Bags packed — check. Boarding passes printed — check. Ride to airport scheduled — check. Arrangements for Fido — uh-oh! Whether your dog is an energetic pup or an older fellow, making preparations for a pet’s care during your absence can be stressful and overwhelming. The decision between hiring an in-home pet sitter or using a boarding kennel is packed with both pros and considerations for each. Gain some insight into the best approach for your furry friend with this advice.
1. Consider your pet’s age
Like most of us, Los Angeles, California pet-owner Cassandra Loch admits she is always scrambling before leaving on a trip, and her 8-year-old pug, Beluga, sometimes feels the stress of it. A user of both in-home pet care and kennels, Loch says the boarding experience benefited her dog in his early years.
“Cage-free boarding was great for Beluga,” says Loch. “He received a lot of exercise and playtime with other dogs — it was like going to camp. But as he has gotten older, his energy level changed and it was better for him to be at home.” As your pet ages, the introduction of a new environment can be taxing and sometimes increase levels of anxiety. Using in-home care for older pets will give them the personalized attention they need and give you peace of mind.
2. Estimate how often you intend to travel
As her travel schedule increased, Loch found that packing up Beluga and driving him to the kennel became an inconvenience and felt having in-home care fit better with her lifestyle.
Loch now uses dog walking and pet sitting services, which provide her dog with one-on-one care when she is out of town. In addition, Loch feels confident that her pet sitter will keep Beluga’s regular routine in the comforts of his own home and familiar neighborhood surroundings. Because he knows he doesn’t have to leave home, Beluga’s anxiety is greatly reduced when he sees Loch take her suitcase out.
3. Get to know the pet sitter you’re hiring
When choosing a pet sitter, it is extremely important to hire a professional with references and who is insured and bonded. Always do a background check and have a backup plan should something happen or your sitter’s schedule changes. When interviewing a pet sitter, compile a list of important questions about previous work experience and ask for references.
It is also vital to schedule a trial “playdate” between your pet and potential sitter. Let them take your pet on a walk and remain half a block behind them to observe your dog and the pet sitter’s behaviors. If something doesn’t feel right, listen to your instincts and keep interviewing.
4. Tour the boarding kennel and ask questions
Just like hiring an in-home pet sitter, boarding your four-legged friend can also be a healthy option. Letting your pet socialize is an important part of being a pet owner, as it teaches them how to interact with other animals, enjoy friendly carousing, adapt to change and transition in new situations.
Cage-free boarding facilities will give your pet a sense of independence, as well as plenty of space for running around and playing. A lot of dogs like all the fun and games that come with their peers at the dog run, but they also need downtime. Look for a boarding kennel facility that provides both intimate and group activity settings.
5. Set expectations for your pet’s care
The biggest question for any pet owner considering boarding or in-home care is “What will my dog do all day?” For home care, be sure to create a schedule and go over it with your sitter. This should include when and how your dog takes meals, medical information, a walk schedule, grooming needs and playtime and bedtime routines. In addition, have an emergency plan in place with important contact phone numbers and emergency meeting location.
If you are choosing a boarding kennel, ask for a detailed schedule of what your animal will be doing and what interaction your pet will have with other animals and with the kennel staff — and how long and how often. It is essential that the boarding facility pairs your pet with others of similar disposition and provides regular exercise and playtime rotations throughout the day. When looking at different kennels, observe the amount of dogs being boarded. Overcrowding can lead to aggressive behavior, which will ensure a difficult situation for both you and your pet. Before considering boarding, make sure your pet is up-to-date on all vaccines, including rabies, DHLPP and Bordetella and provide a spay/neuter verification.