You organized your schedule, chose the location, and booked your flights. Whether it’s fun in the sun, hitting the slopes or visiting Aunt Sarah, you are oh-so ready for this year’s holiday escape. You start packing two days before your flight, and that’s when your beloved beagle mix, Bella, throws herself into your open suitcase. This is doggie language for “You are not going anywhere without me.”
And while you may have to break it to Bella that she won’t be basking with you on the beach, this year you could plan a vacation for her too. You networked with other pet owners and found just the right doggie care in your area. Not only is Bella going to an amazing at-home cage-free dog boarder, she gets to hang out the whole week with her bestie, Maggie, from the dog park.
You may think this is just a scene from “It’s a Wonderful Dog’s Life,” but with new technology and resources, connecting to quality pet care is easier than ever. We don’t need more stress over the holiday vacation season and with some thoughtful effort and planning, your pet can bring in the New Year as relaxed and rejuvenated as you!
“The most important thing to take into consideration when thinking about vacation pet care is the disposition and personality of the animal themselves,” said Stephanie Zeh, owner of Doggie Adventures, a door-to-door all day doggie care and home away from home in our home boarding company serving Silicon Valley. “What is the dog’s current lifestyle? Are they social, healthy and mobile? Do they prefer to be around other animals and are comfortable in new locations?” Are they territorial or get aggressive in new environments?”
The main categories of pet care to consider are:
Kennels: Some kennels are like a week-long playdate for dogs. Outdoor socialization, freedom to roam in a safe area, lots of sniffs, pees and doggie dog interaction. When choosing a kennel, it is imperative to visit it prior to boarding, meet staff members, see the conditions, assess how the current residents are doing, and learn what a day would be like for you dog. Where will they sleep? Will they be in a cage? What vaccinations are required? Kennel cough, a highly contagious upper respiratory infection, is aptly named because the infection spreads quickly among dogs in close quarters of a kennel or shelter. Most kennels require vaccination prior to boarding. Make certain that no electronic collars are used and there is plenty of positive (versus negative) behavior reinforcement.
Not all dogs thrive at a kennel. Being around other dogs, or in an unfamiliar environment is not their idea of a vacation. For these dogs, better to try Home Boarding.
Home Boarding: Some animal loving humans open their homes to dogs and other critters for stays while their owners are away. Even if the home is modest, as long as the caregivers provide regular exercise and loving care, this option can be like the canine Four Seasons for Fido. Be sure to visit the location, get to know the caretakers and ensure your dog will be comfortable with any other animals in the house. Home Boarders often advertise on community bulletin boards, at local pet stores and vets. Ask for referrals from your friends at the dog park, and speak to other dog owners who have boarded prior to booking your pooch!
Pet-sitters: If your animal does not do well in new environments, or you have multiple animals in your home, a pet-sitter might be your best bet. Pet sitters come in two types: those who stay in your home, and those who drop by throughout the day. “Cats are creatures of habit and habitat, and since relocating usually stresses them out, a pet sitter is clearly the best option,” continues Zeh. “Dogs need at least three visits per day, cats can get by with one or two.” Some pets can cope with spending the day and night alone, but others might feel abandoned or depressed with just a few visits per day. The better choice might be to find someone willing to stay in your home. Make sure your chosen pet-sitter meets your animals prior to you leaving. Invite them to walk your dog ahead of time, show them your home, and familiarize them with your pet’s routine!
Another great option is to leave a pet with a neighboring family or friend. Some families might welcome a temporary pet visitor, perhaps to evaluate adopting one of their own, or to teach the kids the time and effort a pet requires. Caring for an animal is a big responsibility, especially a puppy or a dog that needs medical care. Make sure your caretaker is onboard with the full commitment required to care for your animal.
Lastly, have you considered taking your dog with you? Many hotels allow dogs (most with a fee). Perhaps your Aunt Sarah would welcome a furry four-legged visitor while you stay. Keep in mind that airplanes and long car rides tend to be stressful on animals, and they might need a few days to acclimate! Before you pack your pooch in the car, consider your holiday schedule. Are your days packed with visits to dog friendly places? Will Bella bark in the hotel room while you are gone?
Once you have decided upon care, the next step is to clearly outline important information about your animal’s needs. How/when/what should they be fed, medication doses, exercise, play and affection needs. Be detailed, such as where on their body they like to be scratched or that their pill gets administered in ground beef. Point out quirks such as when Fido barks at the UPS guy, chases squirrels, or when you see the neighbor’s Chihuahua, walk on the other side of the street. If you’re re-locating your pet, send some familiar bedding, stuffed animal or other item that will remind them of home! Make sure your pet has a collar and updated ID tags. If you can’t be reached during vacation, have a pet tag created with your pet sitter’s phone number!
Everyone looks forward to the winter holiday season where school’s out, the parties are on and hope and joy is in the air. Holiday travel is crowded and often stressful however Unikorn is trying to address this issue for pet parents in India and US (coming soon) by on boarding quality Vendors . Knowing that your pet is cared for is one huge step in keeping your vacation out of the rough. Happy Holidays!