There are, unfortunately, times in our lives when we make plans that aren't pet-friendly. With the progression of non-stop holidays just around the corner, there will likely be occasions when it's not acceptable to bring your dog along—whether the airplane ride is too long for your senior dog or Aunt Phyllis has serious allergies.
In those instances, dog owners need a dog sitter they trust or a boarding facility they know will give their dog the appropriate care and attention they deserve. Following are telltale signs that you've found the right dog sitter or border and some red flags that mean you should keep looking.
Traits to Look for in a Dog Sitter
A dog sitter can be someone who stays at your home while you're away, takes your dog to their home, or checks on your dog often while you're away. Regardless of the plan, ensure your chosen dog sitter embodies the following characteristics.
A good dog sitter possesses the following qualities:
Loves Dogs A good dog sitter loves dogs of all breeds, sizes, and ages. They are people who stop to say hello or pet a dog they pass on the sidewalk and have owned dogs themselves out of sheer love for them. A genuine dog lover will develop immediate chemistry with your dog and give you confidence in their level of care.
Has a Flexible Schedule
Your dog sitter should have the time to give your dog plenty of attention, as they'll likely be uneasy in your absence. A good dog sitter will have a schedule that accommodates playtime, walks, and cuddles.
Well-Educated About Pets
Pets have not only social and emotional needs but also medical and health requirements. Check with your dog sitter to confirm they know what human foods are toxic to dogs and that they recognize the signs of a dog in distress. In addition, make sure they understand your dog's feeding schedule and how often they need to go outside.
Access to a Veterinarian
Your dog sitter should have access to a veterinarian in a medical emergency, and a way to get your dog there. If you have a large breed, can they carry your dog? Are they within driving distance of an emergency veterinarian? Do they know your dog's medical history? These questions are good to ask before leaving your dog with the individual.
If you don't know your dog sitter, make sure they were referred by a trusted family member or friend or have reviews or references you can check. If they don't have any reviews or references, seek alternative care for your dog.
Already Know Your Pet
It's a significant advantage to secure the dog sitting services of someone already familiar with your dog. Check with friends, family members, and neighbors who interact with your dog consistently, as they'll be most comfortable with a friendly face. People closest to you will also be the most invested in top-notch care for your dog while you're away.
The Humane Society of the United States offers additional insight about selecting a dog sitter, including interviewing and red flags in a dog sitter's home.
Signs of a Reputable Dog Boarding Facility
If a dog sitter isn't an option due to everyone having busy Labor Day plans, you might need to use a boarding facility. While some facilities offer white-glove service with dogs who love going there, others are less desirable and require some digging to ensure they're acceptable.
A reputable dog boarding facility has the following:
Trial Visit Opportunity
A reputable dog boarder has nothing to hide and will encourage you to bring your dog in for a few hours before their actual stay to ensure it's a good fit. This allows you to watch them interact with your dog and see your dog's demeanor after a few hours with them. They should also grant a request for a facility tour.
Plenty of Staff
A quality boarding facility has plenty of staff, so your dog receives undivided attention several times a day throughout their stay. They should have enough staff to offer additional services, such as one-on-one playtime, walks, or even a nighttime tuck-in.
Especially for first-time boarders, overnight staff is critical to your dog's safety and comfort. A facility that shuts the lights off with all staff going home might leave your dog feeling anxious and neglected. Make sure your boarding facility has overnight staff to tend to your dog's needs, should any arise during the night.
An onsite or on-call veterinarian is an excellent sign that the boarding facility you've chosen prioritizes the care and safety of dogs at all times. Always ask a potential border if they have an in-house veterinarian or immediate access to one. An onsite or on-call veterinarian is especially relevant for senior dogs, dogs requiring daily medication, or dogs with chronic conditions that might worsen with the anxiety of being boarded.
Clean & Safe Environment
A reputable boarding facility will be clean, with fresh bedding for your dog, sanitized food and water bowls, and a routine cleaning process to remove dog hair. Regarding safety, they should have an outdoor playtime structure separating small and large breed dogs and an emergency evacuation plan in the event of a flood or fire.
A quality boarding facility should first ask about your dog's vaccination history when you inquire about a stay. Kennels should require immunization for Bordetella, Rabies, Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus, and Parainfluenza. They should also inquire about your dog's history with fleas and ticks and preventative measures to ensure they don't acquire them. Learn more about these vaccinations from the American Kennel Club.
Red Flags to Watch Out For With Dogsitters or Boarding Facilities
Just as there are things to look for in a reputable boarding facility and dogsitters, there are signs that should tell you immediately that they are not up to par and even could be downright dangerous.
Some red flags to look for in dog boarding operations are:
- Odors in dog boarding facilities - sure, dogs aren't the cleanest-smelling animals in the world, but with faithful cleaning done around the clock, there should be no discernible smell.
- Lack of references or, worse, consistently negative online reviews
- Lack of cleanliness
- Lack of exercise or socialization opportunities for the dogs (if the latter is something that works for your pet)
- Lack of regulation on the city or state level (for boarding facilities)
Carmen Rustenbeck, CEO and founder of the International Boarding & Pet Services Association (IBPSA), asks: "Do the dogs seem overscheduled? Naptime is vital." Carmen says that a good daycare provider will even turn down the lights during a specific period and should not even allow dog drop-off during this downtime. She says her doggie daycare even plays classical music during this time! The biggest red flag for dogsitters is someone who doesn't seem to enjoy dogs. Go with your gut, as your pet is a precious family member.
Whether using a dog sitter or a boarding facility, you must do your due diligence before leaving your dog. A single negative experience with either service will leave your dog feeling anxious the next time they find themselves in that environment. Contact your veterinarian to learn more about selecting a quality dog sitter or dog boarding facility. Don't have a doctor yet? We can help you find a local veterinarian.