With vacation season in full swing, the question for dog owners going away on holiday is what to do with their tail-wagging companion.
According to pet professionals, there are several key steps to ensuring an enjoyable holiday for yourself and your furry family members. The first step is to research options. Then come reference checks followed by an advance introduction of your dog to the person or facility that will be providing care.
Care options range from family and friends to professional pet-sitters and boarding facilities.
Dr. Tyler Hughes of the Tudor Glen Veterinary Hospital believes the best choice is to have a friend or family member care for your dog. Being with a caregiver who’s already known and trusted will make the owner’s absence less stressful for the dog, he said.
If family or friends aren’t a viable solution, professional pet sitters are available to visit your home to feed, walk and play with your dog a set number of times every day while you are away.
Michelle Anderson of Somebody’s Home Pet and Home Care Service has been looking after St. Albert pets for three-and-a-half years and said this option tends to be better for dogs who don’t require a great deal of exercise and interaction.
“I have a lot of clients that have an older dog that sleeps all day or maybe requires medication,” she said. “Those kind of animals would probably be better with a pet sitter because they’re more comfortable in their own home.”
When selecting a pet sitter, interview the person and introduce them to your dog before making a decision, said Anderson. She performs an initial consultation with potential clients in their home.
“That way they can meet me, they see who they’re hiring and who’s going to be coming into their home, because they need to be comfortable with the person who’s coming in,” she said.
Hughes said it’s important to find out what the person’s experience has been with animals.
“Probably the biggest thing would be to get references and to find out … their work history,” Hughes said. “Of course the more experience with animals, the better.”
It’s also important to find out what would happen in the event of an emergency, either with your pet, or the pet sitter, he said.
Home visits by a pet sitter tend to work best for short-term care, said Anderson. Most of her canine clients receive home visits for a period of a week or less.
Another option offered by some pet sitters is boarding dogs in their own home. Anderson said she will take two to three dogs at a time at her home and the option is so popular that she isn’t able to take on new clients right now.
When choosing any vacation home for your dog, it’s important to make sure it’s a good fit for your dog, said Edmonton Humane Society spokesperson Shawna Randolph.
“You have to be 100 per cent comfortable with where you’re leaving them so if its not in your own home, make sure that the home you’re taking them to is animal friendly, animal safe and is clean to what you would expect,” she said.
Randolph also suggests checking references, social media and the Better Business Bureau to read customer reviews and complaints. These checks should be performed whether choosing a pet sitter or a boarding facility.
A kennel can be an ideal choice for social dogs or those that don’t like being left alone for long periods.
Alex Aldred of Barker’s Pet Motel in St. Albert invites dog owners to tour the facility before bringing their pet for a stay.
“We recommend that people go check out as many kennels as they can and they can see for themselves how things work and where (their dog) is going to stay,” he said.
Touring a kennel allows owners to assess the cleanliness and general upkeep of the facility, observe feeding practices and other routines and interview staff.
Randolph said it’s important to ask the facility about cleaning and emergency procedures, recreation and playgroups, sleep times and training and discipline methods to ensure that you are comfortable with the care your dog will receive.
Many of Barkers’ customers book a trial day to familiarize their dog with the facility and the setting.
Hughes recommends ensuring that the facility requires all dogs to be up to date with vaccinations.
“Make sure that they do want shots up to date,” he said. “That’s incredibly important, especially during the summer months. We see multiple cases of kennel cough literally on a daily basis, which is an upper respiratory infection.”