Dog Daycare Considerations

Dog Daycare Considerations

Summer is here, and many of us like to go on vacation or road trips during this time of year. But what about your canine family member? Ideally, your dog gets to come along, and websites like can help you find accommodations away from home for you and your dog. Separation from the family pack, especially for an extended period, is stressful for most dogs, so if you can avoid it, do. Some dogs handle these separations better than others, but no dog enjoys being left behind. If your buddy can’t join in, boarding your dog at a good daycare facility can be an option. Let’s look at some considerations to keep in mind.

Consider Boarding Alternatives

Just because you are leaving doesn’t mean your dog has to. Remaining in a familiar home environment is far less stressful for your dog than in a strange and unfamiliar place. Getting set up with a good in-home pet sitter way ahead of time is a good alternative. If you add a reputable pet sitter to your dog’s regular support team, your dog has a familiar person to spend time with while you are away. A trusted pet sitter who stays at your home during your absence also has many other advantages. Your mail is collected, your home is far less likely to be burglarized, the flowers get watered, and so on. Finding someone you trust can take a while, but your dog trainer, groomer, or veterinarian may have a recommendation you can interview and try out.

Make sure you get comfortable with a pet sitter months before your vacation. While convenient, websites advertising and referring pet sitters and dog walkers got a lot of negative press for the poor performance of many providers; some dogs have even died. I recommend hiring a professional pet sitter who can provide references. The neighborhood kid is probably also not the best choice. In contrast, a trusted dog-savvy friend or relative can be a great option. You want someone comfortable with your dog, especially when you have a powerful breed like a German Shepherd.

Finding a Good Boarding Place

Ask your other pet service providers, for example, your dog trainer, for recommendations. People in the pet care industry are usually familiar with who in your neighborhood has a good reputation and who doesn’t. Ask them where they would board their dog if they had to. Many dog trainers also board their client’s dogs. Maybe the vacation is the perfect time for a good board-and-train program for your dog. It can never hurt to ask. Once you have selected a few boarding options, call them and ask how their service works and if you can tour their facility to see their operation.

You want to stay away from a boarding business that seems secretive. A reputable place will happily have you stop by, meet the staff, see how everything works, and explain their service. Many facilities have multiple boarding options, including private rooms or group rooms, 24/7 video feeds to watch your pooch using your phone, and daily play and/or walking times. Pick what is best for your dog. Ensure the boarding facility is familiar and comfortable with your dog’s breed. German Shepherds have different needs than Rottweilers, Pit Bulls or Chihuahuas, and so forth. Talk to the manager, meet the staff, and ask other customers you may encounter about their experience.

Understand Vaccination Requirements for Boarding

All reputable boarding places will require proof of vaccination for the core vaccines Rabies, Parvo, and Distemper, sometimes Hepatitis, and usually Bordetella (for Kennel Cough). There could be additional requirements if you are in a high-risk area for less common but serious diseases. Sometimes recent fecal tests are also necessary to show your dog is free of parasites. You want your dog to be protected and not exposed to unnecessary risks, so vaccinations are important. However, stay away from boarding facilities that demand all kinds of other, less common vaccines for no valid reason. Any vaccination requirement beyond Rabies, Parvo, Distemper, Hepatitis, and Bordetella should require a good reason.

I prefer facilities that allow titer tests instead of vaccinations. Titer tests show that your dog has enough antibodies for disease and is immune. A new vaccination for a disease is only necessary once the antibody count has fallen below a certain level. More and more holistic veterinarians can perform these simple blood tests in-house for very little cost. Educated boarding facilities will accept titer tests as they help prevent unnecessary over-vaccinations. However, some boarding facilities request a new Bordetella vaccination every six months. That is a misguided, irresponsible, and biologically indefensible demand. I would not board my dog at such a facility.

Initial Boarding Health Checks

Reputable boarding places will examine your dog upon drop off and note any existing scars, scratches, or wounds on the check-in sheet. This is good for you and the business as it establishes an agreed-upon baseline health condition.

