What to Do When You Can’t Bring Your Dog Travelling

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This guest post from Melanie Varey details her experience in finding care for her two Whippets when her and her husband are unable to take them with them on vacation!

Sometimes, as much as you like, you just can’t bring your dog with you travelling.

As first-time dog owners with our whippet puppy some 7 years ago now, we had the view that our dog wouldn’t alter our social life.

How wrong we were!

I’ll stress here that I am not complaining about this one bit. We regularly recall a dogless existence and how we could never imagine L.B.W (life before whippets). They (now we have two!) are so utterly worth every ounce of effort we put in to our plans, so we can take them with us on every holiday possible.

There are, however, challenges to finding suitable care when we can’t be with them.

Day-care was relatively straightforward. We quickly found wonderful dogwalkers (and now friends). Going to work and knowing our pets are stimulated, loved and cared for means the world to us. Holidays, however, were a little more complex. It is important to note here that our dogs come to this with one or two bad experiences so have their insecurities.

We were told not to use kennels for whippets so we immediately went to the ‘in another home’ type accommodation.

This was with mixed success.

We had some positive encounters, but also a ‘red-card’ from another when our diva wailed the house down overnight.

We looked around kennels as had many friends whose dogs were very happy there. Our boys look petrified and put their brakes on before entering and I could see why. The small spaces and loud barking (and I’m sure the lack of blankets!) made them very anxious.

I was not comfortable with this arrangement. Having said that, we have since used kennels for daycare and this has been very positive.

Determined to succeed, we started following a new ‘breed specific’ business on social media. This was a turning point for us, but also a huge learning curve about what works for our dogs.

We went for a pre-visit to meet the owner and dogs and thought it all looked positive. However, back in the country, we faced a heart-breaking reunion where my dog literally jumped into my arms, noticeably underweight (he had barely eaten) and shivering.

It was just heart-breaking. The aftermath of this experience was also significant, we now had very anxious dogs with new issues, for example, fear of having nails trimmed and fireworks- it really did affect them.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. With this knowledge, we now knew that we needed an option that kept daily routines as stable as possible while we were away and without too many dogs around them.

Our wonderful daycare friend (who so kindly offered us some nights away by welcoming our boys to her home) gave us details for a house sitter.

For us this is the perfect solution! She is the Mary Poppins of the dog sitter world. So caring, loving and kind – our boys love her! They have happily stayed with her but it is most successful she comes to our house. We have since found another wonderful person to follow the same routines, so we have two brilliant people that come and have sleepovers with our boys when we have the occasional night away or short break.

We are up to two nights away now and return home to happy relaxed dogs which of course means happy relaxed owners!

We are so grateful for the people that step in when we need and want them. For us, it has been about finding the likeminded people that understand the needs and behavior of dogs with issues and will love and like them for all of their ways.

On this journey we have discovered:

  • It is vital to think about what works best for your dog’s personality. A dog who needs space, peace and home comforts will probably struggle in a setting that is crowded, noisy etc. If your dog is relaxed and without anxieties when away from home you may have the choice of any setting.
  • Research is key. Go and meet or visit any kennel, sitter or home situation you intend to leave your dog in. Personal recommendations are great but bear in mind your own dog’s needs. Ensure that the setting and most importantly the people are suitable for you and your pet(s) way of life.
  • If considering leaving your dog to stay in another home, check that the premises are safe and secure. We fell foul of this when one of our dogs escaped through an unsecured fence in day-care! If they will be staying with other dogs it is important to allow them to build a relationship with the humans and dogs before they are living with them.
  • Reviews of pet businesses are really helpful to gauge the ethos of the service. You can then judge if it is right for your family. Facebook pages are great for this, but a face to face can’t be beaten. See if you like the person you are leaving your dog(s) with.
  • Ensure that the carer has the appropriate insurance and DBS checks. People who love dogs often have lots of experience of related issues so are much more able to support your pet in your absence.
  • If you have a sensitive dog, using a house sitter is an excellent option. It is important for you and your dog to meet the sitter before they are left in charge. Building a relationship is vital and it is important to find somebody that is willing to cut your dog a little slack if they are anxious away from home. They may well need some extra TLC. For our boys away from us or home means sleeping on the floor near their carer (their usual routine is sleeping in the kitchen overnight), and at home following their usual routines.
  • Write down your dog’s quirks and routines- if whoever is caring for them knows the usual timings, routines, habits then they have a much better chance of having a settled time. This can feel like a bit of a mission but is so worth it!
  • Maintain the momentum of the relationship so that a sitter coming to stay is not a mega once a year experience.
  • Establish what you want when you are away. We love receiving photos and updates and feel much happier if we know all is well back at base.

Many people have dogs that are hugely adaptable and require little organization. That’s great and these people probably don’t need to read this article, but many of us don’t for one reason or another.

For me my dogs are my family and their happiness is vital and fundamental to my enjoyment of a break away from them, so why wouldn’t I take the time to make it as lovely for them as I can?

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