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What to Consider When Boarding or Leaving Your Pup with a Sitter

How to feel good about choosing a boarding facility or caregiver to care for your fur baby.

The idea of leaving your pet in a stranger's hands can be terrifying to some and daunting to others. Don't fret! We're here to help you make an informed decision so you can be confident when choosing a daycare facility or a pet sitter to care for your fur baby while you're away.

The following tips were provided by Stacy Gradel, owner of SouthPaw Canine Country Club, who has been working with animals professionally for 10 years.

What to consider when deciding where to leave your puppy

Safety and Cleanliness

Ensure the facility or caretaker maintains high standards of safety and cleanliness. Check the qualifications and experience of the caregivers. They should be trained in at least pet first aid and CPR. You should also make sure that there are clear protocols in place for handling emergencies. Verify that the facility requires proof of vaccinations and health checks to prevent the spread of diseases.


Environment, Socialization and Structure

Visit a potential facility to see if it’s a comfortable environment for your puppy. It should have ample space for play and rest. Puppies benefit from social interactions with other dogs and humans. Make sure there are opportunities for supervised socialization. It's important that your dog is socialized with dogs of the same size only (so little dogs do not get trampled or stepped on, etc). Puppies thrive on routine. A facility or caretaker should maintain your puppy’s feeding, exercise and potty schedule.


Reviews and References

Look for reviews online or ask for references from other pet owners or your vet to gauge the reliability and quality of the care provided.


To board or to hire a pet sitter, that is the question

Deciding whether to board your dog or have a pet sitter come to your home depends on several factors related to your dog's needs, your personal preferences, and logistical considerations. Here are some key points to consider:


Advantages of Boarding Your Dog:

Socialization- Boarding facilities often provide opportunities for dogs to socialize and play with other dogs.

Professional Supervision- Staff at boarding facilities are typically trained to handle various situations, ensuring your dog is well cared for.

Facilities- Many boarding facilities offer amenities that provide an enjoyable vacation for your dog such as large play areas, pools and activities.

Security- Boarding facilities typically have secure environments to prevent dogs from escaping as well as security cameras.


Disadvantages of Boarding Your Dog:

Stress- Some dogs may find the boarding environment stressful due to the unfamiliar setting and presence of other dogs.


Advantages of Having a Pet Sitter Come to Your Home:

Comfort- Your dog stays in a familiar environment, which can reduce stress and anxiety.

Personal Attention- Your dog may receive more one-on-one attention compared to a boarding facility. Security- Having a pet sitter also provides the added benefit of having someone check on your home.


Disadvantages of Having a Pet Sitter Come to Your Home:

Finding a Reliable Sitter- It can be challenging to find a trustworthy, reliable and experienced pet sitter.


Considerations for Making Your Decision:

If your dog is sociable and enjoys being around other dogs, boarding might be a good option. If your dog is anxious or prefers solitude, a pet sitter might be better. Check to see if the facility offers independent private boarding options. If your pet has special needs, ensure the caretaker is equipped to handle your dog's special needs and has experience with the dog's condition.

"Ultimately, choose a place where you feel comfortable and confident leaving your puppy. Trust your instincts about the facility and their staff." -Stacy Gradel

Questions to ask a potential daycare or pet sitter

When evaluating a facility or dog sitter for your pet, it's essential to ask thorough questions to ensure your dog's safety, health and happiness. We've listed some questions and red flags to consider below.


Questions for a Facility:

Licensing and Accreditation- First, you want to ask if a company is insured and bonded and if their team is vetted. If the answer is yes, then they are more likely aware of the other responsibilities that come with caring for someone’s pet. Unlicensed facilities may not meet other safety and quality standards.

Safety, Security and Environment- Examples of these kinds of questions include:

What security measures are in place to ensure the dogs' safety?

How do you handle emergencies or medical situations?

(Examples: heat stroke, bloat, toad or snake exposure.)

What is your policy on vaccinations and health requirements?

Are there cameras or someone on-site watching the dogs 24/7?

If your pet has special needs, be sure to ask specific questions regarding those needs.

May I tour the entire facility? (If you cannot see where the dogs are housed and where they play, consider it a red flag.)


Questions for a Dog Sitter:

1. Do you have any certifications or training in pet care, first aid, etc.?

2. Can you provide references from previous clients?

3. How do you handle last-minute changes or emergencies? (You want to ensure that there is back-up in the event something happens to your pet sitter.) Consider hiring a team of pet sitters vs. an individual.

4. How do you handle emergencies or medical situations?

5. How do you ensure my dog's safety, both indoors and outdoors?

6. Are you comfortable administering medications if needed? (If your pet has special needs, be sure to ask specific questions regarding those needs.)

8. May I have a tour? If you are leaving your pet with a sitter at their house, ask to see where the dog will be staying. Also ask who lives in the home and if there will be other dogs there.



Poor Hygiene and Cleanliness- Dirty or poorly maintained facilities can indicate neglect.

Non-Transparent Policies- Lack of clear policies on important issues like health care, vaccinations and behavioral management.

Lack of Emergency Preparedness- No clear plan or procedures for handling emergencies.

Lack of Licensing or Accreditation- Unlicensed facilities may not meet safety and quality standards.

High Staff Turnover- Frequent changes in staff can indicate poor management or working conditions.

Unwillingness to Provide Information- Refusal to answer questions or provide references is a major concern.

Preparing your puppy for boarding or being left with a sitter

Use a trial period. If possible, do a trial stay to see how your puppy adjusts to the new environment and how the caregivers handle your pet. Pack some tasty high-value cookies and some wet food or toppers that they don’t normally get. Getting something extra special will mark a positive experience in their environment.


Keep them in a normal routine. Learn about the extra amenities that the care taker offers. If your dog is used to having ball play or a walk every day, check to see if your caregiver is able to accommodate that as well. Keeping your dog in the normal routine as best as possible will be the least stressful.

Reducing stress for dogs that are boarding

Services that would benefit a dog most, whether it be massage or a nature walk, can help reduce stress and anxiety for your pup in a boarding environment. Living room time, offered at SouthPaw Canine Country Club, can be soothing as well. Opt for a private room or butler suite if you want that extra TLC for your dog. Consider a slow introduction to an environment to socialize your dog without hitting his or her stress threshold.

Weighing all of these factors and following your instincts can help you make an informed decision that best suits the needs of your dog and your peace of mind. Contact us at 772-978-9817 or if you have questions or would like more information.

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