Finding someone to love and care for your pet when you’re working, traveling, or unavailable to be home can be one of the most stressful decisions you’ll have to make as a dog owner.
With the holidays approaching, and travel picking back up, finding excellent pet care is something that even people who don’t normally travel very often might have to consider.
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It can be a significant challenge trying to find someone who takes as great care of your dog as you would. Many of us who love our dogs hate the thought of traveling without them or leaving them at home, especially if it’s for longer than just a brief period of time.
After all, you might think no one’s really going to love them like you do, right?
Is it possible to find great care for your dog, enjoy your time away, and have peace of mind that your dog is having fun back home?
Travel Challenges for Dog Owners
To be honest, we’re so fond of life with our Labradors that we frequently find ways to vacation with them and take them along on our travels, even when they run off on their own Doggie Adventures.
And we know from our readers that we’re not alone: many Lab lovers find a way to make vacations happen with their dogs along for the ride.
(If you’re looking for strategies to help take your Lab along on your travels, check out our guide to the 8 Best Hotels for Travel With Large-Breed Dogs, and Tips to Make Car and Airplane Travel Easier with Labradors.)
But we know first-hand it’s not always possible to bring your Labrador or another big dog along wherever you go, and you may need to find care for them on a brief basis (such as a long day at work) or for extended periods of time, such as work trips or vacations.
What’s the best type of care you can find for your Labrador when you can’t be there in person? How do you know what type of care is the best fit for your particular dog?
There are numerous options available to you, and some pros and cons to consider with each.
Let’s go over the most common types of providers, what they’ll likely cost you, and how to find the right one for your dog.
Three Main Types of Pet Care Providers
The most common options for pet care when you’re traveling or away from home are these three main types of services:
- Pet Sitters who stay in your home (typically overnight)
- Dog Boarding Facilities with large groups of other dogs
- Local Pet Sitters who provide care in their own homes (such as Rover, etc)
Should you hire a pet sitter to come to your home and stay in your dog’s natural environment? Or send your dog to a sitter’s home in a less familiar environment?
Should you take your Lab to a boarding facility where they can run off energy and play with other dogs?
We’ll go over each of these in detail below and also give you some things to consider when deciding which of these might be the best fit for your dog.
Pet Sitters in Your Home
This service is offered by providers who will travel to your home and stay with your pets in their usual home environment. If you have a shy or senior dog, or sensitive Labrador, this might be a good fit for them.
Prices can range from $25-$100 per night depending on your location, how many pets you have, and the experience level of the provider.
Keeps your dog home in their typical familiar environment
Helps your dog stay in their usual routine, which can be helpful for puppies or other dogs who need to stick to a more rigid schedule
May be less stressful for your dog, especially if they are sensitive or not socialized with large groups of other dogs
The provider may be licensed or insured, or certified through an organization of professional pet sitters like Pet Sitters International
Your pet care provider can also provide mail pickup, houseplant care, and make your home look “lived-in” if you’re away
Someone is staying in your home, usually overnight, which can require a great deal of trust that they are honest and responsible (for both your dog and your home)
Can open you up to liability because you have someone staying at your home while you aren’t there
May be expensive because the provider is staying through the night (typically) and giving extra hours of care beyond what a facility would provide
Dog Boarding Facilities
Dog boarding facilities are typically large in size and have many dogs on the premises, usually separated by the dogs’ sizes and often also by temperaments. If your dog loves going to daycare, has lots of energy, and is very social, you both might love this option.
Prices depend on the size of the room you reserve at the facility and the level of care you require (including “extras” you might want), but depending on your location typically range from $50-$150 per night per dog.
Plenty of exercise and room for your dog to run off energy each day playing with other dogs
May have both indoor and outdoor play space for your dog
Your dog might be happier and more cheerful while you’re away if they are in a social environment with other dogs
A facility may be licensed, insured, and have cameras that you can log into to “watch your dog” while you are away, giving you more peace of mind
Sometimes even though facilities require dogs to be vaccinated, dogs can pass illnesses such as bordetella (kennel cough), which can be a risk to your dog
Can be very expensive, especially if the facility up-charges you for things like added daycare, larger suites, or rooms with cameras to keep an eye on your dog
Some dogs get overwhelmed with chaos, other barking dogs, or loud environments, which can cause stress to them if they’re unaccustomed to it
Local Pet Sitters (such as Rover, etc)
These types of providers offer care in their own home, rather than yours, and can usually be found online through websites such as Rover.com. You can find a wide range of providers and prices, again depending on your location, which can range from $20-$60 per night per dog.
Your dog may socialize in a smaller group of dogs, as many providers will have a limit to how many dogs they take at once
Your dog could get more one-on-one attention than they likely would in a larger facility
Some providers might have wonderful indoor and outdoor spaces for your dog to get exercise, walks, and play beyond what you have at your home
Providers might send photos or video updates to keep you updated on how your dog is doing
Can be harder to evaluate references and find providers whose home environment is a good match for your dog
Not all providers will have insurance or be licensed or bonded (many are not) which may affect the degree of professionalism they offer
Payment usually is made through the service provider (i.e. Rover) and may need to be made at the time of booking, even if your travel plans are months ahead in the future
Dog Sitter vs. Dog Boarding: Which Is Best for Your Dog?
All three types of pet care providers listed above can be the right choice for you, but the perfect fit depends on your needs, the level of care you desire while you’re away, and the temperament of your individual dog.
Not all dogs will be a good fit for certain environments, and some dogs that are shy, elderly, or more sensitive might benefit from an environment where they are given more individual attention in a quieter location. They may also be more comfortable at home in a familiar setting.
High-energy dogs, friendly pups, and well-socialized dogs might love a loud, excited, and playful environment such as that found at a dog boarding facility. Your dog might come home tired, happy, and worn-out from their stay at a facility where they can be surrounded by a pack of similar-energy friends.
Or you might find that your dog does best in a different environment where they go stay at a pet sitter’s home and adopt their daily schedule, perhaps with just a few other animal friends.
No matter what provider you pursue for your dog, get many references and ask for their policies ahead of time.
Make sure you understand booking & cancellation policies, insurance, emergency plans, and payment agreements before committing to a provider.
Also, we suggest you do a trial run of a provider before a long trip, where you try out the caregiver you select for a night or two to see how things go before you leave your beloved dog on a much longer trip.
- Looking for more advice & strategies for caring for your Labrador Retriever? Check out the Health and Care section for more articles.