Sometimes our dogs cannot come with us on our trips. When that happens, it’s our job to make sure they enjoy the time away from us as much as possible. This can be especially hard for dogs that are nervous around other people or new environments, or that suffer from separation anxiety.
Before You Leave
There are several things you can do to help prepare your dog prior to your actual trip that will make them more at ease with the situation:
- Have the pet sitter over a few times, first with you there and then with you gone so your dog can get to know him or her
- If you are boarding them at a daycare they have not been to before, take them a few times (most require at least one day anyway) so they can get used the environment before a long stay. Even better is have them stay over one or two nights prior to the trip. That way you are around and can collect your dog immediately should the need arise.
- Start leaving your dog for long periods of time. Building up to a long absence is much easier on your dog, especially if they are anxious
- Work with a certified dog trainer to help with any separation anxiety. This would need to start several months before your trip.
- Do not make a big deal when you are coming or going. Stay calm, relaxed and indifferent. This can be hard, as you want to say goodbye and greet your dog. But if you act like nothing is wrong and stay calm, so will your dog.
Often we think that a daycare and boarding facility is the best option because our dog is with people, other dogs, and gets to run around – Disneyland® for dogs, right?
But, not all dogs want to be in large crowds of other dogs, just like not all people like the crowds at Disneyland.
Russell Hartstein, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, shares a few things to consider before dropping your best friend off for a holiday.
- First Aid and CPR – Ask if employees are trained in pet First Aid and CPR. Ask what the protocol is in the event of an emergency, injury, or illness. Will your dog be taken to a veterinarian or emergency hospital if necessary?
- Vaccination requirements – The facility should require mandatory checks for health risks such as: Bordetella, vaccination for tracheobronchitis (kennel cough) at least one week prior to daycare, including checks for pathogens, fleas, ticks and parasites.
- Spay or neuter – The facility policy should prohibit unaltered male or female dogs. Nothing throws off the chemical balance and harmony of a group of dogs quicker than a female in heat or an intact male.
- Pet Parents Interview – A comprehensive interview with the pet parents is equally important, if not more so, than your dog’s temperament test. Your interview will yield more valuable information than a one-time temperament test can and will alert the facility what socializing group to put your pup in or if daycare is even right for your dog.
- Potty Training Trouble – Whether or not your dog is potty trained, it is confusing for them to go to the bathroom in new places, surfaces and environments. If your dog is used to, or you want your dog to go to the bathroom in the same spot, at the same time, or on the same surface (grass rather than cement, carpet, tile etc.) every time, a daycare will be detrimental and regressive to your dog’s potty training progress. A well trained dog that only wants to eliminate where they are trained to may “hold it” for so long that it could cause a urinary tract infection.
- Dog Apparatus – There should be no collars or harnesses on any dog. There are too many incidences where a dog dies from getting choked, a tooth gets caught in a collar, or another type of injury because hardware was left on. It’s just unnecessary and a poor decision.
- Floor Plan Layout – How many rooms or play areas are there for dogs? Are there fresh clean water stations in each play area? Dogs are individuals and come in many different shapes, sizes and ages and have varying temperaments, play styles, energy, sociability, fear levels…etc. Every individual is different and lumping them all into one or two rooms is detrimental to their health and refractory. Do you think your 10 year old senior dog wants to be bothered with a mouthy, boisterous 1 year old adolescent (even if they are the same size)? Or the play style variances between a Border Collie, a German Shepherd and a American Bull Dog? They all express themselves very differently and would not make ideal play partners.
While You’re Gone
Whatever route you chose, make sure whoever is watching your dog knows enough to take care of them properly. This means not only have your contact information and the vet’s, but knowing your dog.
Things that will ease your dog’s stress:
- Caregiver knowing their routine. Dogs are creatures of habit. So if the person watching them can stick to their schedule, it will be easier on your dog.
- Familiarity. If they are going somewhere, having their own blanket, toys, and even bowls can help since they smell like home and themselves.
- Medicine. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, take them to the vet before you leave and get a prescription on hand in case it’s needed. Nothing worse for your already stressed out dog to have an unknown person take them to the vet.
- Walk or play time. Leaving a dog somewhere strange where they may be stuck in a kennel, crate, or play area all day with little human interaction can be very hard on some dogs. Dog who prefer human interaction to dog, can end up whining, barking and stressed at the lack of attention. These dogs must have quality time with a human, so if you whoever is taking care of them better be giving them attention.
- Rest. A worn-out, stressed dog is mores suitable to disease so make sure your dog will be given ample opportunity to sleep and rest somewhere quiet. This can be hard at a big boarding facility. Ask them what their protocol is for a dog that does not seem to be getting enough rest.
Above all, don’t leave your dog anywhere or with anyone they don’t like. If you dog doesn’t warm up to a pet sitter, hire another one. If he goes for one day daycare and the next time he puts on the brakes, tailed tucked, refusing to go through the door, don’t make him. All you will do is add more stress to an already stressful situation.
About the Author
Based in Wilsonville, Ore., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She also owns her own custom pet products company, A Fairytail House, where she makes personalized collars, leashes, beds, keepsake pillows and blankets, and anything else your imagine can think up. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles
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