You’ve got a vacation planned and you’re worried about your dog… I get it.  As much as I like to take our dogs with us everywhere we go, sometimes it’s just not possible. Especially now with four dogs… it’s not easy to take them all with us anywhere. 

Every dog and situation is unique, but in general, yes, your dog will be okay when you go on vacation. Dogs are resilient, and if you take the right steps to make sure they are well taken care of, then they will be just fine…. maybe even have more fun than staying at home.

With that said, it’s very important to stay in the right mindset with your dog. They can pick up on your anxieties. If you are worried about leaving them, they will be too. Plan their time away from you as if it were a vacation for them too. Make it a positive and fun experience and you both will have a great time.

Checklist for Leaving Your Dog While on Vacation

Do you take your dog to boarding or get a pet sitter? Either way, a little planning will help relieve any anxiety you and your dog feel about you leaving them – so that you can enjoy your vacation.

Plan ahead: where to leave your dog while on vacation

Having a dog means you need to plan when you travel. Leaving your dog while on vacation can be stressful for both of you. It’s best to have a few trusted options for when you need to leave your dog at home.

We’ve boarded our dogs, left them with family and friends, and have had family stay at our house. Each option has its pros and cons. Choose what’s best for you and your pup.

In my opinion, you’re lucky to have family and friends who are willing to dog-sit for you. But here are all your options to explore:

dog standing on rail road tracks

Family or friends

Family, friends, or neighbors 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.

Last year we left one of our dogs, Wizard, with our agility instructor. She spoiled him so much and sent us updates every day. Many years ago, I left our dog JJ with my dad… I drove 2 and 1/2 hours away just to make sure he was with someone I trusted.

And before that, we had a friend whom we’d swap dog sitting with. We’d watch their dog when they went on vacation, and they’d watch ours when we were out of town. It was a win-win situation, saving us a ton of money but also a piece of mind knowing our dogs were in good hands.

Dog sitters

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. You can ask inside your local Facebook groups, or look into services like Rover.com or Care.com.  Think of this as if you were looking for a babysitter for your kids!

In-home pet sitters are a great option if you have a dog that gets stressed easily. This type of dog sitter will stay in your home or stop by your house a few times a day to let your dog outside and hang out with them. 

Another option is professional in-home boarding. This option allows you to keep your dog in a home setting at the sitter’s house. Please make sure they are insured and bonded, just in case of an emergency. We never want to fear the worst, but you need to be prepared.

Dog Sitter Information Package

Boarding facility

I 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.

My daughter worked at two different boarding facilities, and so has experienced the other side and she said she would never board her dogs again. She worked at one that is connected to our vet’s office, and the other was a “high-end” doggy hotel boarding facility. 

Just make sure to get a lot of references, not just one or two… ten or more. Then visit the boarding facility before committing to send your dog there. You are putting your dog’s life into their hands.

Ask who takes the dogs outside, who feeds them, do they play with other dogs, etc. Ask a lot of questions. My daughter was 16 years old when she worked as a helper at those pet boarding facilities. 

IMPORTANT: Don’t ever leave your dog home alone while on vacation! Dogs are not able to take care of themselves. They need a human to interact with them, feed them, and let them out to potty.

black and white dog laying on dog bed

Vacation Checklist

Use this checklist to relieve all anxiety about leaving your dog while on vacation.

How to plan if you have a family or a sitter watching your dog.

  1. Take your dog to visit the house they 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. Schedule a one-day practice run. If this is your dog’s first time being away from home, it’s best to practice a few times before leaving for a long vacation. 
  3. If your dog sitter will be staying at your home, then have them visit your home and spend time with your dog before leaving on vacation.
  4. Print out all of your dog’s information for the dog sitter. Include their normal sleeping, feeding, and potty schedule. Any signals the dog gives to know if they have to go outside is helpful. If your dog is on medication, include dosage and schedule. Write down your vet’s phone number and address. Download our easy-to-use dog sitter checklist printable
  5. Pack for your dog. They will need food but don’t forget food bowls, leash, training collar, crate, toys, bones, and dog bed. Phew, your dog needs a suitcase too 🤣
  6. Pack something of yours too. A worn t-shirt, blanket from home, something with YOUR smell on it. This item can help your dog be more comfortable while you are away.

