PET SITTER VS. DOG KENNEL FACILITY

This article originally appeared in the June 27, 2010, Canine Connection Column of the North Shore News entitled Take your leave with ease, use a pet sitter by Joan Klucha

Do not worry, OK. Those where the last words of reassurance from Lee Wyllie the owner of Signature Pet Services. I had contacted her because I needed a pet sitter. My father had become gravely ill and I needed to get home to southern Ontario asap. I was worried about my father and also worried about who would care for my dogs because I was literally leaving for the airport within hours. In the past I had relied on my ex-husband-Wayne to care for my dogs when I left town. He had a history with them and I felt safe to leave them in his care.

But life goes on and I could not impose on him...or any of my close friends for that matter because it was so last minute. So I contacted Lee. I had worked with Lee in the past with her Dobermans and the day she came for a visit to my home my dogs gravitated to her instantly.

She came to my home because I intended on using her services at some point in the future, and I wanted to see how she interacted with my dogs but more importantly for me, how my dogs interacted with her.

Leaving my dogs behind in anyone's care other than mine is hard for me. I think it`s because I feel that, in spite of my preaching about leadership and alpha status my dogs are my children and I adore them beyond measure. I worry about how they would feel in my absence, would they think I abandoned them? Would they become stressed, depressed or lonely?

Sappy I know but I do not think that I am alone!

I know that there are fabulous kennel facilities available that do a wonderful job caring for your dog while you are away. And some people have a great relationship with the owner of these facility so their dog feels like it is a home away from home. But I have never been a fan for those kinds of facilities. There is nothing wrong with them. It is just my personal feelings. I cannot envision leaving my dogs in an unfamiliar cement run behind chain linked fences with a bunch of barking stressed dogs. So the idea of a pet sitter-someone who comes to your home and stays with your dogs - is my choice of care for my dogs when I leave town.

Dogs are creatures of habit, they like familiar surroundings. This makes them feel safe. Even if the designated Pack Leader is not within the dogs presence having the dog in the home with the Pack Leader's things allows the dog to feel additionally secure, in the absence of the Pack Leader. Imagine a pack of wolves, when the leaders go out for a hunt for a day or so, do they hustle the pack to another den, an unfamiliar den? No the pack remains in the familiar den until the leaders return.

Boarding kennels do not allow that type of sense of security and for many dogs that can be extremely stressful, to be away from their leader for a length of time and be in a strange place. There are times that dogs have developed separation anxiety from being left at boarding kennels due to the fact that they did not understand why they where left behind and where their leader was. I did not want to take that chance with my dogs.

Like Lee, many pet sitters want to develop a relationship with your dog before they come into your home and stay. This means they may want to join you on a walk and learn your dogs habits and personalities. This allows the dog to bond with the pet sitter and develop a sense of trust in their ability to lead the pack in the 'true' leaders absence. This sense of trust in a leaders ability is what keeps a dog calm and stress free.

I also wanted as little disruption to their routine as possible, I knew they would be fed, walked and tended to at the same times, as I would. This again minimizes the possibility of stress and anxiety to my dogs and to be honest, with me too.

Take the time to find a pet sitter that is a good match for you and your dog as it will help everyone, including you, enjoy your time away form your beloved canine companions.

This article was written by Joan Klucha, columnist for the North Shore News and well known Vancouver, British Columbia based dog trainer who has been training dogs in tracking and obedience for more than 14 years. She has also worked with the Vancouver Police Dog Squad for 7 years.