Though most dog parents would agree that life is better when your dog is by your side, now and then, you may want or need to leave your dog at home when traveling. Of course, leaving your best pal behind can be a big deal, so you’ll want to find the perfect dog-sitting option so you can rest assured knowing that your pup is having fun while staying safe and being cared for.
How To Choose a Dog Sitter
Dog sitters, who are arguably like babysitters for dogs, should be reliable and trustworthy people who get along well with your dog. You can start looking for your perfect pet sitter by inquiring with people you know well, including friends, family, neighbors, or coworkers—people who have already interacted with your dog. If that is not an option, there are also many online sites and mobile apps to find dog sitters in your area.
As you begin to inquire about a dog sitter, remember to keep your dog’s needs in mind. It’s a good idea to do an interview before agreeing to let someone watch your dog. Some items to discuss include:
Are they comfortable administering any medication your dog may require or driving them to the veterinarian in an emergency?
Are they willing to keep up with your dog’s exercise requirements? This is particularly important for energetic pups. Be honest and upfront with how much physical activity your dog requires each day.
Does their schedule fit your dog’s needs? If you have a puppy but your dog sitter works 12-hour shifts, they probably aren’t the right fit. You’ll also want to double-check that they don’t have any conflicting events and are available to watch your dog the entire time you’re gone.
Are they comfortable handling your dog’s specific size and breed? For instance, if your dog sitter is used to being around small breeds but you have a Great Dane, it’s smart to make sure they’re ready to be around such a large dog and that they understand some of the unique things that come along with such size.
Will other dogs be present? You’ll want to feel confident that your dog can handle any social interactions in that setting.
Is there a fenced-in yard for visiting dogs? If so, be sure it can securely contain your dog.
Do they have reliable references? Ask for several and contact them to be sure the sitter is trustworthy, kind, and competent at handling dogs.
As you search for the ideal dog sitter, don’t forget to ask fellow dog parents you know if they have any recommendations.
If Your Dog’s Staying Home…
If your dog sitter is staying at your house with your dog or if they’re stopping by your house each day, planning things out in advance can help ease your concerns and make everything go smoothly while you’re away.
How To Prepare Your Dog for the Dog Sitter
Having your dog and dog sitter meet at least once before you leave for your trip is essential. Depending on how your canine friend interacts with new people, having them meet more than once may be a good idea—this can be done at a mutually convenient location like a park or in your home.
It’s a fantastic idea to have your dog sitter over to your home at least once before you depart—whether that be a week in advance or just an hour before you leave. Walk them through your dog’s daily schedule and show them where supplies are located (i.e., food, treats, toys, medications, the leash, and harness). If the sitter stays at your house, you can also share any crucial housesitting-related information, such as the alarm code or where the spare key is kept.
While you show the dog sitter around your home, you can also cover any dog-related rules they should know, such as no dogs on the furniture or not feeding the dog any human food. Since all the information may be overwhelming, especially if you have more than one dog for them to care for, it’s important to write down all the instructions, tips, or quirky behaviors they should know. Remember to include your contact information and the contact information for the veterinarian and someone close by that the sitter can get ahold of in case of an emergency.
With your dog staying at home in an environment they are comfortable and familiar with, you may not have to do much to prepare your dog for the sitter, but you will focus more on preparing your sitter for your dog.
If Your Dog’s Going to the Sitter’s House…
In some instances, you may drop your dog off at the sitter’s house. This may be a better arrangement if your sitter has kids or pets of their own to take care of. Whether your pup will need watching for just the day or overnight dog sitting, you’ll need to pack a bag of their essentials.
A travel bag for dogs should include:
A harness and leash for any walks or adventures your dog may go on with the sitter. Though your dog might already be wearing these when you drop them off, you could always include an extra in their bag, just in case.
Treats, treats, and more treats. You can include a bag of your canine friend’s favorite little snack or some healthier goodies. Treats can help make all the difference in getting your dog to feel more comfortable in unfamiliar settings with new people.
Dog food and bowls are also a must. You can pack your dog’s everyday food and water bowl or collapsible bowls which typically travel better. You’ll also want to pre-measure the amount of food your pet will need while you’re away, adding a few extra portions just in case your plans change unexpectedly. You can either include all the food in one large bag with a scoop and your dog sitter can measure out the food for each meal, you can divide each meal into individually sealed bags, or, depending on how long you’ll be gone, you can bring an entire new bag of dog food to the sitter’s home.
A few favorite toys can also help your dog feel more at home at the sitter’s. Whether it’s a tough chew toy, a comforting plushy, or a puzzle toy that keeps your pup entertained, tossing a few options into your dog’s bag never hurts.
Any medications or supplements your dog requires. It’s best to leave these items in their original bags or bottles so your dog sitter can read the instructions if they have any dosage questions. Include contact information for your regular veterinarian as well as who to call in an emergency.
A bed or blanket if that’s your dog’s preferred way to sleep. If your pup religiously sleeps on their bed every night or they always curl up with a blanket, be sure to include these items. Doing this can provide your dog with comfort and help them sleep better. Of course, if your pup plops down anywhere for a snooze, then you shouldn’t worry about packing these extra items.
Poop bags are easy to forget but quite necessary. Even if your dog sitter has dogs of their own, it’s courteous to throw in a roll of poop bags anyway. After all, you know it’s more than likely that they’ll be used.
A collapsible crate or carrier. Some dogs may sleep better at night when they feel safe inside their crate. It can also be helpful to use whenever the sitter needs to leave them alone at home, so they remain safe while unsupervised. Crates or carriers should only be used if your dog is already comfortably crate trained.
A car safety harness, seatbelt, or hammock. This will ensure your dog’s safety if the sitter ends up taking your canine friend for a car ride at any point.
In addition to everything you pack in your dog’s travel bag, it’s also crucial that you double-check the identification tags on their collar. The information should be updated with your current address and phone number and should be easy to read.
If Your Dog’s Going To A Boarding Facility…
Sometimes, having a dog sitter watch your dog isn’t always an option—instead, you may need to take them to a boarding facility. This option can offer its own benefits, such as scheduled playtimes when your dog can interact with other dogs, the opportunity to be professionally groomed, and having multiple professionals (sometimes including a veterinarian) on staff.
Although what you pack for your dog when they go to a boarding location is nearly the same as what you’d pack if they were going to the sitter’s home, there may be a few different requirements based on the individual facility. For instance, with a sitter, you may send a casual text asking if they’re free to watch your dog, but with a boarder, you’ll need to make a reservation, including the times you’ll be dropping off and picking up your dog. Most locations also require your dog to be fully updated on all vaccinations and will want you to provide medical records.
Many facilities work hard to provide your dog with exactly what they need, but you must be upfront about any exercise needs, medical issues, or behavior problems your pup may have, including updating the facility on any medications your dog requires. Although most places will require you to leave emergency contact information, it’s best to do so even if they don’t ask for this. Be sure to let your emergency contacts know they were designated as such and the dates they could be contacted.
Before you leave your dog with the dog sitter or drop them off at the boarding facility, take some time to create your dog’s travel bag checklist. It can be helpful to go through your dog’s daily schedule and make your list of necessities as you go, so you don’t leave out anything important. By staying organized and being prepared, you will feel less stressed about leaving your dog behind and know that they have everything they need to have a safe and fun time of their own.
Credit: Emily W. ASPCA