Planning for when you need to board your dog.

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. I suggest researching options even if you don’t have a vacation planned, just in case of an emergency. Ask friends and 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 spots fill up many months in advance. It’s common for Spring Break and Christmas time to fill up a year in advance.

3. Schedule a checkup with your vet. Boarding facilities will require your dog to be up to date on all vaccinations. Most 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. 

4. Pack for your dog. Packing food is obvious, 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 recommend this, as you don’t want to upset your dog’s tummy with new food… especially since they will be stressed already. Download our packing list printable.

5. Pack something of yours too. A dirty t-shirt or blanket with YOUR smell on it can help your dog feel less anxious while you are away.

When it’s time to pick up your dog

I know you missed your dog and they missed you. But it is very important to make pick-up time a calm experience. If you make a huge deal (crying, overexcited screaming) over dropping your dog off and picking them up, they are going to pick up on your energy and wonder what the heck is going on… which could lead to separation anxiety and other behavior issues.

I will be honest, I am guilty of getting too excited when picking my dogs up, even when they’ve been with family. But try to stay calm, almost ignoring your dog while you pick them up is critical to your dog’s reaction to spending time away from you.

Black dog outside on the deck.

FAQ

Q: I just adopted my dog, and we have a vacation planned. Will she be okay?

It’s normal to worry about your new rescue pup, and rightfully so. But with some prep work your new dog will be okay. Keep in mind that rescue dogs go through a process of decompressing and adjusting to their new home. Read the 3-3-3 rule of dogs

The best, least stressful solution would be to have a pet sitter or family come to your home and watch the dog while you are away. If that is not an option and you need to use boarding, then follow the tips and checklist above to make the experience the best you can. Setting up a few test runs will help your new dog to become more comfortable with the dog sitter. 

Giving the sitter or boarding staff detailed instructions on everything you know about your dog’s behavior and background will be very helpful too. 

Dogs are amazing at adapting to their surroundings, even when they’ve had a troubled past. 

Q: How do I choose the right dog sitter?

Make a list of all the qualities you would like your dog sitter to have. You’ll want to consider experience, compatibility with your dog, and reliability. Look for recommendations and reviews. Set up a meet-and-greet session so you can see if your dog likes the sitter. Have an open conversation about your dog’s needs, routine, and quirks. Trust your gut—if they feel right and your dog seems happy, you found your dog sitter.

Q: Can my dog stay alone if I leave enough food and water?

Dogs need more than just food and water. They need human interaction, exercise, and go outside to potty. Leaving them home alone for too long will lead to a bored, lonely, and anxious pup. So, it’s best to have someone who can come to your home, whether it’s a friend, a neighbor, or a professional pet sitter.

Q: My dog has separation anxiety, how will he do when I’m on vacation?

I’m not going to lie, separation anxiety is a beast of a behavior to tackle. I’ve experienced several dogs that could not handle being alone. One option is to find a sitter that can stay with your dog 24/7, not an easy task. The other option is to board your dog, just make sure you discuss your dog’s behavior with the staff so they know what to expect. Learn more about how to hep your dog cope with separation anxiety.

Leaving items that smell like you, providing engaging toys, and ensuring your dog has a comfortable, safe space can also help. In severe cases, consulting with a veterinarian or a professional dog behaviorist may be helpful.

Q: Should I check in on my dog while I’m away?

Checking in is great for peace of mind—yours and theirs! Quick calls or texts to see how things are going can reassure you that your dog is doing just good. Many dog sitters will offer daily photo and video updates in their services. Just try not to overdo it, or you might end up stressing yourself out more than necessary.

Q: What if my dog gets sick while I’m away?

Before leaving, provide your dog sitter or boarding facility with detailed veterinary information and explicit permission to seek medical care if needed. Discuss potential signs of illness and ensure they know the procedure for emergencies, including how to contact you.  Download our easy-to-use dog sitter checklist printable.

