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Leaving the Dogs at Home

Inevitably, we all travel. Few of us are fortunate enough to be able to do that with canines in tow. There are options. All the usual suspects: Boarding facilities (traditional and resort style), friends and neighbors, or the professional petsitter.

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Another use for those fabulous chalkboard pens, clearly labeling dog supplements for the petsitter.

With my menagerie, boarding isn’t actually an option. For a variety of reasons. It would cost me a not-so-small fortune, even with any sort of ‘group discount’. Also, I am the proud owner of a couple overly sensitive dogs (who shall remain nameless). The stimulation of a kennel environment would very likely push them round the bend. Since, I’d rather avoid that, and I’m such a big fan of my money, we choose a petsitter. The poor woman.

In the past the BFF has stayed with The Pack. Before she got married, had a kid and generally made herself unavailable for assuming my life for weeks at a time. Rude, I know. I’m still getting over it. I’ve also had family members stay. This is not as pleasing to me as the BFF, but it works. Now a days, we don’t leave often and when we do I prefer to pay somebody. It is unlikely I will have a family spat with my petsitter. We don’t have long sordid history of her borrowing my money. See how a professional can be better than the alternative?

Do what works for you. Friends of mine send their dog to sleep-aways at the daycare facility he attends. In fact they chose the daycare for that very reason. Despite familial complications, some people do manage to work it out so grand-dogs can stay with Grandma or Grandpa. Others are cool with sending their dogs to the petsitter’s house for vacation. For security, convenience, and a bath before pick up, boarding at a kennel probably can’t be beat. This may be shocking, but I don’t have much of an opinion either way. For me what’s most important is…

Everybody’s Comfortable. This means dog, owner, and sitter, whatever form they take. I wouldn’t recommend leaving your demand barking, leash pulling, resource guarder with a never-had-a-dog-before-co-worker. And I’d think twice before dropping my dog off somewhere they had never so much as smelled, then walking away for 2 weeks. Every pet sitter we’ve ever had has been someone who knows the dogs know well. My brother, my BFF, our dog trainer. Familiar and experienced. Our pet sitter now, is a dog walker by day. Prior to staying over night with the pack o’ mutts, we spent a few hours hanging out together, going over meal times, pack dynamics, and general do’s and don’t’s. My group is not for the weak willed. You gotta be on your game or they will eat you alive. Not literally. But, Rocco might pee on your leg.

After our walk through, she did a couple mid day breaks with them. The dogs were used to her coming in the house without us there. They would generally listen to her. Even with all that, every time we leave, I go through a little preparation song and dance. Just in case.

Stock Up. On food. On meds. On clean towels and bedding. On poo bags. Whatever it is your pet needs to get by, make sure you have an ample supply. My rule is twice what you think. What if you are delayed coming home? What if an unfortunate incident occurs? I don’t want my pet sitter scrambling to feed my dogs, or the dog not feeling well because their meds weren’t on-hand. Have too much. You’ll use it anyway.

Detailed Instructions. This is one area of my life where I strive for organization. Our sitter has stayed with the monsters at least half a dozen times. I still leave her the same manifesto. It’s a document I review and print out before every departure. It details am and pm feedings, all those clearly labelled supplements are listed here, the general flow of their day, any last minute details we haven’t discussed, when to expect us home, and most importantly…

Emergency Contacts. When we ‘leave town’ we are generally 5 to 8 hours away. I am usually reachable by phone, but if something goes sideways, I want a man on the ground during those crucial hours I am racing my way homeward. The BFF may have escaped actual pet sitting, but she is still emergency contact number one. As with my petsitter, these are people familiar and experienced with the dogs. Here’s the most important bit about emergency contacts: Tell them you are leaving town. Worse than having no emergency contact at all, is having one who doesn’t know they are on the hook. Who may not be in town themselves, or perhaps just doesn’t give a rip that my dog hasn’t been seen in 2 hours. Choose you contacts carefully, and give them a heads up when they are on duty.

