Ready. Set. Go! – I’ll Be Back

As a dog parent, traveling without your dog is very stressful.  You constantly worry if they’ll be okay, if they’ll eat and, in some cases, receive their medicine on time.  One option for your pets when going away without them is to leave them at home with a pet sitter.  I recently went away and was lucky enough to get a house sitter whom my dogs know and trust.  She knows my dogs well, yet I still needed to leave instructions so that my dogs’ routine wouldn’t be disrupted.  I’d like to share ten things that I find important to include in the instructions in order to minimize stress for everyone. 

  1. Leave detailed instructions on feeding.  Include where the bowls and dog food are and what time the dogs are usually fed.  If you have multiple dogs, include instructions on who can eat near who and where each dog’s bowl is to be placed.
  2. If your dogs need medication, make sure there is enough to last a couple of extra days, just in case you’re delayed for some reason.  Don’t forget to include in the information for the pet sitter what time medicine should be administered, does the medication need to be given with food, will the dog willingly take it, what happens if he misses a dose.
  3. Make sure you leave contact information for your veterinarian.  This seems logical, but sometimes stress can make us forget the most important things.  If there is a close vet nearby, include contact information for that one, too.  And leave contact information for an after-hours ER veterinarian.
  4. Decide who your pet sitter can call in case she has an emergency and needs help.  Make sure it’s someone who lives nearby and will be in town while you’re away. 
  5. If your dog has ever woken you up at 6 AM on a Saturday because that’s the time you walk him on weekdays, you’ll understand the importance of sticking to specific dog walk times.  Give your pet sitter and idea of what times the dogs are used to being walked.
  6. Let your sitter know where your dogs need to be walked.  What their favorite potty area is and how to stay away from problem neighborhood dogs.  Include information on where the leashes are kept and if the dogs are allowed to be walked off leash in a safe location.
  7. Do you have a male dog who acts up when you’re away?  Does he feel the need to mark everything in sight?  Invest in some belly bands and let your pet sitter know where you keep the clean ones.  Don’t forget to tell her where to put the soiled ones.
  8. Much like humans have a favorite side of the bed to sleep on, dogs have a favorite, too.  Let your sitter know each dog’s usual spot.  Make sure to tell her if she needs to reposition dog beds at night. 
  9. Some dogs cannot be trusted to stay out of trouble when the owner is away.  Tell your sitter where to leave each dog, if she goes out.  If your dog is crated when alone, make sure to tell her how long the dog can realistically be crated.
  10. Depending on how long you’ll be gone, your sitter may need to exercise your dogs.  Tell her how (retrieving, jogging, etc.), where and how often she should exercise them.

Do yourself a favor and prepare pet sitter instructions before you even start planning a trip.  Don’t wait until you’re rushed and trying to get a million last minute things done.  Pet parents are going to stress about leaving our pets anyway, but with a little planning, we can minimize that stress.