Whatever your work and home circumstances, there is likely to come a time when you will need someone to care for your dog. Perhaps this will be for a short time while you go on a holiday and choose not to take your dog with you; or perhaps your working arrangements mean you need regular daytime care for your pet.
Some people are lucky enough to work from home or are able to take their dogs to work with them, but many people who work need extra help to give their dogs a happy and sociable life. Most healthy, happy dogs will be able to amuse themselves for a short while when left on their own, and if you have two or more pets, they can usually keep each other company for longer. But pets need human interaction, and on those occasions when you need to leave your dog alone for longer than four hours at a time (unless he has access to a secure garden via a dog flap or outdoor kennelling to relieve himself), you should try to arrange for someone to look after him.
Some owners rely on the help of a family member or friend to care for their dog during their absence, but if you don’t have this option, or need extra help, there is a growing industry of professional carers who can help.
Professional canine carers
There are several types of carers to choose from, depending on your needs, your preferences and your budget:
- Dog walkers, who will come at an agreed time to take your dog for a walk, often with other dogs, and exercise him while you are out or away working.
- Dog-sitters, who will come and care for your dog in the comfort of his own home, feed him (with whatever food you provide), walk him and play with him, and administer any necessary medication. This is ideal if you have more than one dog or other pets. Dog-sitters are a popular alternative to boarding your dog in kennels if you go on holiday. Dog-sitters can also water your houseplants, respond to any problems at home and their presence can deter burglars. If your dog hates being left alone but is comfortable with people outside of his immediate family, this is a good solution.
- Doggie day care, where a dog spends the day in a dedicated centre or at an established kennels. You can drop your dog off in the morning and pick him up on your way home. Some establishments will collect and return your dog to your home and may also offer overnight or holiday boarding. Some even have webcams for you to watch your dog for peace of mind wherever you are!
- Home dog-boarders, who bring a dog into their own house to live with them as part of their family – either for day care, returning the dog to you in the evening, or for extended periods while you are on holiday for example. The person may or may not have other pets, so find out the full scenario beforehand to ensure the best match for your dog.
- Kennelling is a popular choice for those going on holiday without their dog. Do some research to find a reputable, licensed kennel with knowledgeable, caring staff and good, clean, comfortable facilities. Licensed kennels must adhere to various regulations regarding hygiene and safety and a copy of their licence should be displayed prominently, but always check for yourself that you are satisfied with the service. Visit several boarding kennels and have a good look around and chat to the staff. Many kennels exceed the minimum legal standards but it is important to check to assure yourself that your dog will be comfortable there. Don’t leave your booking to the last minute as the best kennels get booked up well in advance, particularly in the busy summer months and over the Christmas and Easter holidays. Your dog will also need to have proof of up-to-date vaccinations before being admitted – ask the kennels for full details of its admission policy.
Do your research
When dealing with any professional carer, be clear about your expectations and what service the person will provide. When interviewing dog walkers for example, find out how many other dogs will be walked at the same time and insist on seeing their professional insurance policies. It’s also a good idea to find out what experience they have with dogs. Many trainers and vet nurses offer boarding, walking or dog sitting services outside of their other jobs.
Inspect the premises and grounds where the dog will be exercised and cared for. If the dog walker will be taking the dogs to public parks and other grounds, ask for full details and any risk assessments that have been made, as well as how the dogs’ safety will be managed.
Does the carer have references? Are they self-employed or do they work for a pet care agency? What service does the agency provide – for example, if your carer falls sick, will they find another at short notice?
Be thorough in your enquiries; a professional carer will see it as a sign of a good owner and will be pleased to verify their professional services. Remember that you are entrusting them with your beloved pet – and, in some cases, your house keys – so you cannot be too thorough in your search. Recommendations from friends, your vet or your dog training club are good starting points.
Make sure your dog has the opportunity to meet the carers before you leave him in their care. If looking for a dog walker, for example, arrange to tag along on one of their walks so that you can see for yourself how they interact with the dogs in their care.
Being prepared for emergencies
Make sure your carer is qualified in canine first aid, is aware of any current medical issues your dog may have and knows how and when to administer any medication. Most importantly, make sure they have all your contact details, plus those of a back-up if you are not contactable. Leave your vet’s contact details, too, your pet’s microchip information (if relevant), plus any relevant veterinary history.
Although it’s not nice to think about, consider in advance what you would like to happen if your dog were to fall ill or die suddenly. It is best to be prepared for every worst-case scenario and to make your feelings known in advance to avoid any unnecessary heartache later.
If you’d prefer to go away with your dog, rather than leaving him behind, you’re not alone. Indeed, many dog owners don’t consider it a proper ‘family holiday’ unless the family dog comes too! Fortunately, more and more places to stay are catering for dog owners, meaning your options aren’t limited to camping trips or ‘staycations’ anymore.
From B&Bs, hotels and self-catering cottages, to canal boats and even huge castles that can be rented, there is dog-friendly accommodation to suit every taste and budget. Dog training holidays also provide a place where you can enjoy canine activities and sports with other dog lovers, under the guidance of a qualified trainer.
If you want to holiday outside of the UK and Ireland, changes to the British quarantine laws makes it easier and safer to holiday abroad with your best friend. There are very specific requirements that need to be followed, so visit the Defra website for more information on the Pet Travel Scheme. Always ask your vet’s advice before booking a foreign trip with your dog.
For additional tips on holidaying with your dog, refer to Dog Travel Checklist.