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What is home boarding for dogs?

Top Tips for Home Boarding Your New Dog

Your new puppy has arrived, and you suddenly realise that in a couple of months, you have a holiday booked!  What do you do?  You could take your puppy to kennels, but there is an alternative service available, home boarding.  Home boarding offers your dog the opportunity to stay with a boarder in their own home. Your dog is treated as one of the family.  Home boarders require a licence from their local authority in order to offer home boarding or day care services from their property.

You can find a list of licenced home boarders on your Local Authority’s website, or you can call and ask for information.  The Association of Home Boarders also has a list of licenced home boarders in their Members Directory.

Top Tip 

Make your arrangements as soon as possible!  Home boarders become fully booked for peak periods very early in the year.  By March, a large percentage of the August home boarding spaces have already been taken.   

How does it work? 

Once you find a home boarder that has availability, you will be asked to attend a meet and greet.  This will be at the home boarder’s house, or you may be asked to meet for a walk first.  You should be invited to see the property and bring your dog with you.  You may be asked to provide evidence of your dog’s vaccinations before the meeting is booked.  The meet and greet lasts around 45 minutes and give you an opportunity to see the house, meet any resident dogs and to ask any questions that you might have. 

Questions to ask at the Meet and Greet 

  • Can I see your licence and insurance? 
  • How many dogs are you licenced to board? 
  • What is your daily routine? 
  • How many dogs do you walk together? 
  • Where do you walk? 
  • Can my dog go off-lead? 
  • Where will my dog sleep? 
  • Are you canine first aid trained? 
  • What happens if my dog becomes unwell? 
  • What happens if there is a problem with my dog? 
  • What do I need to bring for my dog? 

Bear in mind that there are no right or wrong answers, each home boarder will run their business slightly differently but these questions will give you a good starting point, and will be handy if you are going to compare more than one home boarder before making a decision. 

Do not feel pressured to use a home boarder if you do not get a good feeling at the meeting!  At the beginning of the relationship you will not feel like you know your home boarder very well, and yet you are leaving a valued member of your family in their care.  It is important that you feel that it is the right home boarder for you.  Home boarders are professionals, and do not take it personally if you do not wish to continue after the meet and greet – but it is  courteous to let the home boarder know if you are not going to use their service so that they can offer the dates to other clients.  You do not need to give reasons but do let them know that you are continuing with your search.  Good home boarders will help you by suggesting other licenced professionals in the area that might be a better fit. 

What happens next? 

You will also be asked to register your dog with the home boarder if you have not done so already. 

You will be asked to book your dog in for a trial or assessment which will be reflective of the service that you require.  If you are booking overnight boarding for a holiday, your dog is likely to be required to do an overnight trial to make sure that they are a good fit with the other guests and resident dogs and are not too unhappy when you leave them.  The home boarder is required to monitor your dog during the trial and will give you feedback at the end as to their suitability for home boarding.   

When your dog passes their trial, you will be able to make a formal booking for your holiday.  Most home boarders will ask you to pay a deposit in order to secure the dates that you require for your dog.   

Things to Consider When Using a Home Boarder 

Puppies need time and practice with their home boarder!  Young dogs go through various stages of development including ‘fear phases’ where they re-assess everything they have already learned, and decide for themselves if situations and scenarios are ‘scary’.  It is important to let your puppy meet your chosen home boarder as many times as is necessary to ensure that your puppy does not decide that boarding is ‘scary’.   

You need to tell your vet to add your home boarder to your dog’s veterinary records, so that they can make medical decisions if you are not contactable while you are away.  You can also add an emergency contact to your vet records (a trusted friend or relative) to help the home boarder make decisions.  You must tell your vet formally about this arrangement or any treatment for your dog will be delayed while the vet tries to get in contact with you.  

Dogs act differently in a multi-dog environment.  Your dog is used to having no competition for resources such as food and toys, and they also are not used to sharing their beds and blankets.  This is why the assessment is important, and it is also why you may be surprised at some of the behaviour that your home boarder reports to you!  Home boarders are experienced in managing dogs that behave a little differently to when they are at home, so unexpected behaviour does not always mean that your dog cannot stay. 

A dog’s learning and comfort is situational, which means that just because your dog is happy staying with one home boarder, they may not be happy staying with another.  If you need to change home boarders, expect to go through the trial period again, and if the home boarder tells you that your dog is not happy or not settling, it may well be true!  Just as we do not get along with everyone we meet in life, dogs have the same outlook.  Home boarders rarely take it personally if a dog just can’t settle in their home environment, and good home boarders will refer you to a trusted colleague who may have an environment that is better suited to your dog.   

You cannot bring too many blankets and towels.  As well as being a comfortable place to sit or lie, even freshly washed blankets bring all the smells from home that help a dog to settle.  If a dog is unsure or a little unsettled in the first few days of boarding, they will naturally find the smell of home from their bed and blankets comforting and will consider the area where their bed is positioned as a ‘safe place’.  This is also why dogs that sleep on the owner’s bed are less inclined to do so with their home boarder.  To the dog, your bed smells of you and this is what they need.  The dog is better to have things with them that smell of you to sleep with – as the home boarder’s bed will smell totally different. 

Home boarders get booked up for the school holidays very early!  If you have your holiday at roughly the same time each year, talk to your home boarder about how much notice they normally need for a school holiday booking, or ask if they are able to ‘pencil you in’ and let you know when they start to get full. 

For further information on the home boarding process, contact