There comes a time when you’ll need to leave your dog.
No…not forever…just for a few nights.
Whether you travel for work or are planning a family vacation, your four-legged family member can’t always tag along.
And as a doggy parent, you want your pup to be well cared for even when you can’t be there.
So how do you choose what to do with your furry friend?
If it’s a few nights or a full week, you have so many choices when it comes to finding a caregiver for your dog.
You can find a pet sitter to stay at your house while you’re away, or you can board your dog at a nearby facility.
Both have significant benefits and just a few shortcomings.
I’m going to share a little bit about each option, so you can make the best decision for you, your family, and your dog.
Hiring a pet sitter is a lot like a babysitter.
It means that your pet can stay home while someone comes in to care for them. Whether that person stays at your house full time during your trip or stops by several times to feed, walk, and play with your dog is up to you and your pup’s needs.
A pet sitter is a great option because it means your dog will receive individualized attention without disrupting their daily life too much (aside from missing you, of course). However, hiring a pet sitter can be costly, and your dog could get lonely if they are alone for a major part of the day.
Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks of going with a pet sitter while you’re away.
Individualized Care and Attention
When someone comes to your house to care for your dog, they’re not distracted by any other responsibilities. Their sole reason for being there is to give your dog their undivided time and attention.
If you have a very specific routine you follow or your dog needs special care, this is the best way to give them the time and focus they require.
With a pet sitter, you dictate your pet’s schedule, so you can expect things to go smoothly while you are away since your pet’s life won’t be disrupted too much.
Which leads me into another major benefit of hiring a pet sitter…
It is stressful for your dog when you uproot them to a new place and they can’t look to you for guidance.
Instead, when you choose a pet sitter, your dog can remain at home, where they are most comfortable.
If your dog prefers solitude, this is a great option because they won’t get stressed or overstimulated with all of the dogs running around at a boarding center.
There are a few other benefits to hiring a pet sitter. Mainly, your dog won’t be exposed to illnesses or diseases carried by other dogs, and you can feel at ease knowing someone is watching closely over your pet and your house (good to know in case the power goes out or an appliance breaks).
While there are several benefits to having a pet sitter while you’re out of town, there are also a few drawbacks to keep in mind.
Feelings of Isolation
If you just have one dog at home, especially one who suffers from separation anxiety, having a stranger enter your house might make life difficult for both your dog and your pet sitter.
If your dog is territorial and protective of your home, this could spell danger for your pet sitter.
Without you there, your dog might be confused or not have enough distractions to keep them busy during the day, which will just make them overly hyper when someone comes by to care for them.
So make sure you take your dog’s temperament into account when deciding on pet care while you’re away. If you don’t think they’d thrive solo at home or will get overly protective, then you might want to explore other options.
Can Be Quite Expensive
Choosing a pet sitter can be costly. While the costs can vary tremendously depending on the individual’s experience level, hiring a specific person to care for your dog can add up quickly, so be prepared for a hefty bill.
Other potential disadvantages are the reliability and consistency of your sitter and their relationship with your dog. If they don’t mesh well with your pup then this situation just won’t work.
In fact, it might give you more stress and anxiety when you’re trying to enjoy your time off.
Pet sitting gives you so much freedom and control over your dog's schedule, if you’re well-prepared!
Before You Go
ALWAYS DO YOUR RESEARCH. The biggest mistake you can make is to hire someone without checking references or qualifications and having them mistreat or neglect your dog.
Make sure the pet sitter you hire is someone you can trust…even bring them by to meet your dog so you can see that they are a good fit for each other.
Be sure to have a backup plan. You never know when bad weather could prevent your sitter from getting to your house. Have a trusted friend or neighbor on standby in case your pet sitter can’t make it there for any reason.
Leave a set of detailed instructions with your pet sitter, including a schedule of when to feed, walk, and bathe (if needed). If your pet needs any medications, be sure that your pet sitter knows how and when they should be administered. You can even include your dog’s favorite toys or games.
I always say you can’t be too detailed when leaving notes for your pet sitter.
You should leave a copy of the instructions in your home and also send them via email so that your sitter can access them if they lose the hard copy.