Call the Vet. The emergency contact of all contacts. Tell your vet you are going to be out of town, who’s going to be with your critters, and that they are authorized to bring your pets in for treatment on your behalf. Sometimes they will require this in writing. It goes back to the all important relationship with your vet. My dogs have been taken care of while I was 1/2 way across the country. Bill paid upon my return. No problem.

Pay Well. This takes place after the fact, not in preparation, but if I had a single piece of advice it would be to pay your petsitter well. Promptly. And un-begrudgingly. Even if they are your family. Especially if their rate is cheap. I pay more now for pet sitting than I ever have before, making me appreciate the days of the BFF all the more. Her compensation package involved cash, DVDs and souvenirs. All that was less than what I pay now. Yet, I remember to tip our sitter. Why? Because I want her to come back. Because I want her to be willing to make a little room in her schedule for us. And most importantly, because she takes good care of my beasts. No easy feat.

Who stays with your pets while you are away? How do you choose a petsitter? What steps do you take in preparation for leaving vacation?

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Comments

katherine
Reply

My dog won’t do well in a kennel situation either. The two times I left her there, she came back with a UTI. So now I leave her with my BFF and my BFF’s family. They don’t have a dog, but have a cat, and fortunately, they get along well. Unfortunately, my friend’s place has lots of stairs and my girl can’t climb stairs anymore. But when she stays over, BFF’s husband sleeps on the couch, downstairs. Gotta love that. I think my dog would prefer being home, but this is the best alternative I have found. Ideally, I’d love someone to come live in the house, but with hubby in law enforcement, and with no family who can make the committment, we’re limited to taking the girl over to someone else’s house.

dogsordollars
Reply

I dunno, katherine. That sounds pretty darn great. Someone to sleep downstair with them? Wow. BFF sitters really are the best. I recommend tipping her well. ;)

Tracy
Reply

Very timely post. Leaving my 3 with a 15 year old who will stay overnight for the 1st time. I never thought of giving the vet info. Will add that to my very detailed list. How in the world do you decide what to pay. I have 3 dogs and she will not have to feed them, just take them out potty twice in the evening and once in the morning. They are pretty good dogs – not too much trouble.

dogsordollars
Reply

Since its a teenager, I think you can get away with paying less. For 3 small dogs, I’d say $15/day?? $20?? Plus a little tip or gift maybe. It doesn’t sound like they have to be there all the time, and I’m assuming they have free access to your kitchen. :) Anyone else want to weigh in??

Tracy
Reply

That’s in the ballpark of what I was thinking – $20 – $25. I may need her again. In fact I will need her again.

Jenny
Reply

I pet sat for a long time for extra money through a local service. It’s expensive, but some people like that piece of mind that they’re pet’s at home. I generally enjoyed the work. By the way, almost none of my clients ever tipped. Thanks for adding that, because I don’t think people realize that they should.

My dog gets really bad separation anxiety anytime I’m gone for longer than half a day. Read that again – not the family is gone – just me. If someone is home with him, he’s okay, in that he won’t destroy things. Our upstairs carpet is destroyed from two separate attempts at having a pet sitter. So we’re basically in the position that we can’t go anywhere for long periods without the dog. My best friend did just get her own place, though, and Riley LOVES her, so that might be a future possibility. But since we only have the one dog, we try to take him with us whenever we go on trips anyway, and we almost always can.

dogsordollars
Reply

You are the petsitter (former) who can’t leave their dog with a petsitter. Somehow that makes sense. ;)

I don’t always tip a lot, but I strive to remember to put something extra on there, just because. I also send our petsitter a Christmas card. Its my “Please, please, please keep working for us!” Good petsitters are so hard to come by. They deserve appreciation.

