Easing Stress When Boarding Your Dog

By: Pinnacle Pets Play & Stay


If you plan on going on that long-awaited family vacation and the thought of boarding your dog leaves you feeling uneasy, you’re not alone.

It’s natural for dog parents to feel anxious about boarding their furry pals for the first time.

Don’t worry. There are some things that you can do to help make your and your dog’s boarding experience as stress-free as possible.

First, do your homework. Investigate the boarding facility you plan on leaving your dog with.

Questions to ask include:

  • Does the facility look and smell clean?
  • How do the staff interact with you and your pup?
  • How are the online reviews of the facility?
  • What do they do in case of Emergency?
  • How many potty breaks do they get a day?
  • Do they get to go outside?
  • Is the facility temperature controlled, especially in the winter and the summer?
  • What are the vaccination policies?
  • What do they do if your dog gets sick?
  • Do they have an overnight attendant in the building?

Having some of these questions answered can help reassure pet parents that their pup is in a safe and clean environment while they are gone.

Any new situation for you or your pet can be unsettling.  Humans and animals develop a preference for the familiar because familiarity lessens stress.

At Pinnacle Pets, we understand this and encourage a visit for you and your pet prior to boarding. Taking a tour of our facility, having an opportunity to ask questions and see where your pet will be staying, and understanding their routine while you are away, can be comforting and decrease anxiety. We even allow your (fully vaccinated*) pet to accompany you on your tour.

Sometimes planning a ‘day boarding’ experience for your pet prior to your vacation is beneficial. It allows your dog to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of a boarding facility for a short practice trial. This can familiarize them with their new surroundings prior to their actual boarding dates. The facility should be able to tell you how your pup acts during his stay and whether he settles in easily.  It also teaches your pup that the boarding experience is temporary, as they will get picked up and go home again.  

Things to pack for your pup to help them ease into their boarding experience include packing a familiar object with your scent, like an old blanket or worn T-shirt. Other items to pack include their favorite chew toys, treats, dog food, and any medications they are on. At Pinnacle Pets, all dogs are given a raised bed, but you are welcome to bring your own. Double-check that all of your contact information is current and correct.

Another stress reliever for some dogs includes exercise. Signing them up for group play or individual enrichment sessions can offer an outlet for dogs with high energy levels.

Some dogs may not be as high energy but would enjoy some one-on-one time with a staff member to pet and snuggle them.  

Dogs are acutely aware of our emotional state and respond with a sense of insecurity when we inadvertently show distress. Anxiety is contagious. Dogs can empathize with their owners and detect and respond to the owner’s anxiety with a heightened sense of anxiety of their own.

Dog parents can help their pups acclimate to their surroundings much better if they keep their own anxiety in check.  When leaving your dog at the boarding facility, be upbeat and positive.

Homeopathic stress reducers that are safe and effective include lavender oil diluted in water. Lavender oil is a natural homeopathic stress reducer that has a calming effect on dogs. It can be sprayed on bedding, skin, and fur to decrease anxiety and stress. In addition, lavender oil repels fleas and ticks, is soothing to the skin, and makes your dog smell great!! There are some instances where diluted lavender oil should not be used, including on kittens, cats, and puppies, or dogs with allergies to lavender. Always check with your vet before trying any new product on your furry pal. 

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound that can be derived from hemp and is non-psychoactive and non-habit-forming. It has been found to be anxiety-reducing in people but there have been limited scientific studies in dogs. Because it is still a relatively new compound, there is little known about dosing standards and side effects. Always check with your vet before administering any new product to your furry friend. 

In severe cases of anxiety, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-anxiety medications such as Trazadone to help alleviate more severe symptoms. Trazadone has been studied and found effective in reducing stress in situational fear and anxiety in dogs. Getting the correct dose with your veterinarian is essential for the medication to be beneficial while not too sedative.

Lastly, make sure that the boarding facility you choose has open lines of communication to let you know how your pet is doing with their boarding experience. You should be able to call anytime during operating hours to check in on your pooch and get your questions answered. If you need to leave a message, you should receive a return call within a reasonable amount of time.

Doing your homework and choosing the right boarding facility is the first step in providing a stress-free boarding experience for you and your pet. Preparing your pooch for success is just as important.

The tips above can help make your dog’s boarding experience as worry-free as possible.  

Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions and get comfortable with your chosen place. It is important for you and your pet that the facility caring for your dog is safe, responsive, trained, and caring.

*Pinnacle Pets requires written documentation of current immunizations:
Bordetella, Rabies, Distemper, and an annual negative stool sample for parasites.