Dog Day Care Providers
When You Leave
No matter how much you love your dog, there are times you can't be with him. You may be working long hours at the office, you might have to go on an extended business trip, or perhaps the vacation you have planned isn't to a "dog friendly" destination. There are more and more options for pet owners to make sure their dog is well cared for—and has fun—when they can't be around.
Some dogs do not cope well with being left alone while their owner is working 12-hour days. All dogs need socialization and companionship, preferably with us but also with other dogs. High energy dogs in particular don't want to just sit around the house all day and snooze. Dogs that are bored can become destructive dogs, with unpleasant consequences for possessions in your house.
If your work schedule is demanding, you might consider dropping your dog off at a day care center. These facilities typically take care of dogs from early morning to early evening, generally from rush hour to rush hour, but in some cases they offer overnight boarding as well. Depending on the facility, they offer socialization with other dogs in a group setting, play periods outside and inside, treats, toys, grooming and other forms of attention. Good day care centers offer a range of activities for your dog; he doesn't just spend the day in a kennel. The advantage is that romping with other dogs all day can tire out the most energetic canine, and when you pick your buddy up after work and take him home, he will be contented to settle in for a quiet evening with you. The disadvantage of taking your dog to day care each morning is that the cost can be substantial over the course of a month, though some facilities give you a price break if you sign up for more than one day at a time. Fees of $12-$20 per day are typical.
These are facilities where your dog can stay overnight, but they may also provide day care, too.
Since pet lovers spend nearly $40 billion annually taking care of their pets, it's no surprise that boarding facilities are becoming more and more upscale. But just like hotel chains, the level of service the visitor receives and the quality of the facility vary widely.
Many boarding facilities are single owner-operated establishments, but increasingly there are companies with multiple locations, again much like hotel chains. Check out these web sites: http://www.bestfriendspetcare.com/
Many veterinarians offer dog boarding, but because their focus is on providing care to dogs that are sick or injured, the facilities they offer may be simple and sparse, often just a cage type arrangement with a concrete floor. They also do not necessarily have the time give your dog the play time and attention he needs, and social interaction with other dogs will probably be minimal. The advantage to using your own vet is that your dog will be familiar with the facility and perhaps the staff members, so it will cut down on potential separation anxiety. And of course you don't have to worry about his receiving medical attention if he needs it.
It is advisable that you visit the facility before making the decision to board your dog. Ask to see the area where your dog will sleep. Your senses will tell you if this is a place you want your dog friend to stay. Is it clean? How does it smell? How noisy is it? Does it look to be overcrowded with constant barking?
Other considerations are the size of the kennel where your dog will sleep. Find out policies such as how often your dog will be fed, how often he will be given fresh water, how often will he have an opportunity for potty breaks or other exercise outside the confines of the kennel space. Find out how large the exercise area is. Look for signs that the staff cleans up frequently after the dogs. You need to observe and interact with the staff, to see if these are individuals who genuinely love caring for dogs, or they are people who are just there because they needed a job.
You should find out if the facility is accredited with the American Boarding Kennels Association, and whether it is licensed or bonded. And make sure the facility has a relationship with a veterinarian. They may ask you to sign a form allowing that vet to treat your pet rather than having to call the vet you normally use. An important consideration is whether the facility is staffed 24 hours a day. If you wouldn't leave your dog all alone at home overnight, you don't want him to have to endure that at a boarding kennel that will probably feel strange to him anyway.
Cost is also a consideration. Many facilities have a base fee, but lots of add-on amenities that taken in total can run into a lot of money. These are extra services such as individualized play time with a staff member, extra walks, extra treats, etc. It's best to find out these costs up-front rather than returning to a nasty surprise when they give you the invoice upon your return.
Boarding facilities are becoming so elaborate that in some cases they rival human resort spas: the question is whether you will be having as much fun on your vacation as your dog is. Televisions, swimming pools, massage, ice cream treats, nature walks, and being read to at bedtime are all part of the services offered these days at upscale boarding facilities.
