dog sitting options

Dog sitting and dog boarding tips and options for travelers

Did you adopt a dog during the COVID-19 pandemic? If so, you know you’re not alone. In April 2020, right after the pandemic began, there were 34% more dogs adopted than during the same period a year earlier, and those numbers continued to be higher than years prior throughout the following months. 

Cindy Sharpley, founder and director of Last Chance Animal Rescue, a nonprofit animal shelter in Waldorf, found the situation somewhat surprising, to say the least. 

“We thought people would stop adopting because they would need to conserve their money,” said Sharpley. “But that hasn’t happened. It’s been just the opposite. They’re going like hot cakes. We can hardly keep them in stock.”

This recent phenomenon has been a good problem. Less dogs in shelters, of course, means more dogs at home with loving families. The question that we’ve noticed popping up over and over again here at Travel Magazine is simple: 

How can you continue to travel when you’ve adopted a new dog? 

If you don’t believe us, take a look at the search data from Google. While it seems as though many decided to stay home with their new dogs throughout the pandemic, we’ve come to a point where dog owners are in need of a little travel, a vacation, or a weekend getaway away from their four-legged friends. Search results for both “dog daycare” and “dog boarding” are currently through the roof.

They aren’t just trending at highs for the past decade – they’re trending higher than in the history of Google Search! Take a look at the data from 2004 until the present day – the red line represents searches for “dog boarding”, while the blue line represents searches for “dog daycare”. 

search trends dog boarding

A getaway, whether for the day, the weekend, or a full-blown vacation, is leaving dog owners looking for options. 

What’s equally as interesting as the huge jump in searches for dog boarding is the breakout search volume from queries like “boarding dog near me” and “pet boarding near me”. These are long-tail keywords that have never really had a presence on Google Trends, but now are breakout queries getting thousands and thousands of hits a day. 

search data dog boarding

So, since so many users are searching for dog watching options, we figured we’d help travelers prepare themselves better for their next trip without their pet. First, let’s look at three ways to prepare your dog emotionally for some time apart. 

1. Send your dog with items from home

This one pulls on our heartstrings a bit, but it will help your dog remember you and have a sense of home while they’re staying with someone else. 

2. Exercise your dog before you drop them off

Whether they’re staying with a friend, sitter, or at a boarding facility, you should exercise your dog beforehand so they’re good and tired when you drop them off. This will calm their nerves. 

3. Be cool

If you stay calm and cool, your dog will pick up on the signs that this is okay. Save the tears for the plane!

dog sitting ideas

Dog boarding options for traveling without your pet

Next, let’s look at some of the nationwide options for pet boarding and dog sitting. Here’s where you can leave your dog when you go on vacation – and some tips on how to find the boarding service that’s right for you and your dog. 

1. Rover

Rover is an app that allows you to connect with 5-star dog sitters, boarders, and walkers in your area. It’s like Uber, but for pet lovers. Sign up, tell the world a little bit about your dog, and then request a meet and greet with any sitters you’d like to hire before you leave your dog with them. If you’re thinking about taking a longer vacation (more than a few days), we’d recommend doing one overnight test run with your dog sitter before you leave your animal with them long-term. Make sure it’s a good fit for everyone before you commit to a week away. 

That being said, many of Rover’s top-rated dog watchers are professionals who have been using the app for years. They’ve seen every type of dog, and your pet will likely have a great time away.

2. Pawshake

Pawshake is a website and app for dog sitters, and it allows you to connect with dog walkers, dog sitters, and also has boarding options. They are available in a variety of countries around the world. Again, do a test run with a Pawshake sitter overnight before you go on your big trip. Not doing a test run is one of the classic travel mistakes to avoid.

3. PetSmart Dog Boarding 

Your local PetSmart might also be a place to consider – they’re now offering PetsHotel, a service that puts your animal in their care while you’re away. You can book your dog a private room, schedule playtime for them, and pick them up when you get back from your time away. Again, we’d recommend testing this for a night before you commit to anything long-term. It’s always good to test your dog’s comfort level. 

4. Speak to your local groomer

Local dog groomers and doggy daycare centers will more often than not offer dog boarding services as well. If you’ve fallen in love with a groomer, there can be several advantages to doing dog boarding with them. The two main advantages are surrounding familiarity. Your familiarity with the groomer will give you confidence in knowing that they’re capable and caring enough to take care of your dog – but the familiarity your dog has with the groomer is equally as important. If your dog has been visiting with the groomer regularly or has been to daycare classes there, they’re going to feel much more comfortable staying with a familiar face. 

All of these options are good ways for new dog owners to travel without their dogs. Test a few, meet a few potential dog watchers on Rover or Pawshake, and see who’s the best fit for your dog. Though many of us have been at home with our dogs every day for the past year, travel is a wonderful part of life, and working it back into your plans is likely a must. These tips can help you leave your dog in as comfortable of a situation as possible when you travel to visit family across the country or to see the sights around the world when things reopen.