School has started again, but you may already be planning to get away for the holidays. Are you concerned about how your dog will handle being away from you? Put the worry aside and get prepared with these tips!
Picking the right sitter: Try to choose someone who you know can help balance and calm your dog if he is anxious or nervous when you are first away. Remember, it’s about energy and matching energy. Leaving a hyperactive dog with an elderly relative is not a good idea.
Most important is that you make sure you leave your dog with someone who understands the needs of your dog. Ask yourself whether you can trust that this person is adhering to your rules, boundaries, and limitations, or whether they are creating a problem by not maintaining your leadership.
Location: Ideally, you would have someone stay at your home and maintain the dog’s normal routine. This means keeping their walk and feeding and sleeping schedule the same.
But if you leave them with someone in another location, it’s a good idea to get them familiar with this place on several occasions prior to leaving them there for an extended stay.
Before you change your dog’s routine (by having them stay somewhere other than your own home), get them used to change. This way, any concerns or separation anxiety is prevented.
If you choose to board your dog, look at and thoroughly research the place beforehand. Talk to people who have boarded their dogs there before. What’s the energy like there? How does it smell? How do you feel? How do the caretakers there act and react with the dogs there? Do they practice “nose, eyes, ears” and “no touch, no talk, no eye contact,” when they meet new dogs? All of this will tell you how well-informed they are to ensure your dog is happy there. Just because you leave your dog at a boarding facility doesn’t mean you have to follow all of their rules. If you have specific restrictions or requests, you can ask. If they won’t accommodate your needs, they probably aren’t going to accommodate the dog’s either.
Expectations: If you leave your dog with a family member or a friend, make sure they know the requirements. If your dog is used to a one-hour walk every morning, they will not be fulfilled by a 15-minute walk instead. In fact, the reverse is better. When my dogs are at the ranch, for example, the routine changes. Instead of a 45-minute walk, we go for an hour and a half hike. When you change the environment, it’s good to also change – and increase – the daily challenges, the physical and mental stimulation. This keeps the dog’s mind and body more relaxed and less focused on their primary pack leader being away.
Keep in mind that if you leave the dog at a kennel for a long time, they are going to spend most of their time in the kennel. There are exceptions, of course, but this is something to generally be aware of. So when you pick up your dog, he is going to have a lot of pent up energy. Take him for the longest walk of his life when you pick him up!
If your only option is to leave your dog with someone who cannot maintain your exercise routine or schedule, hire a dog walker to help share the responsibilities. Ones who are comfortable walking more than three dogs at a time are probably going to be the best handlers, even if you just have one dog.
Details: Just as parents leave a checklist for a babysitter, you can leave a checklist for your pet sitter. Include important information like the vet’s phone number and address, the closest 24-hour emergency hospital, any medications they will need while you are gone, allergies, feeding schedule, how often to check their water bowl, any behavioral problems, whether you allow them on the furniture or whether they get people food, how often they get a treat, and any other information that will help keep your dog as happy, fulfilled, and balanced as possible while you are away.
If your sitter isn’t well educated or familiar with dogs, you might also give them some information on household items or foods that may be toxic to them, which you can find here.
Relax! If you take all of the above into consideration, you have taken the proper steps to ensure a pleasant experience for your dog while you are gone, so enjoy your time away. Even if you aren’t with your canine companion, a calm-assertive attitude will help keep you stress-free!