Dog Care When You’re Away on Vacation (Without the Guilt)

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Once you are a dog parent you always think about your pooch when doing something, like going on holidays. But what if you cannot take your dog on holidays?

Let’s talk about that – dog care when you’re away on vacation. There are different options when you are going on holidays and cannot take your dog with you – even though you’d like to, or you simply decide not to.

  • Traditional dog kennel.
  • Luxury dog hotels.
  • Dog sitter.
  • In-home dog boarding at your home.
  • In-home dog boarding at the sitter’s.
  • Veterinary offices.
  • Family or friend.

Depending on your situation and budget, you might be inclined to a particular option.

Why Not Bring Your Dog with You

Going on holidays with your dog sounds like a great idea that has plenty of advantages. Especially because nobody will care for your dog as well as you. Plus, you will save money on dog boarding fees, and your dog will be there with you to explore the world.

It’s the perfect situation, right? Not always, and here’s why:

  • Some dogs just don’t travel well (cars, planes… are not their cup of tea).
  • They get anxious in new situations.
  • Some dogs don’t get along with other dogs.
  • Or they simply aren’t able to adjust to your vacation schedule.
  • Also, dogs aren’t allowed in many hotels and most restaurants.
  • It can be difficult to accommodate your dog’s needs while travelling.

Whatever the reason, please do not feel guilty if you cannot take your dog with you on holidays. Here are some options to consider that will guarantee that your dog is well-taken care of while you are away.

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Dog Boarding Options

Traditional Dog Kennel

One standard option is placing your dog in boarding kennels. If this is your preferred choice, call ahead and book in advance. Also, you might want to confirm that it has a Pet Care Services Association (PCSA) certification and licensed caretakers.

You also want to make sure that they provide enough space for your dog when he is on his crate and ensure that your dog will have enough activity time to play and run. Probably paying them a visit is the best way to find out and clear your doubts.

Although professional services should be knowledgeable about pets and how to take care of them. These services have the facilities and staff already equipped to take good care of your pet.

Alternatively, you can consider leaving your dog for a short trial run. There are many dog boarding kennels and it is important to find the right one for you and your pooch. I sure did; check my favourite best dog boarding.

Insider Tip: Traditional kennels are a great option for an easygoing, happy-go-lucky dogs who are not prone to anxiety – like Lur, my parents’ Yorkshire Terrier.

Advantages of Having Someone Take Care of Your Dog Outside Your Home

  • Kennels can offer affordable and efficient care for your dog.
  • Your dog will most likely be around people and other pets more often.
  • Dedicated walks and playtime.
  • New areas to explore.
  • Less chance of loneliness (house sitter excluded).

Disadvantages

  • Unfamiliar areas could give your dog anxiety or become stressful.
  • Possible issues with other pets.
  • Your dog could be kept in a crate.
  • After closing time, most kennels have no human presence until morning.
  • You’ll need to drop off and pick up your dog.
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Luxury Dog Hotels

These dog boarding facilities are a huge upgrade from a traditional kennel.

You can expect big crates with extra plush bedding, stimuli-packed play areas, and lots of one-on-one attention from the staff.

These centres often offer other extra services like grooming services, extra cage-free play times and even webcams so you can monitor your pooch.

Insider Tip: Dogs who require lots of human attention and are not used to spending daytime hours alone will be happy with this option.

Advantages

  • Great facility with dedicated staff.
  • They also have a staff member on a late shift to provide late-night walks and monitor the dogs.

Disadvantages

  • Likely the most expensive option.
  • Larger facilities offering lots of cage-free time may have more opportunities for dog fights and dog escapes.

Dog Sitter

Many dogs feel comfortable in their own environments, that’s why having an experienced dog sitter come to your home for feedings, walks and playtimes is a good option.

Your current dog walker might also offer dog sitting. It will be great if your dog already knows the sitter and the other way around and you will feel more confident about leaving your dog under her care. If that is not the case, research for a qualified sitter and get them introduced before the trip.

Then you can decide whether you want a sitter to simply visit your home on a daily basis and how many times per day.

