Sit. Stay. The Boarding and Pet Sitting Issue

Everyone knows you and your Schnauzer are joined at the hip. But no matter how devoted the two of you are, there will come a time when you need to part.

The reasons are plenty: You’re heading up a sales presentation in Omaha. You’re on your way to (finally) get that hiatal hernia fixed. You’re bunking with asthmatic Aunt Betty at your family reunion. Or you were caller number 23 and won an all-inclusive trip to the Cayman Islands.

As painful as it may seem, leaving your pet behind may be best for everyone. He’ll avoid the stress of travel while you spare yourself a hefty cleaning fee for sneaking him into your hotel room. (It’s been done.)

While it’s tempting to find a neighborhood kid to care for Junior, hiring a professional
is well worth the (affordable!) expense. Your four-legged friend will receive the
scheduled, loving care and attention of a trained pro, with a few perks thrown in.

Home, Sweet Home

In-home sitters are perfect for elderly pets, very young kittens and puppies, or any pet that prefers the routine, comfort and solitude of home. (You know best!) Your pet will get daily one-on-one attention while avoiding the potential germs of a group situation.

A professional sitter will feed your beloved on a schedule, provide fresh water, take your dog on a walk and clean up messes. Professional sitters can also give your pet medications, provide post-surgical care or take on household chores, like collecting mail and watering plants. Some will even spend the night.

Beyond cats and dogs, you can find a sitter to handle everything from your beta fish to your chinchilla. Daily rates range from $15 to $35 per pet. See “Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers,” and tips on finding a great one below.

Home Away from Home

Sites like dogvacay.com and sleepoverrover.com let you search for pre-screened, insured animal lovers in your zip code who can take in your pet while you’re away. An inexpensive alternative, with rates as low as $15 a night, this arrangement gives your pet attentive, round-the-clock care and, in most cases, the run of a comfy house.

Choose a site that provides background checks, and then do a little homework of your own. Most sites let you communicate with potential sitters by email, with no fees or obligation until you make a reservation. And be sure to visit first to make sure they are responsible and reliable, and their home is clean and safe.

Boarding and Day Care

Group stays are great for easygoing cats, social dogs, or pets needing help with socialization. This option is especially perfect for energetic pooches that chew up your furniture, tinkle on the carpet or terrorize neighbors when they’re bored.

At an off-site facility, your pet will get more stimulation and supervision than he would at home. He’ll stay under the watchful eye of staff trained to spot health problems, in a facility specially built to foil Houdini-inspired escapes.

He may even see that being away from you isn’t so bad. “Dogs learn a lot from each other,” said Sherri Loomer from Your Animal’s Best Friend. “Boarding is an opportunity to help your dog be more independent and easily adjust to new situations.”

Get your pooch acclimated first with doggie day care at a pet store, kennel or boarding facility. According to the American Pet Products Association, it usually runs from $6 to $25 for a half day, or $12 to $38 for a full day. Look for a facility with at least one staff person per 15 dogs, where the pooches are grouped not only by size but by personality and play style. You’ll know it’s the right fit if Fido comes home happy and tired, ready to go again in the morning.

For extended stays, there’s a range of choices. A basic kennel with chain-link fence and a cement floor will run you $12 to $26 per day. A boutique-style boarding facility with extra perks will be $22 to $55, while ultra high-end hotels run from $40 to $100 per day. Expect to pay extra for one-on-one walks or play time, baths, medication administration or luxury add-ons.

Zero in on a site that suits your pet’s personality. “Dogs that are more hyperactive have to have something going on all the time,” said Loomer. “You won’t want them in a cage because they’ll be miserable and bark the whole time.”

Dogs who actually like alone time may prefer a plush resort where they can meditate. “Some don’t do well if they’re not with humans or other dogs,” Loomer added, “but some couldn’t care less.”

Elderly pets, exotic animals or pets with special needs may do well staying over at a veterinarian’s office, many of which offer boarding. Katella Animal Clinic and Alicia Pet Care Center give all guests a complimentary exam, Yorba Regional Animal Hospital and Pet Resort has a doctor on duty 24/7, and OC Veterinary Medical Center offers a well-trained medical staff, plus boarding suites and pet TV.

Or you might want to try a two-fer, where your pet receives training while he boards. Kind to Canines owner, Dan Atkinson, helps with everything from basic obedience and walking on a leash to resisting the urge to jump, bark, surf your counters or attack passing dogs. “The people who come here usually don’t have time on a day-to-day basis to reinforce good habits,” said the company’s Mia Harriman. “That’s why they stay with us.”

Click to “Boarding and Day Care” and see what your options are.