The summer months can present risks to your dog. In this article Kaye Hargreaves explains the risks and how you can keep your dog safe and comfortable. With the summer holiday season upon us, we should think about the special requirements of our dogs. This is a time which brings out the best and worst in people and their treatment of dogs. While some owners spare no expense in sending their dogs to the best boarding establishments, others neglect or dump their pets. Kaye discusses some of the options for responsible dog owners.
Boarding kennels are the first choice of many dog owners. They vary in quality, in terms of the size and comfort of the accommodation and the amount of exercise the dogs get. I would always like to have some personal recommendation from a friend or from the vet, and visit the kennels before making a choice. If you have done this and are happy with your choice, you can stop reading and get on with your packing. If not, since most kennels are already booked out for the holiday period, you will have to find an alternative.
There are now services that offer to board your dog in a home environment. This is usually more expensive than boarding kennels, but your dog will have all the comforts of home, including personal attention, company, walks and if appropriate sleeping inside the house. This can cost around $?? a day. Some people who offer personal boarding are very good with dogs, but you need to know how many dogs they will have and whether the dogs will get on together. While a home environment can be much better than a kennel environment, it is a bit more risky. In any home, someone might accidentally leave the garden gate open and your dog could escape. There are all the hazards of a normal home – power cords to chew, pills to swallow and so on. But then, your dog gets to sleep on the carer’s bed…
Having your dog minded in your own home
Some professional services offer a combination of house sitting, plant watering and dog minding. This can be on a live-in or daily visit basis. You might also be able to find a trustworthy friend, neighbour or relative to do the same job, but please be careful that the person is reliable. If “Fido duty” is being shared by several people, it is a good idea to draw up a roster, so they can tick what they have done e.g. walk, feed, fill water bowl, play ball, administer TLC.
If you are thinking of leaving your dog at home, give some thought to how the dog will view the change in routine. Your dog may feel more comfortable in a familiar environment, but a very important part of that environment is missing – YOU! Your dog may feel your absence more keenly if you are not home compared to staying in kennels where the whole set up is different.
Will your friends or relatives stay in your house, and if not, how much time will they spend with the dog? Will your dog have access to the house during the day, for example through a dog door? If your dog normally sleeps inside and you are home a lot during the day, being kept outside day and night could cause stress, which will lead to problems such as nuisance barking or howling. The dog may be at greater risk of escaping or running away if left at home. Before you leave, put a temporary tag on your dog (as well as your Council registration) with the contact number of your “minder” and vet.
A dog needs company and some activity as well as the basic requirements of food, water, shelter and shade. Your dog minder should be willing to provide this – not just to throw some food over the fence. You should also consider whether your dog minder will be able to handle your dog – for example, will the dog pull on the lead or refuse to come when called for a stranger? Does the minder know how to handle your dog if he or she barks at other dogs or people in the street during a walk?
This option may work for you if your dog knows the minder and can be kept in a familiar routine, with enough human contact and attention.
Taking your dog with you
This is not always possible, but more and more camping grounds and motels will allow dogs. Of course you will have to keep your dog on a lead or under control at all times, find suitable toilet areas for your dog and accept some restrictions on what you can do and where you can go. If you are travelling by car, a carry crate which can serve as a portable kennel can be indispensible. Your dog can sleep in the crate outside your motel room door – but only if there are no problems with nuisance barking. If you are travelling by car, be aware of how hot your dog will get. Is your car air-conditioned?
Of course, you should never leave you dog unattended in the car. Dogs cannot get rid of heat very effectively, and can suffer from heat stress. Even being left for a short time in a parked car can be fatal. So what do you plan to do if you want to visit a tourist attraction and can’t take your dog inside?
Check out the vets available in the places you are travelling to, so you know who to call in an emergency. Find out before you go what hazards there are in the area. Is it a location for ticks or cane toads? How will you keep your dog safe?
Are you going to visit friends or relatives these holidays, and take your dog with you? Please ask them whether it is OK to bring your dog. What house rules will they have? Maybe they don’t want your dog to come inside the house. Do they have secure fenced yards? If your dog has to sleep outside, will this lead to nuisance barking? What will happen when your male dog first enters your friends’ house? Will he pee on the furniture to mark his territory? How embarrassing! It’s no good saying “Oh, he’s never done that at home!”
How will your dog cope with a different social scene over the holidays? One Christmas Day an artist friend called in and invited us to go around the corner to visit his studio. I was going to take Elgar, my German Shepherd, but at the last minute I decided to leave him inside the house. When we got back, we found that he had eaten the entire gourmet cheese platter that my mother had brought – wrappers and all. I have never lived that down. Be careful your dog doesn’t eat the chocolates under the Christmas tree – they can be poisonous to dogs. Take care also to supervise your dog around children, especially if they are running around in excitement trying out their new bikes, pirate swords and ball games.
Staying home with your dog
If you are unable to get your dog into kennels, place the dog with someone, find a minder to come to your home or take your dog with you, you may just have to stay home. You and your dog can enjoy a walk together in the cool of a summer’s evening. During the day, make sure that your dog has plenty of shade and water. Be mindful of your dog’s ability to cope with visitors during the festive season. If he or she is nervous, provide a pen, crate or safe place for your dog to retreat to.
Whether you are staying home with your dog, taking your dog with you or leaving him or her at home when you go away, think about whether your dog becomes stressed by either thunderstorms or fireworks, both of which are common over the New Year period.
The holiday period can be a good time to bring a new puppy home, because you can spend time together settling in. However, choose wisely and please do not impulse buy – either for yourself or as a gift for your grandchildren. Find a good puppy class – there are some that still operate during the holidays. The prime time for puppy socialisation is 9 to 16 weeks of age. Don’t wait until school goes back. Too many of our “Christmas puppies” end up as “Easter dumpees”, mainly because they grow bigger, become less cute and turn into typical unruly adolescents if they are not trained.
If you are travelling with your dog
[ ] vaccinations up to date
[ ] special precautions such as tick treatment for holiday location
[ ] doggy first aid kit for travelling
[ ] pack all needs such as lead, poo bags, water bowl, water bottle, dog food, travel crate
[ ] have ID on your dog including temporary phone number for holiday location
[ ] take contact details for local vets in your holiday area
[ ] make arrangements for where to leave your dog if you are doing a day trip to a tourist attraction that doesn’t allow dogs
If you are leaving your dog at home
[ ] vaccinations up to date
[ ] written details for carer of daily routine, feeding times and amounts, any medication due
[ ] instructions to carers about behaviour and training e.g. can they let your dog off the lead? Is your dog reliable with meeting other dogs? Is your dog friendly to strangers? What training has your dog had? What commands does he or she follow?
[ ] roster and checklist for feeding, toileting, walking, TLC and medication if there is more than one carer coming in
[ ] emergency contacts for carer – permission to go to your vet, or the closest vet in an emergency
[ ] provision for expenses the carer might incur
[ ] ID tags with the carer’s contact number
[ ] back-up plan for if a carer cannot visit one day – who else can feed and water your dog?
© Kaye Hargreaves 2008, 2012. May be reproduced with acknowledgement: Kaye Hargreaves; https://waggingschool.wordpress.com/