Petsitter or Boarding Kennel? Part One.

When vacationing without pets, one must often choose between a petsitter or sending pets to a boarding kennel. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Personally, I hate to leave my dog for even a single night, so I generally either don’t go out of town at all, or drive so that he can come along! If that’s not an option or not your preference, however, petsitters and boarding kennels provide a valuable service to pet owners.

The importance of a good choice in this area can’t be overstated. A good choice means your pets may not even notice you’re gone. Choose carelessly, and you might find yourself returning to a worst-case scenario like an escaped or ill pet.

Today, we’ll examine the pros and cons of choosing a boarding kennel. Tomorrow, we’ll do the same for petsitters.

Boarding Kennel

Most boarding kennels accept only dogs. Some boarding facilities also care for cats or other pets.


  • Most are staffed for at least 12 hours each day in order to allow for meals, cleaning, and walks. Many have staff on the premises 24 hours per day.
  • Some veterinarians offer boarding services, which ensures that your pet will be cared for competently in case of injury or illness during your vacation.
  • Some facilities have fairly advanced systems to protect pets against fire, theft, or other dangers that might be more likely in your own home.
  • Playtime with a group of compatible pals may be offered for dogs.
  • Some boarding kennels offer training, grooming, massage, aromatherapy, or other services in addition to attending to the basic needs of your dog.


  • A noisy facility full of strange animals and humans, with unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells, may be very stressful to some pets.
  • Whenever many pets come and go, there is a risk that a disease or parasite may be transmitted. To be fair, you’re probably at just as much risk at the dog park.
  • A pet may be more likely to attempt to escape from a boarding facility because it is unfamiliar and possibly frightening.
  • Pets with special medical needs may not receive adequate care in some boarding facilities, because staff may change from day to day and messages about medications or a special diet could get missed.
  • The quality of care may vary depending upon who is scheduled to work on a particular day.
  • Pets are generally confined to runs, kennels, or other small areas except when being walked or taken out for a play session.

If a boarding kennel is the right choice for you, make sure that you visit the facility unannounced before committing to leaving a pet there. Check to make sure all areas are sanitary and pets have fresh, clean water. Observe employees’ interactions with pets. See if employees seem happy and confident, or downtrodden and hurried. Check to see if each pet has a chart listing any special needs, and if those needs appear to have been met. Ask lots of questions, and be sure that the facility carries liability insurance. You may also ask for a phone number at which to call a client and request a personal reference for the facility.

As a final step, google the facility’s name and check for bad reviews or posts on complaint sites warning against using its services. Of course, take into account that competitors or sore former employees can easily fake a complaint, but if there is a warning that alarms you, it’s kosher to tell the kennel manager what you read online and give him or her a chance to respond. If a manager is unwilling to discuss a complaint or put you in touch with someone who can discuss it with you, you should consider a different facility. Good kennels will either provide evidence that the complaint was false, or admit to a past problem and tell you how it was solved.

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