How to Choose the Best Care for Your Dog When Away
So, you’re going on a trip and you can’t take your pooch. While this situation often causes distress, choosing the right professional to care for your dog while you are away can leave them just as happy as if you were there. With all the options on the market to choose, from doggy day care, kenneling, in-home boarding to pet sitting, the choices can be overwhelming. Here is an easy guide to break down exactly what you are getting with each option, which dogs would do best in each one, and how to choose your pet care provider.
Doggy Day Care:
Sometimes just called dog boarding, a doggy day care offers individual rooms in a commercial facility which house a dog or dogs from a single household. Each facility differs in how they equip each room, but some of the more luxurious companies furnish individual rooms with their own sofas, television, and bedding. While some of these locations advertise individual runs for each room, others offer a communal play area for all furry clients where they are brought together for playtime in a communal yard. Most doggy day cares offer separated play spaces, where similarly sized dogs are grouped in individual play yards, but some do run mixed play sessions with close supervision.
Dogs who would do best in this environment feel comfortable with many other dogs around them, thrive in group play, have good recall with people they are not familiar with, and are overall comfortable with new environments. If your dog is typically nervous in new environments or starts to misbehave once you leave, you may be better off with one of the alternatives.
Kenneling, an option similar to day care but without as much personalized attention, is generally the most affordable option for many pet parents but it comes at the cost of comfort frills. Dogs in a kennel are kept in a smaller indoor space, sometimes in a cage about twice the length of the dog. Pooches who find themselves in kennels are typically given toys and bedding of their own, as well as their own food and water bowls. Most kennels have an outdoor exercise space, sometimes attached to the cage to make it readily accessible to the pup. Those that do not have these runs have an individual walking schedule instead of the group play space. Dogs are walked anywhere from twice to four times a day, depending on the facility.
As kennels do not offer the private rooms typically found in doggy day cares, your furry family member may be more stressed due to the noise factor of caging. There are also fewer opportunities for socialization, as group play is typically not encouraged. Dogs who would thrive in this environment are those who have excellent bladder control, do not need as much exercise, and are comfortable in their crate at home.
For a taste of home without worrying about them damaging your couch while you are away, in-home boarding is the answer. Dogs are brought to a residential house of a pet sitter who opens up their home while you are away. While in the home, your pet sitter may impose different rules than your pup is used to, such as no pets on furniture and enforced kenneling at night. The benefit of this style is that you are guaranteed personal interaction and a home environment for your pet, which is less stressful than both kenneling and boarding for your pooch.
If your dog is someone who is comfortable with a changing environment and gets along with other families of pets, they would most likely enjoy this style. If your dog dislikes being around other groups of animals or does not play well with others, they may be miserable blending with another household for a day or more. For a seamless transition to your boarding provider’s home, try to arrange for a group play session in a neutral space for both your dogs and theirs, this makes introductions easier than when on a home front.
In an ideal world, everyone would be able to bring a pet sitter into your home when you leave so that your dog can stay in their comfort zone. That is because this option is the least stressful to your pet and allows them to experience no change in their routine. As a professional pet caregiver is coming into your home to give personal care for a single pet while you are away, it is also the most expensive, especially if they stay overnight rather than stopping in for regular walks and feeding. However, dogs in this situation stay in their own home, walk their usual routes, and is the least disruptive.
Any dog would enjoy this type of service, but it is particularly well-suited for dogs who are easily stressed, do not blend well with other pets or people, or are working on behavioral issues. Be sure to allow this sitter the time to introduce themselves to your pup while you are in the home, so the next time they come over your dog knows they come in peace.
How to Evaluate Each Facility:
There is a list of questions you should ask every facility or provider before you decide to arrange an introduction to your pet. Don’t feel shy asking, professional pet care providers should have a policy in place for all of these areas and will be used to questioning. Some good areas to discuss are:
- “How much exercise will my dog be getting?” – This can be anything from the number and time length of walks they give their guest-dogs to how long dogs are allowed access to outdoor runs. At a minimum, dogs should be walked every five hours, preferably more. You can also ask if your dog will get exercise while they stay, or just bathroom breaks.
- “How do you vet your employees who care for the pets?” – While these requirements are up to the business, you want to see some level of training and continued education in those looking after your pet. Ideally at least one staff member is familiar with behavioral technique to stop fights before they start.
- “What safety procedures do you have in case something happens?”– If your dog accidently gets bitten, you want to hear that they have a plan to handle emergencies. They should also have a vaccination requirement for all pets to come into the shelter.
- “What is your sanitation procedure like?” – How often they clean, what they clean, what solutions they clean with. All of these details will help to minimize your pet from catching a communicable disease while in day care. They should also have a hand washing station handy in all pet care areas.
- “What items can I bring with my dog for their use while there?” – Comfort items can be important to calming your dog in a new space. This includes toys, blankets, and bedding. Food should also stay the same as at home to minimize the chance of digestion upset.
How to Choose the Best Option for Your Pet:
Now that you know which dog personalities do best with each boarding situation, you can get to work choosing the best option for your pooch. Remember that a bad fit for your dog means they will experience extreme amounts of stress. This can be anything from agitation (making them more likely to react aggressively out of fear) to refusing to eat or drink. Not all dogs react the same to stressful environments, some withdraw while others become overstimulated and energetic. A good boarding fit for your pooch will allow them to act the exact same while you’re away as when you are at home.
The best way to gauge whether your pet will do well in a day care, kennel, or with a pet professional, is by trial run. Schedule a day trip for you and your pooch to see how they react to being in that environment. If your dog adjusts well and has a successful day of play away from you, you can be sure it is the right fit. If they act out, are withdrawn, or come home anxious and clingy it is be time to choose a different method.
Leaving your fur baby anywhere can be an overwhelming task, especially if you are leaving for an extended vacation. With these small tips and questions, you can be sure to thoroughly check out each establishment to make sure Fido will be happy while you are away. Already you are doing an excellent job by advocating what is best for them!
By Lauren Pescarus