Home Or Away? How To Ensure Your Dog Gets The Best Care When You Travel

It can be hard to reconcile your love of travel with your love of man’s best friend. I know firsthand how tough it is being on the receiving end of those liquid puppy dog eyes while you pack. My entire adult life, I have been fortunate to have at least one wonderful dog AND been an avid traveler. Balancing the two is a challenge to say the least and foregoing travel is not an option in most cases, so what do you do?


 These beautiful boys survived a decade worth of my trips and stayed happy and healthy because of a great dog sitter! ©M McCown All rights reserved.

Well, you have a few options. You can board your dog in a kennel or long-term boarding facility. You can have a house/pet sitter come live with your furry friend. You can have your dog stay at your veterinarian’s office. Options sure, but which one makes the best choice for your beloved pet? The main goal is to stick with your pet’s routine as closely as you can. This keeps stress at a minimum which is always a smart move for the health and happiness of Fido or Fifi. Now, let’s break down each option.

Veterinarian’s Office – I am not a fan of having your dog board at the vet’s office. Likely, your dog will equate the vet with shots, loud metal clanging, and the distressed cries of other animals. Typically, the sleeping space is a small metal cage and your pet can be exposed to illness. Not a great time for anyone. It may make sense if you have an elderly dog or one with an illness. Final verdict – Only as a last resort.
Boarding Facility – A well-run kennel can be a good choice if your dog is used to the facility, perhaps through regular doggy day care experiences. If you are a traveler and considering getting a puppy, this may be perfect for you because you can get your new addition used to the experience as a baby making future stays easier. If you go this route, do your homework. You want a facility that offers a good ratio of attendant-to-dogs and requires some sort of background check for their personnel. Ideally, your choice will have an on-site caretaker who lives there and can address any issues that occur during off-hours. A good boarding facility will have dedicated play spaces for large dogs and small dogs AND offer a recreation space for dogs that don’t play well with others. Finally, a reputable kennel will require all dogs to be up-to-date on vaccinations. Final verdict – A good choice if your dog is already used to the experience.

A House/Pet Sitter – Having someone come live at your house and care for your dog can be a great way to get some peace of mind, especially for those long trips. Choosing a pet sitter can be tricky because you need someone who not only loves your dog but someone who you can trust to live in your house and NOT abscond with your valuables. On top of that, it can be costly. In my city (metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, USA) a good kennel is the same cost as a good house/pet sitter. So, how do you choose someone you can trust? Word-of-mouth can be helpful. The best pet sitter I ever had was a technician at my longtime veterinarian’s office who was also enrolled in vet school. She’d been helping my vet take care of my dogs for years and was looking to make some extra money to help with the cost of school books. It was a match made in heaven and a sad day when she moved. If you don’t have that option, you can use sites like these in the U.S. to find a bonded sitter in your area:

This is the option that I’ve used for the past 15 years. It is still hard to leave my dog but knowing that he has someone to care for him and that my house is maintained gives me one less concern when I hit the road. Final verdict – This is my choice for the best option of pet care when you travel.


These days, I am down to one dog and he gets even more spoiled when I travel, all from the comfort of home. ©M McCown All rights reserved.

No matter which choice you make, the following items can give you and your pet an added sense of calm.

  1. Be sure to create an information sheet about your pet. I have a dossier for my house/pet sitter that is 22 pages.
    • You don’t have to be as nutty as I am, but at the least you should include:
      • The vet’s telephone number
      • Any commands your dog knows that can help the caregiver bond with your dog
      • A local emergency contact who can make decisions for your dog if you are unavailable
  2. If you choose an out-of-home option be sure to pack:
    • Your dog’s food
    • Favorite toys
    • Blankets or bed
    • A t-shirt that you’ve slept in for a few days

There you go! That should help you decide which option is best for your pampered pooch when you get happy feel and need to travel. In a future post, I’ll cover all the things you need to know about road tripping with your dog. Thanks for reading and happy travels!


I’m spoiled when she’s home and spoiled when she leaves! ©M McCown All rights reserved.


©M McCown All rights reserved.