Wondering what to do with your dog while on vacation? As much as I like to take our dogs with us everywhere we go, sometimes it’s just not possible. So as responsible dog owners, we need to decide who is going to take care of our dogs when we plan on taking a vacation.

Yes, your dog will be okay when you go on vacation. Dogs are resilient, and if you take the right steps to make sure he is well taken care of, then he will be just fine.

If you’re lucky, you have family or friends that are willing to dog-sit for you. I personally try to avoid boarding when at all possible. That’s not to say that boarding facilities are bad, but I do think it’s hard to find a great one.

Checklist for Leaving Your Dog While on Vacation

Plan ahead: where to leave your dog while on vacation

Having a dog means you need to plan ahead when you travel. Leaving pets while on vacation can be stressful for both you and your dog. Where will your dog stay while you’re gone?

And even if you don’t plan on taking a vacation anytime soon, you should still have a plan in case of an emergency. Who will watch your dog if you have to rush out of town for a family illness or last minute work trip?

Some options include:

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  • Family, friends, or a neighbor could watch your dog at your home or their home. This is always my first choice, as I know my dogs would be most comfortable with this situation.
  • Leave your dog at a trusted boarding facility
  • Hire a professional dog sitter to stay at your home. In-home pet sitters are a great option if you have a dog that gets stressed easily. Personally for us, this isn’t an option since my husband is super paranoid about letting strangers in our home.
  • Find a trusted and professional in-home dog sitter/boarding facility. This option allows you to keep your dog in a home setting at the sitters house. Please make sure they are insured and bonded, just in case. We never want to fear the worst, but you need to be prepared.

Don’t ever leaving your dog home alone while on vacation! You need someone that can come into your house and let him outside, feed him and take him for walks.

Checklist for Leaving Your Dog While on Vacation

Use this Checklist to Relieve All Anxiety About Leaving Your Dog While on Vacation

How to plan if you have a family, friend, neighbor or a professional dog sitter, watching your dog.

If you don’t have family or friends, a dog sitter is another alternative. But it’s important to research them just as you would research a boarding facility. Read online reviews, request references, call and ask questions, visit… research, research, and more research. Think of this as if you were looking for a babysitter for your kids!

1. Take your dog to visit the house he will be staying at before your planned vacation. Spend an hour or so just visiting. Don’t make a big deal about this visit. If you can, visit several times before your vacation.

2. Print out all of your dog’s information for the dog sitter. Including his normal sleeping, feeding, potty schedule. Any signals the dog gives to know if he has to go outside is helpful. If your dog is on medication, include dosage and schedule. Write down your vets phone number and address.

3. Pack for your dog. He will obviously need food, but don’t forget food bowls, leash, training collar, crate, toys, bones, and dog bed. Phew, your dog needs a suitcase too.

4. Pack something of yours too. A worn t-shirt, blanket from home, something with YOUR smell on it. This item can help your dog more comfortable while you are away.

How to plan if you need to send your dog to boarding.

1. If you don’t have a boarding facility you can trust, you need to find one well before you plan on leaving for a vacation. In fact, I suggest researching options even if you don’t have a vacation planned, just in case of an emergency. Ask friends, neighbors, Google local boarding options, read online reviews, call and ask questions, visit… research, research, and more research.

2. Schedule your boarding visit well in advance. During peak seasons, such as holidays and spring break, spots fill up months in advance.

3. Schedule a Checkup with Your Vet. Boarding facilities will require your dog be up to date on all vaccinations. They may also require the Bordetella vaccine, which isn’t a standard yearly vaccination that is required unless your dog is around other dogs such as boarding or dog parks. Also make sure your dog is up to date with his flea and tick medications, as fleas can be an issue anytime a large number of dogs are together.

4. Pack for your Dog. He will obviously need food, but you need to ask the boarding facility if they supply the bowls and what other items they allow. Some even supply food if desired, but I don’t suggest this, as you don’t want to upset your dog’s tummy with new food… especially since he will be stressed already.

5. Pack something of yours too. A worn t-shirt, blanket from home, something with YOUR smell on it. This item can help your dog more comfortable while you are away.

When it’s time to pick up your dog

I know you missed your dog and surely he missed you. But it is very important not to make a huge commotion over pick up time. I will be honest, I am totally guilty of doing this, but staying calm and almost ignoring your dog while you pick him up is critical to your dog’s reaction to spending time away from you.

If you make a huge deal (crying, overexcited screaming) over dropping your dog off and picking him up, he is going to pick up on your energy and wondering what the heck is going on… which could lead to separation anxiety and other behavior issues.

I know it’s hard to leave our pets behind, but sometimes it’s just necessary, so make sure you plan ahead to make the best of the situation.

It’s your turn… I want to hear how you prepare to leave your dog when going on vacation. Leave a comment below and tell me, do you prefer a sitter, boarding facility or family?

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About the Author

Debi McKee is a mom of three kids, three dogs and the creator of Rescue Dogs 101... where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She also volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society.

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  1. Thanks for pointing out that a boarding facility will allow our dog to stay at a facility in a home setting. I would love to choose this when I have to be away for three days next week. It will make my dog feel comfortable and not too lonely while I am away.

  2. Thanks for pointing out that we should have a boarding facility that we trust so our dog will be fine when we go on a vacation. My husband and I are going to the beach for a one-week vacation in August to relax and unwind. We are hoping to find pet care services on Monday that can ensure our five dogs will have their one-hour daily walks when we go on our trip.

  3. It was helpful that you mentioned in your article how it is important to remember the fact that before going on vacation, it is important to schedule a visitation with the vet in order to thwart any issues before they may occur. My wife and I are interested in going on vacation to a foreign country next summer, but we are unsure of what to do with our bull terrier. We’ll be sure to get into contact with a professional to see what amenities they can provide.

  4. Good idea to pack for your dog as well when you go traveling. We’re thinking of taking some vacation time, and my poor girl doesn’t like small spaces (meaning cars are a no-go). We’re thinking of boarding her while we’re gone so she can have all the care she needs.

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