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  • Writer's pictureScarlett Bowman

Dog Tip: Leaving Your Dog While On Vacation

Updated: Sep 8, 2021

Your dog is a member of your family, and one of the hardest decisions you will have to make is how to leave them behind when you travel. You want them to be safe and comfortable without you, which is why it’s a smart idea to plan for such travels well in advance. Whether you’re headed to the beach for a weekend, or are planning a month-long holiday, this article will help you ensure that your dog is well taken care of while you’re out of town.

Let’s look at how social isolation may affect dogs, and what we can do to minimize negative effects and maximize their well-being:

Being Alone All Day is Stressful for Many Dogs

Let’s start with the most basic of truths: Most dogs will spend time home alone on a daily basis. How long depends on the owners’ lifestyle and schedule. Someone who works an eight-hour day and has a commute, followed by errands and evening activities, could conceivably leave their dog home alone for 10 to 12 hours in a single day and on a regular basis.

Dogs have historically been left alone for long stretches without a second thought. As recently as a couple of decades ago, if a family needed to be away from home for a day or two, how the dog felt about being left behind – whether indoors or outdoors – was not an important consideration. As long as he had enough food and water, most owners felt secure in the knowledge that he was all set.

Few people today would admit to leaving their dogs home alone for 24 or 48 hours or more, but leaving the dog home for 10 to 12 hours is not at all uncommon – and questioning this practice can sometimes lead to social ridicule.

Here’s the thing, and I won’t pull any punches: 10 to 12 hours is too long for a dog to be alone in a single stretch.

I know, I know. It’s a very broad statement and there is always the argument that, “We’ve always done it this way and our dogs have always been fine!” What this means, though, is that the dogs who appear to be fine have simply learned to cope with something that is entirely out of their control. Being left alone for long stretches of time is not a likely choice that they would make if it was up to them. They’ve adapted to our routines, but it’s far from ideal for them.

We count on our dogs to be there for us when we’re ready to interact with them, but in between those moments, we expect them to do nothing and wait. It’s a tall order, but lucky for us, most dogs adapt incredibly well to anything we ask them to.

People whose dogs have difficulty adapting are the ones who come to us trainers, asking for help with behavior problems such as barking and destructive chewing, or emotional issues such as fear, anxiety, aggression, or over-excitement, to name a few. In fact, many of us trainers and behavior consultants are kept very busy as a result of the lifestyle to which many dogs are subjected!

What Type of Care is Best for Your Dog?

  • Board your dog with your local veterinarian.

  • Leave your dog home with a sitter.

  • Bring your dog to a sitter's home.

  • Board your dog at a kennel.

Preparing Your Dog to Be Left Behind

Are those puppy-dog eyes making you feel guilty as you pack your suitcases? I can totally relate, but with a little advanced planning you can make your trip easy for both of you.Here are a few suggestions to make leaving your dog just a little bit easier.

  • Write down your dog’s schedule for the sitter. Kennels will likely stick to their own schedules, but a sitter can be more flexible. It will be helpful for them to know when your dog wakes in the morning, takes bathroom breaks, eats meals, and goes for walks. This way they can stick as close to your dog’s normal routine as possible.

  • There’s no need for long goodbyes. Get your vacation off to a good start by scratching your dog behind the ears and heading out to enjoy yourself. If you leave with confidence, you will set the tone for a good vacation – for you and your dog.

  • Don’t worry about your dog while you’re away. Dogs don’t have the same concept of time as humans. Whether you’re gone for an hour or a week, your pup will greet you enthusiastically when you return. To them, it’s not so much that you’re leaving — it’s that you’re coming back.

  • Make a packing list for your dog. Whether you’re boarding your dog at a kennel, a friend’s, or a pet sitter’s, you’ll need to pack an overnight bag for your pup. If your dog is staying home with a sitter, you don’t have to pack at all.

When it comes down to it, dogs are probably more adaptable than we think, and many will enjoy the change of pace that is inevitable when their family members leave them for a well-deserved holiday.


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