Pet hotel: the comparison between commercial and home boarding

Pet hotel: the comparison between commercial and home boarding

Recently, I have noticed a common misconception being spread amongst pet parents regarding the subject of pet boarding.

To many pet parents, they assume that pet boarding automatically means sending their pets to a pet hotel or a dog kennel. That is why they just send their pets to these facilities without considering other better alternatives to pet hotels and dog kennels.

These parents could not be more wrong. Pet boarding does not only consist of pet hotels and such. In fact, there is another alternative that also classifies as pet boarding- house boarding.

Compared to pet hotels, house boarding is a lot more different and is honestly a much better alternative. I am not just saying this because I have some sort of prejudice against pet hotels, I am saying this because I had experience in working in both a pet hotel and as an independent house boarding caretaker. I have some experiences and facts to share regarding both, and I shall explain why I think house boarding is a better and safer alternative to pet hotels.

Let’s get straight into it.


(Image source: Happy Dog Hotel And Spa)

Firstly, my main problem when it comes to a dog hotel is the amount of other ‘guests’ that you are willingly boarding your pet with. Sure, all of them are checked for any health concerns before they enter, but are they checked for factors such as temperament, personality or size? No. The only checks my pet hotel did was to check previous health records and verify that vaccinations were indeed issued to them prior to boarding.

In many pet hotels (excluding the pricey ones), all pets of the same species are usually allowed to hang around a common area for some time. This can prove very dangerous as often times, small and timid dogs are usually put in the same area as large, aggressive dogs with only 2-3 supervisors watching over them. This was more or less the case at the pet hotel I worked at, where about 4-5 of us was expected to control over 50 dogs of all shapes and sizes in a common area. Needless to say, these open area sessions every day were some of the most chaotic that I can remember. I can’t even recall the number of times me and the lads had to break up fights between dogs- be it small or large ones. Sometimes, we could not even control some of the large dogs and some security guys had to come in and sort out the dog. For all I know, these kind of pet hotels are some of the most chaotic and unorganized warzones that I ever had the pleasure to work in.

(Image source: The Spruce)

There is also a growing concern amongst many regarding the spreading of various diseases in these facilities- I am here to tell you that these people aren’t wrong. Despite the health checks, let me warn you that infections are still very, very active in these pet hotels and there had been several cases where pets fell to a variety of illnesses such as influenza, ringworm, and various parasites and fungal infections. Checks may be very thorough, but sometimes there are just too many pets and some illnesses could just develop out of nowhere. It is a scary risk that I am not willing to put any of my pets through to be completely honest. There is also the fact that illnesses spread faster in there due to the fact that there are many other pets exposed rather than just two-three pets, and it is also very hard to individually spot/quarantine the infected. 

In a pet hotel, not every single employee is willing to take up a night shift. In my pet hotel, only one person stays overnight to watch over the CCTV! This is madness as there is no backup in the case of anything happening, obviously a recipe for disaster. Also, please take note that anything could happen in a large building. A fire could suddenly break during closing hours, the aircon or ventilation could go off, dogs might suddenly get very ill while they are sleeping- literally, anything could go wrong at any moment and there might not be enough people watching to notice until it is too late. It is honestly better to stay safe than sorry due to negligence/lack of staff.

Fortunately, I did not have any unfortunate incidents happen overnight when I was working at the pet hotel. However, there are many real life examples of unfortunate circumstances that had even led to the death of several pets!

Let me give you some real life examples.

In 2015, a bushfire started near a boarding kennel called the Tea Tree Gully in Adelaide, Australia. This fire destroyed not only a big part of the building, but it also claimed the lives of over 40 dogs and cats. The full story can be found here.

Another case involved over 20 dogs dying in a pet boarding facility when a dog bit into an air conditioning cord, effectively causing the entire room to heat up and killing 20 pets inside that room due to the trapped heat accumulation. This was just pure negligence by the staff and really could have been avoided had someone bothered to stay overnight. The full story can be found here.

(Image source: Unleashed Dog Hotel)

The next con should seem a bit more like common sense, but pet hotels are less accommodating to your pet’s niche needs. Most pet hotels would take in fifty or more pets most of the time, so why should your pet get special treatment unless you pay for it. If your pet is the clingy type that constantly demands attention and special treatment- seriously consider house boarding instead.

Trust me, back in the pet hotel, we were very uncompromising with special requests and it was a company policy to charge high rates to someone who had very specific requests. Every pet got equal treatment, even those who needed more attention due to anxiety. The only things that you were allowed to provide were their own food (if there is a health condition involved) and some of their favourite toys to play with. Besides that, it was all up to us to care for them in a way we saw fit.

