Looking for pet care? Consider these criteria

Peggy Barron

When it comes to making sure everyone in your family, including your beloved pet, has the care they need when you’re away, concerns about making the right choices can create more anxiety than relief.

The myriad of options for animal owners can be a lifesaver, but also overwhelming. The industry offers everything from country club style pet resorts to individual dog walkers and sitters. Unfortunately, there’s also news about poor care; appalling sanitation; and, in extreme cases, animal abuse.

If you’re looking for someone to care for your 8-year-old son or 80-year old grandmother, you’d undoubtedly do your homework. It’s no different when it comes to your pets. Yet, it can be difficult to know what to look for and how to ensure their happiness and safety once you leave them in the care of others.

As a pet resort owner, dog behaviorist and trainer with more than 25 years of experience, I can offer some basic criteria to help you make informed decisions about who you entrust with your pets:

Do your homework: You can’t blame facilities for practices with which you don’t approve if you’re unaware of how they operate in advance. If you can visit a facility, do it. Find a facility that encourages free pet evaluations in addition to the opportunity to take a tour.

Screening process: What type of screening process does the care provider use? If they don’t have one, you might want to look elsewhere. There are numerous considerations for both you and the facility to evaluate. How does your pet get along with others? What considerations are employed to accommodate older versus younger dogs? Older dogs might not be happy when grouped with troublesome toddlers. Does the facility cater to both small and large dogs by providing separate play areas? Don’t be offended if you feel like you and your dog are being interviewed.

Know the policies: Any good provider should have protocols in place to protect your dog’s health as well as the well-being of others in their care. Because it’s so important for the facility to create a safe environment, all animals should be required to have proof of vaccination. Ask about protocols for emergency situations and what type of veterinary care can be accessed if needed.

Disposition: Do you like the staff? Do they seem to like their work? How do they interact with and talk to the animals? Do they seem well-trained in handling pets? You want your dog to feel cared for and loved while they’re out of your hands. You can tell a lot about a facility by the way the staff interacts with you, your pet and other pets in their care. If you can’t see a facility or choose an individual over a business, make sure to do some online research and check reviews.

Safety and cleanliness: Security, comfort and sanitation are critical to the well-being of any pet. When a bunch of dogs are grouped together, this becomes paramount to selecting the right care. Some important factors include the height of fenced areas, shade from weather and double gates to prevent escape artists from demonstrating their skills. If you visit the facility, make sure you pay attention to the smell, air quality and overall cleanliness.

Supervision: Even the most well-behaved dogs can act out and have a dispute with one or more of their canine friends. The right ratio of staff members to dogs and consistent supervision will ensure everyone is attended to and happy. There should always be indoor and outdoor play areas that are supervised 100 percent of the time.

Training and experience: While this might seem like a given, don’t assume those taking care of your pooch are properly trained. At my pet resort, the team has first aid and CPR certification in addition to training on language, behavior, pack management and play style.

Communication: A good care provider is committed to open and transparent communication. Just as much as you enjoy a positive report card about your child, you’ll be delighted to have the same for your pet. This goes for misbehaving as well. Those who care about your satisfaction will make sure you know if anything goes wrong, whether it’s because of your dog or someone else’s dog.

When you want the best for your best friend, it’s important to gain confidence and find peace of mind. If you do your research; trust your instincts; and find skilled, compassionate care, you can rest assured your pet is in good hands.