When choosing a dog boarding kennel, you should visit as many as possible to ensure you select the best facility available to you. During your visits, staff will be happy to show you around the kennels and discuss their hygiene protocols with you, but you can also assess the quality of care on offer by observing the behaviour of the dogs at the kennel. A kennel with lots of stressed dogs indicates a problem with how the facility is being run, so here's an overview of signs of stress to look out for:

Body Language

Dogs are good at making their feelings known, but humans often miss or don't know how to interpret the signs. A stressed dog will alter their body language, so look out for the following:

  • Ears are pinned back
  • Tail hangs low or between the legs
  • Head turned away with whites of eyes showing
  • Eyes or mouth are tense
  • Leaning back with most of their weight on their back legs

Avoidance Behaviour

When you're in a stressful situation you likely want to remove yourself from that situation,and dogs are no different. However, at a boarding kennel, the dog won't be able to just get up and leave, so they'll display avoidance behaviours to minimise interaction with people and other dogs, such as hiding in a corner or behind their bedding, backing away as you approach their kennel bay and rolling over to show submission as a way of avoiding conflict.

Displacement Behaviour

When a dog is displaying a normal canine behaviour out of context, they are letting you know they feel stressed. Displacement behaviour is the act of supressing a feeling or behaviour and replacing it with something else. Examples of displacement behaviour include shaking off when not wet, yawning when not tired, sudden scratching or biting at a specific area of their body or repetitive licking of their lips in the absence of food. These types of behaviours, when done out of context, should be seen as an expression of discomfort.

A good boarding kennel will have practices in place for settling in new dogs and reducing stress, such as ensuring dogs don't face each other when in their individual bays, providing daily one-on-one time with staff for play and grooming, allowing you to take a few of your dog's favourite toys and a blanket into the kennel for them, and taking details of your dog's likes and dislikes ahead of their stay.

Don't be concerned if one or two dogs seem to be stressed during your visit to a kennel, as they may be new arrivals, but if you notice lots of dogs displaying signs of stress, it's best to move on to the next kennel.