white and brown dog eating from a dog bowl

Post-boarding Apprehension: Why Dogs Resist Eating

Post-boarding apprehension is a common phenomenon that many dogs experience after being away from home for a while. This article aims to explore the reasons why dogs resist eating after being boarded and provides insights into the psychology behind their food resistance. We will also discuss the impact of new environments and separation anxiety on a dog's eating habits, along with some strategies to help encourage eating post-boarding. Finally, we will touch upon the importance of seeking professional help, such as consulting a veterinarian or working with animal behaviorists, in addressing and resolving these eating issues.

Understanding Post-boarding Apprehension in Dogs

Defining Post-boarding Apprehension

Post-boarding apprehension, also known as post-boarding anorexia, is a condition where dogs exhibit a lack of interest or refusal to eat after being boarded. This condition typically arises due to the stress and anxiety that dogs experience during their stay away from home. It can last for a few hours or even several days, depending on the individual dog and the circumstances.

When dogs are boarded, they are often placed in unfamiliar surroundings with different routines and caretakers. This sudden change can trigger anxiety in many dogs, leading to a decreased appetite and other behavioral changes. The stress of being separated from their owners, coupled with the presence of other unfamiliar animals, can contribute to the development of post-boarding apprehension.

Common Symptoms of Post-boarding Apprehension

Several common symptoms can indicate a dog is experiencing post-boarding apprehension. These include loss of appetite, sudden weight loss, restlessness, excessive panting, and even vomiting or diarrhea. It is important to note that these symptoms may also be signs of other underlying health issues, so it is always advisable to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any medical causes.

In addition to the physical symptoms, dogs experiencing post-boarding apprehension may also display behavioral changes such as increased clinginess, avoidance of food or water bowls, and reluctance to engage in activities they normally enjoy. Some dogs may become more vocal or exhibit destructive behaviors as a way to cope with their anxiety. Understanding these signs can help pet owners provide the necessary support and care for their furry companions during this challenging time.

The Canine Psychology Behind Food Resistance

The Role of Stress in Eating Habits

Stress plays a significant role in a dog's eating habits. When dogs experience stress, it can trigger a decrease in appetite and an overall aversion to food. This is because stress activates the body's "fight or flight" response, which redirects energy away from the digestive system and toward survival mechanisms. This natural response can result in a dog's reluctance to eat after a boarding experience.

Moreover, stress can manifest in various forms for dogs, such as environmental stressors like loud noises or unfamiliar surroundings. These factors can contribute to a dog's overall stress levels, further impacting their eating behavior. Understanding the sources of stress for a dog is essential in addressing food resistance issues effectively.

How Anxiety Affects a Dog's Appetite

Anxiety can have a profound impact on a dog's appetite. Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety or fear of unfamiliar environments may exhibit a heightened state of anxiety during boarding. This anxiety can create a psychological barrier that prevents them from feeling comfortable enough to eat. It is crucial to address and manage a dog's anxiety to help alleviate their food resistance.

In addition to separation anxiety, dogs may also experience situational anxiety related to specific triggers like car rides or vet visits. These situations can lead to a temporary loss of appetite as the dog's focus shifts toward managing their anxiety. Recognizing these triggers and providing a supportive environment can play a vital role in helping dogs overcome their food resistance challenges.

The Connection Between Boarding and Eating Resistance

The Impact of New Environments on Dogs

Being in a new environment can be highly stressful for dogs. Boarding facilities often have different smells, sounds, and routines than what dogs are accustomed to at home. These changes can cause unease and reluctance to eat. It is essential to provide a familiar and comforting environment for dogs when reintroducing them to their regular eating habits after boarding.

Moreover, the presence of other unfamiliar dogs in a boarding facility can also contribute to a dog's eating resistance. Dogs are pack animals and may feel intimidated or anxious when surrounded by new canine companions. This social dynamic can further disrupt their eating patterns, as they may be more focused on assessing their new environment and interacting with other dogs rather than eating.

Separation Anxiety and Its Effect on Eating

Separation anxiety is a common issue that many dogs experience when they are away from their owners. Being separated from their human companions can cause dogs to feel anxious and distressed, resulting in a decreased appetite. Dogs with separation anxiety may associate eating with their owner's presence, making it challenging for them to eat in unfamiliar surroundings. Addressing and managing separation anxiety can help dogs regain their normal eating habits after boarding.

Additionally, the lack of routine and predictability in a boarding facility can exacerbate separation anxiety in dogs. Dogs thrive on consistency and structure, and when placed in an environment with unfamiliar schedules and caretakers, they may struggle to feel secure and at ease. This added stress can further impact their willingness to eat, as they may be preoccupied with feelings of uncertainty and discomfort.


brown dog eating from bowl while on leash

Ways to Encourage Eating Post-boarding

Creating a Comfortable Eating Environment

Creating a comfortable and safe eating environment can significantly help dogs overcome their post-boarding apprehension. Ensure that the feeding area is quiet and free from distractions. Using familiar food bowls and providing a cozy space for eating can make dogs feel more relaxed and willing to eat.

Additionally, consider incorporating elements that can further enhance the dining experience for your furry friend. Adding soothing background music or using calming scents like lavender can create a calming atmosphere that promotes a positive association with mealtime. Providing a comfortable mat or bed near the feeding area can also give your dog a sense of security while they eat.

The Importance of Routine in Feeding

Establishing a consistent feeding routine is crucial for dogs, especially after a boarding experience. Dogs thrive on routine and structure, and having a predictable feeding schedule can help them feel more secure and at ease. Feed your dog at the same times each day and avoid making sudden changes to their feeding routine, as this can further contribute to their food resistance.

Furthermore, incorporating interactive feeding toys or puzzles can not only make mealtime more engaging for your dog but also stimulate their mental and physical well-being. These enrichment activities can help alleviate any stress or anxiety related to eating post-boarding, making the experience more enjoyable for your furry companion.

Seeking Professional Help for Post-boarding Apprehension

When to Consult a Veterinarian

If your dog's post-boarding apprehension persists or worsens over time, it is recommended to consult with a veterinarian. A veterinarian can help rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to food resistance and provide appropriate treatment or guidance.

The Role of Animal Behaviorists in Addressing Eating Issues

Animal behaviorists are professionals who specialize in understanding and modifying animal behavior. Working with an animal behaviorist can be beneficial in resolving eating issues in dogs. They can assess the dog's behavior, develop behavior modification plans, and provide guidance on how to address underlying anxiety or fear that may be causing the food resistance.

It's important to note that post-boarding apprehension in dogs can manifest in various ways, not just through food resistance. Some dogs may exhibit signs of stress or anxiety through increased vocalization, destructive behavior, or even physical symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea. Recognizing these additional signs can help pet owners address the underlying issues comprehensively.

Furthermore, the transition from a boarding facility back to home can be a significant adjustment for dogs. They may have formed new routines or habits during their stay, and returning home can disrupt these patterns, leading to anxiety or confusion. Providing a sense of familiarity and comfort through familiar toys, bedding, and routines can help ease this transition for your furry friend.


In conclusion, post-boarding apprehension is a common issue that dogs may experience after being away from home. Understanding the reasons behind their food resistance, such as stress, anxiety, and the impact of new environments, can help mitigate the problem. By creating a comfortable eating environment, establishing a consistent feeding routine, and seeking professional help when needed, dog owners can support their pets in overcoming post-boarding apprehension and returning to their regular eating habits.