By Published On: October, 2015Categories: Pet Sitting

caninecamp2By Brenna Fender

The holiday season is fast approaching and you may be heading out of town to celebrate. But what will you do with your pets?

If your pets aren’t traveling with you, you will need to find a pet sitter or a boarding facility. How do you make the right choice so that your dog will be safe and happy in your absence?

Choosing a Pet Sitter

A pet sitter comes into your home to care for your dog or other pets. Your pet sitter will visit at least twice a day, but if you don’t have a dog door or a pet that uses an indoor area for elimination, you will probably need three visits for your dog to be happy and comfortable.

How do you find someone to trust with your pets and your home?

Word-of-mouth works well, so ask your pet owning friends and family about their pet sitters. Your veterinarian or dog trainer may also have good suggestions. The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters ( and Pet Sitters International ( may also be good resources for great pet sitters.

How will you know if a particular pet sitter is a good choice?

According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) (, ask the following questions:

  • Can the pet sitter provide written proof that she has commercial liability insurance (to cover accidents and negligence) and is bonded (to protect against theft by a pet sitter or her employees)?
  • What training has the pet sitter completed?
  • Will the pet sitter record notes about your pet—such as his likes, dislikes, fears, habits, medical conditions, medications, and routines?
  • Is the pet sitter associated with a veterinarian who can provide emergency services?
  • What will happen if the pet sitter experiences car trouble or becomes ill? Does she have a backup?
  • Will the pet sitter provide related services such as in-home grooming, dog walking, dog training and play time?
  • Will the pet sitter provide a written service contract spelling out services and fees?
  • If the pet sitter provides live-in services, what are the specific times she agrees to be with your pet? Is this detailed in the contract?
  • How does your pet sitter make sure that you have returned home?
  • Will the pet sitter provide you with the phone numbers of other clients who have agreed to serve as references?

A good pet sitter will meet with you and your pets in advance and ask lots of questions to make sure that he or she will give your pet the best possible care while you are gone. Consider this meeting an interview and don’t be afraid to look for another sitter if you don’t like the way your first choice is interacting with your pets or is presenting him or herself to you.

What about a Boarding Kennel?

Boarding facilities provide a place for your pet to stay away from your home. While your dog will have to adjust to a new environment, he or she will most likely get more attention at a boarding facility where someone is in attendance for most of the day.

You can find a good boarding kennel the same way that you locate a good pet sitter: through word-of-mouth. Friends, family, neighbors, vets, and dog trainers can all be great sources of information about good boarding facilities.

After you acquire a list of potential facilities, visit them. HSUS ( suggests paying attention to the following:

  • Does the facility look and smell clean?
  • Is there sufficient ventilation and light?
  • Is a comfortable temperature maintained?
  • Does the staff seem knowledgeable and caring?
  • Are pets required to be current on their vaccinations, including the vaccine for canine kennel cough (Bordetella)?
  • Does each dog have his own adequately sized indoor-outdoor run or an indoor run and a schedule for exercise?
  • Are outdoor runs and exercise areas protected from wind, rain, and snow?
  • Are resting boards and bedding provided to allow dogs to rest off the concrete floor?
  • Are cats housed away from dogs?
  • Is there enough space for cats to move around comfortably?
  • Is there enough space between the litter box and food bowls?
  • How often are pets fed?
  • Can the bring a pet’s special food?
  • What veterinary services are available?
  • Are other services available such as grooming, training, bathing?
  • How are rates calculated?

Petco ( also suggests that you “find out if the kennel you’re considering belongs to the American Boarding Kennel Association” and “call the Better Business Bureau to make sure no one has issued complaints against the kennel.”

It’s also important to examine the safety of the kennel areas, as well as determine whether the indoor and outdoor portions of the facility are secure. You don’t want your dog accidentally visiting another or escaping the facility altogether. You also don’t want intruders (animal or human) entering the site and interacting with your pet.

Petmd ( also suggests that you “ask about the procedure for obtaining veterinary service, if required. Some kennels retain a veterinarian on the premises. Others prefer to use your pet’s veterinarian so that there will be a continuity of care.” Accidents and illnesses can happen while you are away so it is good to be prepared.

A good boarding facility should allow you to keep your dog on his or her normal diet to avoid digestive upset and should be clean and decent smelling. If you wouldn’t want to stay there, your pet wouldn’t want to either.

Wishing you safe and happy travels during the upcoming holiday season!

Courteous Canine The DogSmith offers pet sitting ( and “Board and Train” facilities (

Brenna Fender is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Tampa with her husband, two children, a Papillon (Spark), a Beagle (Wrigley), a Border Collie (Tessa), a Chihuahua (Chase) and a variety of other creatures. Tessa has agility titles, UpDog Challenge achievements, and Trick Dog Champion title. Brenna can be reached at and you can read her humor blog at