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.
We moved from Illinois to Wisconsin about 8 years ago, so we don’t have family in the area that I can turn to when I need a dog sitter. I’ve tried a couple of local boarding facilities, and they were okay. But our dog, JJ, had severe separation anxiety and had to be medicated when we left him in boarding.
If you’re lucky, you have family close by that is willing to dog-sit for you. I try to avoid boarding when at all possible. That’s not to say that boarding facilities are bad. But I did drive 5 hours round trip just to drop off our dog JJ at my dads house a couple of years ago, when we went on a family cruise! Boy, was JJ happy to see me when I came to pick him up!
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? 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? Your options include:
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.
With our Dog-Sitter Important Info Form and Checklist,
you can relax and enjoy your vacation, knowing that your dog is in good care back home.
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. I’ve put together an easy to fill out Dog-Sitter Important Info Form and Checklist you can download here.
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.
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. Use our free Dog-Sitter Important Info Form and Checklist, which you can download here.
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.
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. Good luck and remember to download our free Dog-Sitter Important Info Form and Checklist.
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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Debi McKee is a mom of three kids, two 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.