Your dog isn’t just your best friend: He’s often your best traveling buddy, too. Unfortunately, there are still hotels, inns and attractions that don’t allow pets, and you may need a good boarding service when you’re going out of town.
Reliable friends, family and neighbors are your usually best choice, but they’re not always available. If you’re not sure who to entrust with your pup, check out our tips. You’ll want the best boarding situation for your dog, because you know if he’s not happy, you won’t be, either.
Many veterinarians offer kennel services. Before you book a spot for your pet, ask for references, or talk to others who’ve boarded their pets there. After hours, the kennel probably won’t be staffed, and dogs who hate being left alone or have anxiety can get very distressed.
Most vet kennels are pretty basic. Your pet will spend most of his days and nights in a kennel, so be sure it’s big enough for his breed. Also, be sure any doggy accidents or food and water spills are promptly cleaned up. You may even want to make an unscheduled visit to the kennel and have a look around, to see how things really are on a regular basis.
On the upside, kennels are usually your most economical choice, and when they’re associated with a veterinarian’s office, medical help will be close at hand if its needed. The staff will also be able to give pet any daily meds or treatments he may need.
Editor’s Note: Before you board your pet, check out these facts on canine kennel cough and prevention.
Pets that sleep on your bed or sofa, and that are used to having their people around during the day, will probably be more comfortable in a luxury kennel that includes dog-friendly couches, cushions, and play time outside a cage.
Look for an establishment run by owners who pamper their own pets to get an idea of what a stay would be like.
Find out if they offer time for one-on-one attention, big spaces or runs for play, and stimuli like safe toys. Some places even keep TVs tuned to pet-friendly programs, just for your pet’s entertainment.
Make sure this kind of kennel has all the necessary safety features in place, like fences that dogs can’t jump or dig under, and gates that close securely.
In-Home Pet Sitters
If you’ve got a dependable pet sitter, he or she may be open to staying over at night while you’re away. Make sure your sitter has your vet’s contact info in case of emergencies, and that he knows how to give any medicines or vitamins.
If your sitter can’t stay overnight, ask about daily visits to walk, feed and play with your pup. In this case, your dog needs to be able to stay alone overnight without becoming anxious, fearful or destructive.
If you’re really lucky, a professional pet sitter may offer to take your pet to her home for the duration of your trip. There are few potential issues here: You don’t want your pet to stop eating because he’s in a different location or with a different person, or to clash with the sitter’s own animals. So, check things out before you leave home. A trial run, while you’re in town, is a good idea.
Ideally, your sitter will be licensed, bonded and insured. You don’t want to be held liable for anything that happens on your premises or with your pet. This will protect not only you, but also the sitter.
Tips for Boarding Your Pet
The American Kennel Club recommends trusting your instincts when you visit a potential kennel or sitter. If anything feels “off,” move on.
Sniff around—literally. A clean, orderly, well-maintained kennel shouldn’t smell bad.
Check out the outdoor runs to be sure they are clean and made from materials that won’t snag your pet’s nails or harm his feet (that is, that they’re not overly rough or prone to becoming too hot or too cold).
Your kennel operator or sitter should require proof that your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations and other shots, for his protection and the well-being of other animals.
Ask if you can bring some of your pet’s favorite toys and/or bedding, so he’ll feel more at home.
Don’t prolong saying goodbye to your furry friend, which can heighten anxieties—in both of you.
When you know your dog is comfortable, safe and happy, you’ll be able to relax and have a great vacation or business trip, and he’ll have a good time, too.
Lynn Coulter is owned by two rescue dogs—Molly and Miss Paws—and occasionally blogs at LynnCoulter.com. She’s also the author of three books and a freelancer who writes about travel, gardening and more. She and her husband live in metro Atlanta, where they cheer for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and spend their money on dog biscuits.