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However, you can have a sitter to stay in your home for the duration of your trip or have the sitter take your dog to their own home (refer to the In-Home Dog Boarding section below).

If you want to know what I would look for, check my favourite best dog boarding.

Insider Tip: This option works for dogs who get anxious when taken out to other peoples’ homes, the vet’s, etc. Also for more independent dogs that are used to being home alone while you work and do well with regular visits similar to their normal schedule.

Advantages of Leaving Your Dog at Home

  • Your dog is in a familiar environment.
  • Food, toys, garden, crate, etc. are already set up and your dog already knows where.
  • No other pets to compete or fight with.
  • Your dog can stick to his diet and schedule.
  • The person looking after your dog can also watch the house for you (taking in mail, turning on lights, etc.) to give the appearance that someone is home.
  • You can just leave the keys and go.

Disadvantages

  • Your dog will be alone overnight.
  • Dogs can get lonely if no one is around all-day.
  • There’s a greater danger of missed feedings or walks.
  • There’s a greater chance of accidents on the floors.
  • Your dog might be on the lookout for your arrival, which could lead to stress in some cases.
  • You need to be comfortable with the idea of someone coming to your house when you are not there.
  • The overnight fee likely includes a set time frame (from 9 pm to 7 am, for example), i.e. some sitters won’t stay all day at your place.

P.S. You can find out more about dog sitters at my favourite dog care.

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In-Home Dog Boarding

In-home boarding gives your dog individualized attention and more daily interaction. It involves you bringing your dog to a pet sitter’s home before leaving on vacation. You can either go for in-home board or hire a dog sitter to come to your house.

In-Home Boarding at a Sitter’s

In-home boarding at a sitter’s place can be more affordable than a sitter coming to your home. There’s the added security of not giving up your house keys too.

A sitter usually has a few pets staying with her already, which can provide companionship for your pet. Also, she will understand the risks of bringing a new dog into her home and how to care for him.

Depending on the size of a sitter’s business they could have dedicated crates or live with pets as part of their family.

Insider Tip: Adventurous and friendly dogs who enjoy visiting others’ homes and being outside their home will love exploring the sitter’s house and meeting other pets.

In-home Boarding at Your House

If you decide to have a sitter at your place. They will usually live full time in your house, so your dog gets the same care you would give him. He will be getting constant supervision and attention, compared to traditional boarding facilities.

This also implies that you would need to be comfortable with them having full access to your things. This can be an affordable option if you are trading accommodation for dog care, though some dog sitters are paid extra.

If you want to know my recommendation, check my favourite best dog boarding.

Insider Tip: In-home boarding is great for dogs who require lots of human love and attention. Also, for dogs who are used to having you all to themselves; they will be better with a sitter focusing just on them.

Advantages

  • At home, the sitter will provide one on one attention.
  • At the sitter’s, your dog is more likely to have more human contact.
  • At the sitters, your dog will be surrounded by other dogs (this is only an advantage if your dog is not reactive to other pets).

Disadvantages

  • At the sitters, you will have the additional worry of a possible fight.
  • Your dog might be stressed about the routines and lifestyles of a new family in a new environment.

Wondering what dog boarding services to consider, check my favourite dog care.

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Veterinarian Offices

Some vets have a boarding service with round the clock animal care. This can be an ideal option especially if your dog has a medical condition or if you are concerned for his health care.

Insider Tip: Senior dogs or dogs who have medical conditions that require treatment and monitoring will be better under the trained eye of a veterinarian.

Advantages

  • Peace of mind for senior or delicate dog owners.
  • Kennels, boarding centres and pet sitters can usually give medications like vitamins and prescriptions for chronic issues like arthritis, but for more serious conditions like diabetes or seizures, a vet may be a better choice.

Disadvantages

  • Veterinary practices tend to be noisy and chaotic.
  • The staff will monitor your dog closely and provide regular feeding and walk times, but there may not be time for anything else, like playtime or cuddles.
  • Most of the day and night your dog will be in a cage
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Family or Friend

Good friends or family can be an option, as long as it’s not too much to ask from them; you don’t want to jeopardize your friendship.

