Things to Consider When Leaving Your Pet in the Care of Someone Else

< A version of this article was published in the September 2021 issue of Downeast Dog News>


< Updated 07OCT21 >

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Every year millions of dogs and cats of various breeds, sizes, and ages are cared for by boarding facilities, pet sitters, friends, and family members. This could be for multiple reasons: traveling for business or vacation, extended work schedules, or a family emergency or illness. While many pets, dogs, in particular, find a stay at a boarding facility fun, despite the best efforts of pet care professionals, not all pets do well away from home. When this occurs, a pet care professional is responsible for informing you of this situation; they want your pet to have a low-stress and enjoyable stay and go home happy and healthy.  While many factors require consideration before boarding your pet, temperament, health, and age top the list.

Most boarding facilities provide more comprehensive care for their guests than the typical hotel does for humans. That is why the process of booking a reservation for your pet is not as easy as booking a hotel room for yourself online. A reputable boarding facility will ask questions about your pet’s vaccinations, temperament, play style, health, food preferences, and medications. A boarding facility provides a place to rest and sleep but is also responsible for; meals, mental enrichment and play, housekeeping, physical handling, routine medication if needed, and sometimes grooming services. If a pet becomes unwell, those services may include transportation to the veterinarian. If you or your designated representative is not available, the boarding facility and their veterinarian may need to make medical decisions for your pet.

Your Pet’s Temperament

Just as people have a wide range of temperaments, so do pets.  Some will be constantly happy and look forward to meeting every new, living thing they encounter. At the opposite extreme, some will dislike and even fear anything new and may never open up to other animals or people. Even a change in environment, such as moving from a familiar home to a boarding facility or home of a friend, whether filled with other critters and people or not, can be overwhelming for some pets.

A fearful pet is not a “bad” pet; they are just animals struggling in a difficult situation and require patience and understanding. Unfortunately, a frequently anxious or fearful pet is unlikely to enjoy being cared for anywhere outside of their home. No matter who cares for your pet, they must be able to handle them regardless of the pet’s mood. While any animal can have an intemperate moment and bite, pets that are fear aggressive are more likely to pose a bite risk. Therefore, they are probably not a good candidate for a boarding facility or a pet sitter. It is a pet parent’s responsibility to disclose this information and to find a suitable alternative.

A reputable professional may be able to work with you to help acclimate your pet to staying away from home. However, please be aware that this is a prolonged process and must start weeks, if not months, before leaving your pet.

Your Pet’s Health and Age

Most pets are relatively healthy during their younger years, but underlying health issues may arise as they age.  It is essential to do a mental and physical assessment of your pet every time you board them to ensure that they are in good health. If, at any time, you have concerns, or are made aware of health issues by your veterinarian, contact your boarding facility and have a conversation with them regarding these issues. Concerns can be anything from increased water consumption or decreased appetite, hints of dementia, increased stiffness in joints, or reactivity and aggression. The boarding facility may suggest or even require that you have your pet examined by a veterinarian before boarding, but that is a better alternative to receiving a phone call and having to consult and make decisions over the phone while you are hours away

The boarding facility will need to be able to easily and quickly contact you at any time if something arises and emergency healthcare is necessary. If you will be unable to be reached while away, you need to have a friend, family member, or veterinarian designated to act on your pet’s behalf. They must be available and able to be reached quickly and easily. While a caregiver for your pet may have you sign a contract giving them authority to act in your pet’s best interest if you are unreachable, the preferred situation would always place you as the person in charge of any life-altering decisions regarding your pet. Illnesses can come on suddenly, and life and death decisions may need to be made quickly to prevent your pet from suffering. An alternative is to have your attorney draft a healthcare directive for your pet. If you choose this option, be sure that your pet’s caregiver and veterinarian have a copy.

While the boarding facility staff and pet sitters should be knowledgeable on pet first aid, common health issues, nutrition, pet play dynamics, and normal and abnormal pet behavior, they are not veterinarians. Therefore, if you or your veterinarian believe that your pet needs any of the following; continuous medical observation, the administration of an IV for medications or hydration, frequent temperature checks, physical assistance to relieve themselves, or wellness checks several times throughout the night, your pet will be best served by being at home in familiar surroundings or with their veterinarian or an individual with a similar level of knowledge and experience.

The owners and employees of pet care facilities are in the profession for their love of animals. However, there is nothing more difficult for them than to watch a pet suffer either emotionally or physically while in their care.  Please help both them and your pet by maintaining an open line of communication regarding the care of your pet while you are away.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
(  )

Cat Behavior – Make Your Life Easier – Get Your Cat to Love Their Carrier

Canine Behavior – Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stress

Please Be Cautious When Choosing Who Cares For Your Pets –

Traveling – Do you take the dog along or leave him with someone?

