Dog Care Options: Pet Sitter or Boarding?
by Lynn Stacy-Smith
If you are like me, the thought of leaving your dog in someone else’s care is one of the things in life that can cause your anxiety level to soar to levels previously unknown. The list of people I trust to care for Jackson and Tinkerbell is extremely short and even some of my closest friends are not on it. So how do you decide your dog care options and whether a pet sitter or boarding is right for your dog?
Fortunately I have found an amazing friend who I also hire professionally to watch my dog who graciously accepts my many post-it notes throughout the house, frequent check-ins, my dog care binder, and all of my other quirks as a dog owner. If you are blessed to have someone like this in your life to take care of your dogs, then you know what an incredible relief it is. Shower them with thanks and pay them well!
Even if you rarely travel or if you take vacations with your dog, I strongly suggest having at least one trusted dog care option on-call in the event of an emergency. You never know when you will have to go out-of-town for a family emergency. In fact, in the almost six years since Jackson was born we had three incidents in which we had to leave town on a moment’s notice for a family emergency. In honor of Professional Pet Sitter Week we will examine this topic in a series of blogs for both new and veteran dog owners.
There are many, many options for finding pet sitters and boarding facilities these days, with DogVacay, Rover.com, Care.com, Yelp and more. So how do you choose what is right for you?
Vet Clinic Boarding: Many vet clinics offer boarding for non-medical stays, either in traditional dog runs or in crates in a designated area. Depending on the clinic, boarding is open to just clients or the general public.
Traditional Dog Boarding: Traditional boarding kennels have indoor runs for each dog or bonded pair. Some are built with outside areas that your dog can access when their specific gate is open and others are entirely inside and dogs are walked to the outdoor area. Dogs are kept separate from each other throughout their stay and each get solo time outside for potty and play breaks.
Doggie Daycare: Doggie daycare is a type of dog care facility in which the dogs are allowed to play together and interact with each other for either portions of the day or the entire day. Dogs are typically separated at night when they are not being watched by a staff of humans and sleep either in crates or traditional dog runs depending on the facility.
Pet sitter at your own home: Pet sitters come into your home to tend to your dog in his or her own environment. Some pet sitters are willing to live at your home while you are gone and sleep there overnight. Others make visits approximately every eight hours or more depending on your particular dog’s needs. These visits include potty breaks, playtime, meals and fresh water.
Pet sitting at the sitter’s Home: Some pet sitters now offer dog care in their own home, so that your dog stays with the pet sitter and his or her own pets and family.
Kennel versus At Home?
With so many options for dog care, how do you decide if you should board your dog in a traditional kennel versus letting them stay at home?
1. Are your dogs in crates/kennels at home? One of my main requirements for an at-home dog sitter is that they be available to stay at my home overnight and sleep here. This is primarily because my dogs are in large wire dog kennels when we are not home. While this is fine for as long as eight hours to ten hours for an average workday, running errands, going to a social event or everyday activity, there is no way I would want them in there for twenty-four hours at a time with just periodic potty breaks.
2. Is the space at the boarding kennel larger than their crates at home?When we board them, we book the “Luxury” kennels in large, which are about three times the size of their crates at home and can fit both of them together. So not only do they have plenty of room to move around, they can be together and snuggle and do a little bit of playing. I also pay for as many extra play sessions outside as I can, to give them extra time to run and stretch their legs.
3. What type of security is there at the kennel versus at home? I will be the first one to admit that I am a bit on the neurotic side when it comes to the safety of my dogs, but security is something to consider no matter where your pet stays. Does the boarding kennel have a security system connected to the police department? What is their protocol in the event of fire or a break-in? What type of neighborhood are they in? If you choose a pet sitter who is not sleeping at your home, do you have neighbors nearby? Will your police department do vacation monitoring? Do you have a security service for your home like ADT with cameras and fire and flood monitoring? Do you have a doorbell like Ring that records all of the people who come to your door? Do you have a thermostat like Nest to monitor the temperature of your home remotely? Do you have neighbors to help keep an eye out on your house?
4. Does your dog have special needs? When we went on vacation, our senior dogs Babe, Dutch, and Maggie were perfectly fine and happy staying at home with a pet sitter who came to the house four times a day. All three dogs were seniors who got along great, slept about 90% of the day, and had the entire downstairs to roam. When Jackson came into our life and before we knew our current dog sitter, we decided to board him at the kennel to give him more room to move around than his crate would allow. He and Maggie stayed at our veterinary clinic in separate dog runs so that puppy Jax would not trample his elderly sister and re-injure her spine that had been operated on years before. When Tinkerbell joined the family, she shared a run with Jax at the vet clinic. Once we found our dog sitter who would sleep over, we started leaving the dogs at home with her while she lives in our home while we are away. Different dogs with different needs and different situations.
5. Does your dog do well with other dogs? If your dog is used to playing with other dogs and generally gets along well with other dogs, a doggie daycare option will be fun and your dog might never want to come home. Well, not really, your dog will always choose you, but as long as they play nicely with others, a doggie daycare is like camp for your dog and they are generally worn out from playing and socializing by the time you get home from your trip.
Of course your primary goal is to choose the safest, most comfortable option for your particular dog so that he or she is safe and happy upon your arrival home. You want your dog to be happy to see you and as happy and healthy as you left her with her caretaker when you arrive home.
Tomorrow we will discuss how to find the pet sitter or boarding kennel that is right for you and your dogs at www.lovelaughwoof.com/blog.