Make sure that they know how to care for a dog; don’t assume they know-how, especially if they never had one. Also, know your own dog and feel comfortable that he will behave. You don’t want him marking “new territory” over your mother-in-law’s sofa.

If this friend or neighbour is a pet owner, offer to return the favour someday, and consider bringing them back a small token from your trip as a thank you!

Insider Tip: Shy dogs who need lots of time to warm up to a new person will do better with a familiar face, whether your dog stays in your home or you bring your dog to theirs.

Advantages

  • They know your dog and your dog knows them.
  • It’s the most affordable option.

Disadvantages

  • Since they see it as a favour, they might not be as thorough about keeping to your dog’s schedule.
  • They aren’t dog professionals and may be less likely to recognize a potential problem.
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How to Prepare Your Dog for Boarding

No doubt you’re going to miss your best friend while you travel, but you also want to be able to relax and enjoy your vacation. That’s why it’s good to research for the best boarding solution and then prepare your dog for it.

Here are some tips for helping your dog prepare:

Work on Training and Socialization

No matter where your dog is staying when you travel, he will be offered more privileges and exercise opportunities if he is already trained and socialized.

For example, your dog sitter will give your dog longer walks if he doesn’t pull on the lead. Your kennel will allow your dog frequent play times with other dogs if he is well mannered. Also, your friend or family member will be more likely to bring your dog to the park if your dog is easy to manage.

If you want to know more about training and sozialization, check our Dog Training 101 blog post.

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Crate Train Your Dog

Crate training ensures that your dog will stay out of trouble when your sitter can’t watch him – for example, at night.

A crate is not a cage; it is a place where your dog can go to feel comfortable and safe. A crate is also a very useful tool for helping your dog relax when you are away from home. Getting used to a crate now will make it easier for your dog when he’s staying at your sitter’s or at a kennel.

Acclimating Puppies

Acclimating your puppy to whatever boarding option you decide on is much easier than acclimating a full-grown dog.

However, don’t board your puppy until he is fully vaccinated. Pet kennels are magnets for disease and illness, and most won’t allow your dog to visit unless they are fully vaccinated.

For more about dog care, check our The 5 pillars to a happy and healthy dog blog post.

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Related Questions

  1. How can I make leaving your dog just a little bit easier?

    – Write down your dog’s schedule for the sitter since kennels will likely stick to their own schedules. This way they can stick as close to your dog’s normal routine as possible.
    – Keep the goodbye short and sweet. Pet your dog behind the ears and head out to enjoy yourself. If you leave with confidence, you will set the tone for a good vacation for both of you.
    – Don’t worry about your dog while you’re away because dogs don’t have the same concept of time as humans. Whether you are gone for an hour or a week, your pooch will greet you enthusiastically when you return. To them, it’s not so much that you are leaving; it's about you coming back.
    – Regular check-ins with your sitter. You can agree on maintaining regular communication and receive updates on how your dog is doing.
    – Leave small comforts like an old t-shirt in your dog’s bed or crate so that he will be comforted by your scent.

  2. What do I need to pack for dog boarding?

    Whether you are boarding your dog at a kennel, a friend’s, or a pet sitter’s, you’ll need to pack the following:
    – Emergency contact number: your phone number, a close-by emergency contact, and the number of your dog’s veterinarian.
    – A record of your dog’s vaccinations.
    – If needed, medications or/and supplements with instructions.
    – Food and water bowls.
    – A leash for walking and a longer leash for training sessions.
    – Your dog’s bed.
    – Your dog’s favourite toys.
    – Dog food and treats.
    – Brush and nail clippers.
    – Poop bags.

  3. Do dogs miss you when you go on vacation?

    Yes, there is neuroscientific evidence that prooves that dogs miss their owners. Although dogs don’t have the same concept of time as humans, and it's still unclear whether dogs are aware of the length of time they're left alone for, research suggests that they are more excited to greet their owner if they are left alone for 2 hours than if they are left for 30 minutes. However, between 2 and 4 hours, there's not much difference.

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