Dog boarding vs dog kennels – What’s the difference?

By Gemma Hopkins on 23 June 2017

As a caring and responsible dog owner, you want to make sure your pooch is as safe and happy as can be while you’re away on holiday or out of town on a business trip. Providing your pet with a reliable home from home typically means choosing from one of two main options: dog kennels or dog boarding. So what are the main features of dog boarding and dog kennels, and what are their respective pros and cons?

Back in the day, commercially run kennels tended to be pretty sterile environments and often consisted of concrete runs and steel cages where dogs were kept isolated from other pets. Some kennels may still conform to that model but many modern dog kennels are more like pet hotels or dog boarding kennels with excellent amenities that are run by well-trained, professional staff, who provide 24-hour care for your pet.

By comparison, dog boarding is typically provided by someone in their own home, often a fellow dog-lover, who may keep dogs of their own, and may be closer to the type of environment your dog is used to. Dog sitting is another form of dog boarding and means that doggy day care, including feeding and exercise, is provided by someone who comes to your home while you’re away.

Dog Kennel

Pros of dog kennels

One of the main benefits of dog kennels is that the facility is run by professional staff who are used to dealing with different breeds and types of dogs and are trained in pet management. Commercially run kennels are often the cheaper option but make sure you check for any additional charges for extra walks and play time, or for any special dietary needs your dog requires.

Convenient to use, dog kennels usually offer both long and short-stay services but try and find one with a good reputation. Search for ‘dog kennels near me’ online, and check the comments section before booking your pet in. Pet lovers aren’t usually shy about sharing their experience of a facility, whether it’s good or bad!


Cons of dog kennels

If your dog is used to socialising and generally gets on well with other dogs, a kennel environment shouldn’t be a problem. On the other hand, contact with different dogs can be stressful for some pets and may trigger aggressive behaviour or anxiety. Dogs who are used to one-on-one attention at home may also react badly to a kennel environment where they will be looked after by different dog carers who work a shift rota.

The confines of a kennel can also induce boredom or stress, especially if your dog is used to getting plenty of exercise and/or has the freedom to roam in a garden at home. Commercial kennels will have dog runs and some facilities may also offer additional exercise options; if this is not explained, make sure you find out what is available. Lack of exercise may not be a problem if your pet’s stay in kennels is only for a few days but pent-up energy is likely to become more of an issue over time.

Just as people can be affected by a sudden change of diet, your dog may have an adverse reaction to a switch in feeding times or the food itself. Some kennels may allow you to bring your own food, some may not, so if your dog is a fussy eater or has special dietary requirements, satisfy yourself that these will be catered for in advance. As well as suffering from upset stomach, including vomiting and diarrhoea, dogs will sometimes stop eating altogether when stressed.

Modern dog kennels are run as a business and many are highly efficient and well managed, but the risk of your dog catching a transmittable disease is obviously higher in an environment where there are a lot of dogs housed in a relatively confined space. The risk may be low but you can mitigate against this by checking what your dog’s vaccinations cover or ask your vet about preventative vaccination options to lower the risk of catching these diseases.


Pros of dog boarding

What is home dog boarding exactly? As the name suggests, this is when your dog lives with another family – who may have other dogs – while you are away. There are no kennels or confined runs and you can take along your pet’s own bed, food and toys to help them adjust to their new environment more quickly. Your dog will also be assured of round-the-clock care which can be important, especially during the settling-in period.

With home boarding, your dog is also likely to get more exercise (make sure you discuss this with your home boarder in advance) and many home boarders will have a secured space for your dog to play outside. Home boarders tend to offer more of a bespoke service so you can discuss any special requirements such as regular routines, minimum amount of exercise, treats, dietary requirements, and anything else you want your dog to have. Cost is another factor and home boarding may well be cheaper than dog kennels due to lower overheads. Dog sitting and dog boarding are not to be confused, as the former involves the dog carer visiting your dog at home while you’re away.


Cons of dog boarding

Perhaps the main con of dog boarding is a matter of trust and knowing that the carer or dog sitter will provide the right environment and/or level of care you want for your pet. Ask around, search ‘dog boarding near me’, and do your homework before entrusting the care of your dog to anyone.


In conclusion

At PetDialogue, we recognise there’s a case to be made for both dog kennels and home dog boarding and your decision will be informed by a number of factors, including your own preferences, the personality of your dog and a careful evaluation of the two options. It’s a big decision, so do as much homework as possible!



Gemma holds an RCVS Certificate in Veterinary Cardiology and continues to work part time in practice to remain up to date and continue her interest in cardiology.

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