How to Choose a Kennel or Pet Sitter for your Pet
You have booked your flights and hotel, and you’re excited about your next vacation, but what about Fido? There are many vacations that your pup would happily join you, as most pups are up for a good road trip! As long as you are adequately prepared, a road trip can be a fun adventure! I take ours road tripping regularly, and can’t imagine vacations like camping/hiking in Muskoka without them!
Check out my previous post about traveling with your pup for my go-to tips and tricks for a successful road trip with your dog!
There are, inevitably going to be some vacations that you can’t bring your furkid along. With the high risks associated with flying, especially for short-nosed breeds, it is often safer to leave your pup in capable hands here at home.
A quick note on air travel for pets….
Not only is it crazy stressful for them, but it can be extremely dangerous! While I understand that there are going to be times that it is unavoidable (moving overseas for example). Consider, for a moment, what a flight would be like for your pup. They are placed in their kennel, taken away from their family and placed, alone, on the plane. They are stressed, they are frightened, but they don’t have their family members there to comfort them.
The cargo area is not as temperature controlled as your nice cabin seat, with your handy little fan vent. No, most airlines even restrict pets flying during times of extreme weather due to their lack of ability to control the conditions. Pets have been reported perishing on flights due to both extreme heat and extreme cold.
On top of this, there are additional conditions that may not be avoided – such as an overly rough take off or landing, rough pockets of air and turbulence. This isn’t even touching on the number of pets that may be lost in transit! Remember – your pet is being transported just like cargo, mistakes can happen!
If you MUST fly with your pet, there are steps that you can take in order to reduce the risk, or consider possible alternate transportation when available.
- Always visit your veterinarian prior to travel to ensure that your pet is fit to fly.
- Don’t fly during either the coldest of winter months, or the hottest of summer months. If you are moving during this time, arrange for someone to hold onto your pet until it is safe for them to travel!
- Spend the extra money to book direct flights! Transfers increase the risks, with the additional stress during delays, the chances of your pet being loaded onto the wrong connecting flight, etc.
- If your pet is small enough to travel in the cabin, spend the money to purchase your pet a space! It is far safer and easier on your pet’s nerves if they can travel with you.
- If you must check your pet, ensure that they have fresh water with them. Speak with the baggage handlers to give them the heads up that there is a live animal on board so that they are gentle in handling your loved one. Request that they place your pet in a well-ventilated space.
Kennels and Boarding Facilities vs Pet Sitters
Whether you choose to use a kennel or a pet sitter is a matter of personal preference. Both options come with many pros and cons to be considered.
A kennel is like a camp or resort vacation for your pup. While here they will have the opportunity (at most facilities) to take part in group play time, and the location may even offer other perks such as swimming pools and agility equipment. They may even have their own internal grooming service, providing your pet with a ‘spa’ experience! A well-run kennel will ensure that they are staffed with professionals who are more than capable of handling any potential problems that may come up. For a pet that may not be as comfortable in social settings, this may be an extremely stressful experience instead of a fun getaway. You know your pet better than anyone!
On the other hand, a pet sitter is a more one on one experience for your pet. There are several ways that this can be made to work. Your pet can stay at their home, they can stay at your home (especially if it’s someone that you have a personal relationship with) or you may have someone come in several times each day to feed and water your pet, change litter boxes if applicable, and take them for a walk if necessary. The last option is usually sufficient for cats, however, if you are going for a longer trip this can be stressful for a dog that is used to having human contact. Personally, my go to is a local friend/pet sitter who comes and stays in my home with my pets. They have the familiarity of their own space, all the attention of someone being there, and I know that they are in great hands!
While there can be a difference cost wise, be cautious making your decision solely based on the dollars and cents. There are few things more stressful while on vacation than having something go wrong with your loved family pet, and not being able to handle it first hand.
If you are new to the area, traveling for the first time since bringing your pet into the family, or simply looking for a new option, how do you know which individuals or companies are worthy of your trust?
Tips for Choose a Kennel or Boarding Facility
Begin by making a list of the facilities in your area. This may begin with recommendations from your friends and family, inquiring in a locally focused FB group or even Googling to see what comes up. Don’t worry about if you haven’t heard too much about a business at this point, start with a large list and you can cross names off as you investigate and learn more about them!
Then the hard work begins – the research step. You want to learn as much about the facility as you can. This can be done through googling and reading through their company information and reviews, as well as contacting the company directly to ask questions.
When you have someone on the phone, or in person, ask the following questions:
- Can I tour your entire facility? (If they say no, this is a huge red flag!)
- What happens if my dog becomes sick or injured while in your car?
- How will you and your staff handle my dog if it misbehaves?
- What type of training has your staff received in regards to handling and behaviour? Do they continue to receive education as they work for your company?
- Is your staff certified in Pet First Aid and CPR?
