For various reasons, owners sometimes decide not to take their dog on holiday. Maybe they want to spare their four-legged friend the stress of travelling (hours cooped up in the car, traffic jams, stressful train journeys, exhausting air travel, hot climates, mountain hikes that aren’t suitable for an elderly, sick or disabled dog...). Good planning and preparation are important so the holiday can be a relaxing time for you and for your dog. If you’re thinking of going on holiday without your dog, here are some tips to make everything go smoothly.
Find a dog sitter
If you can’t take your dog with you on holiday, a dog sitter is a good option. Ideally, this should be a family member or friend or neighbour – someone you can trust. The person should know and like your dog and enjoy looking after them while you’re away. It should also be someone your dog feels comfortable with. Perhaps your dog sitter is someone local who is happy to come and stay in your home for the duration of your holiday. This has the advantage that your dog wouldn’t have to get used to a new environment.
However, you could also hire a professional dog sitter. If you choose this option, check their experience and references first. Make sure they get on well with your dog and that they know what training methods and commands to use (to avoid confusing your dog). If you have difficulty finding a suitable dog sitter, talk to other dog owners: there is sure to be someone who can recommend a trustworthy person. Some dog sitters offer their services on the internet and/or social media, which may give you an idea of who they are and enable you to read reviews from other pet owners.
Find a dog boarding house
This has the advantage that while you are on holiday, your dog will never be alone and will have plenty of interaction with other dogs. Look for a reputable provider. A good boarding facility will have staff that are trained and very experienced with dogs. They will ensure safety within the pack, and will consider the individual needs of each dog.
Train your dog in good time
At an early stage, get your dog used to living with other people and in different environments. If you hand your dog over to a friend, neighbour or family member, let your dog stay there overnight from time to time, so they become familiar with the new environment. This is especially important if your dog is going to live with a sitter for a while: eventually they will have to get used to being with a stranger.
Don’t forget the equipment
Make sure your dog has their familiar things with them. These will include their basket and toys, their bowls, and perhaps even an old T-shirt with your scent on it. And, of course, their leash and collar or chest harness. Is your dog dependent on medication? If so, give the sitter/carer a detailed medication schedule, showing what medication your dog takes, what it is for, what dosage is required and when it should be administered. You should also leave the contact details of the veterinary practice where your dog is usually examined and treated.
Be honest about your dog’s temperament and foibles
When you place your dog in the care of someone else, you are also handing over responsibility to them. It is therefore important to be completely honest with them about any negative habits or traits your dog may have. If your dog tends to bite when they’re frightened, for example, or doesn’t like other male dogs, or reacts aggressively to men, then the sitter/carer should be told about it so that difficult situations can be avoided.
To ensure the welfare of your pet, you should also tell the sitter/carer about any anxieties or emotional needs your dog may have, such as separation anxiety, shyness, fear of busy places, car journeys, and so on. This will ensure that your dog won’t inadvertently be put in challenging situations.
Also, remember to let the sitter/carer know how often your dog will need to go outside to poop and pee between walks. A house-soiling dog won’t be very popular!
Maintain your dog’s routine
No matter where your dog stays during your holiday, do all you can to provide them with normality. Give the sitter/carer detailed instructions and a written daily routine so they know how the day is supposed to go. It’s also important that your pet gets the same food, plays with the same toys and sleeps with the same blanket while you’re away. This will avoid additional stress caused by changes in routine.