Pet Services and Supplies - Dog Kennels and Pet Sitters
Whether you are planning to be away from home on holiday or on business without your dog you are faced with the dilemma - Should I use a dog kennels or a pet sitter to care for my dog? There isn't a right answer, so this article will look at the pros and cons of both options and some factors to consider when you choose a dog boarding kennels or pet sitter. You will then be able to select the option which suits you and your dog the best.
The idea of getting a pet sitter often appeals more than the idea of putting your dog in boarding kennels. A pet sitter will either come and stay at your house for the whole time whilst you are away or will come in 3 or 4 times each day to feed and walk your dog. There is a third option, sometimes called pet sitting, but also known as home boarding. Home boarding is where the pet sitter takes the dog into their own home to care for whilst you're away and I shall consider this separately.
The advantage of hiring a pet sitter for your dog is that it gets to stay in its own home. For elderly pets or ones with a health condition such as diabetes which can be affected by stress, staying in their familiar environment can be especially reassuring for them. However, for a dog who isn't used to being left with a stranger it can still be bewildering and stressful.
Another advantage is that your home is occupied whilst you are away which may help deter thieves, although if the pet sitter is turning up intermittently throughout the day in a vehicle marked 'Pet sitting Service' or such like, this could actually advertise to a thief that you are away from home.
The disadvantage is that the pet sitting industry is not regulated, so that anyone can set themselves up as a pet sitter. This means that unless you know the individual who is pet sitting for you or have a very strong recommendation from someone whose opinions you respect, you are pretty much taking on trust that the pet sitter will look after your pet competently and not abuse the fact that they have the keys to your house and therefore potentially access to your computer, filing cabinet, phone land line etc.
Before engaging a pet sitter you should check with your house insurance company that your insurance remains valid if you have a pet sitter coming in to your home and also what you are covered for in the event of something going wrong. If you have pet insurance for your dog you should also check whether that covers problems occurring whilst your pet is in the care of a sitter. Also check that the pet sitter has insurance.
Home boarding is almost a hybrid between kennels and pet sitting. The advantage of it is that your dog is staying in someone else's home so they will have company for much of the day and home comforts. The home boarder may well have their own dogs or other dogs staying with them, so home boarding is usually only an option for sociable dogs. If your dog is sociable it can be great fun for them to spend a week with a few dog friends.
Other advantages are that the security of things inside your house isn't at risk because the home boarder will not be accessing your house and also in the UK some county councils, such as Sherwood council, treat home boarders as they would a boarding kennels and require them to fulfill certain criteria and have a licence.
The disadvantage is that your dog is somewhere unfamiliar and the environment may not be as secure as a boarding kennels, for example there is unlikely to be a safety door preventing your dog from rushing out on the road when the door is opened. You might also spend your time worrying about what your dog is up to in someone else's house - e.g. whether he's destroying the furniture or raiding the kitchen.
An advantage of dog kennels is that you can feel confident that the dog is secure in the kennel for much of the time and the kennels will often have some larger runs which the dogs get to exercise in for part of the day in addition to the run attached to the individual kennels. You won't have to spend the holiday worrying whether your dog is barking in between visits from the pet sitter or wondering if the pet sitter has been rifling through your drawers or playing loud music all day and annoying the neighbours.
In the USA it is fairly common for veterinarians to have a boarding facility attached to their premises. This can be especially reassuring if you have a pet with an existing condition which requires extra care such as CDRM (also known as degenerative myelopathy).
Another advantage in the UK is that Boarding Kennels are regulated which means they have to be licensed and inspected by the local council and conform to regulations regarding things like kennel size, heating and cleaning.
In America it varies from state to state whether boarding kennels have to be licensed. While most states require pet dogs and dog breeders to be licensed, fewer specify that boarding kennels must be licensed.
The downsides of kennels are that the dog is unlikely to get as much one to one attention and although they will exercise themselves running up and down a kennel run, there are rarely enough staff to take the dog for extensive walks. Kennels are an unfamiliar environment and dogs are often slightly stressed by the experience to start with, but having worked in a boarding kennel myself I can reassure you that it is remarkable how quickly most dogs do settle and a good kennel owner will put extra effort in to ensuring that the dogs who are more anxious and stressed to start with, are comfortable and coping with the experience.
Dog Tag Tip
Make sure your dog tag has relevant contact details on whilst you are away. If you are out of the country and can't be contacted by phone, you may want to put a tag with the kennels or home boarders phone number on.
Researching Pet Services
Researching the options available to you is essential whether you choose a dog kennels, pet sitters or home boarding service. Ask everyone you know with dogs for a recommendation, it is reassuring to use a service which friends and aquaintences have been satisfied with. This will help you narrow down the choices.
Questions to ask could include, what would you do in the case of an emergency with the dog, What would happen if you were taken ill whilst caring for my dog? What does your insurance cover?
Visit any kennels you are considering using. They should be happy to show you the kennels and answer your questions about the dogs' routine. This will give you an idea of whether they can care for your dog competently and if the surroundings are suitable. A local pet sitter will usually come to your home to talk about your requirements and get to know your dog.
You will also get a gut feeling about the kennels or pet sitter based on how interested they seem in your dog and how they interact with and talk about the dogs in their care.
Having selected a kennels or pet sitter give them a short trial of two nights to start with. It can be a shock to the dog if the first time you go away and leave it you're gone for 3 weeks. A short trial may highlight services which would be unsuitable longer term for example; the neighbour might point out that they never saw dog sitter take your dog for a walk or you might find that the dog seems unduly stressed from being in kennels. On the other hand it can let you feel confident in your choice if you return to a happy dog and all is well at home.
The key really is in the preparation and planning. Most dog's are accommodating and adaptable. If you gradually accustom a dog to staying in kennels or being cared for by a pet sitter they will accept the experience. The only problem you may feel you have is that they seem to greet the pet sitter or kennel owner with more enthusiasm than they greet you!
Evaluating Pet Services
Familiar environment and all the home comforts for the dog. Your house isn't left empty whilst you are away
Usually the most expensive option. Concern for security of personal information as someone else has the keys to your house.
Home comforts and company for the dog
Usually more suitable for sociable dogs, unfamiliar environment
Usually the cheaper option, kennels should be secure for the dog. In the UK boarding kennels have to licensed by the local authority
Unfamiliar environment, dogs may get walked less. Greater potential for spread of disease and parasites.