Wondering who should look after your dog when you’re away? Get the lowdown on your choices, from making use of dog kennels to arranging a home boarder or sitter.
Thinking about booking a holiday this year? As well as the current travel advice and any ongoing restrictions to consider, responsible pet owners will also plan ahead for their pets.
You may want to take your dog with you on a UK break, or arrange daytime dog care if you’re planning to stay home yet go out on day trips. But if you’re going away somewhere where your pet can’t join you, you’ll need to organise dog care for when you’re on holiday.
Your options include finding a dog home boarder, sorting out a pet-sitter or making use of dog kennels. Here, we look at the pros and cons of each to help you make the right choice for you and your pet.
Home-from-home dog boarding
Home boarders will take your dog into their house for the duration of your holiday. Advantages include your dog receiving consistent care in a homely environment, greater individual attention and ideally less confinement (or chance of picking up transmissible diseases) than in a kennel setting, without someone staying in your home. Given plenty of affection, many dogs can settle quickly in a temporary home, meaning you can worry less and enjoy your holiday.
If you’re lucky, you may have local friends or family who could look after your dog. If you’re hiring a professional, ask to see confirmation of their insurance details and dog-boarding licence from the local council (some councils list animal licence holders on their websites), and ask about any training they’ve had, such as first aid. Set up a short visit before you go away, so your dog can get to know their temporary accommodation and family, and you can ensure they’re happy with any children or other pets living in the household.
A responsible boarder’s home should be set up to care for dogs and have no dangers – wires or cables should be hidden, cleaning chemicals must be locked away and the garden must be secure. Agree on how much daily exercise they will provide for your dog. Even if you’re leaving your dog with friends or family, it’s a good idea to chat through your expectations and give them the same tips.
Finding a good pet-sitter
Pet-sitters who will stay in your home can be a great option for dog care when on holiday, if you can find someone you trust. A pet-sitter can make your absence less stressful, as your dog will be sticking with a familiar environment and routine. But bear in mind that they’ll be staying in your home, so they’ll need bedroom, bathroom and kitchen space and the use of facilities and appliances.
You may well have friends or family who could step in to dog-sit, but if you need to hire a professional, ask other local dog owners for recommendations. Local community groups on social media can be a great source of suggestions – although always treat recommendations from strangers with caution. There are also a number of commercial sites and apps that offer to connect owners with vetted pet-sitters, such as rover.com or pawshake.co.uk, but it is always a good idea to ask for additional references from previous clients before you book. And be sure to meet potential dog-babysitting candidates, so you can see how they interact with your pet.
While home pet-sitters don’t need a licence, it is worth asking them about their training and insurance certificates, in addition to their reviews from previous clients.
Choosing a boarding kennel
Another option to consider is putting your dog in kennels. The best dog boarding kennels are often booked well in advance, so it pays to be organised. Ask around, read reviews and do your homework before choosing a kennel. If possible, visit in person before booking your dog in. Ask to see their current licence, and check what size of kennel and how many walks your dog will get.
Licensed dog boarding kennels should offer your dog their own kennel unit (unless they’re sharing with other dogs from your household) with free access to their own sleeping area; enough space to stand at full height, lie down, stretch out or turn around and wag their tail; a toilet area; and private space where they can avoid seeing people or other dogs.
Your dog should get at least one walk outside per day, plus access to toys, although higher-quality kennels will provide two walks. Dog kennels should be well ventilated, tidy and well kept, while the dogs staying there should seem happy and relaxed – although your visit may cause some initial excitement before they settle down. A good facility should also monitor your dog’s behaviour and keep a written record of it.
Putting your dog in kennels can be a stressful time for both of you, even if you’ve found a great provider. Try to make sure their first stay away from home is a short one, and take familiar items, such as bedding and toys, to help them settle in. Dogs that are used to enjoying lots of human company or suffer from separation anxiety may find kennels particularly challenging, and do better with home boarding or with a sitter.
Details to give to your dog carer
Whichever dog-care option you choose:
- Let the caregiver know whether your pet has any special feeding and exercise requirements or medical conditions.
- Be sure to supply any medication with written instructions and dosage information.
- In addition to your contact details, it’s a good idea to provide emergency contact details in case they can’t reach you, details of your vet, and your dog’s microchip and vaccination information.
- Wherever possible, organise a short practice run before you go on holiday, such as a night or weekend with your chosen dog-care provider. That way, your dog can get to know the people and place, and you can be more confident they’ll be fine while you’re away.