Leaving your dog with a carer of any kind when you’re not able to take your furry friend with you can be cause for separation anxiety for both you and your dog. Part Three of the Separation Anxiety series.
Unquestionably, you have to be happy with the care your pooch receives while you’re away otherwise you spend anxious hours wondering if all is well. You’d think Freya was a baby the first time I left her with a stranger I worried so much. As she turns two, admittedly it took a while, but we now have the ideal solution for our fluffy, much loved family member.
After several trials which included a ‘caring’ deluxe kennel, assessed dog carers in their homes, along with friends, without doubt both Freya and I preferred the friends options. However, my husband and I eventually opted for the professional carer in their home route.
Freya’s first major separation was when we toured the US and Canada for three weeks. She was 15 months and the holiday had been booked prior to us deciding to adopt our puppy. We were lucky as my old school friend, Hilary, offered to look after Freya while we were away as a companion for her cockapoo Lily. I trusted Hilary implicitly; I’d known her since we were 13, she’d had dogs and horses all her life, and understood the care a cockapoo’s coat needed. This can be a major concern when you leave a doodle with anyone – after all you don’t want to come back to a matted dog with the inevitable shaming shave that follows. However, this could only be a one-off as Hilary lives over 230 miles away, so sadly it wasn’t tenable for the long-term.
Day Care Centre
Initially, we tried Freya’s doggy day care centre which also offered luxury kennels – she’d been for day care three times and seemed to enjoy it. It also meant that during the week she could play with other dogs, but at the weekend there was no day care which meant she was shut into a (albeit comfortable and modern) kennel during the day and night with four toilet walks. Anyone, with a poodle cross will know how sociable they are and how much they crave human company, so this wasn’t for us.
Then we tried Pet Stay, but there was no-one available locally so it was a fair drive to the carer and ironically it always seemed to be in the wrong direction to where we were heading!
We hit the jackpot when a friend recommended Marc to us. He lived a couple of miles away, held a local council animal boarding licence, and had years of experience caring for his own dogs. Freya instantly felt at home with Marc and every time we drop her off she is excited to see him. When we collect her, she gives us the usual crazy cockapoo welcome, but once over, happily goes off to mooch around while we sit a chat. This is all the evidence I need that Freya’s content. Having said that, she always attempts to follow us out of the door when we leave her, but Marc sends us images to show she’s well settled.
However, we knew there would be times when Marc was booked up on the days we needed cover so I searched on Facebook to see if there were any kind home carers locally. The first lady I found had great reviews, but only took dogs during the day; the second lady, Kerry, sounded perfect. She was a full-time dog carer and I was impressed with how professional she was. There were three pre-meetings before we both felt she was able to care for Freya: meet at hers with Freya for a coffee and show around of her dog care facilities; an hour’s walk locally with her two dogs – a Cocker Spaniel and a Labrador – to see if they got on and if Freya was able to be off lead safely with Kerry; and finally an overnight stay to see if she would settle.
Kerry’s Facebook page was full of images of happy dogs enjoying walks and having fun at home, with lovely comments from equally happy owners. It is so reassuring while we are away to see images of Freya out on long walks, playing happily and exploring the countryside with Kerry’s spaniel, Ebony.
Update: 5 December 2019
Sadly we had to end our relationship with Kerry after three home stays. Although, Kerry loved having Freya, we hadn’t anticipated that Freya would develop negative jealousy and anxiety issues with Kerry’s two dogs. Freya had been attacked by labradors in the past and we hoped that living with Kerry’s lab would alleviate any fears that remained. Unfortunately not; Freya snapped a warning at Kerry’s lab when we arrived for what was to be our final Home Care stay with her. It was also after this stay that Freya snapped at the school dog where Freya visited as a therapy dog – a little black cockapoo, which resembled Kerry’s spaniel Ebony. They had been best of friends before this, and luckily on the following visit they were fine together again.
So essentially we’ve learnt that Freya enjoys staying with one resident dog – Marc has a Jack Russell Terrier – but not two, and only certain breeds.
Exploring Your Care Options
It’s good to have an idea of what your care preference would be – mine was with a friend, but this hasn’t been possible so I chose the next best thing.
Kennels – Some owners like the fact that their dog is safely ‘locked’ away so they can’t come to any harm. Modern kennels have been relabelled as dog hotels. These provide luxury, purpose built accommodation, some with under floor heating and offering human contact and attention.
Boarding/Dog Sitting Franchises – There are several franchises but I only have experience of PetStay, which was established in 2005. With franchises across the UK, they offer a home dog-boarding service as an alternative to kennels. An individual with an interest in dog care manages each area. The franchisee vets potential local dog carers in their homes, recommend suitable carers for your dog, and arrange for you to meet them first before you book. Every carer holds a licence and is fully insured; dogs are always kept on the lead during walks for safety. Other companies which offer similar care are Rover, Borrow My Doggy and Barking Mad.
Dog Sitters – Sitters provide individual care for your dog in your home and maintain their routines. Trusted House Sitters requires an annual membership which entitles you to connect with sitters who don’t charge to keep your pets safe and happy at home whenever you’re away. Talister offers dog boarding, dog sitting and dog walking as do Holidog.
Google/Facebook – If you Google ‘dog carers near me’ you can trawl through a list of what’s on offer in your area. Facebook is not so straight-forward, but I did manage to find two carers in my area. It goes without saying approach with caution – reviews can be a good starting point, but asking to speak to other satisfied dog owners who have used the care service is the best approach to someone you don’t know personally.
Recommended Carers – If someone recommends a carer who accepts money for looking after your dog, they must hold a licence and it is important to check. Government Guidance on Animal Welfare Legislation Protecting Pets*
Friends – This would be my first choice if at all possible but as I’m allergic to dogs I could only offer a holiday swap with a doodle! So if you have a doodle, live in the Knustford area and looking for someone to share care with, do get in touch!
* If you are boarding dogs in your home you must have an animal boarding licence issued by your local council. The requirement for licensing is set out in the Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963, which applies to kennels as well as those “working from a private dwelling”.