Best supplies for in-home dog boarding business

I have a series of videos and articles on starting an in-home dog boarding business that are very popular. I love to help and mentor pet business owners in person and in online forums. This article is in response to some questions I have gotten in the comments. 

One of the perks of pet sitting and other home-based businesses is low overhead. I started my first pet sitting business for just $500. Depending on how big of an operation you want to run, you can also start small and add expenses as you grow. You may want to purchase a van for dog walking or even a fleet of vans, or you may want to lease or buy a property for boarding or hiking dogs. These are significant investments that aren’t immediately necessary.

So let’s get right to it. What are the must-have items for starting an in-home dog boarding business? 

If you don’t feel like reading all this just scroll to the bottom of the page to get the list!


Bringing dogs into your home will have an impact. You can minimize that impact with good planning and equipment. Other people’s dogs may not be housebroken, they may be destructive and chew on things, they may not get along well with other dogs. These supplies will help you contain and manage the dogs you bring into your home.


Crates are a simple way to keep dogs safe and to give them personal space. While play groups are fun, spending all their time together can be stressful for dogs. Crates are a good way to house dogs for short periods of time like during feeding, after playgroup, or overnight. 

Dogs, especially puppies, can get into things like power cords, laundry hampers, and pantries where they can damage your home and injure themselves. When you need to leave the house or put your attention on other matters, the crate is a good solution. 

Baby gates

Baby gates are a great tool for giving dogs (and cats) separate spaces. My dog Maya is a rambunctious puppy so I like to limit her room access. I keep her out of the kitchen because she will counter surf and make a mess, and I keep her out of the bedrooms when I’m not at home because it gives the cats a puppy-free space. 

If you have cats, of course you want to carefully screen dogs you bring into your home. Even friendly dogs can cause cats stress, so it is good to give them their own space to hide, groom, eat, and use their litter box. 

The baby gate can keep guest dogs out of your kitchen, bathroom, and anyplace else where they might get into things. It can also be used to separate dogs of different sizes or temperaments to reduce stress and ensure a positive experience for all.

Outdoor fencing

If you have a yard you will want to make sure it is secure. It goes without saying that the yard should be fenced, but this may be a problem if you are renting or starting on a small budget. A full six foot fence can cost thousands of dollars, but there are alternatives. 

X-pens can be used to fence off the part of your yard that you will use for the dogs. It can also be used to shore up fencing that may not be adequate. A modular kennel is also a good alternative for outdoor containment

Whatever fencing you have, it is best to not leave dogs outside unattended. I have seen dogs jump tall fences and gates when stressed like during 4th of July fireworks. I saw an elderly Labrador jump right over a six foot fence! Also dogs can bark and cause a nuisance for your neighbors. You want to be a good neighbor and you don’t want anyone complaining and getting your business shut down. 

Doggy doors

A dog door can make your life much easier. I have indoor cats and live on a busy street so unfortunately I can’t have a dog door in my house. This means I have to get up a million times to let my puppy out, and she has a knack for needing to go potty when I’ve just gotten comfortable on the couch and ready for a nap. 

If your yard or part of your yard is secure you can set up a door so the dogs in your care can go in and out at will. These doors typically come with a flap you can close when you want to keep the dogs in. 


As a light sleeper and an early bird, bedtime has a special reverence for me. You will want to make arrangements for the dogs in your care to settle down and sleep at night. How you do that will depend on your situation. Do you go to bed early or late? Are you a light or heavy sleeper? Do you allow dogs on your bed or on the furniture? Here are some items that will help everyone have a better night.


Most dogs will want to sleep on soft bedding. Exceptions may include dogs that run hot, like Huskies, Newfoundlands, and other dogs with heavy coats. You will see these dogs lie down on a hardwood floor or on the tile in the bathroom during the summer. That said, most dogs like soft bedding. 

If you allow dogs on the furniture they will sleep there, but be aware that there may be a fight if more than one dog wants to sit in the same place. There are a number of different kinds of beds available for dogs in different price ranges.

Since I’m covering a long list of supplies in this video I’m not going into great detail on each one but I will recommend that you look for bedding which is less costly and easily washable. Bedding may get peed on, covered in fur, or just have that doggy smell. You want to be able to wash it at least once a week and maybe more often. If the bed has 20 zippers and inserts that aren’t washable, you will get tired of that really quickly!

