Ah, vacation time. We spend most of the year dreaming about where we’ll go and what we’ll do. But if you’re a pet owner, leaving can add a huge layer of stress. Where do I take them? What will it cost? Will they be ignored in a cage all week? How do I know? See? Stress! However, with some advance research and planning, the perfect situation for your pet can be found right here in Hancock County.
What are my options?
There are two general options for your pet—that is, if you can’t convince a family member to step up: facility boarding or hiring a pet sitter. Base your decision on your particular situation, your dog’s temperament, how long you’ll be gone and your dog’s overall health. Total cost will probably be a factor, too. Your high-engagement pampering pet spa will be considerably more expensive than an in-home pet sitter. A smart place to begin your search is with neighbors and friends. Nextdoor is a great tool for getting a lot of feedback. Many neighborhoods have a pet sitter or two with experience; ask for references on Nextdoor Neighbor.
Kenneling your pet has pros and cons to consider. Boarding facilities range from vet offices to traditional kennels to luxurious dog hotels, which means prices vary greatly. If you forego the vet kennel, your social pet can enjoy interaction with other dogs and staff members at a traditional kennel. Some kennels offer alternative quiet spaces for more timid, senior, or stressed canines who don’t particularly want to meet anyone else.
All kennels have add-ons, so make sure to read the fine print and ask questions. It’s wise to visit the facility to get a feel for the workers. Do they actually like animals and are happy to be there, or is it just a job, and they aren’t particularly gentle or compassionate to incoming timid pets? Also, make sure the kennel meets all state licensing requirements, is clean, has plenty of space for your dog, and that there is zero chance for them to escape.
Despite convenience, kennels aren’t going to be a healthy environment for the overly stressed, anxious, or timid canine. It’s best to find a caregiver who will come to your home so your dog has at least the comfort of his usual surroundings to rely on when you’re away.
Hiring a friend for Fido
Most pet sitters come to your home. Some sitters pop in and out, while others agree to stay and house sit as well, if that’s what you prefer (or your pup needs). Online services, such as Rover.com, Petsitter.com, and Fetch! Pet Care, offer a variety of pet-sitter contacts, complete with price lists and reviews from clients. When you interview potential pup caregivers, make sure to ask questions so you can get an idea of their background and experience.
- What is their previous experience with your dog’s size and temperament?
- Are they willing to travel to your home multiple times each day?
- Will they stay in your home if needed?
- Will they come for a meet and greet beforehand?
- Will you be able to reach them easily while you are out of town?
- Are they licensed or insured?
On the flip side, expect them to ask about your dog. If they don’t have prepared questions—What is his typical routine? Does she have a signal to let me know she has to potty? Does he have any quirks or extraordinary fears?—then don’t count on top-of-the-line care. It’s likely they’re inexperienced or simply don’t care enough for your comfort. Insist—seriously!—on references. And always insist on a meet and greet to be sure both pet and sitter are comfortable with one another, to relate detailed instructions, and for the sitter to get the lay of the land.
Won’t my dog miss me?
Chances are your pet may wonder where you are. Your dog is a part of your family, and you may even feel a bit of separation anxiety as well. With some preparation, however, both you and your pet can be prepared for the time apart.
Dogs are incredibly intelligent and easily pick up on your emotions. First and foremost, prepare your pet by projecting a calm confidence. Treat the day of departure like any other day. Stick to your pet’s routine as much as possible to reassure him that all is fine in his world. You might try distracting him while the car is being loaded to keep him from getting excited, which could lead to anxiety. Leave in the normal way you always leave. Whether that’s with a kiss and pat, a Kong or safe treat to occupy his attention, or a simply heading out the door, keep the routine the same. If he has sensed something is up despite your best efforts, you might give him one of the many calming products on the market, including supplements, aromatherapy, or even CBD oil. But run everything by your vet first. And trying the product in advance is wise.
Our pets easily become cherished members of our families, which makes it harder to leave them behind when it’s time to head out of town. If you can’t bring your dog with you, the next best thing is to find the right care so they feel comfortable and safe in your absence. Do your research, get recommendations, check out as many places and people as you need to, and settle on what or who feels right for both you and your pet. Happy travels!