Can I board a reactive dog? Let’s Explore

First, Consider What Kind of Reactivity Your Dog Struggles With

Reactivity is a bit of an umbrella term, as it can refer to any manner of intense or over-the-top reactions to various triggers. Perhaps your dog gets along fine with other dogs, but is fearful of strange men. Maybe your dog adores two-legged folks, yet lunges and snaps at his furry peers. Or, you may have a leash reactive dog who turns into a tornado at the end of the leash, but gets along fine with other pups and humans alike when off leash.

No matter the case, you’ll need to be able to clearly articulate exactly what sets your dog off and what type of reactivity you’re dealing with in order to find him a safe, appropriate kennel.

Not only will this help you evaluate boarding facilities, but it’ll also allow the boarding kennel staff to understand your dog’s needs and decide if they are a good fit for your four-footer.

Here, we’ll largely focus on finding kennels that cater to dogs who are reactive toward other dogs, as this tends to be the most common type of reactivity.

You never want to mislead or withhold information about your dog’s reactivity to a potential boarding facility. While it can be frustrating trying to find a boarding kennel that can handle your dog, not being honest or clear about your dog’s issues is extremely dangerous for your dog, boarding staff, as well as other dogs being boarded. Besides, you may be surprised how many kennels are willing to handle more challenging dogs, so long as you’ve given clear instructions.

We’ve also made a video covering the same topic, so if you’re more into watching videos than reading, check out our YouTube vid:

Experienced Staff Who Can Handle Reactive Dogs

Naturally, you’ll want to make sure the boarding kennel staff members are familiar with reactivity and have experience handling reactive and challenging dogs in general.

So, be sure to specifically ask if staff members have experience with reactive dogs. Also take note of what the questions they ask you. Competent and experienced canine caretakers will ask very deliberate, pointed questions about your dog’s triggers and demeanor so that they can give him the best care possible.

Finally, you’ll want to consider checking the qualifications and certifications of the staff members highlighted on the boarding facility’s website.

When choosing between various boarding kennels, browsing through user reviews is never a bad idea. Specifically, you’ll want to look for other owners who have reactive dogs themselves and find out about their experiences.

We all know how some folks can be when leaving reviews, and accidents occasionally happen with any business. So, don’t allow one negative review to dissuade you.

But, pay close attention to any gross negligence or oversight. For example, if you see a reviewer talking about how their dog-aggressive pup was put into a playground despite the owner’s warnings, run the other way!

There will always be a few critical reviews, but as long as the boarding facility meets most of the criteria outlined above, and as long as the reviews are mostly positive, your pup will probably be A-OK!

It’s also never a bad idea to ask your veterinarian or dog trainer if they have any recommendations.

Veterinarians are not behaviorists, so they won’t always necessarily know which kennel options will work best for reactive dogs, but they may be able to at least point you in the direction of a few reputable boarding facilities they are familiar with.

What to Avoid in a Boarding Kennel

We’ve covered what to look for when choosing boarding for a reactive dog. But what should you avoid when picking one?

Generally speaking, you’ll want to steer clear of:

  • Board and Train Facilities: In our full guide we talk about the pros and cons of board and train facilities, but they’re typically not ideal for reactive dogs. While there are certainly some good options out there, the vast majority are overpriced and even downright dangerous. In recent years, there have been increasingly more tragic deaths reported at board-and-train facilities. The danger is even more extreme for reactive dogs, as inexperienced trainers may resort to forceful and more aggressive strategies in an attempt to curtail a dog’s reactive behaviors, with no oversight from the owner. While the idea of sending your pup to a place where they can be safely housed and trained while you’re on vacation is appealing, it’s probably not worth the risk.
  • Places That Refuse to Give You a Tour: Always ask to tour a boarding kennel before signing your dog up to stay. If the staff refuse to give you a tour, that’s a huge red flag!
  • Kennels That Use Aversive Tools. At K9 of Mine we strongly discourage the use of aversive tools to train and manage dogs. But we especially don’t like the idea of these dangerous tools being used on a dog without oversight from the owner. If a boarding kennel uses e-collars or prong collars on their resident dogs, we’d suggest considering other options.
  • Facilities Without Experienced Trainers or Behaviorists on Staff: Every good boarding kennel should have at least a few trainers or behaviorists on staff. That doesn’t mean that everyone at the kennel needs to be a IAABC-certified dog behaviorist, but there should at least be a few folks around who are more qualified to handle challenging dogs.
  • Facilities That Leave Dogs Unattended in Playgroups or Group too Many Dogs together at the Same Time: Groups of dogs should never be left unattended. If you ever see a group of dogs without a staff member keeping a close eye on them (or, if you see an improper dog-to-human ratio in playgroups), think twice before boarding your dog at that kennel.

    Caring for a reactive dog can be very challenging. Some reactive dogs are all bark and no bite. Others may really be aggressive and seek to cause damage. Sometimes you’re not sure whether a dog that is behaving aggressively really would cause any harm or not.

    Regardless, special care is needed to keep these dogs safe and to protect others from them. Kenneling can be a great solution for reactive dogs, but it’s essential that it’s done appropriately.

    Here are some tips to help you kennel your reactive dog safely and keep them happy.