Jenny
Reply

Even a small tip is just enough to say, hey, I really appreciate what you’re doing! It doesn’t even need to be cash; it could be a batch of cookies or a nice hand-written card. I did used to get Christmas gifts from some of my regular clients, which was always nice.

patti
Reply

We are very fortunate (well the dogs are) that we live 200 yards from my MIL. We have 2 labs, (8 and 3) and she has 2 labs, (10 and 4) so vacations, long work days, etc are always covered. However we also pet sit (currently a silky terrier) at least once a month. the first time was a month while his Mom and Dad went to Ireland. We had 2 play dates prior, everyone got along, they left us a very detailed list including the vet ok for treatment, we decided on 15/day which they did tip us on. Now its 2-3 day trips and we are averaging 25/day since it is such a relief for them to know that Hayden is very well taken care of and we know we will be very well compensated..its a win win. We also have several referrals from these folks so hope to pick up more jobs……and the cat? She is slowly coming around when Hayden is here and dealing but she spends most of her days outside anyway.

dogsordollars
Reply

We used to do some pet sitting for a little side income from time to time. It was mostly when we had less dogs though. I like the idea of finding friends or neighbors with compatible dogs and just sticking with a select clientele. Once word got out that we were willing to take in a boarder or two, I had all my co-workers wanting to send their dogs over. Saying no got a little awkward.

Laura
Reply

I usually board my dogs, unless I’m just doing a day trip. For a day trip, we have a great petsitter who lives in the ‘hood.

One of my dogs hasn’t known a day when I didn’t come home. I’m not sure how she’ll handle it when I do board her one day. I board my dogs together so they aren’t lonely.

My neighbors, who truly are good dog owners, drove me nuts when they left their dog while they went on a two week trip two months ago. They had someone feed their one dog (for free) but the dog got lonely and cried a lot. I told them this and so did the person who fed the dog and so did other neighbors, so for their last trip, they had a friend take the dog to live at her home till they got back.–Yaaaa!

dogsordollars
Reply

Yeah, my dogs are way way too needy to just have someone stop by a couple times a day. Barking would be the least of my concerns, I don’t think I would have a home to come back to.

I bet your dog who’s never been boarded will do better than you think. As long as she’s with the experienced pack mates. Mine are always surprisingly ‘monkey-see monkey-do’.

Heather
Reply

It’s funny – when I was in college I started a pet sitting business because we had a connection to a local groomer who knew me personally and would recommend us to people. We called it ‘There’s No Place Like Home’. I wasn’t a pet owner at the time since it was college life — although I had pets all through growing up and volunteered regularly at the humane society and local vet office. I never quite understood why people would pay me good money to live at their house, with their pets and (perhaps most importantly at the time) their cable.

Now that I’m a pet owner myself – I COMPLETELY get it, and wish I knew a younger me. Or that one of our good friends still lived with us and could watch him. Until then, we’re those daycare/boarding people. Our pup does have anxiety and doesn’t like being away from us and is (bad owners) not crate trained, so we take him somewhere that is at least familiar to him and lets him sleep out in the open on a pile of dog beds.

dogsordollars
Reply

I wish I knew a younger you too! That sounds just about perfect!

I imagine the daycare/boarding option would work well for lots of dogs, with owners committed enough to take the time to acclimate them to the whole arrangement. Coming home to a happy dog, and not having to worry while you are away, big big value in my book.

Betsy Voss
Reply

I have an old and needy pack. Five in all, from 8-18. The two oldest are just too old to kennel, and all have various social/physical/emotional issues– so we hire a sitter to live at the house. I pay well… $100 per day, but you couldn’t kennel 5 dogs for that. This way their routine isn’t affected, meds are doled out on MY schedule, no one gets kennel cough, and sleep better knowing our yard is escape proof (beagles, you know). And my sitter loves my dogs. It’s all good. Pricy, but good.

Betsy Voss
Reply

That should read “I sleep better at night.”

dogsordollars
Reply

Betsy – exactly! Sounds like we have a similar pack (plus a couple extra members for me. Ahem.) And you pay close to what I do. Its all about the schedule and the day to day life. As long as we don’t much interrupt that. The dogs coast along happy as clams. And we all sleep better at night. ;)

Lee
Reply

We are very fortunate, grandad has our dog. Both absolutely love it, it’s the dogs holiday as well. Grandad and the dog both lose weight ‘cos he takes her five walks a day, and she shares his bed at night. Thats the only drawback, she wants to share our bed when we get back home and my husband hates that, but after a few days all is back to normal. I think we are very fortunate that it all works so well.

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