Summer is here and many of us like to go on vacation or road trips during this time of year. But what about your canine family member?
Ideally, your dog gets to come along and websites like bringfido.com can help finding accommodations away from home for you and your dog. Separation from the family pack, especially for an extended period is stressful to most dogs, so if you can avoid it, do. Some dogs handle these separations better than others, but no dog enjoys being left behind. In case your buddy can’t join in, boarding your dog at a good daycare facility can be an option. Let’s look at some considerations to keep in mind.
Consider Boarding Alternatives
Just because you are leaving, doesn’t mean your dog has to. Remaining in the familiar home environment is far less stressful for your dog than a strange and unfamiliar place. Getting setup with a good in-home pet sitter way ahead of time is a good alternative. If you add a reputable pet sitter to your dog’s regular support team, your dog has a familiar person to spend time with while you are away.
A trusted pet sitter, who stays at your home during your absence has also many other advantages. Your mail is collected, your home is far less likely to be burglarized, the flowers get watered and so on. It can take a while to find someone you trust but your dog trainer, groomer or veterinarian may have a recommendation you can interview and try out. Make sure you get comfortable with a pet sitter months before your vacation. While convenient, websites advertising and referring pet sitters and dog walkers have gotten a lot of negative press for the poor performance of many of their providers, some dogs have even died, so I recommend hiring a professional pet sitter who can provide references. The neighborhood kid is probably also not the best choice. A trusted dog-savvy friend or relative can be a great option as well. You want someone who is comfortable with your dog, especially when you have a powerful breed like a German Shepherd.
Finding a Good Boarding Place
Ask your other pet service providers, in example your dog trainer, for recommendations. People who work in the pet care industry are usually familiar with who in your neighborhood has a good reputation and who doesn’t. Ask them where they would board their own dog if they had to. Many dog trainers also board for their client. Maybe the vacation is the perfect time for a good board and train program for your dog. It can never hurt to ask. Once you have selected a few boarding options call them and ask how their service works and if you can tour their facility to see their operation. A boarding business that seems secretive is something you want to stay away from. A reputable place will happily have you stop by, meet the staff, see how everything works and explain their service. Many have multiple boarding options including private rooms or group rooms, 24/7 video feeds to see your pooch using your phone and added daily play and/or walking times. Pick what is best for your dog. Make sure the boarding facility is familiar and comfortable with your breed of dog. German Shepherds have different needs than Rottweilers, Pit Bulls or Chihuahua’s and so forth. Talk to the manager, meet the staff, ask questions of other customers you may encounter while there.
Understand Vaccination Requirements for Boarding
All reputable boarding places will require proof of vaccination for the core vaccines Rabies, Parvo and Distemper, sometimes Hepatitis and usually also Bordetella (for Kennel Cough). If you are in a high-risk area for less common but serious diseases, there could be additional requirements. Sometimes recent fecal tests are also necessary to show your dog is free of parasites. Obviously, you want your dog to protected and not exposed to unnecessary risks, so vaccinations are important. However, stay away from boarding facilities that demand all kinds of other, less common vaccines for no valid reason. Any vaccination requirement beyond Rabies, Parvo and Distemper, Hepatitis and Bordetella should require a good reason. I prefer facilities that also allow titer tests in place of vaccinations. Titer tests show that your dog has enough antibodies for a disease and is immune. A new vaccination for a disease is only necessary once the antibody count has fallen below a certain level. More and more holistic veterinarians can perform these simple blood tests in-house for very little cost and educated boarding facilities will accept titer tests as they help prevent unnecessary over-vaccinations. However, some boarding facilities now even want a new Bordetella vaccination every six months. That is a misguided and an irresponsible demand. I would not board my dog at such a facility.
Initial Boarding Health Checks
Reputable boarding places will examine your dog upon drop off and note any existing scars, scratches or wounds on the check-in sheet. This is good for you and the business alike as it establishes an agreed upon baseline health condition.
Boarding Staff Competence
Make sure you have confidence in the staff who will be handling your dog in your absence. i.e. if you have a large breed like a German Shepherd, do you have confidence that your dog will be safe with them? Do you feel they would still handle your dog with kindness should he be involved in a dog fight; it happens. Do they understand your breed and its needs? Make sure you have satisfying answers to these questions.
Food During Boarding
Is the business able and willing to maintain your dog’s feeding routine? A Reputable boarding place will even keep up a raw food feeding regiment in your absence. Disrupting your dog’s food and routine causes unnecessary additional stress and should be avoided.
Emergency Boarding Procedures
Of we hope it all goes well, but what if it doesn’t. What are their procedures when things go wrong? How do they handle medical emergencies? Are they prepared for earthquakes, tornadoes or other natural disasters? Will you be notified immediately? Is an emergency veterinary hospital close by?Is all staff trained on emergency procedures? These are important questions you should have answers to and of course, you should trust them long before your trip.
Ralf Weber is a certified dog trainer and behaviorist. A professional member of the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP), an AKC evaluator for Puppy S.T.A.R., Canine Good Citizen and Community Canine certifications, author of the dog behavioral book: "If Your Dog Could Talk" and owner of the dog training company Happy Dog Training. Ralf works with clients in Southern California and can be contacted through his website at HappyDogTraining.info.