Pet Care Options When You Go Away: Pet Sitter, Neighbor, Boarding Facility –

Selecting A Pet Care Provider – Yes! A Trend Towards Kinder and Gentler Professional Pet Care – Green Acres Kennel Shop’s “Pet-Friendly” Philosophy – Part 1 –


Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( )

Things to Consider When Leaving Your Pet in the Care of Someone Else

Things To Consider When Boarding A Pet-Part 1 (2018) –

Things To Consider When Boarding A Pet-Part 2 –

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Don serves on the PPG Board of Directors and Steering Committee. In addition, he chairs the Advocacy Committee and The Shock-Free Coalition ( ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog:  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©07OCT21, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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PODCAST – Pet Care Options When You Go Away: Pet Sitter, Neighbor, Boarding Facility

5SEP15-Pet_Care_Options_When_Away 400x400In this weekend’s episode of The Woof Meow Show Kate and Don discuss various pet care options for owners when they need to go away and the pets cannot go along. They discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a pet sitter, family/friends/neighbor and a professional boarding facility.

Listen to the show by clicking here

You can read an article on this topic at


©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Pets, Who Cares for Them When You Are Away?

< A version of this article was published in the September 2015 issue of Down East Dog News>

Don and Muppy - Summer 2014
Don and Muppy – Summer 2014

It is September, and Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here before you know it. If you plan on going away for either holiday and will need someone to care for your pets at that time, you should be looking for that someone NOW. No matter who cares for your pets during your absence, there are only so many spots available at the inn, and when they are gone, they are gone. The best places will typically fill up weeks in advance of the holidays. While pet care providers may have last minute cancelations, you probably don’t want to bet your airline tickets on that.

A friend or family member, a professional pet sitter, or a professional boarding facility are all options that you may wish to consider when looking for someone to care for your pets when you go away. This post will highlight some of the benefits and disadvantages of each of these options as well as review factors that apply to all of the various pet care choices.

Before entrusting the care of your pet to anyone you should:

  • Notify your veterinarian and let them know that someone else is caring for your pet and may be contacting them in case of an emergency.
  • Set up an opportunity for your pet to meet those that will be caring for them. Make sure that your pet is comfortable around them. Likewise, the caregivers need to be comfortable with your pet. If your pet is not staying at your home while you are away, it is a good idea to give your pet an opportunity to familiarize themselves with where they will be staying ahead of time.
  • Make sure that the people caring for your pet understand their behavior and any health issues. It is absolutely essential that you be completely upfront and honest about your pet’s health status and behavioral quirks. If your pet has aggression issues, failing to disclose all the details about your dogs aggression and reactivity is putting others at risk. If they have occasional lameness, and you forget to mention this, you may put your pet at risk for overexertion.
  • Make arrangements for an emergency contact, someone who can authorize medical care for your pet in the eventuality your pet care provider is unable to contact you. This individual may also be needed to care for your pet if the pet care provider indicates that they cannot care for your pet. Your contact may need to assume financial responsibility for your pet in your absence. Most veterinary practices, especially emergency clinics, require payment upfront. Emergency veterinary care can easily result in a bill greater than $1000. If the pet is a senior or has existing health issues, you may want to leave written instructions for the veterinarian with your pet care provider, just in case they require medical attention in your absence.
  • Whoever is caring for your pet should have contact information for you, your veterinarian and the closest emergency veterinary clinic. They should also have a copy of your pet’s most recent vaccination records and any other information applicable to specific health concerns for your pet.

Before you entrust the care of your pet to anyone, you should ask them the following:

  • Have you had formal training in pet first aid and are you able to apply first aid if necessary?
  • Have you had training in and experience with supervising interactions between pets that do not interact on a regular basis? Are you familiar with basic canine body language?
  • Do you have experience in giving pets medications; pills, ointments or injections?
  • Do you promise that you will not use any of the aversive tools or techniques defined as harmful in the AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines? Tools and methods that the guidelines list as harmful are; prong (pinch) or choke collars, cattle prods, alpha rolls, dominance downs, electronic shock collars, lunge whips, starving or withholding food, entrapment, and beating. As horrendous as this sounds it has happened, even here in Maine.

Friends and Family

Having a family member stop by your home or having them take your pet to their home while you are gone is certainly an option worth considering. However, it is in your pet’s best interest that a friend or family member have the same basic qualifications as noted above. Also, consider that the holidays are especially hectic events for most families and are probably a less than an ideal time to take on pet care responsibilities for someone else. You will want to ask a friend or family member many of the same questions you would ask a professional pet, sitter. You will also want to review where your pet will be staying. Is there a fenced yard where your dog can spend some time outdoors? If your dog has a quiet area for sleeping, ask if they will have a similar area where they will be staying? If your friend has pets of their own, and they do not get along with your pet, will the friend be able to keep all pets separate, safe and happy?

