All About Dogs | By Amber Drake

Your dog is a member of your family, and leaving for vacation may be hard on you both. With some preparation, however, you can set your dog up for success before you leave. I study canine behavior and psychology, and in my experience, following these steps will help your dog get ready for your absence.

Where Will Your Dog Stay?

You can board your dog with a veterinarian or at a kennel, but hiring a pet sitter is often easier on your dog. Whatever you choose, be sure to inform all parties about your dog’s needs, routines, and quirks. Also provide all necessary health information, including your vet’s contact info.

With the logistics taken care of, let’s focus on your dog’s emotional wellbeing.

Preparing Your Dog for Your Trip

1. Spend some extra time together.

Spending extra time with your dog before you leave can help both of you. Your dog appreciates all of the time he gets to spend with you! A little goes a long way: a few extra snuggles on the couch or an additional daily walk are a big deal for your dog.

2. Meet the pet sitter or staff at your boarding facility of choice.

Allowing your dog to meet the pet sitter a couple of times before you leave will help her feel more comfortable. She’ll feel like she’s staying with someone she knows rather than a stranger. If you’re using Rover, a Meet & Greet is a standard procedure before booking.

3. Inform the pet sitter about separation anxiety. 

If your dog experiences separation anxiety, talk to your dog’s caregiver about her symptoms. Be sure your dog won’t be left alone for long periods, or at all if the separation anxiety is intense. Training for separation anxiety takes time; this article is a good starting place.

4. Send your dog with familiar items.

One advantage of having a pet sitter come to your home is that your dog’s surroundings will remain familiar. However, even if your dog is staying elsewhere, you can pack a piece of home to go with them. Be certain your dog’s bed stays with your dog while you’re away. The bed will smell like you and your home and make him more comfortable. Other comforting items include:

  • Your dog’s usual food and treats
    One of your shirts or a pair of your socks
    A special blanket. Purchase a dog-specific blanket about a week before you leave if you don’t have one already so it can pick up all the scents of home. Burrowing is a comforting action for many dogs.

5. Ensure your dog gets enough exercise before you leave.

This simple, tried-and-true tip is key to your dog’s happiness. Take a walk, play fetch, or otherwise get your dog moving before you pack up. Expending some energy will help your dog feel more relaxed through the changes.

6. Consider calming tools on the day of departure.

Some dogs respond well to dog calming pheromone products, wearing a ThunderShirt, or taking calming supplements. Many dog owners report good success with CBD treats or oil, as well. Consult with your vet before trying a new supplement.

7. Stay calm and confident during the separation. 

Your dog can quickly and easily pick up on your emotions. If you’re feeling anxious about leaving him, he will feel anxious about you leaving. If you’re feeling comfortable (though of course, you’ll miss him), your dog will feel the same way.

8. Provide your dog with distractions.

Choose a few new chews and toys like a KONG or other treat-dispensing toy, or a naturally-shed antler, to give your dog on the day of departure. Novelty will keep your dog more interested.

Note: if your dog will be staying in a home with other dogs or in a boarding facility, avoid sending the toy or chew, as it can provoke territorial behavior.

The Bottom Line
Your dog will miss you, just as you will absolutely miss your dog. Just remember: if you’re comfortable, your dog will be more comfortable. Project calm confidence, plan ahead, and you’ll both feel more ready for your temporary separation.