Pet Sitters vs. Pet Lodging: Which is Right for Your Dog?

When you’re unable to care for your dog, there are two main options:  you can bring your pet to a pet care facility or a pet sitter can come to your home.   At Pet Camp we understand that there is no single pet care services solution that is perfect for every dog.  Here are some questions you need to ask yourself when deciding which is right for you:

1. Consider your pet’s personality

Social  dogs like a lot of contact with people and with other dogs.  Generally a pet sitter visits your home 2-3 times a day for 20-30 minutes each time, which translates to 40-90 minutes of human interaction a day.  At a quality pet lodging facility, staff will be around the building for a minimum of 8 hours a day.  At Pet Camp, for example, the first counselor arrives before 5:00 in the morning and the last one (except for the counselor who spends the night) leaves after 7:00 in the evening.  This amounts to a lot of supervised time for your pet.  Now they won’t be spending every minute of that time directly with your pet, but your pet will have a lot of contact with people
Social dogs also need time to interact with other dogs.  Some pet sitters also do some dog walking so your dog may get a chance to play with other dogs, but for a dog that really needs to play – the option of a lodging facility with lots of play opportunities may be the better option.  Make sure that whichever option you select, that the play opportunities are appropriate for your dog.  At a lodging facility be sure that they group dogs together thoughtfully.  With a pet sitter make sure that your dog is just not thrown in with whichever dogs he or she happens to be walking.

2.  Health & Safety

Pet sitters argue that having your pet stay at home or at a pet sitter’s home is “safer” for your pet.  We’re not exactly sure what this argument is based on, but it seems premised on the notion that someone watching a few dogs is “safer” than a staff of folks watching more dogs.  It seems to us that this really can’t be the case.
For example, you sign up with a pet sitter who takes a few dogs (say 3) to his or her house to watch.  Ok, it’s a small number of dogs – but (at least in San Francisco) it’s also a small house!  And, moreover, it’s a HOUSE!  It was designed for humans not for dogs!

What kind of ventilation system is in the house?  Is there a hi-temp dishwasher to ensure that any contaminants left on bowl are removed before another dog gets access to it?  How about that 50 pound washer so that every dog bed can be kept clean?  What kind of fencing or other systems are there to ensure that none of these dogs (who are strangers both to each other and to the environment) won’t get out?  Can the dogs be separated (if they need to be) for eating or sleeping purposes?  Who’s watching when the single pet sitter needs to go to the bathroom or take a shower or even a nap?

It seems the issue is less the number of dogs under the care of the pet sitter or pet care facility and more the investment made in the number of care givers and infrastructure needed to safely care for the dogs.
Then, of course, there is the issue of vaccinations and other medical issues.  Like most pet care facilities, Pet Camp requires proof of vaccines for all dogs entering our facility.  In addition, we do both an intake and an exit exam of the pet.  Sure, we’re not veterinarians but we take the time to look ever every camper to make sure that we’re doing the very best to ensure the health and safety of every camper at Pet Camp.

3.  Training

Oh yes, training.  There is an amazing range of the training completed by pet care providers.  You can probably guess at the training level completed by the 12-year-old kid you asked to check in on your dog while you’re away.  But what about the pet sitter you hired or the lodging facility you’re considering?  Ask away!!  How much practical experience to they have and do you trust them to make a decision about care?

4.  Home Alone

Is your dog comfortable spending the night at home alone?  Virginia used to have a Great Dane who was fine being left alone while she was at work, but if she didn’t come home at night this dog would wear out the floorboards pacing anxiously waiting for her to return.
Remember, your dog is used to a certain routine at their house.  Changing the routine at your house can actually cause more stress than changing both the routine and the location because the new location has a new routine.  Pets, like us, are creatures of habit.  Remember if you’re not home, your dog’s day changes drastically.  If your dog is somewhere else, in the dog’s mind home is exactly the same, they’re the ones off on an adventure and changing the routine is just fine.  If you leave your dog at home with a pet sitter, make sure that your pet sitter does his or her best to keep your dog on their same routine as if you were at home.

5.  Stability

This is one of those topics that is more about the person, group, or company that you’ve chosen to care for your dog then it is about the actual care.  As weird as this may seem, you need to think about it.  For example, if something happens to your dog while you’re away (at no fault of the caretaker) do they have the financial wherewithal to address the problem?  If you select an individual pet sitter; what happens to your dog if something happens to him or her?  If you go to an overnight care facility, are they well staffed?  Do they have systems in place to deal with the unexpected?  What is their relationship with your veterinarian?

There is also the issue of insurance, business licenses, permits etc.  All too often BOTH lodging facilities and pet sitters skimp on these basic requirements.  They may not seem too important (and often they’re not directly related to the quality of care provided), but they do demonstrate the seriousness of the responsibility and the professionalism of the provider you’re looking into.

We understand that Pet Camp is not the answer for every pet need.  We love pets and we want every pet to be in the place that is best for them while their parents are away – even if that’s not Pet Camp.  No matter what option you select for pet care, ask the potential care provider all the questions necessary to ensure that your dog is healthy, safe, and having fun while you’re away.

Thanks for reading.