I recently needed a dog boarding facility for my Boxer mixes Missy and Buzz!
Under normal circumstances, I would haven taken the pups along on a fun road trip to my final destination. But since I was only able to stay for 2 days, I opted for flying and against driving.
Enter my need for a trusted pet sitter or dog boarding facility.
Since I’m a professional dog walker & pet sitter myself, I have very high expectations of whomever will watch my pups.
I actually wasn’t able to find a pet sitter who’d be able to care for the pups in the comfort of their home, but thankfully I had another option.
The Riverbark Pet Retreat in Spring Lake, NC.
It’s a 5***** dog & cat hotel which also offers:
- Doggie day care
- Grooming services
- Dog training classes & workshops
- Dog swimming sessions in their heated indoor doggie pool
- Therapeutic treatments such as hydrotherapy, laser treatment, & K9 massage therapy
The Riverbark Pet Retreat gained my trust by ticking off my checklist of requirements for providing a safe & entertaining boarding experience for my pups.
Now, without further ado, here are my recommendations of what to look for in a dog boarding facility!
10 Things To Look For In A Dog Boarding Facility
Disclaimer: This blog post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated in 2023.
1) First Impressions When Touring The Dog Boarding Facility
You should always be able to tour the facility without having to announce yourself first.
The moment you walk into the pet hotel, you should feel at ease and be welcomed immediately by friendly staff.
There should never be any lingering, foul-smelling odors in the air, and the place should be impeccably clean.
I had been to the Riverbark Pet Retreat on several different occasions – both with my own pups, with a client’s dog, as well as by myself when I looked into their boarding options/touring their boarding area.
The pet retreat looked spotless each time I went, and their staff were not only friendly, but honestly interested in making each experience a fun, rememberable one.
2) Being Current On Vaccines
All dogs should have to show proof of their current rabies, distemper, and bordetella vaccines prior to their first boarding (& day care) adventure.
You may know that I’m not a fan of over-vaccinating my pups, but I accept the retreat’s vaccine protocol.
Unfortunately, they now also require the pups’ being vaccinated against K9 Influenza since outbreaks of the disease are more likely to occur in areas where large groups of dogs are in relatively close contact. That meant that Missy & Buzz had to get that shot.
I wasn’t overly thrilled about it because it doesn’t have the capability of preventing the disease from occurring (but is supposed to reduce the severity of it once contracted).
But I didn’t have a choice if I wanted quality care for the pups while I was out of town.
I hope that I’ll be able to get a titer test measuring the levels of antibodies in Missy’s & Buzz’s blood against the disease before having to re-administer the vaccine.
3) No Aggressive Dog Behavior
No dogs displaying aggressive behavior should be allowed to mingle with other K9 hotel guests at doggie playtime.
This will keep both K9s and humans safe and ensure that everybody has a good time.
4) Separate Play Rooms
There should be separate rooms for larger and for smaller doggies, ensuring that everyone has a safe time playing. Larger dogs may hurt smaller pups unintentionally during playtime.
Riverbark has separated play areas both inside as well as in their huge, fenced-in outside play area!
5) Pet First Aid
It’s important to know which protocols are in place should a medical emergency arise. Make sure to ask if the staff is knowledgeable in first aid and whether or not a veterinarian is close-by.
Riverbark Pet Resort provides the ultimate peace of mind by having their very own veterinary hospital RIGHT NEXT DOOR – Riverbark Veterinary Hospital.
6) Timely Clean-Up Of # 1 & # 2
Do accidents get cleaned up in a timely manner? This is very important for hygienic reasons and your pup’s overall comfort, and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask this question.
If you get laughed at for inquiring about this, find a different pet retreat!
I noticed that one of the pups must have had an accident in their suite because their bedding was missing when I checked in on them via the webcam at one point in time.
A few hours later, the bedding was back in! When I picked the pups back up, I was informed about the accident and that their bedding was promptly washed.
7) Webcams To Check In On Dogs
Having a webcam you can access online & on your smartphone to check in on your pups is an awesome, reassuring feature to have.
I wouldn’t leave my dogs anywhere without having the option of checking in on them throughout the day or getting “pupdates” in text or video form.
RiverBark Pet Resort has suites that are equipped with webcams and also regular rooms with the webcam feature. There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to book a suite with a webcam 🙂
8) Access To The Outdoors
It’s a nice bonus for dog boarding guests to have access to the outdoors for potty breaks, ideally with some refreshing dog pool areas for the hotter summer months.
RiverBark Pet Retreat offers both!
It was pretty warm throughout this week with temperatures in the 70s, which made Buzz pant in no time. He has such a hard time with the heat.
The RiverBark staff noticed this & brought him back inside so that he wouldn’t overheat.
9) Dog Boarding Facility Special Rates
Just a day here & there at a dog boarding facility is unlikely to break the bank. But if you’re boarding 2+ pets for several days or even weeks, it’s nice to catch a little financial break by being offered discounts.
RiverBark Pet Resort has 6 different rooms/suites with different features (TV, Webcam, Window) and prices to chose from (from $35/night to $75/night).
They also offer a discount for multiple boarding guests.
Plus, they don’t charge extra for regular playtime throughout the day.
I booked a swimming session for Missy & Buzz on day 2 of their 3 day stay, which came in at $15 per pup for 30 mins.
Since it’s usually $25 for 30 mins of pool time by appointment, that was a nice discount I did appreciate.
The pups aren’t exactly the least expensive “hobby” for lack of a better word, so saving 20 bucks here and there is nice 😉
10) Personal Items & Instructions
As far as I know, RiverBark Pet Retreat offers complimentary meals for their boarding guests.
I personally think that it’s less stressful on a digestive level for dogs to stick to their regular diet. So I would definitely recommend you ask if you can bring your own food.
Providing my own food was a no-brainer since the pups are on a raw diet, and RiverBark Pet Retreat had no problem whatsoever feeding the pups their regular food.
I made sure to scoop their allowance for each meal into a labeled food storage container and brought it over in a thermo bag they could just stick into a fridge.
By the way, they returned all containers washed AND sanitized. Wow, way to go!
Besides bringing my own food, I also brought the pups’ daily allowance of dehydrated duck feet and beef lung.
I also brought their own stainless steel food bowls & doggie bedding, and of course Buzz’s favorite chuck-it-ball!
I also asked the RiverBark staff not to exercise the pups for an hour following their breakfast & dinner in order to avoid bloat. They made a note of it and stuck to my request.
Have you boarded your pup(s) or are you currently looking for a safe doggie hotel? As always, we’d love to hear from you in our comment section!
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