So you’re going on a trip and you can’t bring your dog… now what? Leaving your dogs behind can be stressful for both you and your pets. They have no idea why you’re leaving or when you’ll back. They’re part of our families and we often wish we could take them everywhere. Plus, if you’ve ever seen the movie Homeward Bound, you’re probably concerned that your pets will to try to find you and take their chances in the wilderness while you’re away.
But, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Proper preparation is the best the way to avoid problems. I have travelled all over the world, sometimes for weeks at a time, and I often have to leave my dogs behind. I can say with absolute certainty that Murphy’s Law will hold true. Things will go wrong, and if you’re not prepared, you could find yourself booking an early flight home.
Don’t Blindside Your Dog
If possible, it’s best to find a trustworthy and responsible adult to come stay at your home with your dog while you’re away. That way, your dog can keep a similar routine within the comfort of her familiar home. Invite your sitter to come over a couple of times before your trip and have him feed your dog a meal or two to help build trust and demonstrate your normal routine. Services like Rover offer in-home boarding options from reliable sitters, usually at an affordable price. If that’s not possible, take your dog somewhere she’s been a few times before and somewhere she’s had good experiences. For example, if your dog frequents a doggy day care center, ask if they offer overnight boarding and request to see what the sleeping arrangements look like.
Avoid boarding at your veterinarian’s office. Even if your dog loves your vet, the vet’s office can be scary at night. Most offices are not open 24 hours, so there may not be anyone to check on your dog from the time they close until they reopen the next day (that could be more than 12 hours!) There are dogs in pain, dogs who are scared, and in most cases, your dog will be left alone in a crate for most of the day wondering what the heck he’s doing at the vet without you. It could even cause your dog to become more stressed about going to the vet later on when he needs routine health care.
Have a “Plan B”
What happens when your dog-sitter gets sick right before your trip; who will watch your dog? What if your dog gets injured while you’re away; how will you pay for veterinary care? No matter where you’re going or who is caring for your dog, it’s always good to think ahead and prepare for the worst. I even trained my dogs to go to our safe room when it storms, in case of tornados, a persistent threat here in Oklahoma.
Leave your veterinarian’s information for your dog-sitter in case of an emergency. If your vet is not open 24 hours, leave information for the nearest 24 hour pet hospital and the contact information for a friend who would be willing to step in and help if needed for any reason. Consider getting a Care Credit Card and leaving a copy of it behind in case you need to pay for unexpected medical expenses for your dog. If someone is staying at your house, it can be helpful to set up an inexpensive, no contract, WiFi camera so you can check on your dogs and talk to them through the camera! (Which, honestly, just seems to confuse my dogs, but I get a kick out of watching them try to figure out where my voice is coming from.)
Make your routine easy for your pet-sitter to follow by writing down what’s needed each day in a checklist format. Include when/where/how much to feed your dog, how often she needs to be walked, where she sleeps, etc. My dog-sitters often laugh at my “Type A” habits, but I assure you… they never complain.
Don’t Make a Big Deal About Leaving
I travel so frequently that my dogs know what’s happening from the moment they see my big red suitcase. They paw at it, push it away, pace back and forth in front of it, and ultimately sit and stare at me defeatedly while I put my clothes into it. I pack a couple of weeks in advance just so they have time to adjust to and maybe even forget about it. When it’s time to load up the car, I give my dogs a Better Belly stick, put them in their crates, close the door to the room and try to make as little noise as possible. I don’t let them see me load the car and I don’t make a big fuss about leaving them. I just act like I’m stepping out to go to the grocery store and will be right back. If they sense you’re upset for any reason, chances are they too will be upset when you leave.
It hurts my heart to go to so many awesome places without my pups. But, being prepared gives me peace of mind and helps me remember that they are likely much happier in the comfort of their own home then they would be on a long flight or in a hotel somewhere foreign. I have excellent house-sitters that my dogs know and trust, and I take comfort in being able to tap an app on my phone and check in on them anytime.