Professional Pet Sitter

A pet sitter can often be a good alternative for a pet that is unsettled by change. A pet that is anxious in new environments or is uncomfortable around other animals may do better staying in their home. Likewise, a senior pet that is no longer in the best of health may find it easier to stay at home.

When looking for a pet sitter I always suggest that you look for someone that will check your pets during the day and be there at night to watch over your pets and your home. How often they check in on your pets during the day will be variable with your pets specific needs; however, I would recommend a minimum of two visits per day. While cats can technically get by with someone stopping by for a half hour twice a day, the same cannot be said for dogs. You want to keep your pets schedule as normal as possible, so a pet sitter should be in your home the same times of the day that you and another family member are there.

Maine does not regulate pet sitters, so make sure you check them out thoroughly. In addition to asking the questions above, I suggest you also ask:

  • Are you a member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, Pet Sitters International or the Pet Professional Guild? Although not the same as being licensed, a pet sitter that is a member of at least one of these associations is demonstrating a commitment to their profession. Those that are members of the Pet Professional Guild must also commit to and follow PPG’s Guiding Principles. A significant part of the PPG Guiding Principles is this statement: “To be in any way affiliated with the Pet Professional Guild all members must adhere to a strict code of conduct. Pet Professional Guild Members Understand Force-Free to mean: No shock, No Pain, No Choke, No Fear, No physical force, No physical molding, No compulsion based methods are employed to train or care for a pet.”
  • How much time will you be spending with my pet(s)? In addition to feeding your pet and taking care of bathroom breaks, a pet sitter should be playing with and exercising your pets and depending on your pet, just spending some time with them relaxing.
  • What steps will you take if my pet accidentally gets away from you and runs off? Make sure that they can safely handle your pet when taking them outside so that your pet does not inadvertently run off.
  • How many employees do you have?
  • What happens if you get sick, are in an accident, have car trouble or there is a blizzard? What will you do to ensure that my pets will be cared for on schedule, every day? Many pet sitters are one person businesses. Please be sure they have a contingency plan in place and that you are comfortable with how they will ensure your pets are cared for if they are unable to do so.
  • Are you and your employees bonded and insured? Remember, a pet sitter will have keys to your home.

Professional Boarding Facility

Professional boarding facilities are regulated and licensed in the state of Maine; they must follow state regulations for the boarding of pets. These rules govern housing, feeding, sanitation, record keeping and basic standards of care. However, these rules are typically very rudimentary, and the best facilities will do far better. The best facilities will have staff training requirements for pet first aid, pet behavior, health, and handling skills. They may often include daily playtime as part of their package. Most facilities will have detailed contracts that you will be asked to sign for the benefit of you as well as the business.

Most pets do very well when boarding and many facilities suggest you give your pet a “test drive” by either boarding during the day or maybe even trying an overnight before you book a weeklong vacation. In addition to the questions above, the following are some suggested questions for the kennel.

  • Are you licensed? Even though it is a legal requirement, some try to get around the law.
  • Is anyone on your staff credentialed as a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant or Certified Professional Dog Trainer? Understanding pet behavior is critical when caring for someone’s pet. Changes in a pet’s behavior can be subtle, and may often be the first sign that they are not doing well physically and emotionally. Individuals that have the above certifications have been accredited by internationally recognized organizations and must continue their education to maintain their certification. Having at least one such person on staff is a sign of a superior facility.
  • Do you allow interactions between other dogs and if so, how are they supervised? Supervising dogs at play, especially dogs that do not interact on a frequent basis, requires knowledge of canine behavior and communication. Staff training will include professionally developed programs on these topics. Staff will evaluate each dog for size, age, and playstyle.  A staff person will always supervise dogs when at play. At Green Acres, we have one pet technician for every five playing.
  • Does someone stay at the facility at night? In some cases, owners may live on site, but there are facilities where that is not the case. Prior to purchasing Green Acres my wife and I we boarded our pets. Having someone on site at night was and is still an essential requirement for us when boarding our pet.
  • I am repeating the following from above, but that is because I believe it is so important. Do you promise that you will not use any of the aversive tools or techniques defined as harmful in the AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines? Things that the guidelines list as harmful are; prong (pinch) or choke collars, cattle prods, alpha rolls, dominance downs, electronic shock collars, lunge whips, starving or withholding food, entrapment, and beating. Sadly there are facilities in Maine that use these tools and methods.

Hopefully, you now have some ideas of what to look for if you need someone to care for your pets. If you are going away for the holidays, now is the time to start looking. Keep in mind that pet care providers are busiest when pet owners travel, which often corresponds to when the kids are out of school. Reserve your spots early!

For more information on Green Acres Kennel Shop and our boarding services, check us out at, or better yet stop by and visit us in person at 1653 Union Street, Bangor ME. We can be reached at 207-945-6841.

You can listen to an episode of The Woof Meow Show where we discussed this topic at

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at Don also writes about pets at his blog:

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>