Crate pads

You may want to use crates for bedtime, especially if this is what the dogs’ owners do at home. This can be a good way to settle the dogs down for the night. If you have a group of playful dogs, they may carry on all night if not separated. 

Crate pads are inexpensive and easy to wash. They can be purchased in the exact sizes of the crates you have. A crate can provide a secure place to rest and sleep for many dogs. 


Dogs need to eat of course while they are in your care. Clients may provide their own food and bowls but you will want to have a supply on hand in case they don’t.


You will need bowls for food and water. There are some good basic stainless steel bowls available for purchase online and in many stores, even at Walmart and Target. You will want the bowls to be easily washable and non-breakable. Those ceramic bowls are cute but with a pack of dogs and frequent handling they are likely to be cracked or broken. 

Food and treats

Many clients will provide their own dog food, but it’s good to have a supply on hand for those who don’t or if the provided amount runs out. A basic lamb and rice adult food should suffice for most dogs. You’ll want to buy food of reasonable quality but it doesn’t necessarily have to be the most expensive or grain-free; in fact, these foods are too rich for some dogs and will cause diarrhea. 

A large bag of kibble and a case of cans for dogs who don’t eat kibble or who take medication in food should suffice. 

Treats can be of any kind from the basic Milk-Bones to fancy salmon bits. Big cookies are good for once a day treat giving like at bedtime, and smaller bits are good for training as you’ll be giving the dog a bunch so you don’t want them to be huge. 

Storage containers

You’ll want storage containers for the food and treats you have on hand. Containers are important for keeping food fresh as well as for keeping dogs (and ants) out of it. Some dogs will eat all the food they can find, making themselves sick, so it’s important to keep it out of their reach. 

Measuring scoop

You will need a scoop to measure and dispense kibble. You can buy these at any pet shop and in fact they are often given away as promotional items. I don’t know how many scoopers I’ve had over the years with the name of some dog food on them. Come to think of it, if you have a shop that will give them away you could print some up with your business on it for marketing!


As with other supplies, clients may bring their own leashes and collars but they may not be ideal. Here are some suggestions for safe and effective walking equipment.


Even if you are keeping dogs in your home for boarding most of the time, you will need leashes to lead them from one place to another and to go for walks. Walks give dogs exercise and training, keep them busy, and help maintain friendly pack relationships. A bunch of dogs together in the house or yard all day may get to fighting, so it is good to have periods of time where they are separated or guided in other activities. 

You can’t beat a good 6-foot leash, available in many variations and price ranges. There are a number of different collars you can attach to this leash for easier and safer walking. Sturdy slip leashes are good for quickly moving dogs from one place to another. I bought a bulk pack and keep them in my car, in the grooming shop, and around the house. 

Walking collars/harnesses

There are a number of good collars you can attach to the 6 foot leash for safe and effective walking. Clients may provide their own, but you may find them inadequate. I am surprised at how many clients come in with their dog on a loose buckle collar that they could slip out of any second. They also sometimes use a back-attaching harness on a big dog like a Husky which you may as well attach to a sled. So if you don’t want to lose the dog or be pulled off your feet, you will want to keep a stash of your own walking collars and harnesses. 

Harnesses are a good choice for dogs with no neck, like Pugs, or a weak neck, like Chihuahuas. They are also good for elderly dogs with a stiff, easily injured neck. Just be sure the harness fits well and the dog can’t slip out of it!

Poop bags

A lot of dogs means a lot of poop! You can use any bag to pick up poop, but bags for that purpose can be purchased in bulk inexpensively. They usually come in rolls so you can stock up and never run out. You can stick a few in your pocket (then get a good laugh when they go through the washing machine!) or buy one of those gadgets that holds a roll of bags and attached to the leash. 


Poop scooper

Poop bags are good for walks, but for your yard or play area you can’t beat a poop scooper. These usually consist of two long sticks similar to a broomstick with a scraper on one side and a pan on the other. There are variations with a rake-like side and a complicated one that you squeeze with ends that look like the bucket of an excavator. I prefer the basic scraper and pan, but you’ll have to check them all out to see which one you like best. 

Potty pads

The dogs in your care are hopefully housebroken, especially the larger dogs, but you may care for some that are not housebroken or “paper trained” as they say. Putting a potty pad down for a dog who is old and incontinent, a puppy, or just used to using one, will make your life easier by minimizing cleanup. 

