We all love to go on vacation, but for those of us who are dog owners, there is much to consider about care for our dogs for while we are gone. Being a dog owner comes with daily responsibilities that need to continue even when we are gone on a trip. In your preparation for travel, I’m sharing with you my tips and 7 Loving Things For Your Dog Before Vacation.
When we leave our pets, I leave a chunk of my heart behind with our pets. I always miss them so much while we are gone, I always wish they could come along with us on our travels. I know this isn’t always possible, so our fur babies need the best possible care we can find in our absence! Our fur babies need love, food, water, outside time, and a safe environment.
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7 Loving Things For Your Dog Before Vacation
1. Find the Right Dog Sitter
Of course this is an absolute must and the first thing you should do after you book your trip (after securing a passport, if needed, this should be your first priority). Whether you choose an in-home sitter at your own house, a home boarding sitter, or a facility for boarding, make sure you check it out thoroughly and get references so you can ensure your pet will be well cared for and safe. The pet may or may not love the situation, but your job as a pet owner is to find the best care possible for your fur baby:)
We have used several scenarios for pet care while we’ve been on vacation. There are benefits and drawbacks to all of them. Think about what will work best for you and your pet. Here are some things for you to consider.
In-Home Care where the caregiver stays at your house:
We have had family stay in our home to care for our pets while we were gone, but this can be hard for the family member to be away from their own home. Plus, staying at your house could mean they have further to drive to and from work. (Another option is to have the dog stay at your family members home while you are away. This is also a nice option if it works.)
There are many people who offer the service of house sitting and pet sitting for a fee as well. We have not tried this scenario out.
In-Home Care where the caregiver lives nearby and comes into your home for care:
We have had a nearby caregiver come in several times a day for pet care and it has worked out well for us. Hiring an older child, like a tween or teen, to come in to do pet cares works out fantastically when they live in your neighborhood (or even better if next door). This way the caregiver can stop in 4-5 times a day to let your dog out for potty, including a visit early in the morning and before bed.
During the visits, the caregiver can ensure the dogs have enough food and water. Plus, they can also simply check on them to make sure they haven’t had an accident or chewed up the couch!
Negotiate pay with your caregiver. We simply paid our caregiver per visit at her request.
Boarding at a facility or boarding business run out of the boarding caregivers home:
We have used both of these on occasion and it worked out okay. However, we just feel our pets do better in our home than at another home or a facility. Being at our house reduces the level of anxiety our dogs experience so having a caregiver come to our own home is always our first choice.
There are many great boarding facilities out there, but be sure to thoroughly check them out prior to choosing one to make sure they are safe and provide good care. Your dog can heal, but you can’t undo abuse and the dog could be scarred emotionally and/or physically if mistreated. I recommend getting several references prior to making your decision (this is your fur baby afterall). Keep in mind boarding facilities usually require vaccinations be up to date and they may require extra vaccinations (like for kennel cough).
Tip: Have your pet visit the boarding place or have your sitter come for a visit to your home before you go so your dog can get used to the person (or facility) to help reduce their anxiety. Also have the caregiver offer treats to your dog.
Questions to ask a boarding facility or in-home boarder:
- How many times a day will the dog be let outside to go to the bathroom?
- How long will the dog be left outside?
- When will the dog be fed?
- Will the dog be around other dogs?
- Will your dog be able to have treats?
- Can your dog have blankets or toys in his cage?
- What size will his kennel be?
- Is there grooming available?
2. Make a Personalized Instruction Sheet for Your Dog
Try to think of every possible scenario for your individual dog’s needs so your caregiver knows what to expect and what to do in certain situations. Some things to include in the instruction sheet are:
- amounts of food and what time of day to feed the dog(s)
- when to wash food and water bowls
- which bowls need fresh water (daily)
- types of treats and how many to give per day
- how many times to let them outside to go potty and should they be on leash or can they be off leash
- should they go on walks and if so, should they use a harness
- vet information and phone number, including emergency vet services
- family or other back up caregivers names and phone numbers in case of an emergency where the hired caregiver can’t complete care for your dog
- your cell phone numbers and the name and numbers for where you will be staying on vacation
- where in the house your dog is allowed to go
- include any medications the dog needs to take
- include any allergies the caregiver needs to know about
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3. Ensure There is Enough Food For Your Pet to Eat (& Treats too)
Ensure you have enough food and treats available for the length of your absence so the caregiver doesn’t have to run to the store to get more. Of course they could do this, but why make it harder on them than you have to? This will make it a much more smooth caregiving experience for your caregiver which is important so they will be willing to care for your dog again in the future.
