Before You Travel: Your Dog’s Staycation
Published May 1, 2013
Picking the best pet care option for your dog while you travel can ensure a happy staycation for Fido and a worry-free vacation for you.
Kenneling your dog while on travel is a popular option, but it might not be the best fit for your dog. In part two of this “Before you Travel” series, we take a closer look at in-home care.
Home stays can vary from a daily checks-in by a neighbor to a live-in situation with a licensed pet professional. While keeping your dog in his home environment might seem like the best option when you’re away, it’s important to consider how being “home alone” might impact your dog.
How frequently will your dog be visited, and for how long? When I was a young girl my neighbors often hired me to look after their two old Irish Setters when they traveled. They only asked that I stop by to feed them breakfast and dinner as well as a quick visit in the middle of the day to let them out, but even as a child I felt bad leaving them home alone for so long. (Don’t worry, I spent plenty of extra time with them!) A dog on a home staycation should be visited several times a day, not only for the necessary feeding and pottying, but also for the much needed human interaction. Most cats might be content to laze around alone for extended periods of time, but dogs need contact with people to maintain their equilibrium, particularly when their daily routine is altered. And since they’re left to their own devices (or “vices”?) for most of the day, they also need interaction with the pet sitter to burn off pent-up energy, which leads into my next point.
Can you dog-proof adequately for extended time alone? Sure, most of our dogs happily hang out while we leave the house to earn a living. Dogs get used to the patterns of daily life, so our hours away are expected and tolerated without complaint. Being away from you for days at a time, though, can be a stressful change for a dog. Being left alone to deal with the things that go bump in the night (and day) might cause a well trained dog to seek comfort in ways that are atypical, like chewing on the dining room rug or ransacking the mail piled by the door. Dogs often turn to repetitive behaviors like ripping and digging to self-soothe in times of stress. Boredom, too, can play a part in destructive behavior. When leaving a dog home for an extended period, take care to survey the environment for any potential targets, like TV remotes and baskets on the floor, even if they haven’t seemed attractive to your dog in the past. Consider baby-gating or closing doors to limit your dog’s household access as well.
Can you depend on the caregiver? This is hands down the most important factor of home stays. Make sure that you’ve gotten ample feedback about any pet sitting service that you plan to hire. Call every reference they provide, and use social media like Facebook to get additional feedback from your network. If you opt to use a friend or neighbor, make sure that they understand that your dogs needs more than just a fifteen minute fly-by three times a day. (The middle school kid next door might be cheap labor, but can he give your pet the level of attention that he needs?) The New York Times recently wrote about a woman whose cat died when the pet sitting service she hired didn’t show up for a week, so it could literally be a lifesaver to check in with the sitter while you’re away.
Keeping your dog at home is a great option when combined with the right caregiver and a mutual understanding of what your dog needs to stay happy and healthy in your absence. In the final part of this series we’ll look at the method I’ve used with my dogs for years; home away from home stays.