Kennel Vs Boarding Vs Pet Sitting – What’s The Difference?

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Leaving for a vacation can be a very confusing and stressful time for your dog. If you put them in a poor-quality kennel or pet border, they may feel abandoned. Dogs need interaction with humans to feel safe & loved. 

In fact, one interesting study by the University of Bristol’s Anthrozoology Institute found that 30 German Shephards that were kept in isolation in kennels suffered from chronic stress.

To prevent this, pet owners must choose a safe & reliable housing solution to ensure that their dog is comfortable. There are loads of boarding options available, and they are all vastly different.

It’s very important to choose the option that is most suitable for your dog’s temperament.

What is a Kennel

Concrete Dog Kennels

A kennel is a traditional solution for pet boarding services. Here, dogs are separated and kept in fenced-in kennels. They receive basic care, but they usually do not get access to interaction with humans. 

Imagine if you were a child & your family took you from your warm & comfortable home and placed you in a completely new environment. Here, you would have a new bed, food, and worst of all, you wouldn’t be able to see your family!

This is an anxiety-inducing situation for anyone, especially for our social doggies. This is why we must choose a reliable kennel where we know that our pup’s care requirements are met. 

 In larger kennels, there are often concerns over care quality. Pets in kennels often show signs of stress, such as barking or whining, pacing, excessive licking, and crouching.

Kennels are typically preferable for short periods of time, like an overnight trip or a night of observation at the vet’s office. 

Kennel staff usually doesn’t consist of dog behavior professionals. Their main duties are just to provide food, water, and an occasional walk.  

Of course, the levels of care differ greatly depending on the boarding kennel that you choose. Newer ones have great kennel facilities, lots of space, regular walks, and a large focus on pet health care. 

We would recommend kennels only for short stays & for dogs that aren’t phased by a change in routine or by a lack of interaction. 

PROS

  • Preferable for a short stay
  • Usually, the cheapest option
  • Satisfactory for dogs who don’t require constant human interaction
  • Offers good protection & security
  • 24/7 monitoring of food, water, and activity

CONS

  • Overwhelming for anxious animals
  • Puppies may have to hold their urine for long periods of time
  • Less time with staff
  • Limited outdoor playtime
  • Risk of communicable diseases (kennel cough, rabies, etc.)
  • Extra bathroom breaks & specific food requests often cost extra

What is Pet Boarding

Dog Park Fun

Pet boarding services are a much newer option for pet parents. Pet boarding is very similar to summer camp for children. The goal of a boarder is to make the dog excited to come back, just like summer camp!

Here, dogs are engaged in some form of activity the entire time, whether that be swimming, grooming, or playing with other dogs.

The whole concept is to make the stay as entertaining as possible for the dogs. Therefore, they fill up their time with tons of interesting projects.

Pet boarding services range from basic to extravagant; larger boarding services have doggie pools, constant exercise, and varied meal plans.

Dogs in boarding will spend very little time in their kennels. Instead, they will mainly be playing outdoors, just like at home. 

However, this sudden change in environment may prove to be too much for certain dogs with separation anxiety.

Furthermore, as there is much more open interaction with other dogs, it’s easy for reactive pups to become stressed out. This could snowball into a dangerous fight if it isn’t broken up in time by the staff.

Thus, it’s crucial that the boarding staff is well-trained to handle reactive dogs & also notice subtle signs of a nervous dog.

PROS

  • Socialization with people
  • Socialization with other dogs
  • Frequent off-leash free time
  • Staffed by pet health care professionals (knowledgeable on pet first-aid)
  • Careful monitoring of exercise time, food, and medications

CONS

  • Can lead to aggression or reactivity
  • Typically the most expensive option
  • Needs transportation (bad for dogs with car anxiety)
  • Risk of disease
  • Can be overwhelming for sensitive dogs or puppies with separation anxiety

What is Pet Sitting

a woman playing with dogs at Pet daycare

Pet sitting is a very novel idea that many people don’t consider when deciding what to do with their pets during vacations. 

Much likely babysitting or house-sitting, a pet sitter will come to your house to look after your dog. They can stay anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on the extent of involvement you would like & the length of your trip.

This is a good option for dogs who are very settled in their routine. They don’t have to be exposed to new pets or multiple humans. They can continue with the same meals & daily routine. 

They can get individualized playtime based on their preferences. There is also no need for transporting dogs, which is great if your pet gets restless in the car.

One unique benefit of pet sitting is that the pet sitter can also look after your house; thus, you can also get someone to collect your mail, water your plants, and watch your property.

Furthermore, if you have multiple pets in the house, the sitter can look after both of them; there is no need for them to be separated. 

However, reliable pet sitters are often hard to come by. It is risky to invite a stranger into your home & entrust your pet with them.

