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The Best Alternative to Traditional Boarding Kennels
By Vanessa Voltolina
Before setting off on that island getaway or action-packed tour, there’s still one big question that all pet parents must consider before saying bon voyage: Who’ll watch your pets?
As the pet population and spending continues to grow, dog owners have more options for vacation care than ever. According to the American Pet Products Association, U.S. pet industry spending reached around $51 billion in 2011. The number of insured pet-sitter business is already at 10K nationally, and from 2010 to 2020 the number of animal care and service workers is expected to grow by 23%. So if your go-to move is usually traditional kennel boarding, it may be time to consider another option — in-home boarding.
What is In-Home Pet Boarding?
In-home boarding works like this: Pet owners search for a registered home nearby, namely through national website services catering to this need. It’s 24-hour care in the hands of trusted professional for an affordable rate.
Most in-home boarding sites are free to browse, and they perform background checks on canine hosts to ensure they are qualified to watch your dog. When a pet owner finds a sitter or host that’s a match, they work with the service to connect with sitter and ensure that the potential dog watcher is a good fit for Fido, based on location, personality and daily routine. Payment is worked out through the service, and the pet parent brings the pooch over to the host’s house before they leave for vacation.
In-home pet boarding services offer dogs individual attention, regular walks, trips to the park, and the opportunity to socialize with other dogs in the household. They can also keep up with your pet’s regular routine — including eating schedules, bathroom breaks, grooming necessities, and daily exercise requirements — so your pooch has less anxiety while you’re away. If your pup isn’t the easiest to handle, you can even opt for in-home pet boarding with a professional trainer!
A number of national websites, such as DogVacay.com and Sleepover Rover, are culling perfect environments for pet owners to search for in-home pet sitters. DogVacay.com, founded by Aaron Hirschhorn and his wife, was born after the two experienced firsthand the stresses of finding trustworthy sitters at affordable rates for their two dogs. “DogVacay’s sitters offer in-home care, and most charge less than $25 per night,” says co-founder and CEO Hirschhorn. Kennels, he notes, can be anywhere from $35-$70 per night, depending on location.
While price is certainly a consideration, how your dog will be cared for while you’re away is paramount. One DogVacay online reviewer (out of thousands of satisfied customers), Ethan C., said that his dogs “...who usually hate boarding of any kind (and make us feel horribly guilty about leaving them) came back exhausted from their play and walks, and looked at us as though we'd taken them away from a romping good time.”
Hirschhorn adds that DogVacay isn’t just about connecting owners and sitters, but also ensuring quality through pet sitter reference checks, reviews, phone interviews, online training, and insurance policies (for both pet sitters and pooches). “During the pet owners’ time away, we also provide them with a daily email updates that include a picture of their dog,” says Hirschhorn. The in-home dog boarding service also provides a no cost, no obligation meet and greet for the pet and potential sitter to see if it will be a good fit.
Questions and Considerations About In-Home Boarding Pet Sitters
When deciding upon the in-home boarding spot right for your dog, Hirschhorn says some of the most important considerations are getting a feel for the environment and a sense of how your dog and the sitter get along. Keep these questions and consideration in mind when meeting with any potential pet sitter:
1. Is the pet sitter’s home clean and safe? Before you head out to tropical paradise, head over to the facility that you’re considering to confirm your pet will be placed in a pet friendly, secure home.
2. Are the pet-watchers/homeowners responsible and reliable? The same way that you would consider whether or not a family member or friend could do the job of watching your pet, do your due diligence on the in-home boarding homeowners. Read other customer reviews, and ask specific questions about their pet experience and daily routine.
3. Are there other pets in the house? If so, how many, and what types? If your dog loves to play with other dogs, consider whether this household is home to small pets or large dogs which may frighten your pet. Also consider if there are any other animals, such as cats, present in the household.
4. What’s the daily routine? If your pooch needs his pill at a certain time of day, or likes to go on long walks in the morning, be sure that the in-home boarding care will be accommodating. Consider feeding, medication, physical needs and hygienic needs (baths or teeth-brushing) when you ask about the schedule.
5. Provide full disclosure. In addition to interviewing the in-home dog sitter, providing an out-of-town contact number and asking about the nearest animal hospital, it’s a pet parent’s job to be open and transparent about a pet’s needs, says Hirschhorn. Share as much info about your pet’s personality, needs and medical history as possible to ensure your pet has a fabulous time on his vacation!
Image: photomak / via Shutterstock