Leaving you, beloved canine, with friends or family or hired help could be a no-brainer or it, could be a disaster. So how to set it up so it’s likely smooth going?
Dog Care-taking Safety Checklist
- ID and Rabies Tag on Dog, recent photo of dog:
- Vet Clinic phone number, location, preferred vet:
- Address and phone number here (if it’s dog sitting):
- Where puppy parents will be:
- Cell phone/ other phone to contact:
- Emergency neighbor/relative – if you have a dog sitter have someone you know that might drop in to check how things are going:
- Dog’s fears or issues and known cues and favorite things:
- Foods/amounts/times usually fed:
- Special instructions or routines to follow:
Engage someone to do this who knows and likes your dog, who is reliable and who has cared well for their own animal(s). If it’s a dog sitter have them do some short practice sessions before an extended absence. Get recommendations from doggy friends if you don’t know anyone or if you’re going to use a boarding kennel.
People who take care of other people’s dogs (not for a living) often don’t expect problems and so they are more clueless or maybe careless than those of us who have dealt with dogs that don’t know us well. Of course, there are careless people, negligent people and mean people everywhere, so find somebody you trust to do the right things.
Prepare your dog to be resilient. Dogs who have lots of good experiences, fun adventures, many meet and greets with people and dogs, practice being kenneled, crated and having to wait alone at times, know lots of things and expect good things from people tend to be more adaptable and get less stressed.
Practice leaving your dog with someone or at someplace for brief times first – a half hour, a half day … And ask for a true evaluation of what the caretaker saw – if they describe something that doesn’t sound like your dog or sounds like an advertisement, they’re not observant enough.
People at boarding kennels are caring for many dogs and so are less focused on any one of them (as opposed to the one-on-one sitter), the noise and stress can be tough on dogs. Even though your dog is unlikely to be lost from a boarding kennel, aggression, fear and excessive barking could be a result from visits there.
Dogs that aren’t yours are like kids that aren’t yours, only faster. Dogs coming to visit and stay don’t necessarily want to be with you, don’t necessarily trust you much, don’t think they need to listen real well and mostly would rather be with their own family and may think they know how to get back home.
Even other people’s dogs, that apparently think I’m better than smoked pig’s ears, are kept on a leash and only let free in a fenced area. I take dogs, who are at my place to board & train – which is the only way I board dogs, on a good long walk to suss out the area immediately upon arrival for several reasons – exercise, make being left here less of a trauma, potty break, and so they know the area’s smells and sounds and where things are. Because even with all my experience I’ve had dogs get loose – never lost, but it could happen.
What I’ve found out over the years is that people often don’t follow your directions when you’re not there to see them (actually even when you are :)) Years ago, a friend of mine, who was to feed and water our pack of Airedales while we were gone, let her boyfriend do it and he just let them out of their kennel runs and then got threatened by one of them – lucky for everyone – dog, us, him – it wasn’t worse. A different time a different friend who was watching the guys reached for the collar of one of our dogs, missed, and then “Whiskey” wouldn’t come to him, wouldn’t go into the kennel or into the house (a 4 hour drive back home and all was well).
Recently a dog-sitter, engaged by one of my clients, didn’t let her dogs out of their crate for extended periods – ending up with soiled dog beds, pee soaked fur, and belly burn on the younger pup from ammonia. Not a good situation.
And then, the reason I thought of writing about this topic, a dog named Lucy bolted from the yard of her owner’s relatives, who were keeping her for the weekend, and so far she hasn’t been found, despite notifying authorities, broadcast on radio and social networks and searching. (There is still hope, some dogs are lost for weeks and then reunited).
What makes your dog more likely to have problems with staying someplace new or having a dog-sitter?
- Inadequate socialization – start early and keep getting your dog out there to see things and meet people, go to classes, try new stuff, visit new places, learn new things. Even older dogs who were previously out and about a lot can get anxious if they’ve been home-bound for a long time and then suddenly need to be cared for someplace else.
- Never learning how to be comfortable in a crate or kennel and not practicing intermittently. Face it, if they need to go to a new place it’s not that likely nor real safe if they just have freedom to roam.
- Use of electronic collars – underground fences; in my experience these are the top reason for bolting and not returning. Otherwise if a dog makes a bad choice and goes for a run, most by far will come back.
- Not knowing how to be on a leash, loose leash walking – they’ll be much happier if they can go for nice walk and the caretaker will be much happier if they don’t get dragged.
- Changes at home – new pup, new baby, new … just like children, and all of us really, big changes at home upset us.
- Dogs adopted from shelters are more prone to separation anxiety and definitely are more worried about boarding kennels.
- Introducing a new food just before or at the visit … eek diarrhea!
Tending someones dogs isn’t always easy. They are upset about being left, things aren’t familiar, they can react with complaining/barking, anxiety, fear or aggression, or stomach upset … it isn’t the same as when their own people are there. Extra care is needed from the dog sitter. Expect the unexpected and be happy when it doesn’t happen.