Sheppard Playing Catch with Ball

Comparing Dog Boarding Options

February 8, 2021
By Jason Trainer

If you are heading out of town you’ll need to find a safe place to board your dog. Finding one can be a stressful process. You need to vet any kennel thoroughly, even one that’s been recommended. After all, making sure your dog is well attended to when you have to leave him or her behind for a time is one of the most important responsibilities that comes with having one. While most boarding kennels provide good to excellent care there are some that should be avoided at all costs. Below we’ll provide some tips on how to tell the difference between the two.

Finding the Right Kennel for Dog Boarding

Before we get into the details of what to look for in a boarding kennel let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of dog boarding.


  • Not having to travel with pets is always easier.
  • Most hotels won’t allow pets under any circumstances.
  • Trained kennel staff will monitor your dog for health issues.
  • There’s little chance of escape in a properly run kennel.
  • Your dog will be socialized with other dogs and be cared for by the staff.


  • Your puppy may feel stress related to the unfamiliar environment (at least the first time).
  • Your puppy may be intimidated by any unruly or aggressive dogs.
  • Having to see the look on your puppy’s face as he or she is taken from you.

As you can see most of the ‘pros’ are practical while most of the ‘cons’ are emotional. If you can get past the emotional downside you’ll be able to appreciate the many practical benefits of placing your dog in a high quality kennel. So let’s take a look at just how you find such a place.

Getting Started for Dog Boarding

Your search should start by asking those whose judgment you trust. Start with a neighbour who has boarded their dog before. If you have a dog trainer, ask them for a recommendation. If you acquired your prized pooch through an animal shelter ask them. And last but not least make sure to ask your veterinarian. If the name of the same Greater Toronto Area boarding kennel keeps popping up there’s a pretty good chance it’s a quality establishment. But don’t dismiss any recommended kennels out of hand. Take all the names you get and check each one out. Remember, if you do a thorough job this time you won’t have to repeat the process next time.

Things to Look For puppy boarding

Now that you have a number of different boarding kennels to investigate you’ll need to arm yourself with a slew of relevant questions to ask and things to look for that will help you separate the good from the bad. There’s no getting around the fact that you’ll need to visit these facilities in person. But again, if you’re thorough this time you won’t have to repeat the process next time you go away.

Here are 13 things you should be asking about/looking for when it comes to puppy boarding:

1. Is the facility clean?

This is why you need to make in-person visits. There’s just no way to gauge the cleanliness of a kennel without being there. If the facility is messy, disorganized and smells to high heaven you’ll know right away to cross it off the list and move on.

2. Do they maintain a comfortable temperature?

It gets cold in Milton, Mississauga, Oakville and Burlington and it’s incumbent upon the kennel owner to keep the cold outside where it belongs so that your pooch can rest comfortably.

3. Is there plenty of light and ventilation?

Poorly lit facilities can be the cause of accidents and oversights. If a dog is sick or hurt the staff may not even pick up on it until it’s too late. Ventilation is crucial as well because a kennel full of dogs, cats and other beasties is going to be an odour factory.

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4. Do they board puppies?

For most places puppy boarding is not an issue, but some cater only to older guests. So it’s important that you know up front if they will board your puppy or not. If they will then where do they keep puppies? In with the general population or somewhere separate where they’re not intimidated by potentially aggressive larger dogs? Do they get fed more often? Do they have adequate opportunities to blow off excess energy? Does puppy boarding cost more than standard adult dog boarding?

5. Does the staff engage you or seem not to care?

If the staff member you’re talking to keeps checking their watch or looking at the clock or avoiding questions you should take a pass. At iTK9 you’ll be afforded our complete, undivided attention and will have answers to all your questions and concerns.

6. Will someone be there 24 hours a day?

Not every kennel has someone on hand 24 hours a day. But if they don’t they should have a well-conceived plan in place for what happens in case of emergency. How are they notified if something goes wrong? Who is notified if something goes wrong? Do they take your pet to the vet if need be even if they can’t contact you? Who makes that call? It’s important you have answers to these questions.

7. Are all pets required to be current with vaccinations?

Make sure you get a clear answer on this as the long term health of your puppy depends on it. Bordetella (canine kennel cough) for instance can have debilitating effects on young dogs.

8. Are dog runs protected from the environment?

Are dogs sent outside in the snow and rain to exercise or is there an enclosed area where they can stretch their legs when the weather turns nasty? Also, do exercise runs occur on a regular schedule or is it haphazard?

