As you plan your family's summer agenda, the words "sleep-away camp" inevitably pop up. As a kid, you may have experienced the fun of spending a few weeks away from home in a rural setting running, playing, swimming, boating, and arts-n-crafting. And now that you have kids of your own, you want them to enjoy the same range of experiences.
If you've been searching online for sleep-away camps in the last few years, chances are you've also noticed search results for "doggie/canine sleep-away camps." You may even have friends who have sent their pet away to one of these programs. Which, of course, begs two questions: "What exactly is a sleep-away camp for dogs?" and "Will my dog be a happy camper in one of these programs?"
Kennel boarding vs. sleep-away camp
The first thing that strikes you when you read many descriptions of a facility's "sleep-away camp" is that it sounds like another way of saying "kennel boarding." In both cases, your dog will be spending several nights—perhaps several weeks—at the camp/kennel. And, just as quality kennels provide recreational time for their canine guests to romp, sleep-away camps also feature playtime.
The difference between the two at some facilities may not be that different. In fact, some places may simply be using the term "sleep-away camp" as a cuter, more seasonally appropriate way of saying "kennel boarding." That's why it's important to read the full description of the facility's offering. When speaking to them about their services, ask questions, and by all means pay them a visit!
Some sleep-away camps emphasize that, in addition to playtime, they provide training sessions with their professional trainers. This is the biggest difference between typical kennel boarding and sleep-away camps. Just as your children will learn new skills from an expert at a sleep-away camp (e.g., archery, swimming, etc.), your dog has an opportunity to learn new behaviors from an expert.
In addition, some sleep-away camps make a special point of featuring a longer outdoor sessions for playing and socializing with the other "campers," compared to a typical kennel boarding situation.
Is sleep-away camp right for your pooch?
There are many factors to consider when trying to decide between kennel boarding and sleep-away camp. These include price, length of the camp session, location, specific services offered, and reviews from fellow pet owners.
There's another point to consider—and this is very important: If the sleep-away camp offers training sessions with a professional, will your dog maintain the new behaviors when camp is over and he's back home? Training is never just about the dog. It's a partnership in which you and your dog each play a vital role. After all, you're the pack leader at home, not the camp's trainer. Before selecting a sleep-away camp because it offers training, make sure they explain how you will be able to reinforce the lessons your dog has learned.