Chris Shaughness

While You’re Away Your Pets Will Play? Maybe not…How a Pet Sitter Can Help


While You’re Away Your Pets Will Play? Maybe not…How a Pet Sitter Can Help


Rubi Wiswall

Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to get sick when traveling?  The combination of sleep deprivation, changes in your normal diet and schedule, and introduction to crowds of strangers with varying foreign germs can send your immune system out of whack and produce a nasty cold, unnecessary stress, and a myriad of issues when you come home.

It is not much different for your dog, and when boarding your pet there are some factors that must be taken into account when deciding whether or not to leave your dog in a new environment, particularly if your pet was a rescue, or experiences separation anxiety, difficulty adapting to new people or dogs, or has specific dietary or care needs.

Dogs perform best when they have a consistent routine to their days down to the amount of time they spend running or playing and the consistency of their bathroom breaks.  So, even a kennel with the best intentions will still affect your dog’s schedule, which can cause anything from dehydration, to diarrhea, and other stress related issues.  Eating, sleeping and bathroom routines will inevitably be interrupted when boarding your dog and often times will, if nothing else, make for a very unhappy pet who may take days to return back to normal.your house pet sitter

Unfortunately, this is not the only risk when boarding your beloved companion.  Some dogs adapt perfectly fine to kennels, while others can become depressed, stop eating and drinking, become violent or desperate to escape.  Often times these dogs are rescues or have traumatic events from their past like years in a puppy mill that can affect them for the rest of their lives, and make it much more difficult to adapt to new situations like a kennel.

One pet owner, Sara Moody, in Philadelphia, PA boarded her rescue Pit Bull, Che, for four days while on vacation.  After carefully researching the kennels in the area she picked the one with the best reviews, however according to the kennel staff Che wasn’t eating or drinking for the first few days, and showed constant signs of distress.   Moody says ‘We had Che picked up a day early and he was obviously comforted to see a familiar face.  He relieved himself as soon as he was let out which seemed to be an indication that he knew he was safe.’  When Moody returned home Che had visible scratches on his nose from trying to chew his way out of the kennel he was kept in.  When asked, the staff at the facility said that he was extremely anti-social during his stay, and spent every moment trying to escape by chewing on the metal bars of his cage.  Part of this problem stems from the fact that the staff would leave at 6pm and did not return until 8am, so for fourteen hours the boarded dogs were not let out or given any attention.  ‘It just broke my heart hearing that, but is not uncommon for kennels,’ says Moody.  ‘Who knows what could go on during that time, not to mention the fact that dogs should not generally go that long without relieving themselves.  Clearly, Che wasn’t happy and all he could do was try to chew his way out.’

Part of the reason why Che had a hard time adjusting to his new surroundings without his loving owners is because of the fact that he is a rescue, and since being adopted by Moody and her fiancé, has hated being left alone.  Che was abandoned as a puppy and the issues that stem from those deep-seated memories still affect him.  Other traumatic situations, like puppy mills or abuse, affects dogs in this way too and can make it more difficult to leave them alone.  Chris Shaughness, author of Puppy Mill Dogs SPEAK!, and pet behavioral expert agrees.   ‘Dogs who have anxiety issues do not handle the kennel well.’  She adds, ‘This includes puppy mill survivors who may associate going to a boarding kennel with being back in the cage at the puppy mill, dogs who have separation anxiety, dogs who are sensitive to too much noise (boarding kennels can be quite noisy and upsetting with a lot of barking dogs) and dogs who have never been exposed to a kennel.’

Not only the previous experiences of your dog, but also their genetics can help make the decision of whether or not to board.  Shaughness advises, ‘Some high-energy breeds such as Border Collies may not be able to endure being in a kennel without exercise. And some breeds are also known to not tolerate kennels at all: Rottweilers and Dobermans have a tendency to get ‘kennel crazy’ if confined for too long.’

So what are the alternatives?  In our busy lives obviously we cannot be there for our dogs every minute of every day!  Shaughness suggest hiring a pet sitter as the ideal.  ‘I’m a huge fan of having a pet sitter simply because most dogs are more comfortable in their own homes, they can get frequent exercise and it gives owners peace of mind to know that their home is also being watched over.’  Moody, who has been turned off of kennels by her one and only negative experience agrees.  ‘I think from now on we will find other ways of making sure he is taken care of while we are away, because as much as we hated leaving him in a kennel I’m sure he hated it more.’   Obviously, there are risks and considerations when looking for a pet sitter as well, but luckily there are associations set up to help discern the true professionals.

One way to make sure you pet sitter is legit is to look for the Pet Sitter’s International seal. PSI offers members access to bonding and liability insurance and educational resources such as PSI’s Accreditation Program and annual Quest convention. Hiring a sitter who is a member of PSI gives the assurance that your pet sitter is caring, professional, and dedicated to the pet sitting industry.

Another reason to have a professional walk/run your dog, feed and give bathroom breaks on their own schedule?  You may just be helping to fulfill that pet sitter’s dream as well.  One PSI member, Bob Zwaan of Wagmore Quality Petcare in Newtown Square, PA feels that this business of caring and loving for animals is his true life’s calling.  An avid marathon runner, Zwaan loves to give his clients’ pets the exercise they need, depending on breed, age, size, and energy level of the pet of course.  Zwaan says ‘I have a great appreciation for the importance of physical and mental health improving the quality of life, not just for humans but our pets, and I want my clients to know that this philosophy about health is built into the Wagmore mission statement.’ An experienced pet owner himself, Zwaan wants to give back to animals the joy and caring that he has benefitted from in the past from his furry buddies.  When caring for the pets in his roster, Zwaan makes sure ‘your pet gets what he needs and most importantly, what he desires.’

You want the best for your dog while you’re away, and only you know what is best for your particular pet.  However, if you are the owner of a dog who experiences anxiety, or depression during long periods of separation, or you would rather not take the risk of your dog catching a cold or any other issue that could arise from boarding, a pet sitter could be a good option for you.  Visit to find a PSI accredited pet sitter in your area.

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About the Author

Rubi Wiswall is a copy writer for Web-Wis-dom, a full service design firm in Philadelphia specializing in web design, SEO marketing and more. 

For more information on Chris Shaughness and her book Puppy Mill Dogs SPEAK! visit



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