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When you're traveling and can't take your dog with you, booking a room at dog hotel may be the best choice. Booking your dog into a dog hotel is exciting, but if it’s their first time staying in one, you might find yourself wondering how it all works. Not every dog hotel is the same, and there are a few things you must keep in mind. Today we’ve put together a quick dog hotel guide to show you what to expect and how to go about the process.

1. Research Dog Hotels

You must be able to trust the dog hotel where you will be leaving your dog, so be sure to do your research beforehand:

  • Find out which dog hotels are local to you.
  • Research online feedback and reviews for dog hotels that sound appealing.
  • Look up the BBB rating for these dog hotels you’re considering.
  • Scan the internet and local news for any stories that mention that dog hotel.
  • Ask friends, family, experts for recommendations.

To find a local dog hotel, simply search on Google “dog hotel near me” – most large cities will have a facility like that. Some places are much more fancy than others but they will also cost a lot more. Alternatively, you can always try using pet sitters from proven services that will take of your pooch.

For picking dog hotels, there are some popular (and more expensive) dog hotel chains with several locations throughout the U.S. Here are a few examples of most popular dog hotels that have a good reputation among pet owners:

2. Visit the Dog Hotels You Like

It’s crucial that you visit the dog hotels that you are considering and take a look around before leaving your pup there. You can even take your dog with you if they allow it. When looking around the facility pay attention to specific things, including:

  • Does the dog hotel smell clean or does it smell musty, like urine, or feces?
  • Is there a good airflow system in the hotel?
  • If you can see other dogs staying at the hotel, are they staying in rooms that are clean or are dogs sitting in a mess?
  • Do the dogs staying at the hotel appear to be enjoying their stay?
  • Are the rooms in the dog hotel temperature controlled?
  • Do the rooms offer dog beds, or cots, or other furniture for pets?
  • Does the kennel have cameras set up so that you can check in on your dog online or on your smartphone during their stay?
  • What does the play area of the dog hotel look like?
  • Are the staff friendly and good with the dogs staying at the hotel?
  • Is there a good potty facility, and is it indoor or outside?

3. Ask Questions During Your Dog Hotel Visits

In addition to looking around the dog hotel to get a feel for the facilities, be sure to ask questions of the staff while you are there. Some good questions to ask include:

  • Is there a vet on staff or do the dogs have access to a vet at all times if needed?
  • Is the hotel staff willing to take your dog to your vet or call your vet if necessary?
  • Does the hotel mind if you call to check in on your dog periodically?
  • Does the hotel provide daily update e-mails, phone calls, text messages, or “report cards” to keep you up to date on your dog’s progress?
  • Are dogs ever left unsupervised during their stay or during play?
  • If your dog is aggressive with other dogs are they able to accommodate that and make sure that your dog is never put in a situation where they are exposed to another dog?
  • Are the dogs regularly checked on throughout the day and night during their stay?
  • If problems or questions arise will the dog hotel call you right away?
  • Is the dog hotel equipped for emergency situations with appropriate fire exits, fire extinguishers, and sprinkler systems?
  • What happens if your dog gets bitten or gets into a fight with another dog?
  • Are ALL dogs at the hotel required to be up to date on vaccinations?
  • Are ALL dogs taking part in daycare and play programs screened for sociability and required to be spayed or neutered?

4. Desensitize Your Dog to Staying Away from Home

Desensitize Your Dog to Staying Away from Home and in a Dog HotelTry to get the dog used to staying away from home and away from you. Whether you leave your pup with friends and family, use a doggy daycare service for the day, book a night for your dog in the facility for a trial. Do anything you can to make staying away from home and away from you something that is “normal” to avoid serious issues with separation anxiety.

5. Make Your Reservations Early

Dog boarding facilities, whether it's a fancy dog hotel, a popular doggy daycare or something more modest and simple, fill up quickly particularly over the holidays and at reputable facilities, so make sure that you book in advance to secure a spot for your dog.

6. Ask About Package Deals and Special Offers

When you do book your dog in for their hotel stay, be sure to ask about multiple dog rates if you are going to have multiple pets staying as well as package deals and special offers for specific days or certain time frames of stay. These types of specials can save you a bundle if your dog is going to be staying at the dog hotel for more than a few days, or if you have multiple dogs staying, or if you're booking the stay during slower days.

7. Be Sure Your Dog is Up to Date on Vaccinations

There's a serious risk of dogs attracting viruses from other animals when staying in any boarding facility, so it's crucial to prevent this.

All dog hotels and animal boarding facilities require your dog be up to date on vaccinations prior to staying. If your dog is not up to date on vaccinations, they do have the right to refuse you service and most likely will.

Of most importance is the Bordetella vaccination which must have been administered at least two weeks prior to your dog’s stay.

8. Know What Services You Want

Different boarding facilities offer different add-on services that are designed to keep your dog active and happy throughout their stay at the dog hotel. Find out what services your dog resort offers and decide which services you want and what days you would like them. This will speed up your check-in process and give you time to think about what you want without feeling pressured by time constraints.

Examples of add-on services that are available from many facilities include additional daily walks, grooming, day camp playtime, one on one time with a staff member, training sessions, limited playtime with a furry sibling, and special treat/snack time.

9. Find Out What “Comfort Items” You Can/Must Bring

Depending on your dog and the dog hotel where they are staying, you may be able to take certain comfort items with you such as a favorite toy, anxiety-reducing toys, dog bed, or blanket. Some facilities have very strict safety and sanitation regulations, so you may not always be able to take items from home.

