Now we’re in the depths of winter, many of us are dreaming about (or already planning) a sunny getaway. But, when you have a separation anxiety dog, vacations can be tricky. Some people even put off trips because they feel as though there are no options.
However, I’m here to tell you that with a little bit of creativity and outside-the-box thinking, you can find a solution that will put your mind at ease. Here are my top tips for overcoming the absence hurdle when your dog has separation anxiety.
1. Find a dog sitter
There’s no place like home; for humans and dogs alike. When leaving your dog for extended periods of time, it’s a good idea to keep as many variables the same as you can. He’ll have an easier time adjusting to your absence in the comforts of his home. By staying put his routine and surroundings can remain consistent.
The logistics are easier for you too. You won't need to shuttle your dog (and his food, toys, and beds) to another location.
But, finding a dogsitter you (and your dog ) can trust is not without its challenges. As with children's’ babysitters, it can be difficult to find someone who is available, trustworthy, and within budget. And even harder to find a sitter who understands the unique needs of an anxious dog.
There are services that offer sitters, ranging from free to paid. The sitters come usually come with references and police checks. Free dog sitters are usually travelers looking for accommodation in exchange for caring for you your pet. But also look for paid services like rover.com, which provide pricing, user reviews, and sitter profiles. If you do go down this route, you need to get the dogsitter to agree not to leave your dog for longer than he can handle. I say to clients: “Look them in the eye and get them to promise they won’t leave your dog.” Do so at the interview stage and see what they say. This is especially important if you’re looking for a free sitter.
2. Ask a friend or family member if your dog can stay with them
Having friends or family care for your dog while you’re on vacation is another option. For one, they’ve already met him and understand he has separation anxiety.
As well, this is usually a free – or very cheap – alternative to hiring a dogsitter. Usually, offering to house sit or babysit for them, or another type of trade, is all that’s required if they are a close connection.
Unfortunately, not everyone understands the significance of what they’ve signed up for: never leaving your dog alone while you’re away. Can their schedule allow for this type of commitment?
There's another challenge with this scenario. Well-meaning friends and family might take his separation anxiety training into their own hands. While they're only trying to help, they may undo the hard work you’ve already put in.
It’s important to have an honest conversation. They need truly understand what's involved. The may think they know, but the structure your dog needs is your dog’s well-being.
Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of dog kennels. It’s not because they’re bad or there aren’t some good ones. It’s just many dogs find kennels stressful, even dogs who don’t have separation anxiety.
For some dogs, though, kennels can be a fun and entertaining experience for dogs who are social. At least they aren’t going to be left at home (something that could happen if you get a sitter). You might get lucky and find you’re able “protect” the integrity of the home setting. If so, you'll ensure all of your training effort in this space isn’t undone by a separation meltdown while you’re away.
But there is a big risk. Some separation anxiety dogs will find being in a kennel so stressful a training regression is inevitable when you get back.
That said, sometimes your only option is a kennel. If going this route, I recommend using one that also has a daycare.Your dog then at least has constant company during the day. You will need to explain your dog’s separation anxiety to the staff so they can adjust their approach for his needs.
4. Take your dog with you
This is obviously not ideal if you’re hitting the beaches of Hawaii or surfing in Bali. But for closer-to-home vacations that don’t involve plane travel, it could be an option. Many hotels and vacation rentals do allow pets (often for a small fee).
This is a great solution for managing your dog’s well-being while you’re on vacation. But, it can be extremely challenging to enjoy your trip when you can’t leave your dog alone. What do you do when you want to go sightseeing or out for a meal?
It’s tough to leave your separation anxiety dog behind while you head on vacation. Evaluate the type of trip you plan to take and weigh the pros and cons of each option.
Hopefully, these ideas have helped make your next getaway a little bit more feasible. Remember a break can be good for you. You’ll come back feeling more refreshed and ready to continue powering through separation anxiety training.