Updated: Jan 24
This week I received the following question:
Nicole, how do you suggest we avoid separation anxiety caused by our dog staying at a boarding kennel for a week? She will be just shy of 5 months, and we don’t want the experience of staying at a kennel while we travel abroad to my brothers wedding to be so traumatic it causes her to develop a SA problem! (her breed is prone to this). Thank you!
Since a lot of us travel and worry about this type of issue with our dogs (although half the time it’s us who suffer from separation anxiety), I thought I’d post the response that I sent, with a bit added in:
There are a few things you can do to make time in a boarding kennel easier on your dogs:
– If you can swing it, leave your dog at the kennel for a one or two night stay before the actual trip. That will allow her to get comfortable with the facility and the staff, and will let her know that when she’s left there, you will always return.
– Send along your dog’s favorite bed, stuffed animal, or anything else that will serve as an “anchor” to the familiar.
– Give the kennel a sweatshirt or T-shirt you’ve been wearing, to leave in the pen with your dog. Your scent will provide comfort. (If you ever travel for longer than a week, give them two shirts and have them keep the second one sealed in a plastic bag, to be swapped out for the first shirt halfway through the stay.)
– Make sure the kennel offers some sort of daily exercise, such as a run in a fenced yard or a walk with a staff member. Structured, supervised exercise can mean a reduction in stress hormones.
– Make sure the kennel has whatever type of chews you normally give at home. Bully sticks, stuffed Kongs, etc. can help, both because chewing is a canine stress-reliever, and because it’s a familiar activity. Ask if you can send some along.
– Try to keep your own demeanor casual and carefree when dropping your dog off. If you’re stressed, she’ll pick up on it.
One last thought…there are some really wonderful boarding kennels out there, but some dogs do better if left in their own home environment. If you can find a great petsitter, you and your dogs might find it a less stressful arrangement while you’re away. And, if separation anxiety is an issue, check out my book Don't Leave Me: Step by Step Help for Your Dog's Separation Anxiety as well as the DVD of my half-day seminar Separation Anxiety: Both Sides Now.
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