Also, if you only have the pet sitter dropping in for a few hours a day, it’s easy for your dog to get bored if they require constant attention.

PROS

  • No change in food = no gastrointestinal issues
  • Maintained routine
  • Individualized one-on-one playtime
  • Can keep multiple pets together
  • Less expensive than boarding
  • No need for transport
  • Can double as a house sitter

CONS

  • Dangerous to invite a stranger into your home
  • Easy for your dog to get bored & lonely
  • Hard to find good sitters
  • Easy for pets to escape
  • No 24/7 surveillance

How to choose a safe pet carer

Regardless of what housing solution you choose for your beloved pooch, you must ensure that it is a safe & dependable company. 

There have been many horrific instances of kennels that seem reputable but actually subject their animals to terrible, abusive conditions.

It’s crucial to do your research ahead of time to ensure that you are sending your dog to trustworthy people.

  1. Use recommendations
    It’s very easy to find pet owner Facebook groups or communities in the dog park where pet parents share tips and experiences. Use this network to find well-known kennels/boarding/sitters.
    If a pet care option is very popular & well-liked by a lot of members in your community, it’s likely a safe choice.
  2. Do a trial stay
    The best way to see if a certain kennel will be a good fit for you is a trial stay. First, arrange for a tour of the kennel/boarding service to see how clean and orderly it is. Then, arrange for a one-night stay, which is often free. 
    Use this as an opportunity to monitor your dog’s behavior. Do they seem well-exercised or anxious after the night? Are they scared to go again? Also, see how the staff handled your dog. Were they professional and well-trained?
  3. Analyze Staff Behavior
    Probably the most important feature of pet housing is the pet carer. When you are calling up the staff or sitter, ensure that they are asking questions about your dog’s breed, temperament, and size. 
    A dependable sitter wouldn’t want to walk an aggressive 200-pound Great Dane, if they are 100 pounds & petite, for the dog’s safety and their own.
    Irresponsible breeders wouldn’t bother to ask these questions. As long as you give them money, they wouldn’t care about anything else.
    Also, ensure that the staff knows pet first-aid, what to do for allergic reactions, and how to break up a dog fight. 
  4. Rely on monitoring
    The most foolproof way to be assured of your dog’s safety is 24/7 surveillance. Ask the kennels if they provide updates on your dog’s walks and food intake and if they send daily photos of your pet.
    Reliable carers will typically offer this for no extra cost.
    If you are thinking about hiring a pet sitter, invest in a pet camera to ensure that the sitter is coming & performing their decided duties. 
  5. Pre-plan everything
    This is especially important if you are thinking about going out for the holiday season. Kennels, boarders, and sitters get very busy very fast in the holidays.
    It’s important that you make a decision in advance and pre-book. If you end up searching last-minute, you may end up with a sub-par or dangerous option.

In Conclusion

Two small puppies in a kennel

There are so many different pet care options in these modern times. As pet parents have become more and more concerned about the care of their loved ones, boarding options have become more indulgent. 

Gone are the days of kennels packed to the brim in the holiday season, with only a few 5-minute walks a day. Now, we want what’s best for our dogs. However, what’s best for our dogs is not a one size fits all answer. This is completely dependent on our dog’s needs, temperament, and lifestyle.

We recommend kennels only for a short time & for more easy-going dogs. It’s hard to find a kennel that will give your dog the care & attention it needs for a long period of time. Kennels mainly cover basics like bathroom breaks, food, and water, leaving no time for playing or human interaction.

Therefore, we recommend it only for 1-2 nights & as a last resort. We also don’t recommend kennels for dogs who become stressed very easily.

Boarding is a fantastic option for a longer time period (a few weeks). It’s great for dogs who get along well with other animals, and who rely heavily on playtime & interaction. You also have 24/7 monitoring, which makes it very safe.

However, pet boarding tends to be the most expensive, which is a drawback for some people. Pet sitting is good for older dogs or dogs who have settled in their routine & don’t like change whatsoever. It isn’t suitable for dogs who want attention or need 24/7 surveillance.

It is also dangerous to invite a stranger into your house, so you must be wary when choosing a sitter. A pet sitter is a good option if you regularly go out of town, as you can use the pet sitter as a house sitter as well. 

Most importantly, you must make a carefully thought-out decision, considering many factors including cleanliness, safety, price, and testimonials. Your pet will feel much more at home if you have chosen the most suitable option for them. 

If you found these tips helpful, or you have some tips of your own, please leave a comment down below. Thanks for reading!

Meet our writer

Anoushka’s love for animals began with taking care of the cows & chickens on her family farm. As she grew older, this love transformed into a love for dogs. She volunteers in a dog shelter, so she is well-versed in the care and comfort of all breeds of dogs.

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