With the holiday season fast approaching many owners are on the hunt for a caring alternative to kennels, a home-from-home environment. Meet: Home Boarding.
With this arrangement your dog stays with an individual or family throughout the duration of your time away. It is assumed that by opting for home boarding your dog will not suffer the same anxiety often seen in dogs put into kennels, along with receiving more individualized attention. While the latter point is no doubt the case, dogs that are put into any new and unfamiliar environment can, and do, suffer stress. This is because, regardless of the home you have chosen, everything is so very different to what they are used to that it is natural for them to undergo some stress during your time away. I have actually just witnessed this myself with our current home boarding guest – Henry.
Henry comes from a home where he’s his mum’s main man. They have dogs come to stay all the time for day care and holidays, so it’s safe to say he’s used to lots of companionship and noise. This was obvious during the afternoon and when it was time to all settle down for the night. Henry was panting excessively, circling the kitchen and had a very fast heartbeat. Henry was tired out – we had gone for a long walk and had over three hours of garden play; so this wasn’t an excessive energy situation we were dealing with here, rather stress.
Signs of Stress in Your Dog
It’s important to be aware of what the stress signals are in your dog, and I would also recommend questioning your chosen home boarding service provider. If you are leaving your precious pooch in their care you want to be confident that they too are on the look out for stress in your dog and know how to reduce it.
Lip and Nose Licking – this is different to the type of licking you see your doggy display when he’s just eaten something tasty. Lip licking often takes place in conjunction with some of other stress reducing behaviours such as yawning or head flicking
Yawning – if your dog is really stressed he may yawn excessively, this will be a more pronounced drawn out yawn than the one you may see when your dog is tired
Ears Pinned Back – regardless of ear type, if your dogs ears are pinned back he may be feeling stressed. This is often accompanied by a ‘wide eyed’ look and perhaps a tail which is tucked low
Panting – of course all dogs pant but if it is not a particularly hot day and the panting is excessive then this could be a sign that your dog is experiencing stress
Other Signs of Stress in Dogs
- Pacing or restlessness
- Excessive vocalisations / whining
- A hunched body posture
- Tension around mouth or eyes
- Excessive sniffing
- Looking away / head flicking / eye avoidance
- Slow or tense movement
- Dilated pupils
Why Stress Should Be Reduced
If your dog is experiencing excessive stress it will make him more susceptible to:
- Illness due to a compromised immune system. Ever have a dog come back from kennels poorly? Perhaps it was due to stress
- Depression. This can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to snap out of so it’s worth preventing
- Upset Stomach. A dog who is stressed may not eat and suffer dietary disturbances as a result
How Home Boarders & Owners Can Reduce Stress Felt by Dogs
- Where possible you should get your dog used to his holiday environment in advance of going away. At a minimum I would recommend visiting the home with your dog for a few hours so he can get to know the environment with you around to build his confidence. Got more time? Then my suggestion would be to book your pooch in for day care and possibly an overnighter too! This is a great way to get him used to the arrangement and give you peace of mind
- On the day, allow plenty of time for the drop off. Don’t be rushed and stressed as your dog will pick up on it and in turn feel stressed himself. You want to leave him relaxed and happy – and why not start your holiday as you mean to go!
- Take your dog’s usual supply of food with you. The feeding routine should already have been discussed with your home boarding host, and where possible ensure that the supply you provide covers the entire trip so as to prevent upset stomachs from dietary changes
- Bring your dog bed and some fabric, or a blanket, that smells of you. Dogs find their little home comforts reassuring and this is an easy way to help them settle in their temporary home
- Ensure you have completed all the necessary paper work. At Jog My Dog we like to obtain detailed notes on chosen vet, medication and ailments, your dogs likes/dislikes, phobia’s, allergies and we always take emergency contact details
- Be happy when you leave. When it’s finally time to say bye to your dog and head off on holiday do so in a confident, matter-of-fact manner. Remember, your dog will pick up on your emotions so if you’re feeling anxious they will too. So keep it casual as you leave with no over the top fussing. Leave that to your home boarder 🙂
What happened with Henry?
The solution was to stay up with Henry on his first night away from home. By just sitting near him in the front room till gone 2am he was finally able to relax and get some much needed sleep. Today he’s already much more settled and took himself off to the couch for zzzz’s by 8pm.