5 Steps to giving your dog a happy dog holiday...

5 steps to a happy dog holiday...

Jim Suswain, Wagging Tails
Thursday, June 14, 2018

As a dog owner myself I understand how stressful finding a holiday home for your dog can be. You are trusting someone to look after and care for your best friend. As a result my family and I still travel a considerable distance to ensure that our two Goldies, Lottie and Clara, get a holiday in a home they are familiar with and where we know they are going be safe and have lots of fun.

Lottie and Clara enjoying a walk with Digby on their holiday.

Lottie and Clara enjoying a walk with Digby on their holiday.

Getting it wrong can not only ruin your holiday as you worry about your best friend whilst away, but also result in you coming home to a stressed or ill dog. Tragically I am aware of an instance where an owner using a company with less thorough vetting processes had to return from their holiday early as, due to negligence on the part of the service provider, one of their dogs had passed away in a traffic accident

Here are 5 simple tips to help you find the right holiday home for your faithful friend!

1. Can you see where your dog/s will be staying?

Whether you are using a traditional kennel or a home dog boarding service it is important that you are allowed to visit and see where your dog/s will be staying. Are the premises as described and are they suitable for your dog/s? Where and how often will your dog/s be exercised? In a home environment where are they going to be sleeping? Not only will this give you peace of mind, it will also allow your dog to have a sniff around and familiarise himself with his holiday home.

2. Are you able to meet the person / people looking after your dog?

In addition to seeing where your dog is staying you (and your dog) will also want to meet the team or individuals who are going to be looking after her. Whilst online reviews and testimonials have their place they cannot replace your own experience and what you see with your own eyes. Many companies pay considerable sums of money to third party review sites in order to garner favourable reviews - make sure that you are able to see for yourself first hand that these positive reviews can be substantiated. 


If you are looking at a kennel environment you should be asking how many people will be responsible for your dog, is there always someone on site and how much human contact and exercise they will receive. If your dog has any specific requirements are you confident that the kennel has the skills to administer these effectively?

Home Boarding

In the case of home boarding if you are allowed to see the premises you will obviously be able to meet the carers / hosts. In a home environment be sure to check how many dogs already live in the house, whether your dog/s will be the only guest/s during the stay and whether or not your dog’s carers / hosts work or go out and provide other animal services in addition to boarding your dog/s. Also make sure your carer / host has experience of owning a dog. There are a number of companies operating who will happily take on hosts / carers who have never previously owned a dog and just want to "try it out"! 

If other dogs are going to be present ensure that socialisation meetings take place prior to the board (if the dogs don’t get on you want to know before the board).

If the carers/hosts do go out to work or provide other services be aware that this is likely to compromise the care provided to your dog/s - is this something you want?

The bottom line is are you confident that your dog will receive the love and standard of care that she requires and you expect while you are away?

Lottie enjoying a cuddle on the sofa with David while on holiday

Lottie enjoying a cuddle on the sofa with David while on her holiday.

3. Is the person / company you are using legal?

This is really important both from a legal and ethical view. Legally dog boarding services require a license and ethically, if they are delivering the service properly they should have no issue with the local council inspecting and licensing their premises. 


Kennels require a license to operate. Always ensure that the kennel you are looking to use has been inspected and licensed by the local council.

Home boarding

Not as commonly publicised is the fact that a council license is also a legal requirement for both individuals and companies offering home dog boarding services. Individuals offering their services via online directories or "communities" are NOT exempt from this and still require this license (even if they claim to have insurance documents in place and vets on standby!). 

Please be aware that ANY home boarder operating without a license could be in breach of their insurance policy, potentially rendering it invalid.

Vale of White Horse Dog Boarding LicenceIf you are using an individual operator you need to ensure they have a license as this is the only means in which they can be regulated and will give you reassurance that this person has been inspected by a third party. If you are using a company this will give you extra reassurance that the person caring for your dog has been vetted twice - once by the company and again, independently by the local council.

If you are boarding through a company the license should be for the individuals who are going to be looking after your dog/s and the specific premises where your dog will be staying, not just for the company they are part of. The terms of the license will stipulate the number of dogs allowed to board at that location at any one time. 

Some home boarding companies license using something called a Primary Authority. Whilst the Primary Authority standardises the terms of the license you should be aware that this does not remove the need for each individual premises to be licensed and it is not enough for the business / franchise owner to simply have their own premises licensed.

The law aside, it is my view that ethically any individual (whether associated with a larger company or not) offering a reputable home dog boarding service should be happy to invite an independent inspection of their premises and want to have a license to provide this service.

Animal Transportation

There are regulations in place that cover the Welfare of Animals during Transportation that apply to all animal transportation that takes place “in connection to an economic activity”. If part of the service you are being offered by a kennel, individual or business includes the transportation of your dog as a paid part of their offering an Animal Transport Certificate is required and they must comply with technical rules on fitness to travel, means of transport and transport practises as outlined in the Welfare of Animals During Transport document which can be found at gov.uk website.

4. Expect to make a payment at the time of booking. 

You should expect to make a deposit payment at the time of booking to secure the dates for your dog's holiday. In the same way you would expect to pay a deposit to secure your own holiday you should expect to pay for your dog's too. If this is not a requirement then you should question how the company is managed. Any company with demand for its service simply has to work on a first come first served basis as holiday homes book up quickly. Without a deposit paid you could be one of many owners meeting the selected host / carer - so then who gets the booking? You could end up taking time to meet someone who is then no longer available for your dog.

Equally, a reputable company who values the security of their hosts / carers will not give out their contact details without the security of a deposit payment and completed booking form.

5. Make sure the service is suitable for YOUR dog and, most importantly, that she (and you!!!) are going to be happy.

Every dog is different and you need to ensure that the service you are looking at is right for your best friend. If you have a rescue dog with anxieties a kennel is probably not going to be the best environment for her holiday and likewise if your dog is not the most sociable with others he is unlikely to thank you for placing him in an environment where a number of dogs are going to be present. In both of these cases you would likely be looking for a home boarding option where your dog is the only guest and receives the full attention of their carer during the holiday.

For me the whole aim is to ensure that your dog is going to enjoy a happy holiday in a safe and loving environment with responsible and experienced "dog people". This will ensure that your faithful companion comes back to you happy and that you enjoy a stress free and enjoyable holiday of your own!

Owner of beloved Golden Retrievers, Lottie and Clara, Jim Suswain is a Director of Trading Standards Approved home dog boarding franchise Wagging Tails .