Traveling Without Your Dog

Let’s face it, there comes a time when you and your family will be traveling to another vicinity, state, or country, and it is not always convenient to bring your dog along. Don’t feel guilty to leave him/her behind as long as you plan well who is going to take over the care of your dog. Plan in advanced to be safe.

Now the question on your mind is, “Should I choose a facility, or pass this responsibility to a friend/family?”.

Caretakers can be divided into 3 categories:

  1. Friend/ Family
  2. Pet sitter
  3. Boarding facility

Each option provides its own unique advantage and disadvantage. When considering which one to choose, we must look at your dog’s age, health, and personality, as well as your budget.

If for example, if your dog is ill, or generally timid, aggressive or nervous when they are away from home, he should remain at home with a sitter, or familiar relative/friend. Puppies with weak immunity should also avoid places where dogs congregate to lower the exposure to contagious diseases and parasites. On the other hand, if your dog is well-socialized, easy-going and healthy, a boarding facility with many play opportunities can be a good choice!

Whichever it is, make sure you take time to choose the facility or option that gives your dog a chance to have healthy amounts of interaction with humans. If they feel abandoned, or cooped up in a low-end kennel for 12-hours at a time, your dog may become bored, anxious and destructive.



Friends and family can be a good option if they are willing to follow your instructions.

The advantage to this is that your dog won’t be alone at night. He will also be able to remain in a home environment and receive personalized attention. If the caretaker has other pets or children, they will have a playmate. Plus, cost is cheap or free.

The downside to having your friend or family care for your dog is that they may be untrained volunteers who might ignore your instructions. Their home may not be dog-proofed either and caretakers may be away at work during the day.

When considering this option, first observe, is your dog comfortable with that person? Does your dog interact nicely with other pets and family members? Does your friend have many expensive furniture, delicate antiques, or hidden dangers? And do they work long hours or carouse all night? If your dog will be alone for long periods of time, it is better to go for someone else.

If you have the privilege of having a friend who knows how to care for dogs, and has common sense enough to not leave her chocolate bar lying on the counter, and have their gate closed at all times, or put away items that may pose a threat to your pooch, and whose house can be dog-proofed, this will be a great option for you! If not, not all hope is lost, you can go to the next option.


Pet Sitters


Pet sitters are a good option if you can find a good and trustworthy one

There are organisations providing house sitters like Trusted House Sitters and Pet Sitters International, but it is good to do your due diligence and look out for local sitters in your area. Once you have compiled a list, call them up and even invite the assigned sitter to your home for a chat. For facilities, schedule on-site visits. If they refuse either, choose somewhere else. A trusted business owner should be transparent and willing to provide enough information to make you feel comfortable.

The benefits of hiring a sitter at home is that your dog will remain where he’s most comfortable. The sitter can help you take care of the mail and water your plants as well. There may also be an option for them to stay overnight to accompany your dog and he won’t be exposed to other dogs that may be sick. If you don’t mind for a stranger to be in your home unsupervised, this option is for you!

However depending on your budget, a sitter could be with your dog 24/7, or they could come few times a day to sit and walk your dog, the risk is that your dog may be alone for long periods of time if this is your choice. If you can only afford a sitter to come 2-3 times a day, or if they send different sitters to sit your dog, a boarding facility may be a better option for you, your dog needs a constant routine.

Remember to interview and screen your sitters before making a decision, making sure that the sitter is right for your pet, and you feel at ease while you are away. Ask them practical questions like what will they do in an emergency, what is their experience with pets, will you leave him in the car or tied in a store etc.


Boarding Facility

An example of a dog boarding facility

The pros of engaging a boarding facility, is that your dog will be in a secure environment with trained staff and won’t be alone at night. They will have a chance to play with other dogs and interact with people. Plus, the facility may offer additional services like grooming or training.

As for the downside, your dog might spent too much time in their kennel, and be exposed to dogs that are ill or have parasites. The environment will also be unfamiliar to your dog, which may cause stress and they may not receive personalized attention.

While surveying your chosen facility, here are some questions you can ask:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • How are the staff chosen and screened?
  • Do the staff receive special training in first aid, animal behavior or other areas?
  • Do you require vaccinations or health certificates from boarders? (Avoid facilities that don’t, illnesses pass quickly from dog to dog in close quarters)
  • Where will my dog stay? (Avoid facilities that houses more than one dog per space unless you request sharing)
  • How often will my dog be taken out to relieve himself?
  • Can my dog’s special needs be met? For instance, if he is nervous, can he be in a quieter section?
  • How many staff will be on duty? (During play sessions, the ratio should be no more than ten to one)
  • How many staff are on duty overnight? (If none, go elsewhere)

While touring the facility, observe the cleanliness. Sniff, it should smell like dog, not feces or urine. Observe the lighting, temperature and ventilation, make sure it is comfortable. Make sure to see that each dog has their own food and water bowl. Dogs should sleep on raised platforms, not concrete floors.

Ask to see the space your dog will be staying, and hear if the dogs in the facility are barking happily and relaxed, or are they whimpering and crying. Do the staff look excited around the dogs, or are they just doing their job? Do the security devices look secure?

If you are not allowed to visit particular areas (except administrative offices), cross the facility off the list.

Trial Run

There’s nothing wrong with having a trial run at all 3 options to determine the best option for your dog, and for you to work out the kinks in the arrangements before you leave.


Leave a list of instructions for your caretaker regarding your dog’s routine, how often they go to the bathroom, and the phone numbers to contact you from in case of an emergency. You may also want to include the numbers of friends and relatives who live nearby, who do not mind helping you out in an emergency.

Before your departure, feed your dog and play with him, wear him out so that he is calm before you go. When you leave, don’t make a fuss, pretend that you are just going out for a jog. Most dogs can’t tell time, so if you leave him in good hands, he won’t know how long you were gone.

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