Leaving Your Family Dog in Good Hands

He’s more than your dog. He’s a member of your family. You won’t leave him with just anyone. When you’re away, you want someone to care for your dog as well as you do.

The first step in searching for the right caregiver is to ask your veterinarian, friends and family for referrals. Their honest input and recommendations can give you peace of mind.

Then, ask yourself whether you prefer a boarding facility/doggie daycare or a pet sitter who makes visits to or stays in your home. Both have pros and cons. With a boarding facility, you can rest easy knowing that your dog is safely confined and supervised. Plus, boarding facilities often provide the opportunity for socialization and playing with other dogs. But his space will be more limited than at home, and he may be more stressed in a noisy boarding environment. Dog sitters offer your dog more freedom, more one-on-one attention, and less stress, since he’d stay in his home. They can also check on your home while you’re away. But the wrong dog sitters can be unreliable, and there’s always a security risk in letting someone in your home when you’re not there. Here are some things to look for in both boarding facilities and dog sitters:

Boarding Facility/Doggie Daycare

  • Visit the facility. Check its safety and cleanliness. Does each kennel have a water bowl and bed? Is the temperature comfortable? Is the outdoor space enclosed and locked? Also watch how the staff interacts with the pets boarded there.
  • Do they offer group playtime with other dogs and one-on-one play time with a staff member?
  • Do they have a policy for veterinary emergencies?
  • Is a staff member onsite 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?
  • Is the location close?
  • Are the drop-off and pick-up hours convenient?
  • How far in advance do they recommend making reservations?
  • They should require all dogs to be current on vaccinations. If they don’t, go elsewhere.
  • Read online reviews, and ask other dog owners if they’ve used the facility.

Dog Sitter

  • If you’re enlisting the help of a trusted neighbor, friend or family member, they must be 100% reliable. You should feel confident that this person takes responsibilities seriously and always follows through with commitments.
  • If you’re hiring a professional dog sitter, first get to know her by phone or email. How long has she been working with dogs? Is this her only job, or does she have other priorities that may divert her time and attention? Does she have a dog of her own? If so, does she plan to bring her dog with her, and are you ok with it? She (and any employees who will be helping) should be insured, bonded, and certified in providing pet first aid. Ask for references and a service contract.
  • Invite the dog sitter over to see how she interacts with your dog. Does your dog warm up to her? Is she able to manage walking your dog on a leash?
  • If she isn’t staying in your home, how often will she visit during the day?
  • Meet everyone who will be caring for your dog while you are away, as pet-sitting services may employ more than one person.
  • Does she have an emergency backup if for some reason she’s unable to care for your dog?
  • The dog sitter should pay attention and take notes while you explain your dog’s daily routine, feeding schedule, likes and dislikes.
  • Outline communication expectations, such as requesting a daily text or email to let you know everything is okay at home.

Once you feel comfortable with either a boarding facility or dog sitter, it’s time to give them a try. Be sure to leave the following with the caregiver:

  • Enough food for the duration of his stay (plus extra in case of emergency) and feeding instructions
  • Any medications and dosage instructions
  • A phone number where you can be reached, plus an emergency contact
  • Contact information for your veterinarian and authorization to treat your dog in case of an emergency
  • For the pet sitter, a key or instructions on how to get into your home
  • For the boarding facility, perhaps a favorite blanket to make your dog feel more at home

Also, make sure your dog wears an identification tag. Some facilities remove collars and use their own identification to prevent collar-related injuries in kennels. After his stay, talk to the caregiver about your dog’s behavior. Did he play? Did he eat his usual amount of food? Also, closely observe your dog when you arrive. If he shows any signs of neglect, such as extreme thirst or immediately relieving himself of a large amount of waste, you may want to consider a different caregiver.

Once you find the right caregiver, you’ll know it. Your dog may even be excited to spend time with his new friends. Then, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing you’re leaving your furry family member in good hands.

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