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Tips for Caring for Your Pets While You Travel: Finding a Pet Sitter or Boarding Kennel Part Two

In the second part of our series, use the tips below to find the best pet sitter or boarding kennel for your pets.

In my previous article, I discussed important factors to discuss when looking for a caregiver for you and your pets. Often competitors and judges may be faced with finding care for a pet or pets while we are traveling to events, or traveling on business or vacation. There are three basic options for having someone care for your pets when you're away; a friend or family member, a professional pet sitter, or a professional boarding facility.

Professional Pet Sitter

A pet sitter can often be a good alternative for a pet that is uncomfortable with change, is anxious in new environments, is uncomfortable around other animals, or is a senior and no longer in the best of health. I always suggest that when looking for a pet sitter that you look for someone that can not only check in on your pets during the day, at least twice, but will also be there at night to watch over your pets and your home. While cats can technically get by with someone stopping by for a half hour twice a day, the same cannot be said for dogs. You want to keep your pets schedule as normal as possible, so a pet sitter should be in your home the same times of the day that you and another family member are there.

In addition to asking the questions above, I suggest you also ask:

  • Are you a member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, Pet Sitters International or the Pet Professional Guild? Although not the same as being licensed, a pet sitter that is a member of at least one of these associations is demonstrating commitment to their profession and to humane care for your pets.

  • How much time will you be spending with my pet(s)? In addition to feeding your pet and taking care of bathroom breaks, a pet sitter should be playing with and exercising your pets and depending on your pet, just spending some time with them relaxing.

  • What steps will you take if my pet accidentally gets away from you and runs off? Make sure that they can safely handle your pet when taking them outside so that your pet does not inadvertently run off.

  • How many employees do you have?

  • What happens if you get sick, are in an accident, have car trouble or there is a blizzard? What is your backup plan to ensure that my pets will be cared for on schedule, every day? Many pet sitters are one person businesses, so please be sure they have a contingency plan in place.

  • Are you and your employees bonded and insured? Remember, a pet sitter will have keys to your home.

Professional Boarding Facility

In most states, a professional boarding facility must be licensed and must follow your state regulations for the boarding of pets. These regulations govern housing, feeding, sanitation, record keeping and basic standards of care. However, these regulations are often very basic and the best facilities will do far better. The best facilities will have staff training requirements for pet first aid, pet behavior, health, and handling skills. They may often include daily playtime as part of their package. Most facilities will have detailed contracts which you will be asked to sign for the benefit of you as well as the facility.

Most pets do very well when boarding and many facilities suggest you give your pet a test drive by either boarding during the day or maybe even trying an overnight before you book a weeklong vacation. In addition to the questions above, the following are some suggested questions for the kennel.

  • Are you licensed? Even though it's a legal requirement in most states, some try to get around the law.

  • Is anyone on your staff credentialed as a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant or Certified Professional Dog Trainer? Understanding pet behavior is critical when caring for pets, especially for longer stays. Individuals that have the above certifications have been accredited by internationally recognized organizations and must continue their education in order to maintain their certification. Having at least one such individual on staff is a sign of a superior facility.

  • Do you allow interactions between other dogs and if so, how are they supervised? Supervising dogs at play, especially dogs that do not normally interact, requires knowledge of canine behavior and communication. Staff need to be thoroughly trained via professional programs and dogs should be evaluated for size, age and play style. Dogs should be supervised at all times.

  • Does someone stay at the facility at night? In some cases owners may live on site, but there are facilities where that is not the case.

  • Do you promise that you will not use any of the aversive tools or techniques defined as harmful in the AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines?

Hopefully you now have some ideas of what to look for if you need someone to care for your pets.

Part one of this article can be found here.

photo credit: JR in bed via photopin (license)

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop in Bangor, ME a pet-friendly pet care facility where they been caring for pets since 1965. Don is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) and Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He has a blog at


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