There is no denying it Australian’s love their pets, they have become loved family members. With an estimated 33 million pets in Australia; 36% being dogs and 23% making up cat ownership (Source: ACAC) and with many of us working longer hours than ever before many claim it can be difficult to fit in the time to take the family pooch for a walk. The other fact we cannot deny is that Australians are passionate about travel and to find someone you trust enough to take care of Digger or Puss while you are away can be a stressful event!
It is no wonder the pet minding and walking service has boomed into a multi-million dollar industry!
And now with devastating and tragic stories circulating the news and social media; in the January 2015 Adelaide bush fires over 40 dogs and cats perished at a boarding kennel & cattery, Aussie Bulldog “Fansu” went missing on New Year’s Eve 2014 from a well known dog training and sports centre in Box Hill NSW; thankfully “Fansu” was found 6 weeks later by a member of the public, injured but alive and recently on 2nd June 2015 9 year old Cavalier “Wags” died under suspicious circumstances at that same dog training facility; autopsy reports later confirming injuries were consistent with a “dog attack”. (Currently under RSPCA investigation).
It is no surprise that people are now starting to wonder “Who should I leave my beloved pet with?” I am often asked where do I board Amber and Indy when I go on holidays? That is a difficult question to answer. With my previous dog Corey I was fortunate enough that my folks were happy to doggie-sit. Now with the grand-kids around that is more then enough babysitting duties on their plate.
I will get to my response shortly…..Firstly lets take a look at the “Pros” and “Cons” and what you should look out for to increase your chances of selecting the best service that suits your pets needs.
DOGGIE DAY CARE AND BOARDING: This is a great option for people who work long hours, have an active dog that needs more stimulation and/or exercise than the owner can provide or one that would benefit from regular socialisation. Dogs are not contained to runs, they are allowed to play and socialise during daylight hours. If boarding is also offered, this has the additional benefit of overnight stays in an already familiar environment. Generally doggie day care comes in 3 forms ‘Building’, ‘Acreage’ and ‘Public Space’;
Building Environment: Has multiple temperament/size specific free range play zones, options for day trips to the beach, dog parks and pack walks off site. They generally offer large crate style boarding facilities on site. Many also offer one-on-one training packages.
Pros: Almost impossible for an escape artist to get out. Play areas are of average size means staff can keep a close eye on all dogs during social time. Boarding dogs are not in shared facilities which means the dog has necessary calm/down time.
Cons: There is often no overnight staff on duty which raises area of concern for potential break-ins, arson/building fires and if your pet becomes unwell overnight it may go unknown until opening hours.
Acreage Environment: Has multiple fenced in large temperament/size specific free range play zones. They usually do not offer day trips, dog parks or pack walks off site. Generally boarding facilities are similar to a kennel with runs. Many also offer one-on-one training packages.
Pros: Massive play zones that allow dog’s free range to run, sniff and swim (if dams/pools are available). Property is usually on-site managed 24/7 therefore reducing potential break-ins, arson/fires and illness going unnoticed overnight.
Cons: Potential risk for dogs to escape the property during the day depending on how secure fencing is. Due to the large play zones if dog temperaments are not matched correctly and behaviour is not carefully managed there is a potential fight risk. If dams are on the property there could be an additional risk of drowning for poor, inexperienced or exhausted swimmers along with skin conditions if dogs are not dried fully each day.
Public Property Environment: Solely offers day trips, dog parks and pack walks only. Does not usually have their own on-site play facility. Usually offers a pickup or drop off point and dogs are taken by vans fully kitted out to carry multiple dogs to various locations. May also offer a pet minding service. Many also offer one-on-one training packages.
Pros: Opportunity for the dog to frequent various and new locations. This can assist in reducing boredom, stress and guarding as a result of frequenting the same location.
Cons: Potential risk for dogs to escape if let off lead. Dogs are transported to locations daily by vehicle there is potential increase risk of a road accident.
KENNEL AND CATTERY: Dog kennels are usually fenced concrete runs with an enclosed area for sleeping. Dogs do not usually have access to free range social time with other dogs. However, they are walked, have one-on-one playtime and free range runs once a day with a handler. The cattery usually offers two types of accommodation; singular small pens and large double sized for multi-cat stays from the same family. Many offer 1-2 hours outside time in a purpose built cat enclosure for singular or multi-cats from the same family.
Pros: Reduced risk of escape and dog fights when not in a pack environment during the day. Cats are kept separate from other cats and multi-cats from the same family can remain together in larger accommodation. Property is usually on-site managed 24/7 therefore reducing potential break-ins, arson/fires and illness going un-noticed overnight.
Cons: The kennel will often ‘match’ another social dog to board in the same run. Potential risk of dog fight if incorrectly matched. Dog spends the majority of time in the run, therefore, toileting inside the enclosure. House trained dog may continue this new toileting habit acquired for a short time once back home. Cats that are usually allowed daily access outdoors may experience stress related behaviour as a result of spending time inside in a small indoor enclosure.
HOME STAYS: Usually the pet owner is charged an annual “membership fee” by the usually website based business. The membership allows you to “advertise” your home as often as you like during the 12 month membership period to potential pet sitters. Pet sitters are usually on a “free to stay” basis and many do this on a professional full time basis while others may also be travelling and keen to utilise the “free accommodation” in return for caring for your pet and home.
