As a matter of opinion, I am firmly of the belief that if at all possible, our canine companions should be with us for the holidays, wherever we may be. But, sometimes that just is not at all possible, and we must find them alternative arrangements. It is my hope that this article can serve as a guide to choosing the perfect home away from home for your dog.
If you are considering taking your dog along with you for that holiday trip, or a vacation anytime, websites like DogFriendly.com and PetsWelcome.com can be a real help with finding dog-friendly hotels, eateries, even beaches and other attractions. You can also look up business listings for doggy daycares in the area where you’ll be travelling to if you want to try an activity that isn’t necessarily dog-friendly, but you don’t want to leave Fido in your hotel room all day.
Sometimes, though, we must make the difficult decision to leave our dogs at home while we travel. One option is to find a dogsitter who will either stay in your home with your dog or bring your dog to their home so that your dog at least has a residential space to relax in. If your dog has anxiety problems, having a dogsitter stay in your home can be a real lifesaver because the dog will probably feel most relaxed in his own environment.
If you’re not comfortable with the idea of someone staying in your home, check your local doggy daycares as some of them are available for overnight stays as well as day camps. Most cities also have business that specializing in boarding and can even be as fancy as “pet resorts.” These pet hotels, provided that they are ethical and well-run, can be a truly wonderful experience for your dog because the staff are 100% dedicated to the boarding dogs and giving them the best, most relaxing and stimulating experience possible.
Another option to consider is checking with your veterinarian to see if they offer boarding services. Many animal hospitals do, or sometimes some of the veterinary support staff will take on dogsitting jobs for clients. If your dog has serious medical problems, or a complicated medication regime, boarding with your veterinarian could be ideal because the staff are trained to give medications accurately and promptly, plus your vet will be close by in case of an emergency. What can be the fallback of boarding in an animal hospital, though, is that sometimes the staff are not as fully dedicated to the boarding dogs as the staff would be in a business that is purely a boarding kennel. Often the employees that look after boarding dogs are also vet techs who may be called away for medical tasks, leaving time for only the absolute necessary care of your dog–potty break, clean kennel, fresh food and water. If this is an option you want to explore, be sure to ask your vet if he or she has completely dedicated boarding staff, or if his veterinary staff multitasks. It could mean the difference between a passing experience and a stellar experience for your dog.
With all boarding facilities, be it your vet’s office or a doggy daycare, pet hotel or resort, be sure to ask for a tour. If the staff is hesitant to give you a tour or outright refuses, run! An upright, ethical business will be happy and proud to give you a tour, because they will keep their facility in ship shape and have nothing to hide. During the tour, look closely at the dogs who are currently boarding. Do they look comfortable, relaxed and happy or are they cowering in a corner? Are the facilities clean or can you see urine and fecal matter or stains? Are water containers full with fresh, clean water? Depending on your preference, is there an area for your dog to be walked or ways for your dog to take himself outside to do his business? What about the staff: are they comfortable and relaxed as well or are they harried, irritable or short-tempered? Is just one person in charge of a large kennel or is there an appropriate amount of staff, ensuring that each dog will get thorough, excellent care? It is absolutely okay to ask the facility for references or to see testimonials, as well.
If you’re travelling around any major holiday, bear in mind that any type of boarding facility, be it your vet’s office or a pet hotel, will be very busy. Be aware that your dog might not get as much attention as if he were boarding during the off-season, and make sure that both you and your dog will be okay with that for the short time that you will be away. And absolutely be sure to make your reservations well in advance! Just as with people hotels, dog boarding facilities fill up fast around any holiday.
Another important thing to remember when boarding your dog is that all boarding facilities should require your dog to be up to date on all major vaccines, and also up to date on the bordatella, or kennel cough vaccine. If he is not up to date, be sure to get him the necessary vaccines at least a week to ten days before he begins boarding, for maximum effect. (Sometimes people will have their dogs vaccinated directly before or during boarding, if they are being boarded in a veterinary facility. This is usually fine, but the vaccines do not take effect right away. They take a few days to get up to full speed in your dog’s system, so having it done several days prior to boarding will help your dog the most.) If your dog has a medical reason not to be up to date on any major vaccine, be sure to have a letter from your vet specifying that.
And of course, remember to bring your pup back a souvenir!