Heading out of town shouldn’t be stressful, and hiring a pet sitter will ensure your pet gets personal attention and you get peace of mind (even if you have to pay more for it).
Choosing to board your pet at a professional facility is also a great option when you need to travel away from home. It’s basically like a doggy hotel!
The professional staff will ensure that your pup receives quality care while adhering to strict safety guidelines. However, you might have less control over your dog’s schedule, as facilities care for many dogs at one time.
Here are some benefits and drawbacks of sending your dog to a boarding facility.
Professional and Social Setting
When your pup enters a dog boarding facility, you will find a clean, neat, and healthy environment with staff members that are well trained and enthusiastic about dogs!
You will also be greeted by a slew of other doggy friends, meaning that your pup will get lots of socialization and playtime while you’re away.
This is great if your dog loves to play with others and enjoys a high level of interaction.
There will never be a dull moment, and the staff will ensure that your dog is well fed, clean, and healthy while you’re enjoying your time away.
Some even offer regular updates or send photos!
Constant Care and Monitoring by the Experts
When you send your four-legged family member off to a doggy hotel for a week, you can rest easy knowing that your dog will be watched and cared for around the clock.
If they have any health issues or something happens while you’re away, the professional staff will be able to respond swiftly and appropriately to ensure your dog gets the medical attention they need.
You won’t need to wonder about the type of care your dog will be receiving because, if you’ve done your research and read reviews, you can trust that skilled and qualified caretakers will be handling your pup’s every need.
Believe it or not, dog boarding facilities might even be cheaper than a pet sitter.
While there are a whole slew of benefits, there are also some drawbacks to dog boarding.
Limited Control Over Schedule
A boarding facility doesn’t have the capacity to care for your pup in a 1-on-1 environment, and because they need to care for so many pups, the schedule is typically dictated by the staff vs. by you and your pup.
Many will likely ask you about your dog’s basic schedule, but they cannot guarantee that it will be followed precisely.
While you will have control over the food your dog eats (and any medications or specific medical needs), which you will need to provide, that’s about as much as you’ll be able to direct.
Most facilities cannot guarantee as much playtime as your dog might be accustomed to. Sometimes they will offer extra time and attention for a fee, meaning that you will end up paying more to make sure your dog gets a little extra care.
Exposure to Potential Illness
When you put your dog in a new environment with other dogs they’ve never seen before, you’re opening up the door to new germs and illnesses. While many facilities require proof of vaccinations, you don’t know where the other dogs have been and what they might be carrying with them.
If your dog is especially sensitive to new surroundings or picks up illnesses frequently, then boarding might put a lot of extra stress on their body.
Illness aside, some dogs can get stressed out easily in new situations. If your dog is wary of newbies and doesn’t behave when placed in a social setting, you might want to have a chat with a facility before dropping your dog off for an extended period of time (or choose another type of care altogether).
Dog boarding, or sending your pup to a doggy hotel, is a great way to ensure your dog is cared for while you’re gone, provided you do a few things before you leave.
Before You Go
I’ll say it one more time…it’s important that you ALWAYS DO YOUR RESEARCH. Read lots of reviews, tour the facility, and talk with some of the staff members before deciding on a boarding facility.
You can always try a dry run by sending your dog to a facility for a day or for one night to see how they do. If they interact well with the other dogs and staff, then you’ll have nothing to worry about!
Ask about extra services and fees. Some places might even groom your dog while you’re away (for an extra fee of course).
A Mix-And-Match Alternative
If you still can’t decide between hiring a pet sitter or boarding your dog, consider a little bit of each…
That’s right, there are trained individuals who run boarding centers out of their home. This will give you the ability to control your pup’s schedule with personalized attention, but at a lower cost than a pet sitter.
And your dog will still get all the benefits of socialization with other dogs while you’re away in a controlled environment.
This is also a great option if you love the idea of a pet sitter but don’t love the idea of someone coming in and out of your home while you’re not there.
At the end of the day, you know your pet best, and only you can determine the best environment for them to thrive.
After all, they’re going to miss you terribly (and you will miss them), so having quality care that you can trust is the most important factor in determining whether you hire a pet sitter or send your dog to a boarding center (or house boarding).
Here’s to a paws-itive experience and a little R&R while you’re away!
~ Doggy Dan