All these amenities may sound wonderful, but your primary considerations when choosing any facility are: will your dog be safe, comfortable and well-cared for.
Pet Sitters and In-Home Care
Pet sitters can be professionals licensed and bonded to perform this kind of service, or you might choose a trusted friend or neighbor for the job. There are several factors to consider before deciding whether to have your dog stay at home while you are away, under the care of a pet sitter, or whether to place your dog in a boarding facility. Your dog's personality and temperament are a consideration. Some dogs simply do not do well in a setting with other dogs. They have a territorial instinct that takes over, and they can become either nervous or aggressive. If your dog is older or infirm, it may be wise to let him sleep in his own bed in familiar surroundings.
With a pet sitter, you are giving someone access to your home. Think about whether you are comfortable doing this. The level of service that professional pet sitters provide varies from just visiting your dog a few times a day, making sure he has food and water and an opportunity to go outside, all the way to someone who stays at your home 24/7. Some pet sitters act as house sitters as well; they will bring in the mail, make sure plants are watered, or other routine chores that may need to be done. You need to make sure there is an understanding about the level of service you expect, and the cost. The prospective pet sitter should visit your home and meet your dog prior to your leaving. Observe how your dog and the pet sitter interact. This may sound obvious, but a pet sitter has to love dogs to be able to do a good job taking care of yours. They need to be friendly with one another, and your dog needs to spend enough time with the pet sitter to make sure he remembers who the pet sitter is when he or she comes into your home after you leave.
Several organizations provide accreditation to pet sitters, including Pet Sitters International and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. Besides finding out if they are accredited, you should also ask the pet sitter for a few references. If your first experience with the pet sitter goes well, you will have the peace of mind of having someone reliable to call on the next time your travel.
Friends and Neighbors
The second alternative is to have pet sitter you already know, a friend or neighbor. High school or college age people often do pet sitting to earn some extra income. But you may find that even retirees are interested in doing this. It may take you some time to find the right person for the job, so start well in advance of when you are leaving on your trip. With the non-professional pet sitter it is difficult to obtain references, so the in-person interview is key. Again, let the pet sitter and your dog interact, and see how friendly the pet sitter is to your dog. Ask him or her how much experience she has caring for dogs. You also need to know the person's daily schedule. If their lives are filled with university classes, work and social engagements, you may end up paying someone to barely be there at all.
Always leave the pet sitter with complete contact information about where you will be on every stage of your trip, and of course leave the contact information for your local vet. It's also a good idea to introduce the pet sitter to your next door neighbors, so they don't wonder who the strange person coming in and out of your house is.
The pet sitter may prefer to have your dog stay at their house. If you go that route, you need to take the dog over there several times to get him acclimated. You might even try letting him have an overnight outing there before you leave, just to see how everything goes. It is difficult to predict how an individual dog will react to a change in location. Many dogs love their set daily routine so much that a change can be upsetting.
With a little effort on your part, you can make certain your dog is well cared for in your absence. This peace of mind can make your trip more enjoyable; you won't have any nagging feelings of doubt about what is happening to your canine buddy.
Potty Training for Puppies
It's a job you think will never be accomplished: House breaking your new puppy! Don't worry, nature is on your side. Dogs don't like to soil their den area and will try to avoid it. Your job is to show your new puppy where it's appropriate to relieve herself.
Puppies will need to go after first thing in the morning, after they wake up from a nap, after a play period, and before they sleep for the night. If your puppy spends nap and sleep time in a crate, make sure you pick the puppy up and carry it to the spot outside you've selected as the potty place. Most puppy bladders are tiny and if you let your puppy walk out of the crate he or she may not make it to the outside before nature calls.
When you can't keep an eye on your puppy pal, keep them confined in a small area and check on them frequently. A crate can serve as a 'den.' A rule of thumb is that a puppy can hold their urine an hour for every month old they are. So a three-month-old puppy could go three hours between potty breaks.
If you can catch the puppy making a mistake you can quickly scoop it up and deposit it in the potty area. Don't yell at the puppy. And never swat them with a newspaper or your hand if they've made a mistake. It just doesn't work.