We usually just instruct our caregiver to use a measuring cup for food, but another idea is to split the food out into baggies by date so the careigver can just dump the contents into the bowl.
4. Decide if Your Dog Should Go on Walks in Your Absence
First, decide if you want your In-Home caregiver to take your dog on walks. Know your dog and know what will work for your dog. We have had four dogs throughout the years and they have all been very different in their temperaments. Some of them could handle walks given by another person, some of them couldn’t.
We have two dogs now and one would be okay with someone taking her on walks, but our other dog becomes fearful easily and has slipped out of his harness while on a walk. This would be a very dangerous situation if the caregiver is unable to get the loose dog to come with her. If the dog runs, your dog could become a lost dog in your absence and this is dangerous for your dog, plus you may never get him back. For this reason, we never have caregivers take our dogs on walks because it is too risky. We just skip walks for our dogs when out of town because the one left behind would be too sad and scared to be left alone while the other dog went on the walk.
If you decide the caregiver can take your dog on walks, make sure they know how to put on the harness as they can be difficult to put on properly. It’s important to have it on properly so the dog doesn’t escape the harness and then the caregiver is left with a difficult situation of how to get the harness back on the dog outside.
Ask your boarding facility if they offer dog walking services.
5. Let Your Caregiver Know Your Wishes for What to do in Medical Emergencies for Your Dog
If you are going to be unreachable, such as on a cruise or at a remote location without cell service, make sure your caregiver knows your wishes for medical care in case of an emergency. Veterinary care is expensive, so make sure your caregiver is clear on what you would want done for your dog in medical emergencies so they don’t have to make such decisions on your behalf without knowing your wishes. You don’t want them to have to stress about guessing what you would want done for your dog.
Consider these questions:
- Do you want every life-saving measure taken?
- Do you want intensive care hospitalization or surgery, if needed, for your dog?
Consider leaving your credit card number with your vet in case medical emergencies need to be covered in your absence.
This awful scenario happened to us when we went on a cruise and my family was watching our dog Bailey. He had been a little sick prior to our trip, but we took him to the vet and they gave us medication. He seemed to be doing better so we felt okay leaving him.
However, half way through our cruise, he took a turn for the worse. He became deathly ill requiring a stay in intensive care at the vet. My family tried for several days to contact us to consult with us about the medical emergency and his care. They left our dog in the intensive care until they finally reached us to talk about what to do.
Our dog was very sick and going into multiorgan failure, it was the worst situation possible. We had to figure out how to proceed while on vacation. The vet was not optimistic about his prognosis. We were lucky because the clinic just ran a bill up for us without requiring payment up front for care so my family didn’t have to cover it. But, it was very stressful for our family because they were worried about how high our dog’s intensive care bill was rising without consulting with us.
The vet couldn’t ascertain why our dog became so ill which made the decision for ongoing care a very stressful and sad one. The vet recommended euthanasia because he felt recovery from his medical state was unlikely. It was a horrible and heartbreaking situation for us all to have our pet pass away while we were on the cruise. Just plain horrid:(
I hope this never happens to you, but be prepared in case it does happen.
Related Post on dog healthcare: How to Help Your Dog With Cancer At Home
6. Make Sure Your Caregiver Knows What They Can Feed Your Dog (& what not to feed)
Inform your caregiver what types of food to give your dog. You could even add it to the instruction sheet listed above. Should your caregiver give your dog any people food?
We do give our dogs some people food, but there are many types of foods that are toxic or bad for dogs such as grapes and raisins, chocolate, caffeine, cooked meat bones, garlic, onion, artificial sweeteners like Xylitol, avocado, excessively salty foods, and more. Your caregiver may think they are being kind by giving your pet a piece of their muffin as a treat, but if that muffin contains raisins or chocolate, this can be very dangerous and harmful for your pet. Tell them or make a list of what they can and can not eat to help guide your pet caregiver so they don’t make a harmful mistake.
Also, remember to inform your caregiver of any food allergies your dog has so they don’t give him the wrong foods.
7. Give Your Dog Lots of Love and Attention Before You Leave for Vacation
Lather on the love and spend extra time with your dog before you go so she knows you love her. Like most dogs, they are miserable until you return, but if you give them lots of love before you go, this will give them the message that they are important to you. Let the dogs know they are loved:)
I hope my list of 7 loving things to do for your dog before vacation helps you prepare your dog for when you are gone. Dogs hate it when we leave, but the reunion when you return is always so sweet! Plus, you will be able to enjoy your vacation so much more if you are confident in the care your dog is receiving. Bon voyage!
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