We haven’t been on vacation without our dogs. This past year, we took separate vacations – I went to BlogPaws and Johan went to the Police and Firefighter Olympics in two states. Romantic, right?
We’re planning to go to Hawaii someday, but when I think about planning it, I get worried about our dogs. Where will they stay? Who will stay with them?
I’m excited to share this guest post by fellow pet blogger, Pamela, who writes the blog Something Wagging This Way Comes where she shares some great tips for dog parents who plan to leave their dog with a pet sitter during the holidays…
Leaving your beloved pets behind when you travel for the holidays can break your heart.
I can’t heal your broken heart. But I can share my best tips for ensuring you don’t have to worry about your fur kids while you travel.
Find a Good Pet Sitter
Although some gregarious pups do fine in a kennel, I believe most dogs (and certainly cats) feel more comfortable at home when you travel. They’re surrounded by the familiar objects of every day life and, more importantly, your smells.
I’ve been fortunate to find several good pet sitters over the years.
I won’t leave my dog Honey in the care of anyone unwilling to come to the house for an initial meeting. Once there, I observe how Honey responds to the sitter. And I ask a few pointed questions:
Are you insured and bonded? (This is not a deal breaker for me, personally. But it is one indication of the pet sitter’s professionalism.)
If you were involved in an emergency, how would you make sure my pet was taken care of?
Who will take care of my pet? You or a staff member? And, if it’s someone else, will they come to my home to meet us before I leave?
What do you think is the best way to train dogs? (I don’t expect my pet sitter to do any training, but I certainly want to know that their philosophy of working with dogs is humane and matches my own relationship-based approach).
What do you need from me to make sure you’re well prepared to care for my pet?
If the answers work for me and Honey seems comfortable, I give the sitter a tour of the house and review my dog’s routine. I love seeing a pet sitter who takes notes. But I always leave written instructions, just in case.
Leave the Pet Sitter Everything She Needs to Do a Good Job
Maybe it looks like overkill, but I leave a multi-page manual for my pet sitter along with notes in important spots.
What does my manual include?
Basic information about the house, including where the sitter can find first aid items, flashlights, and emergency shut-offs.
Information about my dog’s schedule, diet, and special needs.
Contact information for me, a neighbor, and our veterinarian. I also leave a key with a neighbor and ask them to check in if they feel anything has gone wrong.
A letter to the vet authorizing the pet sitter to seek treatment and confirming that I will be responsible for any costs of care.
And because no one wants to read a six page manual to get one stupid question answered, I leave notes as well. For example, I once pet sat for a friend and could not figure out how to put the harness on her dog for a walk. The poor pup got so frustrated with me as I struggled for fifteen minutes to work out the complicated mechanism.
As a result, I always leave guidelines for harnesses and leashes inside the cupboard door where they’re kept.
I also keep measuring cups and instructions near the fridge to simplify feeding time.
If I can save my dog from frustration when she’s looking forward to the best part of the day (walkies and dinner, of course!), she’ll be much better off.
Prepare Your Dog for Your Absence
I also spend time preparing my dog for my absence.
Honey does not suffer from separation anxiety. But I can’t say that was true for dogs in my past.
Well before leaving on vacation, it’s a good idea to experiment with calming scents, Thundershirts, comforting music, and good old training to decrease your dog’s anxiety when left alone.
In addition, I don’t do all the laundry before going out of town. I leave a few pairs of socks or stinky t-shirts around to provide a comforting and familiar scent.
Finally, I leave some particularly special treats or toys for the pet sitter to surprise my dog with while I’m gone. After all, when my parents left me and my sister with a baby sitter, we always got special treats. Why should our dogs be any different?
Be Calm and Enjoy Your Holidays
I hate leaving Honey behind. But sometimes it just can’t be helped.
I recently had to leave her behind while I was sailing in the San Blas Islands of Panama for a month. Although she probably would have loved the sailing, the five hour flight would have been another matter entirely.
Luckily, I had a great pet sitter who gave Honey everything she wanted–lots of walks, yummy treats, and room on the bed at night. And I got everything I wanted too–a worry free trip knowing that my dog was happy and healthy without me.
If you’d like to have samples of the vet permission letter and other items I left for my pet sitter, head over to Something Wagging This Way Comes to sign up to get a free PDF.
We’re staying home during the holidays. I’m kind of looking forward to it. So, do you plan on a vacation without your dog this holiday season?