The only pet hotels that know of that allows a personalized stay are usually luxury hotels that are extremely expensive. Also, there are also some irresponsible luxury dog hotels who give dogs too much cage-free time, which may or may not lead to potential escapes and fights amongst other guests.

Unless we are talking about luxury pet hotels, it is true that general dog kennels or pet hotels charge cheaper rates than home boarding at a sitter’s place. However, like we say in the real world, cheaper does not always mean better or more value for money. Would you go for the cheap option with all these risks above, or would you rather go for a more personalized, passionate and caring service?

It’s a no-brainer for me. Let me tell you exactly why I would prefer home boarding for my dog over boarding at a pet hotel.


(Image source: Prescott Pages)

To start, home boarding is definitely safer because of two factors.

The first factor that increases the safety of your pets is the fact that a house is definitely not as big as a pet hotel. This would mean that it would be easier for the sitter to keep an eye out for the pets under their care. This also means that there will be less of a chance for any pets to escape as house boarding properties are usually well fenced and small. That also means less of a chance of a disaster from happening since it is a household and not a big building, and a bigger chance of any person noticing before any hazards get out of hand. When I was offering pet boarding services to the public, I owned a comfy two storey house that is heavily fenced. That way, it will be very difficult for any pet to escape, and also I could keep a close watch over all of them as the building isn't big. 

The second factor involved in this is the fact that home boarding caretakers simply do not let too many pets in one house. Most home boarding sitters that I know of will only take 3-4 pets at any given time, and most are also responsible enough to separate the small guests from the big ones. This will significantly decrease the odds of a dogfight or any small sized pets getting intimidated by bigger pets.

Another point on why I would seriously recommend house boarding would be the people running it. Most pet sitters that I know of are doing this more for the passion over the money, whereas most pet hotels are more likely in this for the profit. Plus, the house boarding is usually only run by one or two passionate fellows who are really passionate about dogs, while pet hotels are run by staff who may be good but is probably not as invested in the pets. Most are there to earn money, not to do it as a passion project. The truth hurts, but many of my former colleagues did indeed have this mindset and trust me, they are just going through a set routine everyday. They really do not care about a pet’s wellbeing and are just there for their paychecks. Obviously, they do care about a pet’s health, but they are not obligated to care about any other aspect.

House boarding also allows for a greater deal of customization and control over the service provided to the dog. You can always leave more specific and niche instructions for the caretaker and they will be more likely to follow it as they do not have so many guests to look after. You are also given the opportunity to visit the house beforehand and check out factors such as surroundings, other guests, sitter before you make your decision. It is much more reassuring to check the place out yourself before boarding, and this is something that most pet hotels that I know of do not offer. It is so much easier to trust something that you have seen beforehand rather than take a risky gamble.

Also, don’t you think that your pet will have an easier time adjusting to a similar home environment with only one or two humans and 3 dogs to get used to compared to a concrete jungle housing hundreds of pets and some random caretakers who could not even afford to bat an eyelid towards it? It is a very well known fact that some pets will get extremely stressed in a new environment, and it would help if it did get some attention to help it settle. House boarding will provide all the personal attention that your pet needs in order to adapt and enjoy its time there. You are more or less be guaranteed to pick up a joyful and excited pet instead of a stressed, scared and paranoid pet who might even end up sick.


Pet Owner Sofa

(Image source: Dogtime)

In the end, it is the matter of whether you want to go the extra mile for the sake of your pet. You could just easily chuck your pet into some cheap random pet hotel nearby for your own convenience, or you could do some research in order to find the best house boarding caretakers near you and ensure the best experience for your fur-kid.

Even if you do not have the time to do research and still want to ensure the best experience for your fur kids while you are gone- it is still entirely possible!

With the PetBacker app, I had the easiest time ever in both searching for verified pet boarders and finding nearby clients who are interested in my service. This app is a platform that connects both passionate pet parents with nearby home pet boarders and sitters that are just as passionate as they are about their pets!

For pet parents, this is a great opportunity to calmly and effortlessly trust your pet in the best hands as you go for that urgent business trip or that hard-earned holiday.

For prospective home boarders, this is the perfect opportunity to easily promote your business and passion to nearby clients for only a small commision! Start following your passion now and earn some cash while you are at it!

To get started, simply download the app and sign up for free now!

Did you know? Pet sitting is also a very viable alternative for those not willing to take care of pets in their home. Read our pet sitting vs pet boarding comparison article for more information!

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