It’s one of the biggest dilemmas pet parents face: what to do with your dog when taking trips away from home. Though your dog feels just like a family member, there are a lot of reasons why it may be best to leave your dog home while you travel. There are so many possible complications:
- For larger dogs, not wanting to subject your dog to air travel and cargo holds.
- For small dogs, pet owners may not feel confident that their dog will behave on the airplane and in the airport.
- If taking a car trip, you may not want to deal with seat belts and frequent potty stops on long car rides.
- If staying in hotels, you’ll have to look for dog-friendly hotels.
- If leaving the United States, you’ll likely need to obtain a health certificate from your vet.
- And don’t even get us started on researching possible restrictions against pit bulls.
If your trip isn’t pet-travel-friendly, there’s a lot to consider to make sure they’re happy and safe while you’re away. We’ll walk you through the options and steps to assure your dog has a great time at home so you can enjoy that road trip or European vacation.
What’s better than leaving your pet in the comfort of his own home—or the cozy home of a loving sitter? Your dog will benefit from the least amount of disruption to their routine while you’re galavanting. With Rover.com, you can do just that! Rover has the largest network of 5-star pet sitters and dog walkers nationwide, all of whom will treat your dog like family.
“Our goal is to connect pet parents with loving sitters who are trained and qualified to provide just the right care for the pet parents’ dogs,” Rover CEO Aaron Easterly says.
“The sitter’s profile page on Rover.com also provides a lot of information to help pet parents choose the right fit for their dog, including references and reviews from others who have booked stays with the sitter.”
Rover also offers background checks and sitter training—sitters who go through special training have badges displayed on their profiles. Every Rover booking is covered by 24/7 support, reservation protection, and the Rover Guarantee.
Even though all sitters are reviewed, it’s best to introduce your dog to the potential sitter before the stay to make sure it’s a good match. It’s what Rover calls the “Meet & Greet.”
San Francisco-based dog behaviorist Beverly Ulbrich describes what you should do when introducing your dog to a new caregiver.
“Have the potential sitter give your dog some of his favorite treats the first time they meet and even give commands so the dog sees the sitter as someone who will be taking care of him,” Ulbrich suggests.
“Go on a short walk with the sitter to make sure they can handle your dog and your dog feels comfortable out on a leash with that sitter.”
Make sure your sitter is well aware of your dog’s idiosyncrasies. For instance, if your dog doesn’t like their paws or ears being touched, if they get feisty when someone comes near while they’re eating, or if they lunge after cats or birds on walks.
“You want to make sure people are safe with your dog,” Ulbrich says. “If you don’t tell the sitter your dog sometimes lunges after cats, the unsuspecting walker could lose hold of the leash as your dog runs into danger.”
Make a list of the basics to make sure nothing gets missed: how much you feed your dog and when, how often you want water freshened, how often you walk them, how many treats and what type to offer, favorite games and toys, if he needs medicine, and, most importantly, vet’s information in case of emergency.
“Making sure the pet sitter knows the ins-and-outs of your dog’s habits, needs, and insecurities will really help them,” Ulbrich explains.
You’ll also want to do an introduction and visit if you opt for caged kennel boarding.
3. Caged Kennel Boarding
Kennels are a well-known way to accommodate your dog while you’re away, and they can be fairly inexpensive. But dogs can be very uncomfortable with kennel boarding, which is quite similar to the pound or shelter with rows of small, enclosed cages. This can disrupt their eating and sleep cycles, even their training.
“Some unlearn housebreaking and have accidents in small spaces where they sleep,” Ulbrich says.
Does your dog sleep with you at home? If so, they could become highly stressed and scared sleeping in a cage outside instead of in a comfy bed with his person.
“If dogs are used to sleeping in houses and beds, kennels can be cold and lonely,” Ulbrich explains. “It can also be loud if other dogs are barking and moving around. It’s like putting a human in a jail cell with no understanding of why they are there.”
It’s also important to know not all kennels are staffed 24/7, so if something goes wrong, your dog may not be cared for until hours later.
4. Home Alone: Asking a Neighbor or Friend for Help
Some people want the comfort of home for their dog, but can’t find a sitter to stay full-time while they’re away. So they ask a neighbor, friend, or dog walker to come “check in” on their dog. Typical favors asked for include feeding and walking the dog, and spending some time with your dog so they don’t get lonely.
But there are some risks to leaving a dog alone for long periods of time, particularly when your dog is aware that you have left for more than a day’s work. There’s a chance for destructive or compulsive behavior.
“I feel that dogs, like children, need monitoring to some degree,” Ulbrich says. “If they get scared or stressed, they can do damage to your house or themselves.”
And there’s always the possibility something could go wrong if your dog is left alone for a long period of time.
“What if they get sick,” Ulbrich asks. “Someone needs to be able to attend to them or take them to the vet.”
5. Well-Behaved Dogs Accepted: The Impact of Training
The same way a child needs rules and limits, dogs need training and care to adjust to a new caregiver or boarding situation. Dogs that bark constantly, don’t follow commands, whine when left alone, or show aggressive behavior towards other dogs can be difficult to care for.
“It’s important that you train your dog for his safety, as well as the safety of others,” Ulbrich says. “The American Kennel Club has a basic test that every dog should be able to pass, called the Canine Good Citizen Test. This is a good guideline to use to ensure your dog is well trained and therefore safe to be left under someone’s care.”
If your dog has trouble being left alone, they’re not the only one! Ulbrich says separation anxiety is on the rise and one of the top issues she sees from clients.
“Making sure your dog has a slow introduction to spending time alone and being left with others is part of a good training program,” Ulbrich says. “Once your dog has been taught that you will leave him but always come back, then leaving him almost anywhere should be a breeze.”
“You’d be amazed at how simple it often is to fix even the most annoying behavior,” Ulbrich explains.
If your dog needs training help before your next trip, don’t hesitate to ask for it. If they panic when left alone or snap or growl at other dogs or humans, get them enrolled in a program with a professional trainer and behaviorist.
A Worry-Free Pet Parent Trip
When planning a fun trip, don’t forget to make fun plans for your dog, too. Leaving your dog at home with a full-time caregiver can reduce their stress and yours. And no matter what pet accommodations you opt for, make sure your dog and caregiver are armed with the proper tools for a successful time together.
- Pet Parents Go to Crazy Lengths to Travel with Their Dogs
- How to Prepare Your Dog Emotionally Before You Travel Without Them
- Traveling with Your Dog: Expert Tips from a Professional Trainer
- Flying with a Dog: Should You Take Your Dog on a Plane?
- 6 Signs of an Excellent Pet Sitter