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How to Find the Best Care for Your Dog While You’re on Vacation

A little dog in a hotel bed with a breakfast tray in front of her.
Bilevich Olga/Shutterstock.com

Whether you’re taking an extended vacation or have to go on a work trip, at some point, most dog owners find themselves in need of a pup-sitter. Here’s how to find the best option for your dog so you can travel worry-free.

Boarding your dog somewhere for more than a few days is different than boarding them for one or two nights. In addition to the logistics of packing their food, bedding, and toys, you have the added stress of finding the best solution for your doggo.

If you’re searching for a long-term boarding option, you probably don’t have any friends or family who can watch your dog while you’re away. Being left at a strange home or kennel can be a stressful experience for your pet, so it’s important to find an option that will keep their anxiety level as low as possible.

These tips will help you find a place that both you and your pet will be comfortable with.

Explore All Your Options

A woman supervising a group of dogs playing at a kennel.
Jayme Burrows/Shutterstock.com

There are several ways you can ensure your dog will be cared for if you’re going to be away for an extended period. You can get a housesitter, send your pup to a petsitter’s home, go through a designated dog boarding facility, or leave her at your veterinarian’s office.

The first step when looking for a boarding solution is to research all the options in your area. Large cities will likely have many places and sitters to choose from, whereas smaller towns might only have a few options.

Start by asking your local friends and family members or coworkers if they have any suggestions. Or, you can simply search “dog boarding near me” online.

To choose the right kind of boarding facility, you’ll need to consider your dog’s personality, age, and temperament. If he gets anxious in new situations, for example, he’ll probably be most comfortable staying in your home and being cared for by a housesitter.

On the flip side, if your dog loves interacting with other animals, a facility where he can play with other dogs all day might be the most enjoyable place for him to stay.

Your budget will also be an important consideration. You can find many independent petsitters at affordable rates, especially if they’re boarding multiple dogs at a time. Businesses like kennels and boarding facilities will likely be pricier.

Be sure to ask about long-term discounts when comparing prices. Many places offer them for stays that are longer than two to three weeks.

Set Up a Meet and Greet

A woman shaking hands with a dog.
Sundays Photography

Once you’ve narrowed down a few options, set up a meet and greet at each with your dog. This might involve visiting a few boarding facilities or inviting a potential sitter to your home.

A meet and greet will give both you and your dog a sense of the person (or people) who will be in charge while you’re gone. You can also see how your dog reacts to the new person and/or place. If she seems tense or doesn’t warm up quickly, it might not be the right option.

If you visit a vet clinic, kennel, or boarding facility, ask if you can get a tour of the place. Note the overall environment, cleanliness, and feeling of the place. Do the dogs that are there seem happy and relaxed? Do the kennels look comfortable? Is there plenty of room for your dog to play?

Every option you check out is going to do things a little differently, so it’s up to you to determine where your dog will feel most comfortable.

Know Your Dog’s Schedule

Make sure you know what your dog’s basic schedule is going to look like while you’re gone. It’s best to choose a boarding option that mimics his regular schedule as closely as possible, as this can help alleviate stress.

If a sitter is going to be watching your dog, let him or her know what time to take your dog for walks, as well as when play and feeding times are. You’ll also want to let them know about any training you’re working on with your pup, so it can continue while you’re away.

Boarding facilities usually don’t offer that kind of personalized care, but just make sure you know how the day will be scheduled, so you can determine if that routine will be appropriate for your dog.

Clarify Policies

The more details you know about your dogsitter or boarding facility, the more at ease you’ll be while you’re away. Ask about live cameras, or if the facility can send you photos or videos so you can check in with your pup.

A pet or housesitter will likely be able to update you multiple times per day, while a facility might have live-feed cameras you can check at your leisure.

If your pet will be boarded with other dogs, be sure to check the facility’s immunization policy. Many businesses require dogs to be up-to-date on all their vaccines before they can be boarded. You should also ask how they handle emergencies, in case your dog gets sick or gets into a fight.

Do a Test Run

Someone shaking hands with a Border Collie pup and using a dog training clicker.

Once you’ve selected the boarding option you believe is best for your dog, the next step is to schedule a test run. If you’re taking your dog somewhere, let him stay there one or two nights. If you’re hiring a housesitter, plan a night out and have the sitter come over and stay alone with your pet for the night.

This trial will be useful for you, the sitter, and your dog. The caretaker and your dog will have a chance to get to know each other. Plus, the sitter can let you know if any issues came up or ask any important questions.

You’ll also get a sense of how stressed or relaxed your dog is after the experience. While it’s normal for your pup to be excited to see you after a day or two, he shouldn’t seem nervous, anxious, or frantic when you pick him up or return home.

If your dog does seem anxious after a test run, try to clarify what happened with the person or boarding facility. Did your dog seem stressed the entire time? Was there an altercation with another animal?

If there isn’t a good explanation as to why your dog didn’t enjoy his stay, you should probably go back to the drawing board.

Plan Ahead

You want to make sure you have plenty of time to find the right place for your dog before you leave, so start doing your research as soon as possible. This will allow you to schedule meet and greets and test runs before committing to anything.

Many boarding facilities also fill up weeks in advance, especially if you’ll be gone over a holiday, so booking as far in advance as possible is always a good idea. You also don’t want to find the perfect place for your dog only to learn it’s not available on the dates you’ll be away.

By planning ahead, doing your research, and being diligent, you’ll find the best possible place for your dog and be blessed with peace of mind while you’re traveling. And, hey, if you’re too nervous to leave your furbaby, you can always plan a dog-friendly vacation instead.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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