By Kim Gilliam
Summer is here and many of us are gearing up for vacations, yay. A lot of preparation and planning goes into travel. One of the most stressful parts can be deciding who will take care of your pet while you are gone. Here are some tips on what to look for and what to avoid.
Consider Your Options
You can take your pet to a boarding facility, to a pet care provider’s home or keep them at your home where a pet sitter comes to visit; the best option depends on your pet. Nervous or older pets may do significantly better in their own home environment where less change equates to less stress. Pets that enjoy one-on-one attention may do well staying at someone else’s home. More social or high-energy pets may do better at a kennel where they can interact with other animals and/or receive attention from staff throughout the day.
Do Your Research
Take the time to check out the prospective pet care provider’s reputation. Business reviews can be found on Yelp! and Facebook and pet sitters may have reviews on Rover.com, Care.com, Sittercity.com and the like. If you can’t find information online, you can request references – while they will provide happy customers, you can ask questions that get to whether the services provided match your preferences.
Request a Tour
It’s important to personally inspect any boarding facility or pet sitter’s home that you are considering. Showing up unannounced and requesting a tour of where your pet will be kept should be no problem — they should want you to see it and be proud of it. This also gives you a feeling for what the place is like on a day-to-day basis. If they are not willing to give you a tour, this is a definite red flag. You also shouldn’t be greeted with unpleasant odors – accidents happen, but they should be dealing with them effectively using pet-friendly cleaners.
Your Pet’s Typical Day
Ask what your pet will be doing throughout the course of each day. How often are walks or litter scoops, when will they be given food and water, what type of play or socialization will they be engaged in, will they have access to toys, etc.?
What will they do if your pet is misbehaving? Be sure to talk through any behavioral issues your pet tends to exhibit (be honest) and how you handle it to ensure their approach aligns with your preferences.
Staff Experience and Training
What type of training and experience do the staff or care provider have? For example, have they taken a pet first aid and CPR course? Do they have professional pet handling experience? While the pet care industry is largely unregulated, you want them to have gone the extra mile and invested in training. And what is the staff to pet ratio — is it acceptable to you?
When checking your pet in to a kennel, they should request vaccination records to confirm they are current, ensuring they are not at risk of contracting a potentially serious illness. And ask about the procedure for a medical emergency. Will your vet be contacted? Will you be contacted first?
Will you receive updates about how your pet is doing throughout your trip? When you return, will they provide a complete report about how your pet ate, behaved and more? This is reasonable to expect.
Last but not least, if you don’t currently have a goto pet care provider — and even a back-up one in case the first option is unavailable — you should work on identifying that now so when last-minute travel arises, you have one less thing to worry about. Plus some kennels require an evaluation and/or paperwork in advance. Best to get that done while you are not in a time crunch. You can then enjoy your vacation with confidence that your pet is getting the best care.
The writer co-owns Frolick Dogs, an indoor dog gym in Alexandria, with her husband, Kevin Gilliam.