When you go on vacation, travel for the weekend, or take a business trip do you have someone you truly trust with your dog? When leaving your dog in someone else’s hands it’s important to know that they will be taken care of so you won’t have to worry while you’re away. Here are some tips when looking for the right pet sitter or boarding facility.
1.Prepare in Advance
Once you’ve planned your vacation or weekend getaway, make sure to pre-plan your pets care as well. This will save you plenty of last minute stress and it will set up your dog for success while you’re away. Before you leave, give your dog about a month or two to get associated with a new person or establish a relationship with a daycare/boarding facility. If you choose to go with a pet sitter you should set up a meet and greet weeks before your trip. This will allow you to get a good feel for the person and see if your dog feels comfortable too. It’s even a good idea to also have a trial sleep over to better ensure this person is a good fit! If you choose to use a boarding facility there are a few things to do beforehand as well. Always make sure to tour the business, ask about their boarding and over night policies, and allow your dog to visit for daycare or playgroup a couple of times a week before your trip. Just because you may be going on vacation to a new and exciting place does not necessarily mean your dog will find their new place just as exciting. Sometimes we have to leave our animals in the care of others for circumstances that may not be vacation oriented, for instance during the arrival of a new baby.
Note: When expecting a new baby give your pet sitter a few weeks time around the delivery date. A good boarding facility or pet sitter will block out a few weeks time frame and will be accepting of the situation. The dogs should be the one thing you should not have to stress about…. so don’t forget to pre-plan!
2. Picking the Right Pet Sitter
A. In-Home Pet Sitter
An In-home pet sitter is someone who will take your dog into their home and care for them. I am usually an in-home pet sitter on the weekends for my clients. When dogs stay at my house they are instantly a part of my family. I stick to the dogs general routine (times they eat, potty break, etc.) while also integrating them into the routine of our three dogs at home (play time, exercise, etc.). They are never left alone for more then three hours and often travel with me if I go out. I do not take a pet sitting dog that I have not already established a bond with prior to any sleepover. Each client must fill out a pet sitting contract listing their vet info, feeding schedule, health concerns and sign a waiver. This agreement allows me to take them in to the vet if I can not reach them or the emergency contact in the event that their dog needs medical attention. When interviewing people to take your dog, the main rule is that you want to feel absolutely comfortable that you’re leaving them with a trusted friend who will know how to properly handle any situations that may arise while you’re away.
B. In-your home Pet Sitter
An In-your home pet sitter is someone who comes to your house to stay with your dog. All of the general “rules” stated above in in-home pet sitters apply here as well. You will want to schedule a “meet and greet” weeks before hand and feel comfortable leaving this person with your dog, especially in your home. It is always a great idea to do a trial run, possibly even an over night stay to see how it goes. Did the pet sitter clean after themselves? Does your dog seem relaxed and comfortable after the stay? If all goes well then you’re likely to establish a long term relationship with this person! So whether you’re leaving for an emergency, a business trip, or heading onto a week long vacation, you’ll know your dog will be happy, healthy and well taken care of.
C. Boarding facility
Many dogs thrive in social environments such as a daycare or boarding facility. If you are most comfortable with this route then there are some rules of thumb when finding the right one. Make sure to call ahead of time and set up an evaluation weeks in advance. Facilities should have an evaluation for any new dog to ensure their comfort and safety. Ask if you can take a tour of the facility, as it’s important to get an idea of where your dog will be sleeping, playing, and eating. Take your dog to the facility for play group four or five times before your trip so the staff can get acquainted with your dog and what their needs are. Things to ask the facility are if they have web cams, what their injury policy is, and what their dogs daily schedule will be. One of the most important things when bringing your dog to a boarding facility is to make sure that he or she is up to date on all of their vacations especially Bordetella. This vaccine is not 100% but it is a precaution for “kennel cough”.
3. Packing a bag
When your dog is heading out to a boarding facility or to in-home pet sitting it is a smart idea to pack things for them. Always make sure to pack appropriate amounts of food! In the past when I worked at a boarding facility some parents would only bring the bottom of a dog food bag and expect that to last the entire week… Measure out their food or buy a brand new bag! Pack something that smells like home, a small blanket or maybe a favorite toy. Do not go over board, when packing this dog bag always remember less is more. Some bigger facilities may misplace the blanket or toy, so try not to have a huge attachment to these items. If your dog has to take medication make sure to go over the directions with the pet sitter in detail, never assume things are self explanatory.
4. Make sure you pick someone who made you feel comfortable in the meet and greet AND while your away
You may not get daily updates from your pet sitter but you should feel comfortable enough to check in and see how things are going. A picture sent every once and a while and a fun “cuddles on the couch” text are those extra special touches that makes your pet sitter one of your (and your dogs) favorite people. Little check-in’s like “he’s not eating as much as I’d like”, or “she seems a bit anxious so we took an extra walk” are also really great ways your pet sitter can give you that extra comfort while you’re away.
5. Try to not “heckle” your Pet sitter
If you had a great consultation and wonderful trial sleepover, then enjoy your vacation! Do not stress on what’s going on with your dog. Not preparing ahead of time brings on tons of anxiety. Asking questions like “have they pooped this morning”, “send me a picture every couple hours” can be stressful for your pet sitter. You want to make sure they’re giving their attention to your dog and not their phone. Cute photos, and check in texts from your pet sitter are what you should be looking forward too, not demanding. A good pet sitter will initiate these kinds of check ins. Picking a pet sitter can be a process. Make sure you feel 100% comfortable, but also set them up for success. Leave them a proper emergency contact, your veterinary info, where you’ll be, how to get a hold of you and basic care instructions. When you pick the right sitter for your dog, your dog will have just as much fun as you will while you’re away.