I was in San Diego freaking out. It was 48 hours since the last communication. He must have escaped and they don’t want to tell me! He’s dead! He’s been dognapped and sold on the doggy dark web!
I was a psycho dog owner off the leash. My son was wailing, “We’ll never see Reggie again!”. Scattergun texts whizzed across the Pacific Ocean while I waited for word on my beloved pup.
“Managing the owner is sometimes half the battle,” says Tamara Jackman, founder of Underdog Training in Melbourne. “Some people get very concerned and worried about their dog. They want to get information.”
It surprised me how quickly the “crazy dog lady” mantle claimed me, but I was smitten. My sweet little rescue pup was enmeshed in our family and it was impossible to imagine life without him. Since his adoption six months earlier, we’d been working on his separation anxiety and it was the first test away sans doggo.
“When you prepare for any trip, looking at what’s going to happen to pets that stay behind is really important, especially when they’re our babies,” says Marisa Debattista, CEO of Second Chance Animal Rescue. “You can’t be too careful who you get to care for your pets and your children. They’re kind of the same thing.”
Meanwhile, back in Oz, Reggie was chillin’ at a barbecue, scoffing down sausage scraps, sniffing in the backyard, and being adored by besotted children. He’d had outings to my mate’s trugo club, lots of walks, and a tasty bone or two.
“You know he’s just a dog, right?” my pet-sitting mate laughed on our return. Wrong! So wrong.
Another overseas trip is in the offing, this time for three weeks, and while there is wild excitement, there is also an underlying thrum of concern.
Jackman stresses “no one size fits all” for pup minding. “The main factors are what’s going to work best in terms of the dog’s level of stress and the dog’s safety,” she says.
Is your pup social? Are they a barker, a digger, an escape artist? Or nervy around little kids? Are they on daily medication or elderly and need extra care? Every dog is different and what works best for one pupster may be stressful for another.
“I think the important thing is, dogs very much live in the moment,” says Jackman. “If they’re being really well cared for and aren’t overly stressed,” she says, they’ll be OK.
Here are some expert tips to help with your pet accommodations so you can swan it up on the French Riviera without worrying about your fluff-bucket.
- DO Follow your instincts. You know your pupsicle better than anyone.
- DO Come clean with your pet sitter: “Are 30 photos a day too many?”
- DO Engrave your sitter’s phone number on your dog’s collar tag.
- DO Seek kennel recommendations or visit a boarding kennel in person. Many places offer free overnight trials to see how your dog copes.
- DO Check out the pawsome range of pet-sitters such as madpaws.com.au, pawshake.com.au or lonelypetsclub.com.au.
- DO Consider noise desensitisation training if your pup will be staying in a noisy kennel.
- DON’T Feel silly checking your dog into an expensive pet hotel. If you can afford the “pet-xecutive” suite with luxury bedding, air-con, flatscreen TV, and 24-hour webcam, go for it.
- DON’T Insist your dog-minder calls your pup “schoompie”, “fuzzyface” or “goober”.
- DON’T Skype your dog. “Dogs don’t really understand the concept of Skype or the phone,” says Jackman, who recommends one-way communication via webcam, videos or photos. “It’s better the dog doesn’t get distressed because they can hear the owner’s voice.”
- DON’T Change it up too much. “From my experience,” says Debattista, “dogs especially can suffer from anxiety and separation anxiety quite commonly, so trying to not throw too much change at them is a good thing.” She suggests, wherever possible, keeping them in their own environment and maintaining a similar routine.
- DON’T Be a psycho dog owner (guilty!).