Vacation: Where Will You Leave Your Dog?

If you're planning to go on vacation, you may be wondering what to do with your four-legged friend. He would rather be with you, of course, but that's not always possible. There are times when you must leave him behind.

Boarding your dog

Boarding your dog at a kennel is a good choice if your dog is friendly and sociable. Dogs can readily adapt to staying at a kennel, especially if they were introduced to it at a young age. It's a good idea, though, to leave him for short periods, such as weekends, before leaving him for a longer trip.

Finding a good kennel

Ask your vet and other dog owners for recommendations. Remember that other people may have different standards than you: For some people, location and price are the most important factors. Your vet or your breeder may have facilities for boarding dogs, and if so, these may be excellent options because they know your dog. It's worthwhile to ask around.

Once you have a list of kennels, visit each one and ask to inspect the facilities. Make sure accommodations are clean, dry, and hygienic—and that kennels, cages, and gates are in good repair. Ask to see where your dog will stay. Ideally, he should be provided with his own comfortable run. If the kennel operators are genuinely interested in making sure your dog is comfortable, they will be happy to provide you with a tour and answer any questions that you have.

Kennel questions you should ask:

  • How many dogs are there per assistant?
  • How often are the dogs exercised, and for how long?
  • Do the dogs get individual attention?
  • Will the kennel follow your feeding instructions?
  • Can you leave your dog with a favorite toy, his bed, or an article of clothing with your scent?

Finally, do not board your dog at a kennel that does not require proof of up-to-date vaccinations. If they are not checking to make sure your dog is healthy and disease free, they are not checking other dogs, either. You could be putting your dog at risk.

Once you've made your choice, book your dog's stay well in advance of your trip. Kennels fill up during holidays and peak vacation periods. Get your dog in to see the vet for vaccinations and shots well in advance, too, because some may take two weeks to take effect.

Dog sitters

When you must leave your dog behind, another option is to arrange for a dog sitter. A dog sitter can be a friend, relative, neighbor, or a professional service. If you choose this option, consider whether you would prefer your dog to stay at home, or stay in the sitter's home. You know your dog best, so you are the best judge of where he will be most comfortable.

The advantages of keeping your dog at home are that he will remain in familiar surroundings, he will get to sleep in his own bed, and he will not be stressed by the presence of other dogs. The dog sitter can also bring in your mail and newspapers, water your plants, and watch over your home. The disadvantages are that your dog will be alone a lot of the time (especially if the sitter doesn't stay in your home) and if he gets out, or becomes ill, it may be a few hours before the dog sitter arrives to notice.

If you arrange for a dog sitter, or hire a service, ask for references. You need to be sure that the person you engage is reliable, and that he or she will take the time to get to know your dog before your vacation. Ideally, they should become friends with your dog, and feed him and take him for a few walks before you leave.