Most of the time, us dog moms and dads have full time jobs to work, social lives to engage in, hobbies to enjoy, volunteer duties to create world peace, and vacations to get far away from reality. We are super busy, but we care about the dogs that live under our roof like family and if you are anything like me, you worry about what happens to your dogs when they are away from you.
So how do we get them the exercise and socialization that they need in daily life? And how do we keep our dogs happy and safe when we travel? These questions become even more complicated when we have a reactive dog. Taking our dogs for walks at peak hours is not an option, but walking at 4am is equally ridiculous. You might not feel entirely comfortable leaving your dog at a friends house while you travel. Dog parks for your pooch are probably not a good idea either, so what do you do?
Well, I don’t have an exact answer for you. What I will say is, always work with the dog that you have now. My dog is reactive to dogs and people, but once properly introduced, he’s quite friendly. Knowing this about my dog, I make decisions based on those facts. To keep my boy engaged and active while I’m at work I have him doing two half days at a doggie daycare and a walk with a dog walking company one day a week. While we travel, I have a kennel that is familiar with him and offers a lot outside the kennel time, so I don’t come home to a crazy dog.
When doing research on pet care related businesses, there are a couple factors to keep in mind:
- What your area has to offer
I’m living in a fairly small city, so there are a couple options for us. If you live in a rural area, you might have to get creative! City folk will have to narrow their selection down.
What are you willing to pay? More quality places with properly trained staff might charge more, but it might be worth it to have someone experienced working with your reactive dog.
Make sure the hours work with your schedule! They often charge you extra if you are late or if your trip extends.
What are you looking to get from different options or services you purchase?
Is the business you are using bonded and insured? Have staff been trained? Do trainers have certifications? Unfortunately, there is not a lot of regulation when it comes to the pet industry, so again, do some research to make sure that you have someone educated working with your reactive dog.
Let’s take a look at some options for your dog!
-Doggie Daycare: please do research on different facilities, they are not all created equal. Of course price and hours of operation will be a factor, but make sure you are comfortable with the people running the daycare. Do they have any qualifications? Will they separate dogs based on personality? Is there an outdoor area (this can be important if your dog is very potty trained and will only pee outside)? Is there an indoor facility for weather purposes? Do they provide enrichment? Do they do a consult with you and your dog first? Ask questions! Especially if you have a reactive dog, it is so important that you are setting your dog up for success. Putting your dog into a situation where negative interactions between dogs and/or humans will occur because of lack of dog behavior and body language knowledge, then it will only create further reactivity issues or aggression. My expectations for a doggie daycare facility is that they always fill us in, good or bad.
-Dog Walkers: this can be a great option if you work 8+ hours a day. Find a trusted service or professional to come into your home and take your dog for a walk. Again, ask questions: do they use prong collars or ecollars? Do they use retractable leashes? If they say yes, run the other way! Dog walkers are great options for extended periods of time too, for example, you don’t want to leave Spot at the kennel because it gives him anxiety.
The business I use to walk my dog took the time to train their staff with me on how to work and introduce themselves properly to Mo. They have never had a problem, he loves getting visitors, and he gets little exercise during the day!
-Pet Sitters: Maybe your dog is way too reactive/fearful/anxious to go on a walk. Or you don’t feel comfortable with your dog staying in a kennel. You could have a pet sitter or dog walker come into your home to let the dog into the backyard and provide game and social time. Or drop your dog off at a pet sitters house. Make sure they are coming from a trustworthy business or a they are a friend that is familiar and comfortable with your dog. If you live in a rural area with few dog care options, hiring a student or family friend might be your best bet.
-Taking lunch breaks: If your job and job location allow you to take a lunch break at home, do it! Giving your dog a halfway break during the day allows them to relieve themselves, have social time, and a game with you. It will be less stress for you to rush home at the end of the day.
-Day Training: This is an awesome option for your reactive dog! They get to spend the day training, having lots of potty breaks, play time, and best of all, they’re probably tired when they get home. These options can be a little pricier due to the amount of attention and work that goes into your dog, but it can be so worth it. These facilities will customize a training plan and work on problem areas. Look for trainers that have certifications and use positive reinforcement training. You’ll get the best results that way. As always, this means you have to do your research and ask your questions. Trust your instincts too, if you don’t feel comfortable, walk out the door!
-Boarding Facilities: Boarding come in all forms. There are home boarders, boarders with no kennels, boarders with limited time outside, boarders at vets, boarders with live video feed… you name it, it’s out there!
When I look to board at a new facility, I make sure that my dog and I are comfortable with the owner and staff, the place is clean, and he gets more than two potty breaks a day. That’s the bare minimum if I’m in a pinch. If I’m thinking ahead or I’ve been in the area awhile, I prefer to have Mo outside for more than 15 minutes, human interaction with lots of pets, and supervised dog on dog playtime. I also bring his own food, so his tummy doesn’t get upset. Hey, I’m a dog mom that knows what’s best for her dog!