9. What about food?

Ask the boarding kennel what type of food they serve. When you have some time research that particular food if you are not familiar with it. Also, if your puppy has special dietary requirements ask them if they will accommodate those. If they say yes you should bring an adequate supply of your preferred food when you drop off your pooch.

10. Are there veterinary services available?

Any puppy boarding facility should have a close working relationship with a reputable vet. This is not negotiable. If there is no vet ready and able to respond to emergencies in the facility you should not consider leaving your dog there. If the kennel does work with a vet get their name and do a bit of due diligence on them just to be sure.

11. Do they offer other services like grooming or bathing?

Ask if the puppy boarding facility offers other services such as grooming or bathing. These can be important especially if you are leaving your furry friend for an extended period of time (more than a few days). Some kennels will bath the dogs in their keep on a regular basis. Others will consider that an additional service.

12. Compare rates

Prices will vary from one dog boarding facility to the next but it is typically a big mistake to base your decision on base price alone. Ask the puppy boarding kennel how they calculate their prices as this will often vary from place to place. Something that is part of the standard charges at one location may be an extra somewhere else. So always try and calculate the total price for the services you want before making a decision.

13. What is their cancellation policy?

Sometimes your plans don’t work out and hence, you don’t need puppy boarding after all. Find out how much notice you have to give before you will be charged a cancellation fee. In most places in the Greater Toronto Area you are allowed to cancel 3 or 4 days before your dog is due to show up. Also, some places will require a credit card to hold the reservation and others will not. Ask if they require any sort of deposit.

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Preparing Your Pet for Dog Boarding

If you have an older dog that has behavioural issues or is naturally aggressive you may want to reconsider boarding them. Also keep in mind that if this is the first time you are boarding your puppy it’s best if it’s not a long stay. Leaving him or her for 2 or 3 days is the optimal length for a first time. This way they acclimatize to the place and you get a good idea if your hunch about the boarding kennel was correct. If there are problems your dog will be out of there in short order anyway. If everything goes well you know where to take them next time.

Here are a few other things you should check off your list before boarding your puppy.

  • Make sure your pet is up to date with their vaccinations - Most every reputable kennel will require that pets be up to date with their shots before they’re accepted. While that may seem unreasonable to some it is actually what you want to see in a kennel. It means your puppy stands an excellent chance of being returned to you happy and healthy. Some kennels might require that you provide a copy of any vaccination records for your dog. Others may ask for the number of your vet and call to verify themselves. In any case it’s important that your puppy be fully vaccinated before you drop them off at the boarding kennel.
  • Bring what you can to make your dog feel comfortable - Being separated from his or her new family is a stressful thing, especially the first time and especially for young pups. Therefore it’s a good idea to bring as many familiar things as the boarding kennel will allow so that your pooch has something familiar to play with or snuggle up to. Those things may include:
    • Your puppy’s bed - Having a familiar bed to sleep on with familiar scents will help your puppy rest a bit easier.
    • Your puppy’s favourite toys - Most places have a limit on how many toys you can bring from home and that’s fine. Bring as many as they’ll allow. It’s another thing that will help settle your dog down after you leave.
    • Any special food - Some dogs are on very particular diets. If yours is one of them bring enough food to cover the entire length of the stay, plus a couple of extra days just in case you get hung up by bad weather or some other occurrence beyond your control.
    • Any medications - Make sure you leave the kennel staff with adequate medication if your dog needs it, as well as precise guidance as to when the meds should be given and how.
  • Be clear about kennel procedures - When you drop off your dog double check that you are clear regarding the kennel’s procedures.
    • Make sure you know how to contact them after hours if you need to.
    • Make sure they know how to contact you after hours if need be.
    • Ask about any special instructions they may have for contacting them.
    • If your puppy needs meds or special food go over that one more time with the staff.


Puppy boarding in Milton, Mississauga, Oakville and Burlington can be stressful for everyone involved. Your pet will feel as though you’ve abandoned them, you’ll likely feel twinges of guilt that you had to leave them in a kennel full of strangers. It’s important to know that the staff at any reputable kennel is always concerned about the health and safety of their four legged charges. Use the above guide to make sure you find a dog boarding kennel that is a good match for your pet. If you’re looking for the best dog boarding services in the greater Toronto area give iTK9 a call today.

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