Pet Care While On Vacation: Will My Dog Be Okay?

When you have to leave your dog…finding appropriate care

By Marilyn Marks

When life takes you away from home to a place where your best friend can’t go, how can you keep your dog safe and relatively content in your absence?

The best situation for your dog will depend on his/her age and temperament, but all the usual options, from boarding kennels to pet sitters, can offer the right fit for the right dog.

A boarding kennel is a great option for young, active dogs. The hustle and bustle of the day give the dog something to focus on. These same dogs, left home alone awaiting a pet sitter, may become bored, over-active, anxious, and destructive. A relatively new option that is also great for young, active dogs is “cageless” boarding facilities where dogs play with suitable dogs all day but are separated at night (and tired!).

Dogs older than two years who stay home alone during their usual daily life and can be easily leash-walked or let out into the yard for exercise will do fine with a visiting pet sitter. This situation provides something close to normal for the dog, but beware of using a pet sitter if your dog develops anxiety whenever your household schedule changes, as some dogs become destructive when left alone for longer periods than they are used to.

If your dog has medical needs, you will probably feel most comfortable with some sort of “constant care” from a friend, family member, or live-in pet sitter. This last option can be costly, but special needs require special circumstances

A fearful dog will be one of the most challenging types to find care for. Obviously, if your dog dislikes strangers and you can’t arrange for a family member or friend to care for the dog, you will have to build in time (and money) prior to using a pet sitter for them to bond with your dog.

Some general guidelines:

  • The American Boarding Kennel Association ( offers voluntary accreditation to member kennels; look for this certification at your local kennel.
  • Pet sitters should at least hold insurance and may also be a member of either Pet Sitters International ( or the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (, which offers an earned certification). You can locate members on the websites.
  • Plan on making boarding or pet-sitting arrangements at least three months in advance, especially if you will be away during a holiday.
  • Best case scenario for all situations is to do a trial run, where you use and pay for the service at least once before you really need it. That way you have time to address problems or make changes.
  • Dogs can get “kennel cough” even after receiving the vaccine. Whenever dogs are confined together if one dog gets it, they all can – it’s airborne – and much like a cold for kids at school.
  • Your dog will not miss you as much as you miss your dog. They adapt readily, and actually enjoy their time at the kennel or the pet sitter’s visits as a change from their normal routine.

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