When you pick out that perfect pet for your family and settle into day-to-day life, one thing that you may not have considered is who will care for your pet when you go on vacation. Choosing the best option for your pet while you are away will allow you to enjoy your time away, knowing that Fido or Fifi are well cared for and happy. Choosing the right pet care is as important as choosing the right vet or groomer for you and your dog. If you take some time and do the research, you will hopefully have someone that will care for your pet while you travle for life.
There are basically three options to consider when selecting care for your pet when you go away
1) Ask someone that you know to care for your dog
This is a good option if you have a family member or friend that knows your pet and is willing to commit to caring for that pet when you go away. Whether in your home or theirs, having someone that you know well care for your dog is a great option. Keep in mind though, that asking a friend or family member to take on your pet while you’re away might not always be an option so make sure that you have a backup plan in mind. And you definitely need to be confident in your dog’s manners if they are staying at your friend’s home because it might put a strain on your relationship if your new puppy chews their sofa or the leg of their dining room table!
2) Have a pet sitter come to your home
There are certainly advantages to having a pet sitter come to your home to care for your pet while you are away. Your dog can stay in the environment that is familiar and comfortable, especially if they experience high levels of stress when away from home. Your home is cared for while you are away as well, and there is less risk of a break-in since someone is either staying at or frequently visiting your home. If you have multiple pets, this may be a more economical option than a boarding kennel, and it saves you from burdening your friends and family members from the responsibility of caring for your pet while you are away.
3) Have your pet stay at a pet sitter or boarding kennel outside of your home
If you prefer to have your pet stay outside of your home, there are several options that fall into this category.
i) Pet sitter that takes pets into their home
You may consider a pet sitter that has your pet stay in their home, along with their pets and family. The advantage to this option is that your pet will be cared for in a home environment rather than a kennel and will receive a similar level of attention and exercise that they would receive at home. This is the option that I have been using with my new puppy Lucy, and I just love that she is happy and well cared for in a comfortable family environment while I am away. I prefer this option to having a sitter in my own home and I think that it helps teach Lucy how to adapt to new and different situations which can only be beneficial as she gets older.
ii) Boarding kennel
Another option for dog care is a boarding facility or kennel. Some boarding kennels house dogs in individual dog runs, some which have full time access to a private fenced outdoor area or your dog may be taken to an outdoor exercise area several times a day. You may have options to include additional walks and special treatment during your pets stay if you choose. A newer approach to boarding is what I’ve seen described as a camp environment, where dogs are allowed to play and interact with other dogs during the day and then are housed either in common sleeping quarters or kennels/crates at night. The advantage of this type of setup is that your dog will have plenty of exercise and socialization while you are away, provided of course that your pet’s personality suits this type of environment and gets along well with other dogs.
iii) Vet boarding services
Your vet may also offer boarding services, which might be the best option if your pet has health issues or concerns that cannot be accommodated at a boarding facility. When my Siberian Huskies were elderly, this was the option that I chose for them. The veterinary staff were familiar with their health issues and had been caring them for many years, and so I knew that they were in good hands when we had to be away.
Before you commit to leaving your pet for the first time in a new environment, it is important to do your homework. Visit the pet sitter or boarding facility and see where your pet will be staying. Is the home/facility clean and safe? Observe how the sitter or staff interact with your dog, as well as other dogs that may be staying there – are the dogs comfortable with that person? Is the interaction positive in nature? Does the sitter/staff seem to genuinely like and enjoy the dogs? Do they check for vaccination records and general health of the dogs they are caring for? If your dog will be interacting with other dogs, how to they ensure that all dogs in the home/kennel are well socialized? What types of questions are they asking you?
Don’t be afraid to ask for references from existing customers that use their service as well. If you are using a pet sitter that will have access to your home, make sure that they have liability insurance to cover accidents, etc. If you are using an individual pet sitter that owns their own business, don’t forget to ask about backup plans in case of illness or emergency. If the sitter becomes ill, who will care for your dog? Do they have a backup plan in place?
To get a comfort level about the daily routine that your pet will experience while you are gone, ask about feeding and exercise schedules for the dogs. Are toys available for your dog to use, and what type of sleeping quarters and bedding are available. Will the dog sitter or boarding kennel contact you with regular updates on how your pet is doing, or can you contact them to check in? If your pet requires medication, how is that handled and is there any additional cost? How are medical emergencies handled? Is there a vet on site or nearby, and will you be contacted?
1) Make sure that you have the proper identification for your pet, especially if using a pet sitter. Should the dog become lost, you should have the required city or town license tag and rabies tags attached to your pet’s collar. Also make sure that your contact information is up to date with your microchip service company if they have been chipped.
2) Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date and maybe even have a general health check up with your vet before you leave. If your pet is taking any medication, make sure that you have enough to last the duration of your trip.
3) Provide instructions on feeding and administration of medication for your pet. It is best to provide the food that your pet is used to when taking them to a pet sitter or boarding facility to avoid digestive upset. Make sure that you provide extra food just in case your trip is extended unexpectedly.
4) Provide contact information for yourself while you are away, as well as an emergency backup contact in case you cannot be reached. You should also provide contact information for your vet, and authorization to your vet stating that the sitter can make medical decisions for your pet if you cannot be reached.
5) Provide any additional information that your pet sitter may need about your pet’s habits, likes/dislikes, etc. For example my little Lucy loves to eat socks, and so whoever is caring for her needs to know to keep their socks off the floor!
6) If someone is staying in your home, make sure that they know how to use the alarm system, as well as where the water shut-off, electrical panel, etc. are in your home. Provide a list of emergency service numbers to call as well as a local contact in case of a house-related emergency. Also go over with the sitter where they will be staying (if they are staying overnight), whether you are providing food and snacks or they should bring their own, and anything else that they need to know about living in your house while you are away.
7) Relax and enjoy your vacation, knowing that your pet is in good hands while you are away!
All photos by Anita Woo.