Dog parenting is no child’s play. Given the amount of responsibilities dog parenting demands and the number of choices we have to make on a regular basis concerning the well being of our dogs, the job of a dog parent is rather difficult.
One of the toughest decision dog parents need to make is about keeping their dogs in a pet boarding facility. Whether be it for work, emergency or to simply take a vacation, like everyone else dog parents too deserve their breaks. But not always is such a break pleasurable for them since they leave behind a piece of their heart, their four legged babies.
However a good boarding facility for dogs can often alleviate the stress on the pet parents. A knowledgable parent knows what exactly to look for in a good facility but that is a story for another day. The problem arises when a pet boarding has all modern amenities and every good intention to keep your dog looked after well but the dog herself is not prepared for a stay at a boarding.
For some dogs a stay at a boarding like facility can be extremely scary, especially if she’s going there for the first time or if she has had a traumatic experience from an earlier stay. Often times dogs withdraw into themselves, stop eating or get launched into a permanent state of stress and anxiety once they are boarded somewhere. Hence it is very important that we prepare our dogs from beforehand to cope in situations like this. Here are a few tips as to how we can ensure that boarding time is a stress-free experience for our dogs.
1. Teach your dogs to stay alone: If you’ve brought your dog home as a puppy, teach your puppy to stay alone from early on. Start leaving the puppy alone for short spans of time. 10 minutes is reasonable to begin with. If your puppy is not toilet trained, crate him when you are gone. Come back and treat her with food or a small play session. And most importantly, do not make a big fuss of goodbyes and adieus before leaving. Keep the exit and entry as calm and emotionless as possible. Soon the puppy would learn that her parents leaving and later coming back are routine work that happens regularly and is an integral part of life. They also accept being alone for some time. If you have adopted an older dog, the same routine can be followed with her as well. However, if she shows signs of anxiety on being left alone (commonly called separation anxiety in dog behaviour parlance) then work with a behaviourist to address the issue.
2. Crate train your dog: Dog parents will often mistakenly equate crates to cages but crates are in reality equivalent to dens. If trained the proper way, dogs grow to love their crates and treat them as their safe haven - their dens - a place where they can rest or sleep in peace and spend some quality alone time - yes even dogs need that! In the bargain they also get habituated to stay in a confined space. Later they are not bothered much when boarded in kennels. Many pet boardings have kennels or rooms for their boarders. Dogs that have been crate trained do relatively well in such type of boardings.
3. Practice Kennel Boarding with short stays: Before the longer stint of 10 or 15 days, it’s advisable to leave your dogs in a boarding for a short one night stay. Still better is to repeat this routine at least once in 3 months. That way the dog captures the learning that his humans always return to get him back and therefore he is better prepared for a longer stay. Some dogs even start loving their stay at the boarding. The facilities offered by the boarding (balanced kennelled and off-leash time, exercise, personalised care etc.) plays an important role in determining how much your dog will love his time there. But it definitely helps if the dog has a repertoire of pleasant experiences to draw from the shorter stays. Our dog resort facility at Yeoor Thane offers first time boarders a night’s free trial before they come to stay with us for longer.
4. Choose a facility keeping your dog’s personality in mind: Some dog boardings and day-cares will have a leash-free format wherein dogs will be left free to mingle and play with each other. Dogs that are scared of other dogs will never be comfortable in such a set-up and this format is definitely not for them. The mindful parent will know if his dog falls into this category and will instead opt for a pet sitter or a home boarding. A facility which offers kennelled system of boarding might also work for them. Then again, keeping a dog confined for too long is also not acceptable. A good dog boarding with kennels will give several leash free sessions throughout the day to meet the dog’s exercise requirements and to avoid accumulation of pent up energy. Hence pet parents must do a thorough research of which facility has a set-up that’s salutary to their dog’s need, follows good practices and takes every individual dog’s well being into consideration.
5. Teach your dogs to be calm around other dogs: Now this is not that easy. The two extreme ends of dog-to-dog interaction spectrum has at one end dogs who have not been socialised with other dogs at all and has at the other end dogs who who have been allowed to interact too much with other dogs all throughout their lives. Both of these categories are bad candidates for doggie boardings. The former suffers from continuous fear of being around the smell, sight and sounds of other dogs whereas the latter suffers from incessant frustration of not being able to interact with dogs who are around but cannot be always approached. The best way to deal with this is to teach your dogs to be calm around other dogs and that is only achieved through a lot of training from puppyhood with the help of a professional trainer.
6. Leave some personal belongings with your dog: Your lingering smell, even when you are physically not present, can be a matter of great comfort for some dogs. If your dog happens to be one such lovely soul who finds solace in the smell of her parent(s), leave a stuff with her which can help her smell you. A worn but not washed t-shirt or pair of pyjamas might do the trick. Sometimes the dog might find comfort in having her own bed in the place of boarding. Familiar sights and sounds can have an immensely calming effect on a dog and it’s important we realise our dogs’ need for such support when leaving them at a boarding.
One should remember that practicing all of the above prepares a dog best for his time at a pet boarding. You might have your own tips and tricks which have worked out well for your dog’s stay away from home. Share them by leaving a comment below.