Dog Holiday Care | How to find the perfect solution

Finding the perfect dog holiday care for your pets can be a source of anxiety for many pet parents. The great news is that if you know how to approach it, you can make sure your best friend has an equally great holiday while you are away.

Let’s looks at the pros and cons of different types of dog holiday care, as well as key considerations to help you make the right decision for you and your pet.

The stages of finding dog care for holidays

The process of finding the perfect pet sitter for while you go on holiday can be broken down into five simple steps.

  1. Create a shortlist of potential pet sitters
  2. Visit the facility and meet the staff to check you are happy
  3. Ask all of the questions that you have
  4. Once you’re confident in your choice, take any steps to prepare your pet for their stay
  5. Then, it’s time for you (and your pet) to go on holiday

Where to find potential dog holiday care options

The first stage is to create a list of potential holiday care options for your pet. There are two common ways of doing this, through either personal recommendations, or online.

Personal recommendations

The best way to find reliable dog or cat sitters while you’re away is to ask for personal recommendations from local pet parents, your vet, groomer, or anybody else that you know. This is a great way to learn more about their services and find somebody that you are confident will give your beloved pet the best time. You could even join our online community, our friendly members will be happy to suggest some options!

Finding a pet sitter online

If you don’t know anybody that has a trusted pet sitter, there’s nothing wrong with beginning your research online. Make sure you read online reviews, ensure they are a trusted company and check that they have the necessary insurance and knowledge to look after your cat or dog while you’re on holiday.

Remember, a great feline or canine facility will be happy for you to observe and ask as many questions as you wish.

Types of dog holiday care

Different types of holiday care suit different pets and owners. While some prefer their dogs to be in a lively establishment, others want them to remain in a familiar setting. The decision is typically based on the personality and preferences of the animal.

Kennels or home boarding

Kennels are professional establishments designed to house dogs, which can vary greatly from high end ‘pet hotels’ to more basic premises. Home boarding is when a dog stays in someone’s home and is treated like part of their family while you’re away.

Things to ask when deciding where

Here are some ideas of questions to ask or observations to be made, which will help you to make sure the facility has everything that your pet could need to have a great stay.

  • Is there a place pets can go to be calm and quiet?
  • Do pets mix with others?
  • What happens during the day and what is the typical routine?
  • If pets do mix, is there supervision to step in and calm situations if interaction is too exuberant?
  • Will they feed the food that you provide?
  • Is there outdoor space with grass for dogs to enjoy, or is there indoor space for pets to run around in, so they are not confined to a kennel for the duration of their stay?
  • Do the animals get individual play time and quiet time with kennel staff in a safe place?
  • Which vet do they use and is it a 24/7 service?
  • Is there always someone on site?
  • What time is the last check at night done and what time in the morning does the day begin for dogs’ routines?
  • Are there areas for dogs to relax for those that prefer to observe than join in?
  • Do they play music to help dogs relax? (How music calms dogs)
  • Some home boarding facilities and kennels provide live video footage so you can check in and see how your pets are getting on. Is this an option?
  •  Are there any testimonials available to read on their website or Facebook?
  • Will you receive updates on your pet while you’re away?
  • Can you bring your pet’s favourite toys or bedding for comfort during the dog holiday care?

Extra questions for home boarders

For home boarders, there are a few additional questions that you should ask to make sure the experience will work for your pet. It’s important to visit so you know what to expect, which will also help you to make sure the owner makes you feel welcome and that their facilities are suitable.

When you visit, it’s the perfect time to check that they are knowledgeable and to ask essential questions to make sure your best friend will have a great time in their care. Extra questions to ask include:

  • Do they care for multiple pets at the same time? If so, how many and which animals?
  • Are they registered with the council? 
  • How much experience do they have with dogs/cats?
  • Do they have a first aid certificate?
  • Do they have children? If so, observe how the children interact with the animals, making sure they respect space and are calm around them

Final thoughts about kennels

  • Do as much dog holiday care homework as you would if you were looking for someone to look after your child
  • Ask as many questions as you need to
  • Check that potential pet sitters show interest in your pets, taking time to find out their likes and dislikes, behaviour, routines and other information such as medical requirements
  • Sit and observe, as this is the best way to find out whether somewhere is the right place for your pet
  • Take your dog for lots of little outings to your chosen dog holiday care, prior to leaving them for the week
  • Remember not to choose one just because it’s close and convenient. Go for the place that is best suited to your pet
  • If it doesn’t feel right, or if you have any concerns, then walk away
  • Book dog holiday care well in advance. The best places will be booked up many months in advance.

House sitters

If you know your dog is happiest at home, then why not find a house sitter? There are many companies that have a great number of trustworthy sitters trained to care for a range of pets.

The benefits of choosing a home sitter include keeping your pet in familiar surroundings without the need for great upheaval. It’s a great idea to invite the sitter to your home before you go on holiday, showing them your pet’s typical routine and asking anything you’d like to know. Not only will this give you confidence that you’re leaving your pet in capable hands, but it will help the transition to run more smoothly and make sure your furry friend feels safe while you’re away.

Things to discuss include:

  • Your pet’s usual routine, to ensure this doesn’t change during the dog holiday care
  • Familiarising your pet with the sitter before leaving for your holiday
  • Whether you’re comfortable for the sitter to walk your dog, or whether you’d prefer them to just have time in the garden

Family, friends or neighbours

Many people are lucky enough to have a family member, friend or neighbour that they trust to look after their pets when they go away.

Benefits of asking family, friends or neighbours to care for pets include it being cost-effective and making it easier for your pets to familiarise themselves with the people that will be looking after them.

It also means communication can be straightforward, sending regular updates and being available to help, or take your pet to the vet in the case of any emergencies.

Preparing for you & your pet to be apart

Once you have decided the right place for your pet to stay while you are away, it’s time to prepare for you and your pet to be apart.

Making sure you tick all of the necessary boxes and feel comfortable is key to having confidence and being able to relax, but what can you do to make it less stressful for your dog or cat?

Preparation is essential to reduce the likelihood of separation anxiety and making sure your pet is as comfortable as they can be in their new surroundings, or with a new person caring for them.

These 10 steps will help you and your pet to prepare for your holidays.

  1. If your pet is not staying at your home, visit the place they will stay a few times. Spend time exploring with them and encourage them to play, so they become accustomed to the unfamiliar sights and scents.
  2. Give your pet time to interact with the person or people that will care for them, helping them to become familiar, so it will not be as much of a shock. The more you do this, the smoother the transition will be.
  3. If possible, encourage one of the staff members to take your dog for a walk before returning home to you, so they have time to get to know them, as well as realising that they will be coming home again.
  4. Pack your pet’s bed or blankets, so they have familiar smells from home to comfort them during their stay.
  5. Bring a supply of your pet’s food so they can enjoy the meals that they are used to.
  6. On the day you leave your dog, stick to your usual routine. 
  7. Drop your pet off in the morning, so they have time to adjust and plenty of company before night time.
  8. When you hand your pet over, remain calm and try not to make a massive fuss. Have a nice play as usual, give them a cuddle and leave when you are ready.
  9. Trust your decision. By this point, you should have done everything you can to make sure you’ve chosen the perfect cat or dog holiday care, so relax and trust that the staff will do a great job.
  10. Remember, it’s completely normal to miss your pet. While it may be different for you and your pet at first, they will settle in. The important thing is to remind yourself that you’ve done all you can to reduce the anxiety on both sides

To streamline the transition and to truly prepare your dog for your holiday, read this effective method for solving separation anxiety in dogs.

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