In-Home Host Dog Boarding vs. Kenneling: Which is Right for Me?

Whether you have added a new dog to your family or you are in a position where you are not able to be home to care for your pup, you will want to decide the best form of pet care that works for you and your dog.  Although this list isn’t exhaustive, hopefully it will guide you in determining whether in-home host boarding (In-Home Host Dog Boarding is where someone cares for your pet at their own home vs. having a pet sitter stay at your house or makes visits to your house) or kenneling is right for you.  There are Pros and Cons with each to be considered and also questions you will want to ask when evaluating a pet care provider.  We will touch on the major areas of each.

The Pros of In-Home Host Dog Boarding Include:

  • Your pet will be in a home environment vs. a kennel facility.  This is especially helpful for dogs that are fearful, shy, senior, or dogs with special needs where it will be a more comfortable environment.
  • In-home host dog boarding typically provides more flexible hours for pick up and drop off than a kennel, and often times, a host won’t charge an extra fee if you are a little late.
  • There is less chance of contracting a viral or bacterial infection since there will be far fewer dogs in a host’s home, and the host will have more control over bowls being used for water and food.
  • You have more freedom in finding the scenario you are looking for.  For example, if your dog likes to sleep in bed with people or if they are comfortable being on couches, you can find a host that allows this vs. a kennel who does not provide this type of service.  Also, if the host has a fenced-in backyard, the dog can typically go outside more frequently than when at a kennel.
  • You can write a power of attorney letter listing the host specifically which will allow the host to get authorization for veterinarian services up to a dollar amount that you set.
  • A good host will know if the mix of dogs who will be visiting will get along.
  • Some hosts may provide a private boarding experience that includes just your pet for an extra fee.  This is helpful for shy, fearful, and insecure dogs who don’t feel comfortable around other dogs.

The Cons of In-Home Host Dog Boarding Include:

  • Since fewer dogs can be accommodated, slots fill up fast, especially during holiday season, so your host may not be available during your preferred dates.
  • Some hosts aren’t home during most of the day, so you aren’t guaranteed things like potty breaks or a trip to a veterinarian if needed.
  • An inexperienced host may not know how to properly administer medication, safely walk your dog, or prevent against door bolting which could  allow your dog to escape.
  • A host can automatically deny any breed they don’t feel comfortable with.
  • An emergency could occur with the host, and he/she may not be able to care for your dog while unavailable.  Thus, your dog may be re-assigned to another host whom you may not know.

Questions to Ask a Host:

  • Ask what certifications, if any, they have.  For instance, are they certified in first aid?  Do they belong to any professional dog associations?  Do they have other certified skills like grooming, training, or massage?
  • Ask what the hosts preferred drop off and pick up times are.  Ask if there will be a fee if you will be dropping off earlier or later than the host’s hours.
  • Ask what will happen if the dog gets sick or injured.
  • Ask if they belong to a professional boarding company like or which provides insurance, 24x7 support, can help refer you to another host, etc.  If the host does not belong to a professional boarding company, then ask if they are licensed and insured.  If the host is not licensed and insured, consider continuing your search for a host.
  • Ask if you will be receiving daily updates that includes pictures and/or videos.
  • Ask what other services are included like dog walking, basic grooming, medication administration, etc. and what extra fees, if any, are charged.
  • Ask how many dogs the host will be caring for at any given time.
  • Ask to see references or be able to contact a current client for their feedback.
  • Ask if they work from home or how much time they will spend away from the home.
  • Ask if the host has backup hosts they can use in case the host becomes unavailable during your dog’s stay.
  • Ask if they offer any discounts and what their cancellation policy is.

Kennel Pros:

  • Since kennels have  larger facilities, they can take more dogs than an in-host home can, which can be convenient for busy times like holidays or if you need daily day care on a long-term basis, because the host may not always be available every day.
  • Often times they provide more service options.  For instance, a number of kennels have pools, and if your dog likes to swim, it is more likely that a kennel will have a pool vs. an in-home host.
  • They are usually associated with a veterinarian clinic, and can get your dog to doctor quickly.
  • Most kennels have staff there 24x7.

Kennel Cons:

  • Most kennels will have a relatively high turnover of staff, so if your dog has bonded with a particular employee, they may not be able to bond with them long-term.
  • Often times, most of the staff members that are interacting with your pet will not have formal dog training.  Therefore, you will want to ask about the skill level of the staff.
  • Typically, there are too many dogs per staff member, which can result in lack of attention or observation of pet’s behavior and health and dangerous situations like dog fights or a dog getting loose and escaping.
  • The potential for exposure to diseases is higher.
  • Being in a new and unfamiliar environment may cause stress to your pet.  Most kennels are very loud due to barking all day, which could also stress your pet.
  • Most kennels are open during times like 7:00am – 7:00pm, and are very strict about pick up and drop off times.  You will either receive a fine or, if you are very late, they will ask you to pay for an extra day.  Therefore, your schedule will need to be driven by the facilities office hours.

Questions to Ask a Kennel Facility:

  • Ask where your dog will be staying throughout the day.  For instance, how long will they be in a cage vs. time to run around.
  • Ask if the facility is staffed 24x7 to ensure someone will be there to monitor your dog if they are staying overnight.
  • Ask what the staff member to dog ratio is.  I have seen 1 staff member for 20-40 dogs in each section, which is not only dangerous for the dog, but also  dangerous for the staff member if a dog fight occurs.
  • Ask what their feeding and water schedule is.  Often times, dogs are too stressed at a kennel to drink, and they come home extremely thirsty.  Ask if the staff can monitor their drinking.
  • Ask how often the dog will be walked and if there are any extra fees.  Some kennel facilities don’t even have an outdoor space, so those typically don’t charge extra.  Other kennels who have a nice amount of outdoor space (make sure it is an enclosed space) might charge extra for individual and group walks.
  • Ask if the kennel partners with a veterinarian clinic and who that veterinarian is so that you can meet the doctor, and see if you are comfortable with their skill level and services.  If you are not comfortable with the doctor, ask the kennel facility if they will transport your dog to your veterinarian.  Often times, larger kennel facilities will have a veterinarian clinic right next door, which is important for emergencies.  
  • Ask if you are allowed to bring your dog’s food to help prevent stomach upset from switching back and forth from the dog’s food to the food the kennel provides.
  • Ask if they have a web cam or provide some other type of daily updates.
  • Find out about exercise times, vaccination requirements, and a price list. Make sure the kennel is clean and spacious.  Check the cage sizes to make sure your pet will fit comfortably. If the pet boarding kennel staff will not allow you to see the areas where pets are kept, do not board your pet there.
  • Ask if they offer any discounts and what their cancellation policy is.