How can I get my dog ready for puppy camp?
October 17, 2006 7:55 PM   Subscribe

How can I and my dog best cope with leaving her at a dog boarding place for two weeks? Dog has "issues" and perhaps so do I.

I have to go to Ghana for work for two weeks in mid November. While I am excited beyond all belief (!!!), I am having major angst about my dog. She is a 10 year old rescue dog from a horrible situation. Jack Russell Corgi mix, I think. She is very sweet but has some fear aggressive tendencies and is a bit apprehensive with strangers. She is much better than she used to be but still nervous in new situations.

Usually I have a neighbor come over but not *stay* over. I can't see doing that for two weeks. Pet sitters and boarding places in New York get up to $50.00/day which is way out of my price range or actual financial ability.

Friend recommended a dog boarding place out in the country that sounds idyllic. Talked to owners - they sound nice and calm and invited me to take a look around. But I have nightmares of her not eating, of moping, of escaping, of her thinking she was abandoned as I am a continent away utterly helpless to do anything.

Any tips to ease her state of mind or to make this easy on her is greatly appreciated. I do intend to take her bedding, food, toys and stuff with my scent on it.

Any tips for *my* separation anxiety is also appreciated. I am truly losing sleep over this and it is affecting what is really a once in a lifetime chance.
posted by xetere to Pets & Animals (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Scented stuff (your scent) will help; so too will the place she's staying at. A place where she gets lots of attention, plenty of new things, especially where she can play with other dogs and people, will keep her too busy to mope. Make sure the kennel knows about all her likes, dislikes, worries, and YOUR worries, and to go gently with her, and they should be willing to work with you and her to make it fun.

For you, I'd suggest asking the kennel if they can give you a daily phone call or email to let you know how she is. In this Internet Age, that should be easy and cheap. Just a few lines of "Fido didn't want her breakfast this morning, but wolfed down her dinner, she really enjoys playing with the Frisbee and she saw her first squirrel today!" will settle your fears and help you sleep soundly.

Maybe you can also get a friend to look in on her now and then; it won't probably do much for her but again, you'll feel better knowing you have a 'spy' keeping tabs on her.
posted by Rubber Soul at 8:06 PM on October 17, 2006

One possible alternative: check with your employer to find out if they will reimburse your pet boarding fees as part of your travel expenses. Since it's an expense that you're incurring due to your work it should be covered, although you may have to push a bit to get it.

That'll at least solve the problem of getting a local kennel, and you might be able to get a friend/neighbor to look in on the dog (and report back to you) to help ease your mind.
posted by stefanie at 8:13 PM on October 17, 2006

Can you go there with your dog for a few hours before your trip to play with her there? Dogs aren't supposed to have memories like we have, but I think just the experience of going there with you - and coming home with you - might prepare both of you better than just dropping her off. Then when you do drop her off there, at least there's some chance that in her little doggie mind she'll understand that yes, you are going to come back and take her home.

There's a great chance that this is 99% for your benefit and only 1% for your dog's benefit - but that's OK.
posted by mikel at 8:14 PM on October 17, 2006

But I have nightmares of her not eating.

She'll eat when she's hungry enough. I've never known a dog to go off food for long, unless they're physically sick.

of moping

Of course she will, and so will you, but you will both get over it. That's the pain of separation. An old dog of mine (now looked after by my dad) has had to spend frequent periods in the boarding kennels. After the first trip, she now gets excited when she realizes she's going there on another "holiday".

of escaping

Ask the owners how many escapes they've had. If the answer is any more than "zero" then she shouldn't be staying there. Dogs don't escape from good kennels.

of her thinking she was abandoned

How long have you had her? If you've had her for more than a year or so, then she's yours. She won't think she's been abandoned again, she'll just think she's visitng some new friends.

It is vital you don't anthromorphise the situation too much. She's a dog. She doesn't know that you're just going away to another continent for a few weeks, but neither does she think she's been abandoned and you'll never come back. As far as she knows (or will figure out within a couple of days), a new friendly person is feeding her and taking care of her. While you're right to bring along some familiar toys and bedding your your scent on it, it's important not to make a fuss about her when you "hand her over". This is the hardest thing to do, but do NOT make a fuss. Just hand the boarding kennel owners the lead, and give her a quick pat, and go away. That's the best thing you can do to make her feel that something extraordinary isn't going on.
posted by Jimbob at 8:14 PM on October 17, 2006

My gf's dog Duffy is a rescue with some issues as well. He didn't play well with other dogs, just for one thing. We took him to a local (Santa Cruz, Calif.) boarding facility with my dog - who loved everyone. We told them he might not be friendly to the other dogs.

That boarding experience changed Duffy for the better. When I went to pick him up after two weeks I was surprised to find him playing nicely with the other dogs. He doesn't mind going there any more, though it's easier on him when we have a house-sitter.

Dogs don't have the same sense of time people do, from her point of view she will be there for a while, and she will adapt.
posted by jet_silver at 8:32 PM on October 17, 2006

Send her to sleep-away camp with a stinky t-shirt of yours, as described above.

She, and you, will be fine.
posted by enrevanche at 11:26 PM on October 17, 2006

We have a corgi. He hasn't spent a night without us for the 3.5 years we've had him.

We had to board him for the first time last month while we went out of town for a week.

This is not an advertisement, and it doesn't address the money component, but...

We started taking him to 'doggie day-camp' at the local PetSmart a couple of times a week. Best $20 we ever spent - comes home exhausted and better acclimated to being around other dogs. Anyway, by the time we had to board him at the PetSmart 'hotel', he ran in that joint like it was his favorite playground. When I came back to pick him up a week later, he gave me a look like 'Oh, it's you - big deal'. In other words, he was fine.

Now - it worked out GREAT for him, but it did nothing for OUR separation anxiety. To that I say... 'Buck-up, little camper'.
posted by matty at 6:59 AM on October 18, 2006

You may come back to find your little one skinnier; our dog would always be a little mopey and eat less when boarded and come home a little thinner, but not really any worse for wear.

Just accept that once in a while she'll have to accept being a little less happy than she usually is. You shoulder that most of the time but a little rain falls in everyone's life. It's a minor, short-term discomfort that's necessary so you can provide her the quality life you do.
posted by phearlez at 7:51 AM on October 18, 2006

Dogs of all temperments live in pounds and rescue facilities for months and come out very little the worse for wear. Kennel staff deal with every kind of neurosis, quirk, handicap, and personality challenge there is. Go check the place out, make sure it's not gross or creepy, and settle yourself on that account.

Your dog is going to have some confusion and anxiety, but also a lot of excitement. Just the smells alone, it's like an olfactory Disneyland! Any half-swanky kennel is going to offer you lots of add-ons, like a peanut butter Kong every day, or a chew item of some kind, it'll help with anxiety and boredom.

Usually you can buy extra walkies or play time, and for a two-week board I would probably buy an extra playtime every other or every third day. Exercise is good for a dog's mood, so that should make all of you feel better. You'll spend a fortune, but it's one of those times where throwing money at the problem really does help.

I feel like it's just safer to board them when I'm going to be gone more than a few days, because bored dogs (my petsitter only comes once a day because I have a dog door at home and if she comes more than once I might as well pay for boarding) get anxious, creative, and stupid. A kennel will know sooner if my dog hurts himself or gets sick, they're much more likely to be around if there's a fire (I worry that my house will burn down while I'm gone) or other natural disaster, my dogs are unlikely to get hurt by a burglar at a kennel, and so on.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:28 AM on October 18, 2006

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