We love our dogs, but sometimes we have to be apart from them. As a general rule, if you regularly need to leave your dog alone for more than 4 hours at a time they should have a dog walker to break up the day, or be left at a dog daycare.
Every dog will cope with being left alone differently. More constant care, like a dog daycare, is a particularly good idea for a new dog who has recently been introduced to the house, or for dogs with separation anxiety. If you’re going away then a dog sitter can be a good way to make sure your dog’s routine isn’t too disrupted. The most important thing to remember is that any person or company you choose to look after your dog should be experienced and use positive methods when working with animals. They should also be insured, including third party-insurance.
But how do you know which is the right service for your dog? Here are some things to look out for when deciding on a dog walker, dog sitter or dog daycare.
HOW TO CHOOSE A DOG WALKER
A dog walker will come to your house during the day, take your dog out for a walk and then bring them home again, they will only spend part of the day with your dog, specifically for walking, if your dog spends all day with them then this is daycare. They will have access to your house and usually have a key to let themselves in and out at the agreed time(s).
A dog walker is most suited to dogs who are left alone for a standard working day, as it allows them to get out and go to the toilet, get some fresh air and exercise and then come back home where they will have company again in the evening.
If you’re looking for a dog walker it can be a good idea to ask for recommendations from other dog owners in your area. Here’s a checklist of questions to ask a potential dog walker, and some things to consider:
- Check firstly whether the walker is independent or part of a company.
- Ask for proof of insurance, including third party insurance, and ideally a qualification like dog first-aid.
- It’s a good idea to ask for references or reviews from other clients. If the walker or organisation has a website, you can usually find reviews there.
- What method do they use to transport the dogs, if they need to? Check these are clean, secure, well-ventilated (with aircon) and that each dog has a separate section.
- Where will they be walking your dog. Is it public land, is it an enclosed escape proof area or do they need a permit to use the area?
- Ask what contingencies they have in place should they not be able to make the walk or if there is adverse weather, for example, extreme heat or cold.
- Check how the dog walker will safeguard your keys and home security.
- Introduce your dog to the walker one on one. It’s important your dog trusts the walker and that they are familiar with how your dog usually acts.
- You will also want to establish whether your dog needs to be walked alone or would benefit from being walked with either a couple of dogs or with a large group of dogs.
- If applicable, check if the other dogs being walked alongside your dog are vaccinated and up to date with flea & worming.
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HOW TO CHOOSE A DOG SITTER
A dog sitter is an alternative choice to a boarding kennel or a home boarder when you go away. A dog sitter will stay in your home with your dog while you’re away. If, they take your dog into their home as part of a business, this is classed as home boarding and they will likely need a license from the Local Authority, which you should check. Boarding kennels are another alternative if you go away, however, owners should research all options to ascertain what is best for their pet.
For example, sometimes a kennel environment can be quite stressful for a dog as it’s an unfamiliar environment where they will be surrounded by other dogs and may have limited one on one interaction. Owners should take into account their dog’s personal traits. It is important to note that both home boarding and operating boding kennels are regulated and there are legal standards that operators need to meet. For both activities they need to display their licence, and if owners have any concerns they can contact their Local Authority.
If you’re looking for a dog sitter it can be a good idea to ask for recommendations from other dog owners in your area. Here’s a checklist of questions to ask a potential dog sitter, and some things to consider:
Decide whether you’d like a sitter to come to your house to pet sit. If they say they will pet sit in their own home be aware this is likely home bordering, which requires them to be licensed with the Local Authority and for their home to meet legal standards.
If you choose either a home boarder or boarding kennel check that they are licensed and meet Government standards, such as those listed in daycare below (standards depend on the country).
To find a reputable dog sitter, make sure they have reviews or references from people in the area.
Ask for proof of insurance, including third party insurance, and ideally a qualification like dog first-aid.
If you’re planning to take your dog to a home boarder, check whether they have their own or other dogs. If so, it’s a good idea that your dog meets the other dogs first on neutral ground before being in the home with them.
Check how the dog sitter will ensure the security of your home.
Make sure to exchange details regarding vets and insurance should your dog need medical assistance whilst you are away.
Establish whether you’d like regular updates on your dog, and who to contact in the event of an emergency.
- Be aware that most dog sitters will ask you to sign a contract stating what they will and won’t do in your home.
HOW TO FIND A DOG DAYCARE
Day care is a great option for dogs who are sociable and really enjoy spending time with other dogs.
At a dog day care your dog may receive less one-to-one human attention but will be able to interact with other dogs and certainly won’t have chance to get bored. If your dog is already familiar with other dogs who attend a day care this can help with the introduction to the environment. Here’s a checklist of questions to ask a potential dog day care, and some things to consider:
- When looking at services online or through word of mouth, make sure to still look at reviews and don’t be afraid to ask for references.
- Ask for proof of insurance, including third party insurance, and a dog first-aid qualification.
As of 2018, like home boarders and boarding kennels, dog daycare providers must be licensed by their Local Authority by law, check for their licence number (they are required to display it). This is a guarantee that providers are trained to a minimum of an OFQUAL regulated level 2 qualification in a relevant subject, such as canine behaviour, or have demonstrated clear evidence of knowledge and experience.
Visit the daycare and have a look at the facilities. Is it clean, spacious and well-organised? Is there water readily available? There should be separate areas for both play and rest, so your dog does not become over-tired, and if there are dogs there, they should look happy and upbeat.
Check to see whether all dogs who attend are checked for up to date vaccinations, insurance and medical needs.
Equally, the daycare should ask you for a rundown of your dog’s behaviour. For example, how they interact with other dogs and new people.
Choose a daycare with a friendly and warm service. Passion for dogs is important!
You should also check what measures staff have in place should a dog fight happen. With many dogs out playing together, a squabble now and again is normal so they should be happy to let you know their procedure.
- If you have any concerns about the daycare, you can contact your Local Authority as the licensing body.
Download this guidance as a handy advice sheet and use it for reference: