Karen B. London
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Traveling Without Dogs
Who cares for them in your absence?

I recently returned from nearly two weeks in Nicaragua. The trip was the field component of Northern Arizona University’s course “Tropical Forest Insect Ecology” for which I am one of the instructors. With a thousand things to do before departure--including taking exams, writing papers, packing, arranging for mail to be held and newspapers to be stopped, attending to vaccinations and anti-malarial medications, and all the other tasks required before a trip out of the country--I was sure that the students would be pretty overwhelmed by the time we began our 30-hour journey to the remote field station on an island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.

As we talked about what the final 24 hours before departure had been like for each of us, a single theme of angst came up: The most stressful thing for many in the group was having to leave their dogs behind. Nearly half of them have dogs. I was very impressed with the lengths that the students went in arranging the best care for their dogs while they were gone. All had friends or family who were stepping up to care for the dogs during the students’ absence. In one case, a student’s long distance boyfriend had flown in from the East Coast to watch her dog while she was away. That is clearly responsible dedication from all parties, since the time he spent away from home was not time that this couple could be together. I hear a lot about how college students are not responsible with their pets, and I found that at least with this group, that is not true at all. Most of these students travel with their pets most of the time, but that is not possible (nor would it be safe for the dogs) when traveling to Nicaragua.

Like the very best dog guardians, students or not, these people made sure that their dogs were well cared for during their absence. If you must travel without your pets, what do you do to arrange for their care?


Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.


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Submitted by Emma | April 1 2010 |

When my husband required hospitalization in another city, I made arrangements to be with him - including arrangements for our 3 senior dogs. During the day, I had 4 dog walkers coming in - all thoroughly trusted and with great credentials - every couple of hours. A friend who is also a vet tech (at the dogs' vet hosp) stayed each night with them and helped them through their morning routine of dog park romping and breakfast. Two hours after she left for work, dog walker #1 showed up. 2 hours later #2dog walker came in. . .and so on until my overnight sitter came back for the night. Not only was I sure the dogs were well taken care of, but I knew that any emergent situations would be quickly and properly addressed. The only down side: when I came home the dogs let it be know they really liked having their Walkers coming by and every two hours would run to the window looking for them. Sigh.

Submitted by Maura | April 2 2010 |

I normally have a friend that has a dog come and stay at the house with my dogs and allow her to bring her dog. I like that my dogs can stay at home where they are comfortable that way. I'm leaving for 3 weeks i nthe fall and am very nervous since that's such a long time but I'm happy they will be at home and not in a new place for that long.
I also have stayed friends with all the Foster Moms that I rescued my dogs from. They are normally more than happy to watch them from time to time. Plus they are just great people to be friends with since they obviously care about dogs and you automatically have a new dog friend!

Submitted by Anonymous | April 5 2010 |

So true that it is stressful to be away from pets when one is supposed to be enjoying a vacation. I returned from a cruise yesterday - and missed my dogs the whole time. But I was somewhat comforted and surprised at how many fellow passengers I overheard commenting that they missed their dogs, and as we disembarked, I heard people saying, "I can't wait to get home to see my dogs."

All was fine for my dogs - they were home with a lovely house sitter who also brought her dog along to give mine entertainment.

Submitted by lin | April 11 2010 |

When Old Pup, she was shy, had separation anxiety, and was not very good with strangers, either human or canine. There was no way she could stay at a petsitter's house (all had other dogs)and with her S.A., we didn't think she would be happy alone in the house (with day walkers). So we ended up kenneling her, and a neighbor came by to take care of the cat. She survived kenneling, although she was certainly glad to see us!
Fast forward several years. We have been lucky enough to find a petsitter (who works in our vet clinic) who is willing to stay overnight in our house and take care of our pets. This is truly a relief, as Mr. Kitty has become diabetic, and Old Pup, while mellower, is getting too old for the stress of a kennel. Your clinic can really be a good source for petsitters.

Submitted by Leslie | April 17 2010 |

I have an incredible kennel I have used for the past 20 years. They have the same staff all this time and that makes me feel more comfortable. When I have a young pup I kennel early so they don't have anxiety (although I'm sure they do). I kenneled my two dogs (one young one old) recently for a week, and think the older one is now too old to endure the stress (he's 14, partially blind). The poor baby for nearly two days straight once I got him home. I would love to leave my dogs at home but my younger dog needs supervision as he is quite the troublemaker. I like the idea of having two caregivers at alternate times. Talk about spoiling!! I'll bet the dogs loved it.

Submitted by The Headstrong Hound | April 20 2010 |

I have four dogs. Two dogs are small, a miniature dachshund & a rat terrier mix. The body size of the other two dogs isn't important. What is important, is the scent tracking nature of the two remaining pack members. Clementine and Finnaeus are both scent hounds, and both are rescue dogs.

I can usually take the two non-hound breeds to my sister's house when I'm out of town. However, the Walker Coonhound and Beagle have to be boarded at a local facility. My boarding facility is reputable, but even with their level of care, a definitive difference can be seen between the dogs that are boarded vs. kept in a familiar home in my absence.

I always cringe when I'm forced to board the Hounds. Their propensity to sniff out adventuresome escapades keeps them from being easy house guests. I walk them multiple times each day which prevents destructive behavior in my home. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find an in house sitter, and realize that they may not receive the same amount of attention in another home while I'm in the midst of traveling. I'd love to have an alternative to boarding these two dogs, but simply can't justify submitting someone else's home to the challenging nature of two scent hounds.

Submitted by Janet | April 27 2010 |

Leaving your dog at home while you go away can lead you places you never imagined. We went to baseball spring training in Florida, leaving our eight month old puppy, Huck with my sister. We really needed the vacation, our first since I completed being treated for breast cancer. It turned out to be a harrowing adventure for Huck and for us. In fact I ended up writing a book about it. You can read about it at huckthebook.com

Submitted by pinkdaisydog | May 5 2010 |

I have not been on a vacation in 3 years, not even 1 overnight. I had a elder terrier that was partially blind and deaf and had some special needs. I didn't feel right leaving him with anyone and he was too high needs for a kennel. He finally went to the bridge last August and I am going to plan a trip soon. My 2 other dogs are younger and can adapt to a kennel environment. I did day care for a week and they seemed fine, so I am not as worried about the overnight.

Submitted by Lorrie Shaw | May 9 2010 |

I can recall the first time that I had to leave my pup at the time, who was over a year old - just to go away for a three day weekend. In prepping for it I was fine, but the minute that I turned to leave, I started bawling my eyes out. She was in great hands. Indeed, it is hard to leave our pets, but at times it's necessary and having a great support system in place is crucial, and I think doing so from "day one" is even more important. Whether it's a great boarding facility that you trust or a person who is familiar to your pet, or a reputable pet sitter who goes the extra mile - all of that depends on a pets' nature and needs. I am always interested in hearing other pet owners' stories and even more - the creative lengths that they will go through to ensure their pets' overall well-being. I loved the previous comments.

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