Leaving on holiday sans dog

Summer time. Aaah, days at the beach, BBQs, long evenings, holidays (at least for some of us, but this is another story) … and the question what am I going to do with my dog when I go away?

There is a not-so-nice side effect of holidays for dogs and cats, too. Every year, owners abandon them or surrender them to a shelter. It’s difficult to get an exact overview of how many animals are abandoned in the UK each year, since every charity counts their animals individually. To give you an idea: for 2015, the RSPCA reported 9,069 animals abandoned, and about 1,000 of them during the month of July. That’s a 204% increase from the rest of the year, in case you’re wondering. So, writing about what to do with your dog on holiday is actually really important – even for small blogs like ours.

Summer time – and what to do?

If you find an animal that you suspect of having been abandoned, you can call the RSPCA (UK only). Please stay with the animal until an officer arrives and is able to take care of it. If you happen to fall in love with that dog or cat, you can apply to the shelter later in order to adopt it. Abroad: call the police. They will be able to forward your call or – like in Germany – will respond themselves to the call. Also abroad, please do not take the animal home! There is always a chance that the dog/cat wast lost and not abandoned, and apart from causing distress, you would commit a legal offence if you just took it home. If you manage to catch them, go and see the nearest vet (ask Google where to find them). The microchip reader at the vet should be able to identify an owner. If there is no owner, and you fell in love with that dog or cat, the vet will be able to help you with information about the adoption process, too.

Also for the summer: if you see dogs and cats being left in cars in warm or hot weather, please do not hesitate to call the RSPCA or police, depending on where you are! The temperature rises quickly in the car. Even on a mild day, when the sun is on the car, the temperature can rise to 40 degrees celsius quicker than you think. Here is a video of a vet who did the live self-experiment of being trapped in the car. Obviously, this also goes for babies and young children being left in the car – call the police. Unfortunately, it happens more often than one wants to imagine. See here. Can you tell I listened to a lot of crime podcasts lately… but I digress…

 

Now, what am I going to do with my dog when I go away on holiday?

I pretty much have two options: take them along or leave them behind with someone. We will look at both options in separate blog posts. In this week’s post, we’ll start by looking at leaving your dog behind while you go on holiday. Keep in mind that this might not be the cheapest option. This is one of the reasons why every year people end up abandoning their animals (see above).

Leave my dog behind

There are many options: neighbours, family, friends, dog sitters, and dog boarding (home boarding or kennels) with all sorts of features and price tags attached. Even if I have budgeted this into my ‘dog’ budget’, it’s good to re-check current prices and the services offered. It can’t hurt.

I would also want to check with my regular dog walker – especially for holidays. Their service offer may have changed, even though it’s still offered under the same name. It’s always good to check in from time to time and see if your dog is still getting the same care. My dogs’ needs might also change. Maybe they require different care (older dog, sick dog, shy dog). There are a lot of excellent dog walkers, and they won’t mind a bit if you look at how they work. It’s reassuring from their perspective, because they know you care. I interviewed dog walkers (who also offer boarding) for this post, and here are a few things they told me:

Check if and how the dog walker is insured. If you can, observe how they treat dogs - preferably before you approach them as a client.

If your dog has never been at doggie care, it’s probably best to try out a few different dog walkers before you leave for your holiday. Also keep in mind that good dog walkers are usually booked out really quickly. You want to have options. If you’re lost for choice between all the different options, talk to your vet. They should be able to put you on the right track and they know your dog.

What are my options?

You can either go through a business, such as dog walkers or kennels, or go private such as VIP dogs. Maybe you are lucky and have neighbours, friends, or family who adore your dog and would take them at any time.

My holiday dog sitter options are

  • Home boarding 1 = your dog stays at the home of other people (dog walker, neighbours/friends/family who adore your dog)
  • Home boarding 2 = someone comes to live in your house (usually pet sitter agency or larger dog walking company)
  • Doggie day care plus boarding 1: your dog goes to the usual day care and will be either at your place with a person living in, or at someone else’s home afterwards (usually offered by larger dog walking companies)
  • Doggie day care plus boarding 2: your dog will go into a kennel at the end of the day.
  • Dog hotels or kennels. They come in all shapes, sizes and with all kinds of services.

You need to figure out what suits your dog and leaves you assured that they are well cared for, and – importantly – what you are able to pay. Bills for a two-week boarding place can quickly run up to £2000+. Lots of money! However, this is not going to guarantee you the best care (thankfully, the most expensive option is necessarily the best). Talk to other dog owners to find out what they are doing and who they would recommend. Also, talk to your vet. Talk to a lot of people about it! Don’t be offended it people keep the name of their dog walker to themselves. Not everyone wants to give you the name of their dog walker, especially if they only take 2-3 dogs. This makes you a potential competitor for one of these places. The research doesn’t have to take you weeks, but it will take a little time if you want to make sure your dog gets the same level of care they get at home.

Side note: sick dogs

Your dog might get sick while you are away, and it can happen even if they have the best care, just because – well dogs get sick, too. A good dog sitter will make sure to call you. They will take your dog to the vet if needed. Usually dog walkers also refer vets they trust, it’s in the service contract you sign. Make sure you are happy with the small print. If you have built up a trust relationship with your vet, you can ask that your dog goes there (if your chosen kennel or dog boarding service is not too far away). Your vet will help you to figure out what should be done, and what can wait until you’re home. If it’s a time sensitive matter they will make sure your dog is referred to a specialist right away, or if it can wait, they’ll book them in for when you come back. See it as an extra layer of safety and peace of mind, not as an unreasonable demand towards your dog walker. If your usual vet is too far away, you will have to trust the vet the dog walker, kennel, dog hotel provides. You can, however, still expect to talk to that vet while your dog is there.

Finally

The most important thing is that you get your dog back in good health and spirits. Please choose carefully. There is a dark side to this business, similar to the dark side in puppy farming. Animals have become the next big business after drugs. That should give you pause – at least it made me think a lot. Dogs and cats will not tell you what happened. They won’t tell you if they have been bullied by other dogs or beaten by their dog walker or left alone in a van… You might have to deal with a traumatised, or worse, a sick animal when you come home. And nothing can spoil coming back from a relaxed holiday more than worries about your pet. The most expensive solutions are not always the best. There are budget friendlier versions that offer excellent service.
 
Choose carefully as you won’t be there if something happens. Then hug your furry friend, leave and enjoy your holiday – and get them back happy and healthy afterwards.
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