Choosing the Right Boarding/Daycare Facility for your pet: Part I of III


Pancho the yellow lab and Artimus the Golden Doodle

Pancho and Arti enjoy a "Snow Day"

Planning a family vacation used to leave a dog owner with a guilty conscious.

This is no longer the case. A trip to a boarding facility is no longer considered a sentence to “doggie Jail.” There are several new types of boarding facilities popping up all over the country, where they treat your dog as if they are on a vacation of his own.

Boarding Facilities & Doggie daycare’s come in as many different shapes & sizes as the different breeds of dogs they serve. From the conveniently located, indoor play areas tucked away in strip malls to the expansive outdoor environments such as ours, Dog Boarding and/or daycare is not one-size-fits-all. Which facility your dog will be the most comfortable in, depends a lot on how your dog was raised, his or her likes and dislikes & their life experiences so far.

Types of Facilities: “Spaws,” Traditional Kennels, Pet Sitters & Free-Range Facilities :

“Dog Spaws,” are often 5 star facilities where your dog can have everything from massages, T-Touch treatments, aromatherapy, acupuncture, grooming, gourmet meals and deluxe accommodations in an environment much closer to the canine equivalent of the Hilton rather than Motel 6. Definitely not how most of us picture a dog boarding facility. Since things tend to get chewed up in places like this, that expense is often, but not always, reflected in the nightly rates. But for some of us, there’s nothing too good for our furry family members. (These places tend to cater to toy breeds and may not always be a good fit for a chewy, hyperactive puppy.)

Traditional Kennels: Offer Limited exercise, little to no group play, chain link kennels and concrete dog runs. Often the most affordable of all facilities, unfortunately for energetic dogs, this isn’t their dream vacation. (Some offer other additional exercise, but it often costs $5 per 10 or 15 minutes of walking or play, which can quickly add up to costing more than the other available options.)

In Home Pet Sitting: This is a great option for dogs that don’t do well with other dogs or if you have other pets in addition to dogs. Some providers offer daily visits to your home or will camp out there, others will have your pet stay in their homes… the services offered and pricing varies greatly by provider. Some can accommodate dogs with serious health or behavior issues.  Pet Sitters international is a great place to start your search.

There are also affordable, Free-Range, ranch-style dog boarding alternatives like ours. ( Free-Range Boarding facilities come complete with large, indoor or securely fenced, outdoor play areas, where dogs of all shapes, sizes and energy levels will get to socialize with other dogs. Many offer all day play and exercise for no additional charge, which is a big bonus for rambunctious dogs. Sleeping accommodations will vary by provider, but virtually everything is available… from Doggy slumber parties, where small groups of dogs share human sized bedrooms equipped with comfortable cots, blankets and dogs beds, to facilities with individual dog runs, crates and/or kennels.

Free-Range / Group Play… Dividing the Pack?

Some free-range places divide the dogs by size, others let play styles or energy levels determine their groupings, smaller facilities may not have to divide the pack at all… but there should always be a way to divide the pack if deemed necessary. Don’t get hung up on big dog / little dog arrangements or size limitations, it’s not always about size of the dog, it’s more often the energy of the dog that’s critical in assigning play groups. It is also the pack leaders’ responsibility to provide proper leadership and control the tempo of the pack by establishing rules for acceptable and unacceptable behavior. I’ve seen great friendships blossom from unusual pairings. (Ever seen a Malti-poo ride a St. Bernard? I have, they were Instant Soul mates.) All dog care facilities share one thing in common: We all want your pet to have a fun, safe and stress-free time.

Unfortunately, not every dog is well suited for this group interaction which is why good facilities require a behavior evaluation prior to accepting reservations for boarding. If you have a reactive pet, you may want to consider in home pet sitting. (

Where a typical dog kennel will often require you to pay extra for virtually every 10 minutes of exercise, most free-range places include a good chunk of group playtime (if not all-day) for little or no extra charge.

So what is the difference between a traditional dog kennel and Free-Range?  There are many, but the biggest difference is probably exercise and socialization.  Some also offer extended services such as obedience and behavior modification training for additional fees.

Next time: 9 things to look for when you tour a potential boarding or daycare facility.

Kerri — (The Alpha Dogs’ Wife)



Steve & Kerri Pinkston own and operate Adventure Dog Ranch, a Free-Range, Boarding, Daycare and Training facility located in Marysville, WA. 

For more information about their facility please visit   

Part II should be up in a few days!



About adventuredogs

I'm the "Alpha Dog's" wife... Life Partner and Co-owner of Adventure Dog Ranch, The Vacation Destination for Dogs! A place where canines socialize, exercise and have fun. You don't have to feel guilty when you take a vacation, your dog can have his very own vacation with us!
This entry was posted in dog behavior, Dog Training, Dogs and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Choosing the Right Boarding/Daycare Facility for your pet: Part I of III

  1. I have often running my own dog boarding kennel in fact the place I plan on moving has a traditional boarding kennel, as you define it, for sale. It is a bit run down, definitely would need a lot of work. It is hard to know what to do, it is a massive investment and I really need to do some research on what pet owners want in the area, also who my competition would be, how much money I could potentially make. It is certainly tempting I love dogs, so it would be a dream job, but I know just because you love dogs doesn’t mean I should own a boarding kennel. I look forward to reading part II and III, because it is great to know what pet owners want these days, I know the trend to for higher end facilities, I am a dog owner myself, so that is what I go for, maybe not a “spaw”, I think that is a bit over the top, not sure if dogs really care about aromatherapy, but definitely better then the standard traditional kennel. Thanks for the article.

    • Hi Dog Boarding Guy….

      I’ll tell you from personal experience, It’s a lot of hard work. Clients expect you to be available 7x12x365 and you’d better be in tip top physical shape or have deep pockets to be able to afford help that is… since you won’t see too many days off for a while.

      It is also incredibly rewarding.

      If I were to do this all over again, (and I likely would,) I would start by touring the facilities in your area, see what’s already available, see what’s already being offered, ask the dog owning community, (local vet offices, people at the local dog park, pet food stores) what they’d like to see, and carve out your own niche.

      Dogs seem to out number children in many of our nations cities. So there is definitely a market for this kind of thing, but it does take time and money to build a steady client base. I’ve found that dogs don’t care if the facility looks like a rustic farm house or has astro-turf… they just want to run, play and show off to win the attention and affection of humans. However, the county you’re working in often does care about things like water quality, additional traffic and the like. Check the city, state and county regulations before you lay out your hard earned dough… some counties have impossible regulations.

      Our clients drive long distances to provide their dogs’ opportunity to play all day in a monitored group environment. If you don’t have a background in canine behavior, volunteer at a local animal shelter, volunteer at a facility you’d like to replicate, or take a $10 an hour part time job working at a facility to learn the ropes. Having a trainer on staff is invaluable in my opinion, as they have a knack for reading and understanding the “why’s” behind certain behaviors.

      You didn’t mention what area you’re in, but I’d be happy to talk to you and give you any advice, pointers or tips. If you’re in Washington, I’d be happy to have you out to tour our facility. (Preferably after the 1st of the year when things calm down a bit.)

      Kerri Pinkston Adventure Dog Ranch

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