Boarding Staff Competence

Ensure you have confidence in the staff handling your dog in your absence. I.e., if you have a large breed like a German Shepherd, do you have confidence that your dog will be safe with them? Do you feel they would still handle your dog with kindness should he be involved in a dog fight; it happens. Do they understand your breed and its needs? Make sure you have satisfying answers to these questions.

Kennel-Free Boarding is Risky

Kennel-free boarding businesses have become more common in recent years. That may sound appealing, but is it a good idea? The risk of injury and death to dogs increases substantially in such a setup. No matter how well the business believes, its staff is trained. It’s a huge gamble with your dog’s life. Boarding your dog when you’re away should give you peace of mind, not anxiety.

Food During Boarding

Is the business able and willing to maintain your dog’s feeding routine? A reputable boarding place will keep up your dog’s feeding regimen in your absence, including raw food diets. Disrupting your dog’s food routine causes unnecessary additional stress. Avoid it if possible.

Emergency Boarding Procedures

Of course, you hope it all goes well, but what if it doesn’t? What are their procedures when things go wrong? How do they handle medical emergencies? Are they prepared for earthquakes, tornadoes, or other natural disasters? Will you be notified immediately? Is an emergency veterinary hospital close by? Is all staff trained on emergency procedures? These are important questions you should have answers to, and of course, you should trust them long before your trip.

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Happy Dog Training is the pet dog training business of Ralf Weber and Sarah Gill. We are certified professional dog trainers in Southern California. We are specialized in advanced obedience training, all forms or behavioral challenges and service dog training. For behavioral training, we are known for our work with aggressive and fearful dogs. Our service dogs, through Total K9 Focus, have a nationwide reputation for their reliability, longevity and performance.


Certified Professional Dog Trainer Ralf Weber is lead pet dog trainer of Happy Dog Training. Ralf is a long-time dog owner of German Shepherds. During his career, Ralf has worked with over a 1500 dogs of many different breeds. Moreover, Ralf has a thorough understanding of all aspects of canine training. This includes evolutionary psychology, ethology, and, most importantly, learning science. Ralf is specialized in resolving dog behavior challenges—especially fear and aggression. Apart from this, Ralf trains dogs in basic and advanced obedience, service dog tasks, and GRC Dog Sports. Ralf is further certified in a broad range of other canine training areas. Last but not least, Ralf is the author of the behavioral book If Your Dog Could Talk: Understand Your Dog Like Never Before.

Ralf loves helping people have a better relationship with their dogs. He is a certified professional dog trainer in the Training without Conflict™ methodology by Ivan Balabanov (TWC CPDT). Ralf is also a member of the International Association of Canine Professionals and also holds their basic and advanced dog trainer certifications (IACP CDT, CDTA). In addition, Ralf is an AKC-approved evaluator for the AKC Puppy Star, CGC, and Advanced CGC programs and is also certified in canine first aid by the Red Cross.

Sarah Gill, Certified Professional Master Trainer

Sarah Gill, is a professional service dog trainer and handler. Sarah entered the world of professional service dog training after a car accident. As a result, she had to use a wheelchair for almost two years, trying to maneuver in a house not designed for it. No one expected Sarah would walk again. This opened her eyes and became a driving force behind pushing herself to defy the odds. When she regained some stability, Sarah attended a dog training school and learned how to train service dogs. Sarah completed her Master Trainer Certification and gained further experience by training new trainers. However, the school wasn’t accommodating to those with physical difficulties and PTSD. Hence, Sarah moved home to Dallas. In 2019, Sarah teamed up with Ralf and moved to California.

Sarah started this journey because she had a trained dog to mitigate her disabilities. But Sarah needed additional tasking for a new diagnosis. The only option she could find was getting a second dog for the new diagnosis. She knew there had to be a different way to address this. Sarah's passion is changing the ways of the service dog training industry.