You’re all set to go on vacation this year, having skillfully avoided the the issues that tripped you up in the past—no last-minute prescription refills, no “where’d-I-put-thatpassport” searches and no dirty dishes in the sink awaiting your return. 

And then you remember … the dog. 

Skip the frantic phone call begging your sister to come spend a week with Fido or to welcome him into her own no-pets-allowed condo while you enjoy your week in the sun. Planning for what you’ll do with your dog during vacation is essentially part of planning your vacation. A few simple reminders will help keep you on track. 

Consider this:

You’ll need to decide what kind of care your dog requires. Do you want someone to come into your home and walk your dog a few times a day? Do you want someone to spend a few nights at your home to keep an eye on your beloved pet and your house? Maybe you’d like to drop your dog off at a dog sitter or an overnight dog-care facility. Before you decide, it’s important to consider a few things:

• Does your dog like being home alone? Is she easily scared by storms or fireworks? Do you feel comfortable knowing that no one will be there at night if she gets lonely or anxious? If you think your dog can stay home alone with a few visits each day, consider the person who will stop in and care for your dog. Do you trust that person in your home when you’re not there, especially if they’re not a friend or relative? If you use a service, be sure that they run background checks on their service providers. If you’re going to hire a dogsitter on your own or based on a recommendation of a family member or friend, it’s completely acceptable to ask that person to
undergo a background check. You can use several online sites for the service at a nominal cost. If a person refuses to undergo a background check, there’s probably a pretty good chance that’s not someone you want staying your home when you’re 3,000 miles away.

• While an obvious question to consider is how your dog interacts with other dogs, it’s important to realize that not all interactions are indicative of what a dog is like when he or she enters a daycare or boarding facility. Dogs that maniacally bark at anyone who walks past the front of your house or dogs that lunge forward when they see another dog during a walk aren’t automatically on the “uninvited” list when it comes to dog-care facilities. Think about the restrictions your dog has when he’s at home and sees an unfamiliar person walking near the house. Same with the leash. The best dog-care facilities take those restrictions away and place your dog in a social environment.  

A daycare facility isn’t a come-one, come-all setting with no supervision. The best include a fully trained staff that puts your dog in the best situation possible. 

Before you book:

If you’re considering an extended care facility for your dog, you should check out a few things. Will there be staff on hand 24 hours a day? It’s naive to think that things won’t happen after hours. For your own peace of mind and for the safety of your dog, you’ll want to be sure there’s someone on staff who can call for help or bring a dog to the veterinarian. 

It’s always good practice to let your dog warm up to a future temporary environment by scheduling a half-day visit or even an overnight stay before you head off on vacation. Not only does it give your dog a chance to experience some time in adifferent setting away from you, it also gives the staff a chance to interact with your dog and learn more about their new guest before that lengthier visit.  

If you’re concerned that your dog won’t get along with others, ask the facility to do a temperament assessment. (The best facIlities require this prior to any stay) They can tell what your dog likes and dislikes and how her interaction with others can be controlled.

What to bring:

When dropping off your dog, cover the basics: food, medication, and an emergency contact number for you and your vet. It’s also important to bring the things that will help your dog relax in his new environment. People should bring the dog’s bed, her toys and maybe an article of clothing from a family member—the scent could provide some security and assurance. 

And don’t be afraid to share information. Let them know if they enjoy sleeping during the day, become aggressive when someone enters a room or won’t exit a space unless prompted, even if their path is wide open. It’s also important to remember that animals living together in new spaces can bring its own set of challenges. That’s why it’s especially important to vet your new daycare facility and to make sure that experienced, trained staff members will be looking after your pet. 

While it’s easy to get caught up in the pre-trip preparations that involve sunscreen and blackjack money, it’s important to keep in mind your responsibilities to your dog. A simple checklist and some honest conversation will put your pet in the best place possible. And you’ll get to bring along an item that’s not on your packing list: peace of mind.

Jill Showalter owns Yuppie Puppy and Doggie Day Play in Oak Park. She has personally tended to more than 100,000 dogs since 2007 and has shared stories and advice with numerous dog owners.

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