Whether you’re going home to see family, adventuring to an exotic destination for some relaxation, or heading somewhere secluded for a bit of solitude, being a responsible dog owner means having additional aspects to consider. If you’re not able or willing to bring your furry friend with you, you’ll need to make alternate arrangements that ideally leave you both feeling comfortable.
There are three main options to consider—hiring a pet sitter to watch your dog in your home, leaving your dog with a trusted friend or relative at their home, or boarding your dog at a kennel.
Before making your decision, there are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Does your dog require any specialized care? Are they on any medication?
- Is your dog particularly susceptible to transmissible diseases?
- What level of attention and care is your dog accustomed to?
- Is your dog up to date on their vaccinations?
- Does your dog have any behavioral issues?
Once you’ve considered these questions, you’ll have a better idea about the type of care your dog needs, and which of the following options is best.
Hiring a pet sitter
Hiring a pet sitter to watch your dog in your home has many benefits, including the ability to keep your dog settled in their normal routine, well within their comfort zone. They’ll be able to eat the same food in the same place on the same schedule and can continue their regular exercise routine in a known environment. On the downside, it’s typically more expensive, and it means having a near-stranger stay at your home while you’re gone. But if your dog is high-strung, immunocompromised, or behind on their vaccinations, a pet sitter may be your best bet.
If the pros outweigh the cons in your mind, your first step is to ask friends and family members for referrals. A personal recommendation is always best and will go a long way to making you feel more comfortable. Another option is a college veterinary student, who is more likely to be interested in animals and, at the very least, may have considerable experience with them.
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of possible pet sitters, be sure to ask them the right questions:
- What is your experience with pet sitting? Are you able to provide references?
- What would you do if my dog becomes sick or is injured during my absence?
- How often and how long will you be able to walk them?
- Will you need to leave them alone for any long periods of time?
- Will you be watching any other animals at the same time?
- Do you have reliable transportation in case of an emergency?
Be up front and clear about your dog’s needs. Explain any quirks they may have, as well as any favorites (treats, toys) and fears (e.g., ringing doorbells or loud noises). And, of course, make sure to arrange a time for them to meet your canine companion so you can see how they interact.
Once you’ve settled on a pet sitter, prepare for your dog’s stay at home by stocking up on their food, favorite treats, and medications. Clearly write out all pertinent information in an easy-to-understand format, beginning with:
- Name, age, breed, and medical history
- Your veterinarian’s contact info
- Your contact info while you’re traveling
- Emergency contact info in case you’re unreachable
- Behavioral info: tricks they like to perform, treats they like to eat, and any other favorites
- Detailed daily schedule, including feeding and exercise times
- Where they can find everything, like food, toys, and leashes
Leaving your pet with someone trusted
If you don’t feel comfortable having a stranger stay in your home during your absence, you could ask a friend or family member if they’re willing to watch your beloved pet at their house. Your dog will probably feel more comfortable with someone they already know, and it’s more cost-effective, especially if your friend is willing to do it for free! However, someone else’s house is still not as familiar as your home, and although a close friend will do their best to keep your dog’s routine as similar as possible, it’s not likely to be exactly the same.
Nonetheless, if this option is the one you feel most comfortable with, then prepare for your dog’s staycation by stocking up on the same items as you would for a pet sitter and leave your friend the same clearly written info as mentioned above. Once you’ve done this, you can feel confident that you’ve left your sweet pup in the loving, capable hands of a close friend, which will enable you to enjoy your own vacation all that much more.
Boarding your pet
In addition to the options mentioned above, there are also dog kennels to consider. They may be more cost-effective than a pet sitter, and provide the opportunity for your dog to socialize with other dogs. However, there are a lot of potential negatives that may require you to do in-depth research beforehand. Concerns about safety, unhygienic conditions, and the risk of transmissible diseases are real, and you’ll want to address these concerns with each kennel you consider before you make your final decision.
Start by asking friends and family for kennel referrals, and then do your due diligence—read the reviews, speak with someone on the staff, and then visit the facilities themselves, taking note of the following:
- How clean does the facility appear to be? An unclean facility may be understaffed and unable to adequately care for your dog.
- How safe does the facility feel? Are there separate entrances and exits, to keep dogs separated if necessary? Can anyone access the facility, or are there security measures in place? Is it possible for a dog to escape without anyone realizing?
- What type of accommodations are available? Cages? Runs? Decide what you feel comfortable with for your pup.
- Do the dogs at the facility seem well taken care of? In good spirits?
While visiting, don’t forget to ask the right questions:
- What is their system for maintaining good hygiene? What kind of cleaning products do they use? How, and how often, do they dispose of feces?
- How many people are on staff? Do they have overnight personnel to check on boarders throughout the night?
- Is the staff experienced? Are they properly trained?
- Do they have a veterinary tech on staff?
- What is their procedure if your dog falls or is injured? Will they take your dog to their veterinarian, or yours?
- How, and how often, are the dogs exercised?
- Is there socializing amongst the dogs? How is this handled? Any interactions between dogs that are unknown to one another should occur only with their owners’ permission, and be closely and carefully monitored.
- Are large dogs and small dogs kept separately?
- What vaccinations are required?
- What insecticides are used for flea control?
- Will they feed your dog the same food and on the same schedule as you do?
- What is the cost per night? What are the extra fees? Ask for a written estimate beforehand that you can review, as well as their standard boarding agreement.
- Will they send daily updates and pictures?
Once you’ve visited the facilities, asked your questions, and narrowed down your options, consider taking your dog there for a trial day trip. Afterward, pay careful attention to their mood and reactions. Do they seem like their usual selves? Do they seem frightened or subdued? Each dog has its own personality, and kennels are not one-size-fits-all. You’ll want to match your dog to the right facility.
If you’ve found a kennel that you’d like to use, you’ll want to stock up on their food, favorite treats, and any medication they take to bring with them, as well as their dog bed or crate if needed, and any favorite toys from home to help them feel comfortable. The kennel will likely have a standard information form for you to fill out, but make sure they have your dog’s medical record, veterinarian’s contact info, your contact info while traveling, and your dog’s emergency contact info, in case you can’t be reached. You may want to have a written document prepared that gives your emergency contact permission to make decisions for your dog in your absence.
No matter which situation you decide on, if you thought carefully about your dog’s personality and needs, ask for personal referrals, and do your research, you can rest easy knowing that your furry bundle of love will be safe and well taken care of during your absence. You’re free to enjoy your holiday travel and look forward to your eventual reunion with your best friend!