may start associating boarding with friendly people and playmates, good food and presents, which will make it just as much of a vacation for them as it would be for you to go to a theme park or visit friends.