Spray cleaner

Hosting a pack of dogs can lead to a pretty stinky home. Odor neutralizing cleaners like Nature’s Miracle can be a big help. Good old bleach will help keep blankets and other laundered items fresh smelling, while a spray cleaner for the house can be a quick way to clean up messes.

If you have a cement play area outside you might invest in a disinfectant you attach to the hose like Kennel Sol. You can to some extent spray this kind of cleaner on the dirt, but you still run the risk of having a virus like parvo in your yard. For this reason it is important to ensure that dogs in your care are healthy and vaccinated.


Some folks care for dogs in an apartment or condo, and this can work if they are small and use potty pads or if you don’t mind going for frequent walks. Most of the time, though, you’ll want some kind of a yard or patio for the dogs to exercise and play.

Secure area outside

The first thing you need for a playgroup is a secure area. Clients are trusting you to keep their dogs safely confined while they are out of town or at work. As mentioned under Housing, you can shore up the part of your yard used for play with x-pen fencing or a modular kennel. Whatever you do, do not leave dogs in play groups unsupervised.


There are many good toys for group and individual play. Chew toys, plush toys, puzzles, tugs … which you choose will depend on the dog or dogs in your care.

I groom a Frenchie who will immediately destroy any toy. When he comes in I hide all the toys but one which he can rip to shreds, then I throw it away. He’s satisfied and I save most of my toys.

You can find some well-known and safe toys online or in your local pet store. Target actually has a pretty good pet section with affordable prices, and your local dollar store will likely have some toys that are good for smaller dogs or destructo dogs like the Frenchie I mentioned.

Play structures

Play structures are great for outdoor pack play. Some of these were originally designed for kids but also work well for dogs. Ramps and tunnels are two good basic structures that are solid and easy to clean. You can add some agility equipment if you want to work with the dogs in that way. This sort of activity can be fun for high-drive dogs popular today like Malinois.

Good quality play structures aren’t cheap, so this may be something you invest in once your business is profitable. If you’re handy you might fashion some yourself. Just be sure the material you use can be cleaned and disinfected.


Many boarding facilities offer basic grooming. This is a good add-on service for extra revenue as well as convenience to your clients. After a stay in boarding dogs can be dirty and smelly. Returning them to their owners freshly washed is good customer service and sets you above your competition.

All you need is some basic equipment and a place to bathe the dogs that won’t make a huge mess in your yard or house.


There are many good dog shampoos available for purchase. The price may seem high for a gallon jug but they are highly concentrated. You’ll want to buy a smaller plastic dispenser to dilute the shampoo and use while bathing.

You won’t need 20 different kinds but 3 or so should suffice: a good basic deep cleaning shampoo with a pleasant scent like lavender or chamomile, a non-scented aloe or oatmeal-based shampoo for dogs with sensitive skin, and a de-shedding formula for German Shepherds, Huskies, and the like. Human shampoo isn’t recommended because dogs have a different PH to their skin.


There’s nothing like a high-velocity dryer to get dogs clean. It not only dries them, it blows away dead fur, greatly reducing shedding. If you are going to offer bathing for the dogs in your care it’s worth the investment. You can find a good quality one for under $200 which includes adjustable velocity and heat. You may want to crank it all the way up for a Husky and keep it down for a sensitive or small dog like a Maltese.


Brushing is key to keeping dogs healthy and mat-free. Even if you aren’t bathing the dogs, brushing can be a good way to bond. It can also help keep your house clean! Good basic brushes include a Furminator-type for short hair, a slicker for medium and long hair, a rake for heavy undercoat, and a comb for fine hair and furnishings.

Nail trimmer

Some dogs keep their own nails short because they are very active, while others have nails that grow very long. Checking the dogs’ nails and offering nail trimming adds value to your business. Dog nail trimmers come in different sizes. I like to keep a large, medium, and small one on hand.

Dremel now makes a dog nail trimming unit which is a game changer. It works well on dogs who are scared of nail clippers and it also gives a fine trim without the risk of quicking (drawing blood). An Emery board can help to file away rough edges, especially if they are close to the dog’s pads where you can’t reach with the dremel or clipper. You can find Emery boards at any store where ladies’ beauty supplies are sold and of course online.

Important note: if the dog is matted, I DO NOT recommend trying to remove the mats unless you have training as a professional groomer. It is very easy to injure a dog using scissors to remove mats. If the dog is in poor shape it is best to recommend that your client make an appointment at a grooming shop.

I hope this is helpful for you. Best wishes for the success of your business!