If you are permitted to bring “comfort items” for your dog into the dog hotel, be sure that they are safe items that have no parts your dog could swallow or choke on, things that won’t be missed too much if they do get damaged or lost, and things that can be washed after their stay at the dog hotel.

10. Buy and Prepare Food for Your Dog’s Stay

Buy and Prepare Dog Food for Your Dog’s StayIf the dog hotel you choose does not carry your dog’s food brand or if they do not provide their own food option, you will need to have enough food for your Fido for the length of their stay. You do not want to change your dog’s food during their dog hotel stay because it can cause gastric upset – pick the most proven recipe you know works for your dog.

When we take our pups to their dog hotel, we use a sealable kibble bag like the Ruffwear Kibble Kaddie and inside the bag, we portion each meal into a small Ziploc bag (one bag for breakfast, one bag for dinner) and write instructions on each bag. This may seem wasteful, but we do reuse these dog food bags and it makes feeding much easier for staff at the dog hotel. Some places will let you bring in larger dog food containers.

Label the dog food bag with your dog’s name and any feeding instructions.

If you feed a raw diet, find out if your dog hotel has a facility that can manage to feed a raw diet. It's usually not an option in most hotels for dogs, so if it's not an option, consider hiring a pet sitter instead. Alternatively, you can choose a freeze-dried foods or dehydrated dog food diet that your dog hotel would be better able to handle.

If you do decide to switch your dog to a dehydrated or freeze-dried diet, and he hasn't been on this diet before, make sure to start this change several weeks prior to your dog’s stay by substituting small amounts of the new diet for the raw food.

11. Prepare Your Dog’s Medication and Dosing Details

If your dog takes medication for whatever reason, ensure that you have enough of a supply for the length of their stay at the dog hotel as well as a few extra days just in case.

All medications and your dog's supplements must be clearly labeled with your dog’s name, the name of the medication, and the dosing instructions. This will help with dosing but it will also let the dog hotel staff know what medications and supplements your dog is taking in case of a health emergency.

You may need to pay an additional daily fee to have the dog hotel staff administer your dog's medication to them, so be prepared for this.

12. Have All of Your Contact Information Ready

When you leave your pet in a dog hotel, the staff members there will need your contact information in case of an emergency. It can be easy to forget to have this information on you if you will be staying out of town. I recommend writing up a notecard (before you drop your dog off at the hotel) with the following information:

  • Your cell phone number if you will have it with you and have service;
  • Alternative phone number in case you cannot be reached on the above cell;
  • The number and address of where you will be staying including room number;
  • The name, number, and address of someone you trust who lives locally and can pick up your dog in case of an emergency or you not being able to come back in time;
  • The name, number, and address of your emergency contact (the person who will be trusted to care for your dog if you do not return for whatever reason).

13. Up to Date Monthly Preventatives

Similar to vaccination rule, your dog must be up to date on their monthly heartworm, flea, and tick preventatives when he's brought into the dog hotel. If a new dose will be due while your pup is staying at the dog hotel, take the preventative with you when you drop them off and clearly mark them with the date they should be applied, your dog’s name, and what they are. Also be sure to let the staff of the dog hotel know that your dog will need their preventative during their stay.

As with medication mentioned above, you may have to pay an additional fee to have the dog hotel staff apply your dog’s preventative so be prepared.

14. Weigh Your Dog and Check them Over Fully

Weigh Your Dog and Check them Over FullyYou have, no doubt, done your research on the dog hotel where you will be leaving your dog, but it’s important that you know your dog’s condition before leaving them at the hotel.

Make note of your dog’s weight so that if they gain or lose a significant amount of weight while at the dog hotel you will be able to gauge that gain or loss and report it to your vet.

Also, when you groom your pup a day before bringing him into the dog hotel, be sure to run your hands over your dog’s body and investigate any lumps, bumps, cuts, or scrapes they may have before heading to camp. It’s quite easy to blame your dog’s hotel for a cut or scrape that was already there when you dropped your dog off, so make note of any changes you notice on your dog before you drop them off. Once you pick them up, check your dog all over once again so that you can make sure that they have no new scrapes, bumps, or lumps that are worrisome and that need addressing with your dog’s hotel.

Take note: These things do happen. Just because your dog has a cut or scrape, it doesn’t mean that your dog hotel staff were treating your pooch poorly; it may just mean that your dog was playing a little too rough.

What you should look for are any untreated wounds that have gone without care and completely ignored by the staff, or large growths that have come up suddenly. Untreated wounds should be addressed immediately with your dog hotel and your dog’s veterinarian, and large growths should be followed up immediately with your veterinarian as they can be a sign of aggressive tumors.

15. Don’t Panic

When you drop your dog off at their dog hotel, be sure not to make a scene and don’t panic. I know it’s hard to leave your four-legged babies, but the more of a scene you make the more anxious your dog will become.

Instead of making a fuss, hand your dog off to the hotel worker who will take them to their room and say a simple goodbye. The more natural the transition is the less stressed your dog is going to be. Don't give any signs to your dog, even though most pets can sense these things.

Searching for a Dog-Friendly Hotel Instead?

If you’re not sure about leaving your dog in a dog hotel, boarding facility, kennels, doggie daycares or dog resort, and would rather take them along with you for a vacation, check out our dog-friendly hotel directory or see these 8 hotel chains that are known for being most pet-friendly in the U.S. – and take your pick!

READ NEXT: The 25 Best Dog Boarding Services in San Diego, CA

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Dog Hotel Guide - 15 Things to Know Before Leaving Your Pup There