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 making arrangements for your pets when you travel. If you’re unable or willing to bring your furry friend with you, you’ll need to make other arrangements that ideally leave you both feeling comfortable.
There are two main options: hiring a pet sitter to watch your dog in your home or theirs and 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 are best.
Having a pet sitter come to your home
There are many benefits to hiring a pet sitter to watch your dog in your home, including keeping your dog settled in its normal routine. 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 can be expensive, and it could mean 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 can go a long way to making you feel 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. An increasingly popular option is a service such as rover.com, where you can search for sitters’ availability based on location and dates.
Once you’ve narrowed down your list, be sure to ask pet sitters the right questions:
- What is your experience with pet sitting? Are you able to provide references?
- What would you do if the dog becomes sick or sustains an injury during my absence?
- How often and how long will you be able to walk them?
- Will you need to leave them alone for long periods?
- Will you be watching any other animals at the same time?
- Do you have reliable transportation in case of an emergency?
Be upfront and clear about your dog’s needs. Explain any quirks they may have, such as if they’re anxious when they hear loud noises or the doorbell. 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
Ask family and friends
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 dog 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 identical.
Nonetheless, if this option is the one you feel most comfortable with, 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 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, enabling you to enjoy your vacation much more.
Pet-sitting websites can also connect you with people who will board your dog in their home. You’ll have to evaluate your dog’s comfort level, especially if the dog sitter is hosting other animals or has pets themselves. Boarding in someone’s home is a less expensive option than having a sitter come to your house or taking your dog to a kennel. It also might be your best choice if you’ve waited until the last minute and find other options booked.
Boarding your dog at a kennel
Another option is to find a kennel where they can board your dog. In addition to stand-alone boarding kennels, many doggie day cares, vet clinics, and pet stores have overnight accommodations. They may be more cost-effective than a pet sitter and allow 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 issues 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 it?
- 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 gets sick or is injured? Will they take your dog to their veterinarian or yours?
- How and how often are the dogs exercised?
- Is there socializing among the dogs? How is this handled? Any interactions between dogs that are unknown to one another should occur only with their owners’ permission and someone should closely and carefully monitor it.
- Are large dogs and small dogs kept separately?
- What vaccinations are required?
- What insecticides do they use 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 questions, and narrowed your options, consider taking your dog there for a trial day trip. Some facilities may require this to see if your dog is also a good fit for them. Afterward, pay careful attention to the dog’s mood and reactions. Do they seem like their usual selves? Do they seem frightened or subdued? Each dog has its 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 food, treats, and any medication your dog takes 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 contact info, your contact info while traveling, and your dog’s emergency contact info in case they can’t reach you. You may want to have a written document that gives your emergency contact permission to make decisions for your dog in your absence.
No matter which situation you decide on, if you think 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!