What to do if your dog is unhappy about spending time in day care or kennels

What to do if your dog is unhappy about spending time in day care or kennels

Pet Psychology

Even for people that spend the majority of their time with their dogs and do not have to leave them to go to work or away on holiday, most of us need to find an alternative for our dogs at some point, which may mean making use of a doggy day care centre or boarding kennels.

When it comes to such environments, dogs usually fall firmly into one of two categories-those that love it and really enjoy the change, and those that really dislike it and spend most of their time away unhappy. If your dog falls into the latter category, having to take them to day care or a boarding kennels can be very upsetting and stressful for both dog and owner, and neither of you are really likely to enjoy your time apart.

However, if you can get to the bottom of what it is that makes your dog unhappy about boarding or day care, you can potentially resolve the issue, ensuring that your dog will be positive about such experiences in the future and making both of your lives much easier.

In this article, we will look at some of the most common causes for a dog to be unhappy about being left at a doggy day care centre or boarding kennels, and how to change their minds. Read on to learn more.

Separation anxiety

A dog that suffers from separation anxiety will be unhappy about being apart from you at all, regardless of what they will be doing during that time or how much attention they will be getting. Separation anxiety is more common in dogs that rarely have to spend time away from their owners, and while spending as much time as possible with your dog is good for both of you, your dog should still be conditioned to being confident and happy with their own company, or when in the care of others.

Any dog should be able to tolerate their own company for up to four hours at a time, assuming that they have things to reassure and entertain them, so if your dog is generally anxious about being on their own or being with someone other than you, this is something that you should work on as a matter of high importance, and it may take some time.

Even if you have not got any immediate plans to leave your dog alone, you should work on this and bring it into your dog’s normal routine to avoid problems when you have no choice but to leave them.

Bad experiences

If your dog has returned from a certain facility and did not enjoy it-either because their needs were not met, the environment distressed them or simply because they do not like being left and so, disliked the change even if nothing was wrong, it is wise to go to a different place in future, so that you can start afresh and begin working on your dog’s tolerance without having to fight their preconceptions or past memories of being unhappy there.

The right facility

Whether you are seeking a doggy day care centre or boarding kennels, every business operates differently and finding the one that is the right fit for your own dog is important.

Some such establishments are very busy, lively and active, with lots going on for the dogs and so, lots of dogs in close quarters having fun and enjoying lots of stimulus and interaction with the handlers. For dogs that are social and easily bored and that do not like being alone, this might be the right choice.

However, for dogs that are quieter, more insular or that find busy, lively environments daunting, you might want to pick somewhere with a slower pace, quieter environment, and staff who are able to provide personalised, one to one interaction with the dogs in their care on an individual basis.


Your dog’s first trip to a kennel or day care facility should not be the time that you drop them off to leave them in a strange environment for the first time-once you have decided upon the facility that you want to give a try, arrange at least one trip (or possibly several) to take your dog along to say hello and meet the people that will care for them. This will give your dog the chance to begin to build up positive associations with the venue, get familiar with some of the regular staff, and be able to objectively view the environment without feeling abandoned.

If possible, arrange to leave your dog for a few hours or half a day at a time a couple of times too, building up to their longer stay so that they are familiar with the new place and also, know that you are coming back for them!


It is important to talk to the staff at the kennels or day care centre and ensure that they will be able to keep to your dog’s regular routine in terms of food, exercise and bed time-a change in routine can be very upsetting for dogs, as they derive a sense of comfort and familiarity from this, which can help them to feel comfortable and secure.


Choose a business that has enough staff to meet the needs of all of the dogs there and give them plenty of attention and one to one interaction, rather than somewhere that keeps the dogs kennelled or locked into runs and pens for most of the day. Additionally, find out if your dog will see the same people each day and be assigned to the care of someone in particular, so that they can find comfort in the familiarity of having the same person tending to their needs.


While it is wise to ensure that your dog can be cared for by someone else outside of your home when necessary, you may also want to look at alternatives for regular use, such as having a dog walker come in during the day when you know you will be out for hours, or hiring a dog sitter who will move in with your dog when you are away to care for them in the way you dictate in the familiarity of your dog’s own home.

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