5 Tips for Leaving Your Dog When You Travel

Leaving Your Dog When You Travel

It’s happening. The family is bustling around, the laundry room is in full swing, and the bags are stashed by the door waiting to be loaded into the car. All the telltale signs of a vacation are there and the doggy is no fool. She knows you’re leaving.

You can't fool me. I know what's happening here.

You can’t fool me. I know what’s happening here.

One of the biggest factors for our family when we decided to get a dog was what to do with our furry friend when we traveled—which we do quite a bit. Initially, my dad had said he would dog sit for us when we went away, a solution that seemed ideal. Sadly, despite our dog Sadie’s passionate love for my dad’s dog Albie, Albie hates Sadie’s guts and we’ve had to come up with another option for her care in our absence.

When we had a ten-day trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands on the calendar we set about finding a place to board her while we were gone. We got several recommendations and chose one of them after the owner came to our home to meet Sadie. She was wonderful and we were confident we’d made a good choice, but upon arriving at the facility we were unhappy with what we saw—dogs in concrete kennels and a disengaged staff. Not being able to leave Sadie in good conscience, I called a friend in tears from my car and she kindly agreed to take Sadie for us.

But having a friend dog sit can be an imposition and, for us, wasn’t a long-term solution. We knew we needed to have a plan in place for Sadie’s care that would allow us to travel with the confidence that she was well cared for in our absence. After much consideration we determine that for us, that meant an in-home sitter.

Leaving your dog behind when you travel can be difficult, but knowing that she is getting lots of love and attention while you are away can alleviate your concerns for her safety and comfort. Here are five ways we feel better about leaving Sadie at home when we hit the open road.

1. Find a Reliable Sitter

A good dog sitter is extremely valuable and finding someone who understands dogs, is confident and at-ease in their presence, and is trustworthy is the goal. Most dogs are happiest in their own homes, which makes an in-home sitter often the best, and least complicated, choice. An added benefit is that you’ll have a built-in house sitter, too.


Doggies love souvenirs!

Ask around for recommendations for potential pet sitters from friends, your vet, or your local pet store. Contact several and speak to them on the phone before narrowing your choices and meeting them in person. Optimally, you should have the opportunity to see the sitter interact with your dog and share with them the nuances of your dog’s behaviors before you go away. And always get references. This person is going to be staying in your home. You want someone with a solid track record. If you’re in a pinch, the National Association of Pet Sitters offers a searchable database.

2. Consider a Doggy Cam

spilkusverticalpinOn that note, a home monitoring system is something to consider. Like a nanny-cam, a home monitoring system allows you to keep an eye on what’s happening in your home from a remote location. We have a fantastic Panasonic system that can support up to 4 cameras that can be placed around our home—both indoors and out—and the footage can be viewed remotely from an app on our phones.

A system like this one, that requires no monthly fees, means that we can be sure our dog is being cared for the way we would want. At the same time, it’s a way for us to monitor our home in general while we’re not there. Finally, it’s always fun to watch what Sadie does when she’s home alone, like hop off the couch, where she’s not supposed to be, when she hears the car pull into the driveway!

3. Prepare the Roost

Just like the checklist we leave for our babysitters, though perhaps a bit more elaborate, we have a document for our dog sitter that details Sadie’s routine and care. The list includes the following:

  • Phone numbers for ourselves, Sadie’s vet, my dad, and the local 24-hour emergency animal hospital
  • Sadie’s feeding and treat schedule
  • Her exercise and play routines
  • General details about her disposition and behavior
  • Any other information we think will help the sitter keep Sadie healthy and happy in our absence
  • We also always make sure that Sadie’s identification tags are attached firmly to her collar before we leave.

4. Say Goodbye

Resist the urge to drag out saying goodbye to your dog. If you and your kids fawn all over your dog, hugging and kissing her and saying goodbye, she’s going to think you’re leaving forever.


When I leave the house during the day my standard commentary is, “I’ll be right back, Sadie. See you in a little while!” Of course this is said in a foolish doggy voice, too. I’ve gotten better about having this be the standard whether I’m leaving for an hour or a week. Keep it simple. And stuff a Kong full of peanut butter for good measure.  I always plan on having the dog sitter arrive shortly after our departure to get Sadie outside and into the new routine as well.

5. Bring the Doggy Too!

Finally, although it’s likely that much of the time your travels are going to be dog-free, there are plenty of places that allow dogs to join their owners during their vacation. If your dog is mellow and well-behaved, look for dog-friendly hotels and resorts and consider one of these for your next getaway. The website Bring Fido is a great resource for discovering some of these.


We always try to rent a beach house that welcomes dogs when we go to the Jersey Shore and have been fortunate to find one the past two summers. There’s nothing like the happy look that comes over your doggy’s face when she realizes that she gets to come along, too!

Disclosure: I was given a Panasonic Home Monitoring System for review purposes.  All of the opinions in this post are, as always, entirely my own. 


  1. Awesome tips! I love the doggie cam idea.

  2. We don’t have a dog (sadly!) but I have plenty of friends who do and they’re always wondering what to do with their dogs when they go away. I will be passing your tips on!

  3. We have a dog and most of the time a family member or friend will watch her while we are traveling. I love the idea of having a doggy cam and I’m sure the dogsitters would appreciate it too as they aren’t home 24/7. Thanks for the tips!

  4. Very useful post for the dog owners. All the behind the scenes to deal with before we get on that plane!

  5. So adorable and great tips too. We often house sit, so we are on the other end of receiving the dog while the parents are away. We just love dogs, but travel too much to have one.

  6. These are great tips even for a cat. Our cat used to get so upset at us right before leaving and would jump in our luggages and made sure her scent was in our luggage. I also always had to get a babysitter to sleep over, grandma.

    • I used to hate leaving our cat, too, but was more comfortable having someone come in and feed him while we were away. Dogs are different. They need a lot more attention–exercise, company, etc. After having only cats for many years, I can confidently say that having a dog is a much bigger responsibility and can really cramp your travel style!

  7. These are great tips! We hate leaving FIDO but its a must sometimes.

  8. Sp glad to learn about the Bring Fido website. Thanks for these great tips!

    • Robin, It’s a great site. I pulled it up during our Maine road trip last summer to find a dog-friendly restaurant in Portland and we ended up at the Portland Lobster Company (best lobster roll ever, by the way!). They had local beers on draft and special bowls for water for their canine guests. Great place.

  9. Thanks for sharing these tips! It can definitely be hard to leave a pet, even for something like a fun vacation. I love that you mentioned meeting and interviewing the people who might be taking care of your pet. Knowing that my dog and the people taking care of her get along and seeing how they interact beforehand will give me so much more peace of mind!

Speak Your Mind