It’s one of the biggest dilemmas pet parents face: travel. Whether you take your furry friend with you on the road or leave him at home, there’s a lot to take care of to make sure he’s happy and safe.
If you’re headed out on business or traveling somewhere you can’t take your pet, we’ve got you covered with the expert tips for leaving your dog at home.
1. Find a Loving Dog Sitter
What’s better than leaving your pet in the comfort of his own home—or the cozy home of a loving sitter? 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.
“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.
Meet Your Sitter
Even though all sitters are reviewed, it is 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 his paws or ears being touched, if he gets feisty when someone comes near him while he’s eating, or if he lunges 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 his water freshened, how often you walk him, how many treats and what type you give him, his favorite games and toys, if he needs medicine, and his 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.
2. Caged Kennel Boarding
Kennels are a traditional 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, he 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.
3. 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 duties include feeding and walking the dog, and spending some time with him so he’s not lonely. But there are some risks.
“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.”
4. Well-Behaved Dogs Accepted: The Impact of Proper Training
The same way a child needs rules and limits, dogs need training and care to adjust to a new caregiver. 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, he’s 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 he freaks out being left alone or has snapped or growled at other dogs or humans, get him enrolled in a program with a professional trainer and behaviorist.
The Bottom Line
There are options for leaving your furry friend at home when you travel. Just make sure you’re armed with the right information to fit your dog’s needs and your budget.