Is Home Boarding and Daycare suitable for your dog(s)?

Everyone loves the idea of home boarding - after all, they get to play, make friends and spend all day supervised in a home environment. However, is it the right care method for your dog? Here are my two cents on what dogs do suit home-style and what ones may thrive better with traditional options or pet sitters.

The biggest thing I'd like to stress is that even the most bombproof dog will feel anxiety at being left somewhere different (no matter where that place is!) - this anxiety can amplify existing behaviors such as dog reactivity, so if your answer is yes to any of the following, pet sitting, dog walking, or pop-ins and traditional kennels are more likely the suitable options for you!

  • Does your dog suffer from sepeartion anxiety?
  • Does your dog resource guard?
  • Does your dog get stressed (barking, avoidance, hackles raised, etc) when around other dogs?
  • Does your dog hate puppies, a specific breed or certain size or gender of dog?
  • Is your dog destructive in your house or someone elses?

These aren't the only factors to consider! Below I'll delve into other aspects that may impact the suitability of a dog for home boarding.

So what is home boarding and daycare?

Growing in popularity in recent years, home boarding and doggy daycare is a service where your dog(s) live with their carer (and carer’s family) for the duration of their stay, as a member of their family within their house, alongside their dogs and other clients dogs. Providing a real home environment, it’s an alternative to traditional kennels.

Cross boarding their resident dogs and client dogs alongside yours, it does, however, have different requirements compared to other options and suits some dogs more than others due to this more social aspect!

If your dog(s) are confident, enjoy the company of other dogs and want to play then they will most likely thrive and love daycare.

Socialisation and Training

Socialisation: a word any dog owner has heard a lot about and something I don’t plan to go into depth on, however, it should be noted that daycare and boarding is not a substitute for socialisation or training - these services will not do either for you, but may assist with the work you are doing.

If your dog has not been socialised with other dogs, does not enjoy their company or has had bad experiences with dogs in the past, home boarding is most likely not the route for you. Similarly, if your dog isn’t toilet trained or is destructive, still play bites/mouths as an adult, or has similar issues, it is unlikely a home boarder will take your dog on.

One major factor of this style of care is that dogs from various households are mixed together - after successful introductions, etc - and are allowed to play and interact within the household. Thus it is vital your dog is already socialised and comfortable with dogs before coming.

Undeniably as a result of attending daycare/boarding, dogs do get additional socialisation; they may even pick up some good training habits! Caretakers carefully manage the group of dogs/match compatible dogs, supervising play and ensuring that play is symmetrical, rest is enforced and of course taking them on walks to different places and broadening their horizons, but this will only be beneficial if you are working with your dog alongside the service.

Thus if you are working on introducing your dog to other dogs or your dog doesn’t enjoy the company of others, we recommend either a pet sitter or a dog walker / pop-ins which will break up your dog’s day whilst you’re at work, etc.

Puppies (6 months and younger)

So you’ve recently got a puppy and want to take it to daycare? Daycare is an amazing solution for care whilst you are at work or want a day out, unfortunately, though most daycares cannot take puppies under the age of 6 months - this includes us! Mixing such young puppies with adult dogs can be detrimental to their development.

Between the age of 8 - 16 weeks puppies are rapidly learning and developing, so if you wish for your pup to be able to go to and enjoy daycare later in life (or interacting with dogs in general!) we strongly recommend that you attend puppy classes and carefully introduce your dog to trusted ones, allowing the pup to build up lots of fun, positive experiences and wait until your pup is 6 months old before sending them off to play with the big kids.

When we brought Winnie, our resident Border Collie home, we actually closed up shop until she was 16 weeks old!

Rescue Dogs

Any dog can go to daycare, however, if you’ve only recently acquired your rescue dog, or even rehomed one from another family, it’s in the best interest of your new family member to give them some time to settle in with you guys - it’s a big deal going into a new home and your new dog will need time to gain confidence and come out of their shell!

Around 3 months after you picked up your new dog, you should have a better idea as to what their personality is and whether or not they enjoy the company of other dogs if they would be comfortable going to someone else's house or would prefer to stay in their own.

If in doubt, speak to your intended service provider or your dog trainer about whether or not your new family member may enjoy daycare!

Typically we do not recommend you leave your new rescue in any type of care until it is truly settled. If you cannot be with your new dog during the day, a dog walker is a way to go - just remember to stay consistent with who is walking your dog and communicate with your walker to minimize the stress on your new dog!

Never boarded or been away from home before

That’s ok! Just be prepared to do lots of small stays; as short as 1 hour if need be! We and most other care facilities are more than happy to work with you and your dog(s) to build up their confidence to stay with us - small stays allow them to get to know us, the dogs they will cross board with, the space they will be staying in and most importantly reinforce that you will be coming back to get them.

Additionally, we allow potential and existing clients to join us on walks, which are a fun way for you and your dog to get to know us, meet up with their doggy friends and slowly gain confidence in the walk routes we take and associate their new caretaker with something fun like going on a walk, playing with other dogs (and treats!), all whilst their owner is around.

Entire males and females in season

Suffice to say, very few home-style facilities are willing to take on intact male dogs or female dogs in season. This is to prevent unwanted pregnancies and for the safety of your dogs and other client dogs.

If you do have an unspayed female, when arranging care for her we recommend keeping in mind when she’s due to come into season and have a backup care plan for when she is in season!

Breeds

Some places only take on specific size dogs (toy vs giant) which makes sense - a bouncy mastiff may not be the best match in play mate for a miniature daschund for example.

Here at The Bark Side we are generally a medium breed or larger boarding facility, but will accept small breeds that are a good match for our group - because any breed can enjoy daycare: from Cocker Spaniels to German Shepherds and Staffies! However, again I'd like to stress this is all conditional to successful meet and greets and the respective dogs being compatible with each other.

We don’t like every person we come across and the same can be said about dogs - if they don’t get along with a group of dogs at one home boarder, they might at another. Just because your dog isn't the match for one facility doesn't mean it will be the case with all of them. My own personal dogs definitely have their own preferences and ultimately everyone's priority is to ensure the safety and happiness of all dogs.