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Dog boarding horror stories

I worked at a boarding kennel throughout high school and college, so let’s just say I do not look at boarding kennels the way the average customer does.

The facility I worked at was very crowded and understaffed. On the average weekend there would be at least 80 dogs and just two or three staff members to care for them.

On holidays, we would take in 200+ dogs with maybe one extra person to help.

We all loved dogs and did the best we could, but obviously each person can only do so much.

I’m not trying to knock on boarding facilities with this post. I believe the majority of boarding kennels are perfectly acceptable and safe places to leave a dog and managed better than the kennel I worked at.


I have to board my own dogs from time to time, and while I hate leaving my boys, I trust they’re getting perfectly average care.

Four dog boarding horror stories

Because of my experience working at a kennel, I do my best to avoid potential problems by asking these questions before boarding my dog. I also know that touring the facility ahead of time is a must.

With that, I’m going to share a couple of unfortunate stories people told me about boarding their dogs.

If you have a story to share, please do so in the comments.

Lots and lots of ticks

Tex the Staffordshire bull terrier

Anthony Bianco was traveling in northern Australia and had to board his Staffordshire bull terrier Tex for two days while visiting friends.

“When I came back to pick him up, he was covered in ticks,” Bianco said. “I spent the next half-hour having to pick dozens of blood-filled ticks off his body before I could take off to my next destination.”

A French bulldog’s broken tooth

Dig Dug the French bulldog
Chako Suzuki ended up paying $1,500 for her dog’s root canal after he was injured during boarding.

“They told me my dog was biting the bars of his cage and said that he broke his incisor while doing so,” she said.

She thought this was odd, because her dog had never acted that way before during boarding.

This time, she had paid an additional fee for a “tug-of-war play session” and believes the tooth was broken during that activity.

“The doggy dentist confirmed that the injury was caused by something getting jerked out of his mouth and not bar biting,” she said.

“We’ve learned to never pay for playtime because we aren’t sure how rough they are going to be.”

I asked Suzuki if she had any advice for others when choosing a boarding kennel.

“I would say, do a lot of research, read a lot of reviews, and be very specific with the staff about your expectations and what is and is not OK.”

A black Lab’s trip to the emergency vet

Rosemary Frank left her dog at a professional training and boarding facility, and later found out the facility’s communication system was “badly broken.”

The kennel staff had taken her dog Cash to the emergency vet at 10 p.m. on Friday, but she was not notified of the situation until 4 p.m. Saturday. Meanwhile, the vet would not treat her dog without her permission.

“The night crew did not have access to the computer system ‘for security reasons’ so could not access my contact information,” Frank said.

Once the day staff came in on Saturday morning, she said they left a voice message with her emergency contact instead of with her. That person did not check her voicemail until later in the day and sent Frank a text late Saturday.

“In the meantime, staff keeps telling the owner that I was ‘contacted’ first thing in the morning but was not responding,” Frank said.

Once she received notification at 4 p.m. Saturday, she said she called the kennel immediately, but the office had already closed due to the time-zone difference. She continued to leave messages, hoping someone might get them.

“Nothing, until they came back the next morning, Sunday, and heard them all,” she said.

She was then able to call the vet and give permission to treat her dog.

“The kennel billed me for the two days Cash was with them prior to the incident,” Frank said. “Sometimes you just have to let stupid people self destruct.”

She said Cash never recovered and died three months later. This is one of the few photos she has with her dog.

Rosemary and Cash

Because of the incident with Cash, Frank has some advice for others when boarding their dogs:

  • Even if you think you know the kennel’s process for emergencies, ask them to explain it.
  • Ask them if the night staff will have access to your number and call you immediately in an emergency.
  • Ask if the staff knows the “emergency contact” is only for when they have already tried to call you unsuccessfully.
  • Review everything whenever there is a new owner or manager.
  • Update your emergency contact as needed so you know it’s someone who still cares about your dog.

A forgotten dog

Loretta Levinson said she left her two dogs at their usual dog walker’s home. This was a person who offered in-home boarding. There were five dogs total, including the dog walker’s two dogs and one other.

Well, the walker took the five dogs for an off-leash walk at their usual place, Levinson said. Then, when the walker left to go get the next five dogs to walk, “She left with only one of my dogs.”

The dog left behind was Lou, a malamute.

Malamute Lou and Bro GSD Max 2008

Thankfully, when the dog walker went back about four hours later, Lou was waiting where they had parked.

Needless to say, Levinson did not use that dog walker again.

She recommends people check some references before leaving their dogs with someone and to do a shorter “test run” before leaving their dogs for an extended period of time.

Do any of you have any boarding stories to share, good or bad?

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