Dog Sitter Information Package

Enjoy your vacation

I know it’s hard to leave our dogs behind, but sometimes it’s necessary, so make sure you plan ahead and make the best of the situation. The more you plan the more you can rest easy and enjoy your vacation… that’s what it’s all about right? Time to refresh and rest! Your dog will be okay. 

Choosing who to take care of your dog while away depends on your dog’s personality, needs, budget, and the length of time you’ll be away. It’s important to meet with potential sitters and boarding facilities beforehand, ask for references, and possibly do a trial run to ensure they’re a good fit for your dog.

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?

What’s Next?

About the Author

Debi McKee

Debi McKee is the expert behind Rescue Dogs 101 where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She is a mom of 3 human kids and 4 dogs and volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society. Click here for more about Debi and her passion for helping you and your dog.

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  1. This blog is fantastic! It offers great advice on leaving your dog while on vacation. I wish more people would read this and follow your suggestions. You provide valuable tips on ensuring your dog's safety and well-being. Thanks for sharing such helpful information!

  2. We just got a puppy 3 weeks ago from a breeder.This is our second dog from this breeder and we like them a lot. We are going out of town for 4 days and they have volunteered to watch him. He would be with his brothers. Is this a good thing to do or should we look at other options?

  3. 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.

  4. I know a family who left their dog alone for 2 weeks. This is day number 2 and I am stressed. They left the door open to the back garden and they hired a dog walker 2 times a day. I couldn’t take the dog to my house unfortunately because I have diabetic cat who can be stressed from the dog, and I live in a small flat on the second floor. This dog never learned to climb the stairs. But I got the keys for their house. This evening I went to check him up. He chewed the whole house and didn’t come to me. He was barking. And now I am very sad. Any advice?

  5. I liked that you suggested choosing a boarding facility that is licensed and insured to keep your dog in a home setting safely. My husband and I will need to leave the country for 7-10 days to travel, so we need to find a way to keep our two dogs safe and comfortable while we are away. For our peace of mind, we will do your tips in finding a reliable and qualified pet boarding facility that can offer us a good deal.

  6. My 17 year old Yorkie will be staying with a sitter in her home while I am away for two days at my daughters wedding. He has terrible separation anxiety. I am worried about him. The vet gave me a calming medication and I guess I will have to use it,

  7. Thanks for the tip about asking the boarding facility what materials they provide. My wedding is in two weeks, so I need to find a boarding facility for my honeymoon. I'll be gone for 7 days, so I'd like to find a nice facility for my dog to stay at.

  8. I’ve never left my dog at a boarding place. I’ve always left him with family. This time we are going away for 2 weeks which is the longest time I’ve left him. So I’ll bring him round to the house he’ll be staying in just to get used to it, then also leave the blanket that we both share at nights. I will try and not worry about him while on holiday.

    1. I am going on vacation for 12 days myself and this is the 1st time I’ve left Lilybit. She is 22 months old and has severe separation anxiety. So yes I’m worried but she will be with my sister in law if not I would not have gone. Saturday April 1st I’ll be flying to Memphis then on the 3rd I’ll be flying to Washington DC for a week, then back to Memphis for 2 days, then back home!
      Have a wonderful time! Ann

  9. Options for dog care while on vacation may include boarding facilities, pet sitters, or trusted friends or family members. It is important to choose a caregiver who is experienced, reliable, and can provide your dog with the attention and care they need while you are away.

  10. My step daughter is going to stay at our house and take care of our dog it's me who's having the anxiety LOL I'm even taking my computer so I can talk to him we'll be gone for about 4 or 5 weeks and I'll be the first time and he's only two so I'm the one who's anxious

  11. Thanks for suggesting to search online for pet boarding facilities near me and read reviews. I will follow your advice now that I need to leave my dog for a week. It's because I have this trip with the family, and the pets are not allowed in the location.

  12. It really helped when you talked about where we could leave our dog when we travel. Recently, my wife and I adopted a dog, and we just found out we need to leave for a business trip. We're worried about our dog's well-being, and we can't take him with us, so we'll be sure to check your tips out. Thanks for the advice on checking boarding facilities for our dog.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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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