Pros: Pets get to stay in their own familiar surroundings and provided the same lifestyle (e.g if usually allowed indoors, will still be allowed indoors). Your home is not vacant therefore reducing potential risk of break-ins. If your pet becomes unwell it is unlikely it will go unnoticed.
Cons: Virtually a complete stranger living in your home and caring for your pet.
PET MINDING: This service is generally fee based on a nightly rate and number of pets to be cared for. Pet minding services allow your pet to be taken care of 24/7 in the sitters own home. The sitter may or may not take care of a number of other pets at the same time, have their own pets or mind only one pet at any given time. Some minders may also be breed/size and/or species specific ‘specialists’ (e.g: Staffy’s, small dogs or cats only).
Pros: Pets get full time care usually by someone that has an interest with the breed/size or species. They are provided the same lifestyle as the pet currently has at home (e.g if allowed indoors at home, is allowed indoors at pet minders house). If your pet becomes unwell it is unlikely it will go unnoticed.
Cons: Potential risk of escape in an unfamiliar environment. If the minder has their own pets and/or minds others at the same time there is a potential fight risk if incorrectly matched or the minder is not skilled in animal behaviour.
HOME VISITS: Your pet stays home and someone visits them daily. Various levels of in-home visits are available. The basic service may generally be; visit with short play/cuddle, fed and fill water bowl, remove dog poo/clean litter trays. Additional services but not limited to; multi-day visits, include a walk, sleepovers, administer medications, home and garden care, security checks, taking wheelie bins in and out are available for a fee.
Pros: Pets get to stay in their own familiar surroundings. They are checked at a minimum daily and you get to choose the level of service you and your pet require.
Cons: Some pets can become stressed and develop behavioural issues such as barking at night when no one is home. With the property vacant there is an increased risk for potential dog theft and break-ins. If your pet becomes unwell after his scheduled visit it will go unnoticed until the next visit.
FAMILY OR FRIENDS: Having a family member or friend take care of your pet could be either in your own home, in their home or home visits. This is a cheap if not free option.
Pros: It would be safe to assume this is someone that your pet is already familiar with. Your pet gets to stay either at home in their own familiar surroundings or at the family member or friend’s house that they may have already frequented.
Cons: Because this is not a professionally run service there is potentional risk at the last minute for a family member or friend to become unavailable during the time previously agreed. You could be left with no one to take care of your pet and your holiday already booked and paid for. It does still come with many of the “Cons” associated with ALL of the other services listed above! As the saying goes “You get what you pay for”!
• Are they registered with PIAA and Association of Pet Boarders and Groomers?
• Ask for a tour of the property. Are they more than happy to offer one?
• Do they have public liability insurance?
• Is the property clean with no evidence of faeces or urine around?
• Is there enough staff for all the animals and do they look attentive to the their behaviour at all times?
• Can you see the bowls have clean fresh water and if there is dry food does it too look fresh?
• Do the animals look happy and healthy and provided down time/time alone for rest?
• Do they have a time out area so dogs can get away if they want to?
• Is the fencing secure enough to contain your pet?
• Are the staff qualified trainers and behaviourists? Ask to see proof!
• Have pet minders and staff completed certified CPR and First Aid Training? Ask to see proof!
• Have the pet minders had annual Police Checks? Ask to see proof of validity!
• Do they have a disaster plan in place in the event of fire/break-in/natural disaster? Ask to see it!
• Do they have a medical plan in place in the event of illness/injury/death? Ask to see it!
• Have they performed a temperament test for suitability before accepting your dog into day care or boarding with other animals?
• Have they asked you to provide proof of Vaccinations/KC/Worming/Vet Details etc!
• Check social media and Google forums, news articles and discussions both positive and negative regarding the company – this is a very powerful tool! You may be surprised at what you find!
This is not an exhausted “Check List”, just some of the things I personally would look for!
The devastation that happened in the South Australia fires, the fear for “Fansu’s” life and the heartbreaking outcome for “Wags” are extraordinary cases, that no-one would ever have expected to happen and hope will never happen again. Pet minding services available now days offer fantastic flexibility certainly compared to 20+ years ago, the vast majority are reputable, trustworthy, consistent, have experienced trainers and offer great service.
Always keep in mind what suits your next door neighbour, friend or Uncle Bob may not suit your needs and certainly may not be in the best interest of your pet! Do your own thorough research. Taking the time to do this may just mean the difference between your fur-baby waiting their happily for your return and not.
Oh and my response to that question…..“At the moment I am still trying to work out who I would trust enough to take care of my dogs”.
“In memory of all the souls lost to the bush fires and little Wags.
May you find justice and your passing not be in vain”.
Disclaimer: The list of services offered is generalised. All may or may not be offered or stated depending on the individual business. Potential risks stated may or may not apply depending on the level of service offered by the individual business.
Author Bio: Nikki is pack leader at Pressplay Pets, a blog for the modern age pet parent interested in health & care, news, reviews & personal accounts of unconditional love & at times heartfelt pain of pet parenting. She is also proud mum to cute and cheeky Papillons ‘Amber’ and ‘Indy’ and one crazy Rainbow Lorikeet named ‘Ralph’! Follow my Facebook and Twitter.
Pressplay Pets a blog for the modern age pet parent interested in health & care, news, reviews & personal accounts of unconditional love & at times heartfelt pain of pet parenting!
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