With one of the biggest canine populations per capita, Boiseans clearly love their pets. So when it’s time to travel, how do we make sure these precious family members get just as much love as we give while we’re away? Just like people, not all animals are created equal, but fortunately, among the growing number of options in the Treasure Valley, we can choose a staycation that makes them happy, safe, and miss us a little less!
If you’re not taking your pet on the road with you, there are two main options: in-home care with a family member or relative, or a local dog sitter or boarding facility. Which one is best for your pet? My first choice has always been in-home care, but I’ve also found boarding facilities to be a safe haven for my pups for daycare and overnight trips. While cost and availability are a good place to start, there are some other important factors that families should consider.
Health and Safety
For many, this is a number one priority when leaving our loved ones behind. Before committing, ask for a tour of the prospective home or facility and inquire about their cleaning routines. Regular cleaning schedules will help keep those fast-spreading viruses like kennel cough to a minimum and reduce unwanted odors.
If you’d like your pet back fluffy and clean, consider a sitter that will give your pup a bath or a pet resort that offers grooming. If you’re looking for a place where your pup can play, then you’ll also want a boarding facility that screens for aggressive behaviors through questions they may ask of the owners and a meet and greet or shortened visit. Even if your dog is friendly, you don’t want them to be at risk of being attacked or harmed by a dog that should be solo!
Response to unexpected scenarios also matters. Ask if the dog sitter is trained in pet CPR or first aid. There are some boarding facilities connected to a vet clinic. For those like House of Hounds that do not have medical staff on-site, owner Mikey Cunningham reported that they respond quickly to minor incidents without bothering the owners, and if anything critical occurs, they alert the parents and are more than happy to get the pet to an emergency vet. Inquiring about staff members on-site at night is another safety inquiry to make when taking your pet somewhere new.
Person to Pet Ratio
Of course, in-home pet care offers the smallest person to pet ratio, but if you’d rather your pup have a staycation, seeking a boarding facility with a lower staff-to-pet ratio is another good option.
If your pet is used to a backyard to romp and play, staying in a small apartment may be a big change for them. Humans are not the only ones that can get grumpy in a tight, crowded space. At a pet resort, more space means more opportunity for dogs or cats to spread out or get their energy out while also having their own space.
Animals can be sensitive to human feelings, and thus, a positive environment reduces the likelihood of added stress and increases the odds your pet will be more satisfied with their stay!
Understanding Pet Behaviors
As much as we wish our pets could talk like in the movies, instead, we must rely on the nonverbal and vocal communication our pets do use to share how they are feeling, in addition to having some basic understanding of dog behaviors. For instance, recognizing a tucked tail or raised hackles means a dog is nervous or scared. Like humans, dogs thrive off structure and routine, and they come to expect it. That means they also know when things are out of the norm. When it’s time for you to leave, many dogs will recognize the signs they are being left behind and may also act more down or even refuse to eat while their family is away. Some pets experience separation anxiety, which may also mean they are more likely to act differently while you’re away. Recognizing how our pets respond to other animals and unfamiliar people is also helpful. Do they react poorly to unfamiliar dogs? Are they indifferent? Or are they eager to make new friends? Does your pup have lots of energy and need to get it out to prevent destructive behaviors? Many dogs, like mine, behave differently around an owner, especially if they are a breed that instinctually goes into protective mode. All of these personality traits, habits, and behaviors are important to consider when choosing the best form of care for your pet.
When preparing for our pet’s staycation, it’s important to impart this understanding of our pets onto the chosen caregivers. If your dog is staying at your home or someone else’s, ask if they will be around or exposed to other pets or people. Also, consider their own background and understanding of pet behaviors. This comes into play not only when providing individual training with a dog but recognizing, for instance, when a pup might be overstimulated or need a break from being around other dogs. They also take their time introducing them into the group during daycare hours, letting pups relax in a gated area for a few minutes to warm up and let the other dogs lose some of the excitement that typically happens with new arrivals.
Activity and Attention
How much attention and activity does your pet require? Will your pet be alone for several hours a day, or will the sitter be home most of the day? While some boarding facilities may offer overnight stays with minimal interaction, many try to offer options to meet the needs of each dog that they care for. For instance, some offer daycare time so they can play and get their energy out, while some offer individualized time for those dogs that are happier on their own.
Pet Owner Communication
Every dog sitter and boarding facility has their own standards of communication, and some may be willing to do more than others. Do you only want updates if there’s an emergency? Or photos and daily updates? If you’re hoping for more communication and are choosing a boarding facility, some facilities have cameras on the premises so you can watch your dog play during the day! And if you miss the camera action, just check their daily social media posts on Facebook for a photo of your pup!
When choosing your own pet’s staycation, don’t be afraid to call, interview, read reviews, and visit multiple locations. Here are a few options to help get you started:
Individual Pet Sitters
Meridian: Intermountain Pet Hospital Pet Lodge, (208) 978-7131 — All Valley Animal Resort, A Thrive Pet Healthcare Center, (208) 287-3100