Yay! You've booked the vacation of your dreams. Now it making sure it is worry-free and guilt-free. High quality pet care is hard to find but it is out there. Planning ahead is key to finding the right spot where your Dog (or Cat) doesn't feel emotionally bereft or left to face fearful situations without you.
Here is a Worry-Free Dog Vacation Check-List. Use it to help plan a successful trip away where your dog is set up to be well-cared for:
1-2 Months Before Your Tropical Vacation
Readers Note: For ease of reading 'he' has been used, but if you have a female dog, please substitute 'he' for 'she'.
You have to leave your dog for that much needed vacation. Nothing ruins the relaxation of sipping a Pina Colada on the beach then worrying about your Best Friend and wondering if they are okay. If your Best Friend could talk, you could plan the best care knowing what he will tolerate and what he can't. Here is the inside scoop on your Dog's Secrets that he wants you to know when planning for his Vacation Care:
1. He likes his own bed, his home, his food dish, the noises which represent comfort to him, especially when you are away. His vacation care should make him as comfortable as possible when you are away.
2. He notices his stomach rubbling when his snacks are removed from the diet and his stomach aches when his diet changes, and sometimes he doesn't want to eat when you are not there. When your away make sure your substitute understands and agrees to maintain your Best Friend's dietary needs.
3. Without you there, coping in a new place, and/or new people is confusing to him, and sometimes scary. The coolest dog ever may look okay, but their inside feelings are concerned and unsure of what is happening. His daily exercise and puzzles-solving, just like us, should not be removed/shortened when you are away. Like humans, we need them to manage stress and stay calm. Conversely, suddenly increasing their exercise suddenly will also add on unnecessary stress.
4. He needs his sleep during the day and during the night. Noise and disturbance, such as, barking, whining, and restlessness from others, during his normal napping time and nighttime sleep can leave him unable to cope. Restorative sleep and daytime napping has been linked to a dog's ability to make good decisions - especially important when in a new environment.
5. If he can't see you, then let him smell you. Dog's have powerful memories when tied to strong emotions, including love and touch. Scent is also one of their super-powers with a million more receptors than we mere mortals. Leave your scent behind - an old t-shirt you have recently worn, a blanket, a towel or anything that reminds them of a happy, pleasurable time with you.
More to come as we introduce a timely series to help owners think through Dog Vacation Care decisions.
Not all facilities are alike. Many are exceptional; many are behind the times. Here are the top 5 questions to ask before you leave your dog at any Doggie Care Facility:
1. Are there strong smells?
Your nose tells you whether a facility is using current knowledge in cleanliness and air flow. A kennel may smell mildly of non-toxic cleaning fluids but nothing else.
Questions to ask your Care Provider: How do you keep the air flowing in your facilities when my dog is in your care?
2. Is my dog sleeping or rubbing against wood?
Wood is an inexpensive solution used in a lot of kennels who board overnight. It is a permeable material and difficult to clean, making it a place for communicable diseases to spread from one dog to another. Most facilities will ensure that any dog which comes into its care has all its shots. That does not guarantee that viruses and parasites won't occur in a place of animal care.
Questions to ask your Care Provider: Can I see where my dog will be sleeping? Or, do they sleep on wood?
3. What is the ratio between care-giver to dogs?
The majority of facilities seek a maximum number of dogs, especially for daytime care. Overcrowded facilities are not uncommon. Boarding overnight, however, is regulated here in Ontario. A licensed facility will have to abide by the laws of space for each dog when boarding.
Still, the challenge, in any case, is stress. Many facilities rely on dog crowds to provide entertainment and mental stimulation. The flaw in this model is that dogs have unique personalities and styles. There are introverts and extroverts. There are high energy, social dogs and low energy, shy dogs. Overstimulating a dog is never a good thing. Yes, they may be exhausted when they get home, but exhaustion is not a healthy goal for a dog.
Care-giver to dog ratio should be adequate to provide human companionship away from the crowd and necessary breaks with one-on-one care. In my opinion, this should not be an add-on as it is necessary for a healthy environment for dog care.
Questions to ask your Care Provider: Will my dog receive one-on-one time with a care-giver during the day? How often?
4. Does the care provide an enriched experience of activities and exercise?
It is one thing to provide exercise in the way of a walk, but another to mentally stimulate the dog. Facilities which offer add-ons of more walks are likely keeping your dog in a kennel for most of the day. They offer monitoring services which may leave your dog under stimulated and bored.
Mental stimulation requires two things: understanding the dog's unique personality style to tap into what will stimulate it, and a strategy on what confidence building activities can be created to challenge the dog.
Questions to ask your Care Provider: What activities and exercises, beyond a walk, do you provide? Can you provide me with examples of how you might mentally stimulate my dog while under your care?
5. Are overnight accommodations private, not 'open boarding' style?
Every dog needs down-time, just like us. Undisturbed and totally relaxed to ensure deep sleep. Many facilities offer 'open boarding' with the thought that it is closer to an 'at-home' experience. The truth is that the only care that is close to 'at-home' is to hire a Pet Sitter.
Open boarding extends a level of stress to a dog being cared for by having to sleep with a group of strangers. This is not a fun group activity often portrayed as more normal. Imagine having to sleep with one-eye open with a bunch of strangers, without you being around to reassure the pet everything is okay. Finally out of exhaustion you fall asleep.
It is recommended that all dogs have their own private area to sleep, where it is safe and other dogs cannot be seen by line of sight.
Questions to ask your Care Provider: Does my dog have a private space to sleep?
Please let me know if you have any questions and how your questions were answered.
All the best,
More about the Author:
Sparky Smith is a Certified Canine Behaviorist and Cognitive Assessor at Executive Pet Services & Resort.
'Sparky' Smith is a Canine Behaviorist and Practioner, educated through the International School for Canine Psychology & Behaviour, earning her ISCP.DIP.CANINE.PRAC.