- What are your vaccination requirements? (If there aren’t any, remember that this may mean your pet is being exposed to other unvaccinated pets – most reputable locations will require proof of vaccination for rabies, distemper, and bordetella)
- Do you have a veterinarian on staff or on call? Will that individual contact my vet directly in the event of an emergency?
- Is there a staff member supervising the pets all night, or only during the day?
- Am I permitted to bring my pet’s own toys, bedding, food, and treats?
- Do you charge extra to feed my dog his own food, or providing medication?
- What kind of interaction can I expect my pet to experience daily? Is there an additional cost associated with playtime, cuddles or walk time? Do I have the option to add additional interaction for an additional cost?
Once you have these answers, narrow down your list to those who answered in a way that you deemed to be suitable. If you question an answer provided, cross them off the list, you have other options! This is why you started with such a long list in the beginning!
If you have not visited the location yet, be sure that you do prior to moving forward. An even better option would be to bring your dog for a visit beforehand. The last kennel that I had used for Daviana allowed her to come for a play session during group playtime outside to see how she felt running with the other dogs.
Most importantly, trust your gut! If you feel like something is wrong, but you can’t quite put your finger on what, that’s enough to walk away! You and your pet both have to be comfortable with your decision!
Tips for Picking a Pet Sitter
If you have chosen to go the Pet Sitter route, you need to begin by asking yourself whether you are looking for someone to come into your home, or if you would like a sitter that will take your pet(s) into theirs. It is important to know your expectations going into your search!
Similar to the above suggestions for finding a boarding facility, start by asking around for recommendations. Ask your family and friends, check local Facebook groups, and even Google to see who is available in your area. Another great resource is your veterinarian. If the veterinarian is recommending them that adds an additional level of trust.
There are a number of different considerations when you are narrowing down the list of potential sitters. Some important points I recommend include:
- What training has this pet sitter completed?
- What experience does this pet sitter have with animals?
- Does the pet sitter have references available of other clients who have agreed to speak with you?
- Will the sitter provide a written contract that spells out all services and fees?
- Will the pet sitter keep a complete set of notes on your pet? This should include their likes, dislikes, fears, habits, medical conditions, medications, allergies and routines.
- Does this pet sitter provide any additional services such as in-home grooming, dog walking, play time and dog training? If so, is this at an additional cost, or is it included in your agreed upon cost?
- Is the sitter able to provide you with written proof that they have commercial liability insurance (to cover any accidents and negligence) and that they are bonded (to protect against theft by the pet sitter, or their employees in larger organizations)?
- Is this sitter associated with a veterinarian that will be able to provide emergency services if something were to come up?
- If the sitter is only coming for a set number of home visits, do they have a back up plan in place in the event that they fall ill or experience some form of car trouble?
- If the sitter is providing a live-in service, what other commitments do they have? What hours will they be planning to be at your house as opposed to what hours they will be out? Is this detailed in the written contract?
- How will the pet sitter find out that you have returned home at the end of your trip? Will they be confirming this (in case of flight delays, etc.)?
Once you believe you have found the right person, it is time to see how they interact with your pet(s). If you are having the sitter come to your house, then you should have them come to your home to meet your pet(s). If your final plan is to bring your pet(s) to their house, then that is where the meeting should occur. You need to see that your pet(s) is going to be comfortable in the setting at the time. This will help to give you peace of mind while you are away.
If you are planning on a long trip, it’s a good idea to plan a weekend with the sitter as a trial. This will let you discover if it is going to work or not, as well as providing an opportunity for you to work through any potential problems that may come up.
Some additional tips you may not think of once you have settled on a sitter, if you are having them come into your home:
- Leave clear instructions written out outlining your pet(s) routine, emergency contact information, your vet’s information and how to get ahold of you. Also, leave information about the closest 24-hour emergency vet including a contact number and address. Leave these in a place that they can easily find it in the event of an emergency (such as on the fridge).
- Store all pet food and supplies in one location to make it easier for the sitter. Be sure they know where this location is! This includes food, treats, brushes, toys, a leash, a carrier (if necessary), any harnesses that you use for walking purposes, etc.
- By extra supplies so that your sitter is prepared in the event there is an emergency and your arrival home is delayed. For example, if you think you ‘should have more than enough’ dog food, go by an extra bag. You will use it eventually anyway!
- Make sure that your sitter knows where the emergency features of your home are such as any security systems you have installed, the circuit breakers, and the water shut off valve.
- Make arrangements with a neighbour that you trust, and provide them with a key to your home. Exchange phone numbers so that they have your sitter’s number, and your sitter has theirs.
- Before giving any extra keys out, double check that they work!
When everything is in place, and you have selected the best situation for your pet(s), you will feel a huge wave of relief! Knowing that your loved family member is going to be well taken care of will allow you to relax and enjoy your vacation!
Do you prefer boarding facilities or an in-home pet sitter for your pet(s)? What are your tips for finding the best care for your loved one(s)?