What should I do with my dog while I’m on vacation?

My wife and I are going on a much needed one-week vacation next month. We can’t take our chihuahua with us and we have no idea what we’re going to do with her. Should we leave her with friends, hire a pet-sitter, board her at a kennel? We are totally stressed out about this and really need some advice.


I totally understand what you’re going through, and it’s good that you started thinking about this in advance. Dogs are much more attached to their people than to their place of dwelling. I use that rule when deciding what to do with my dogs when I go on vacation. Here are my choices from most to least ideal:

  1. Take the dogs with me if possible (Note: I would choose options 2-4 before subjecting them to a long, stressful plane ride)
  2. Ask a friend or family member who knows my dogs to stay at my house
  3. Send my chihuahuas to that friend or family member’s house
  4. Hire a dogsitter to stay at my house
  5. Boarding at a kennel

People ask me if it’s ok for them to leave their dogs alone at home for a few days with extra food and water. I strongly advise against this!

While it’s fairly common for cat owners to do this, dogs get stressed out when they are left alone for an extended period of time. Dogs are lost without their leaders. Some dogs refrain from eating when they don’t know when their owners are coming back. Exercise, routine, socialization and pack order are so important for dogs that they really need a human authority around to maintain structure in their owner’s absence.

Boarding at a kennel is my absolute last choice. If the best I could do is to have a friend drop by a few times a day to check on my dogs at home, I would choose that over a kennel. Boarding is especially hard for dogs who were in shelters before, they might feel like they’re being abandoned again, this could cause behavior problems when the dog comes home again.

If you must board, you should visit the kennel in person and get a gut feeling for the place. There are many questions to ask before boarding, I’ll address that in another post.

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8 Comments

September 14, 2007

Mark Watson :

We have a black lab and a beagle-boxer mix. Going on vacation for two days or a week is a chore. I’m not sure we could ever leave them for more than a week. Our lab has siezures for two/three days every four weeks and is medicated twice daily to keep things under control. My wife is an expert at stuffing pills down Coley’s throat and I can get her to take pills hidden a treat most of the time. We let my mother house sit and take care of the dogs when we do go but this is beginning to present a problem when Coley refuses her medicine and stuffing is not an option for my mom. I am going to check with our vet to find out if Coley’s pills can be replaced occassionally in shot form. We are just two dog lovers trying to cope with dogs that are alot less trouble than they are a blessing.

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October 30, 2007

Cindy :

Sometimes when we deal with the day to day issues, we forget that our animals are a blessing, like you said. They’re a part of our family and we have a responsibility to take care of them. Thank you for your perspective. When we give pills to our dogs, we hide it in something small and too-yummy-to-refuse, like a piece of chicken, peanut butter, or a dab of cream cheese. Maybe your mom can do the same when she’s dogsitting. You probably don’t go on vacation all the time, and when you do, it’s a week or so, I think something yummy twice a day for that short amount of time is ok. Then when you guys are home, then your wife can go back to stuffing.

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April 15, 2011

danee lockhart :

i have a 1year old chihuahua and im going to tahoe for 2 days in the next 2 weeks . my mom says i should stay home but im only 12 and she goes against every thing i mention . she claims petsitters are to expensive my little brother agreed to take care of him together but she advises him to go with her . i dont want to stay here alone and its not safe what do i do .??? HELP ME ASAP PLEASE

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September 1, 2011

Martie :

We are going away for 4 days, and are having a friend come over 2 times a day for 2hours each time.
Is that enough if wwe have instructions for feeding and throwing a ball?

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April 21, 2013

Jessica Klinger :

I am so scared to go on vacation, I do not want to leave my dog ( chuhuhui) spelling? My daughter will come to our home to babysit. But I am so attached to her, and she clings to me! Can you help?

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April 21, 2013

Jessica Klinger :

Very upset that I have to leave her. :(

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April 21, 2013

Jessica Klinger :

:)

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January 30, 2014

DRLS :

My spouse totally refuses to go anywhere without the dog. I just would love a day or two alone. Our dog is not sick or anything. We have never left him alone in four years. Not even been on a date because he thinks it would hurt the dog’s feelings. We have him in the bedroom at night. He sleeps all day, and makes all kinds of noise all night long. We don’t even have intimate time alone. I get sleep deprived from all the noise in the room at night, so my spouse said I can wear earplugs or sleep elsewhere. My point is, my spouse is tied to the hip with his dog, so going anywhere alone, is out of the question.

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