Everything You Need To Know About Dog Care Before You Go On Holiday

Deciding where your dog is going to get the attention and care they need when you’re away on holiday can be tough. You want to know that your dog is going to be happy and active while you’re away - not curled up, bored or anxious.

But don’t fret, help is at ‘paw’ - we’ve compiled this handy guide to take that stress away. Simply click on the heading below to find what you need to know:

(Or feel free to read the whole guide with a cuppa!)

How Long Can You Leave A Dog Alone?

In the event that you have to resort to leaving your dog alone, the RSPCA say it should be only for a maximum of four hours at any one time.

This is down to our furry pals being highly sociable creatures, in need of stimulation and exercise.

This allows them to remain the alert, healthy and happy dogs we adore.

You may be wondering how long you can legally leave your dog alone in the UK, and following the introduction of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 we can see that there is no explicit longest length of time that is considered to be a criminal offence. Despite this, when we asked Natalie Grey from Vets4Pets about her views on leaving dogs alone, we saw a similar theme to the RSPCA:

"Personally I would not leave my dogs on their own for longer than four hours at a time"

This is down to leaving a dog at home alone having an impact on the social development of a young puppy when left for too long, as well as having behavioural effects even on older dogs. In some cases when dogs are left for too long, they can develop separation anxiety.

Spotting Separation Anxiety

Some ‘tell-tail’ signs of separation anxiety to watch out for include your pooch showing signs of distress as you leave the room, and becoming more and more upset the longer you’re away from them. There are more subtle ways in which you can spot separation anxiety, but let’s first take a look at the ones that are easy to identify:

  • Heart rate increases

  • Higher breathing rate

  • Incessant panting and drooling

  • Hyperactivity

  • The tendency to go to the toilet a lot more often than usual

Aside from those physiological symptoms, you may also notice that your dog may exhibit these behaviours:

  • Attempting to follow you on your way out

  • Clawing at the door

  • Chewing on the frame of the door

  • Searching for a way out by getting up on window sills or trying to ‘dig’ through the carpet

  • Trying to persuade you to return through barking and howling

After this initial period, your pooch may endeavour to collect objects and toys that have your scent on them. This helps them to form a protective shield that smells like home and you.

Upon your return, you may find that your canine companion is over the moon to see you. hile this may feel good to seem this loved, it is unfortunately a sign that they have been wracked with stress. Additionally, it may seem that you have gained a shadow around the house, as now that you’re back, your dog won’t want to leave you alone again.

When your dog is showing these signs of separation anxiety, it may be time to consider dog care that is more intimate and hands on.

For more information on combating separation anxiety, take a look at this advice from the Blue Cross.

What happens when you leave a puppy alone?

Leaving a young dog alone without any interactions - human or canine - can have long lasting effects. A dog at 6 to 9 months left alone could potentially end up being almost impossible to integrate with other future pets, not to mention that they could experience a lot of stress around other dogs during an activity like taking them for a walk.

Looking Out For Other Issues

We asked 1,800 people about their experiences when their dog was left alone and boy, did they give us some interesting insights:

  • 2 in 5 dog owners have spotted signs of separation anxiety in their dogs

Of the survey respondents who spotted signs of separation anxiety:

  • 59% saw barking or crying
  • 23% saw their dogs exhibiting destructive behaviour

You and your dog survey - 1833 responses - February 2016

Knowing that your dog shows signs of stress and anxiety when you are not around can have a big effect on your life. But it doesn’t need to be this way! As long as you identify if your dog has an issue with separation, you can choose the correct type of care to best combat the stress that your dog may be feeling.

Who Can Look After My Dog When I’m Away?

There are a few options when it comes to looking for dog care, but the main ones are these four:

  • Friends & Family
  • Neighbours
  • Dog Kennels
  • Dog Sitting (which includes boarding, walking and day care - but we'll talk about this more later on!)

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each type of dog care, to help you make the best decision for your pooch.

Friends & Family

An obvious initial port of call is to ring up family or friends to ask if they’ll take care of their favourite doggo - and who can deny the fact that you won’t find a more familiar face than the people you see most! Let’s go through the benefits of keeping it within the family and friendship circle, and also take a look at the potential pitfalls of going down this route:


  • The familiarity of someone your dog has probably already met before

  • You know your friends and family so well, you’ll be far less likely to worry about how they may treat your dog.

  • They tend to be free!


  • Family and friends also have their own lives… and sometimes looking after your dog can be a bit of an inconvenience. You may start to feel this is more of a burden on them, and they may feel they have to say yes because of your relationship even though they might not want to do it every time.

  • You cannot always rely on them to be around - if you need to get away in an emergency and no family or friends are available, you could be in a sticky situation indeed.

  • Lacking a professional element to your relationship, they may not be focused on ensuring your dog gets adequate walks, exercise and attention.


Sometimes what makes sense is to ring next door's doorbell and ask a neighbourly favour. Here are some of the key points to remember when asking your acquaintance down the road to look after your pet:


  • Their close proximity to your home.

  • Relative familiarity - no doubt you will have exchanged a ‘hello’ or two in the past.

  • They could also end up being free.


  • You may not be too familiar with your neighbour and so neither would your dog.

  • There's no guarantee of regular updates, and it may feel like you’re pestering them if they don’t pick up the phone.

  • If your dog causes a mess (or damage!) in their home, you could end up with an argument over who has to pay to fix any problems.

  • Again they are lacking in the professional experience, much like Friends & Family.

Dog Kennels

This may be what is considered to be the ‘traditional option’ for when you cannot get hold of friends or family, and the neighbours aren’t an option. The question remains - is this right for my dog? Let’s take a look at the big points in favour and against kennels.


  • Kennels often offer a secure location in which the dogs are kept.

  • Dogs are routinely given quality food.

  • Staff are used to dealing with different dog breeds and understand their needs.


  • There is no guarantee of constant interaction with humans.

  • Your dog may feel uncomfortable and distressed in the new, unfamiliar surroundings.

  • There may be additional charges for extra walks, playtime and dietary requirements in commercially-run kennels.

  • Potential health hazards, such as the dreaded Kennel Cough.

  • Of the people that have used kennels before, 34% said that they wouldn't use kennels again because their dog was stressed. 24% said that their dog did not receive enough interaction.

  • Maybe that’s why 73% of people that responded to our survey, said that they would not put their dog in boarding kennels.

Dog Sitting

Aside from the traditional caged kennel, there is another alternative. You can choose to get a dog sitter, someone to step into your shoes and be there for your dog whenever they need them. Let’s weigh up the options and get one step closer to making a decision:


  • Typically another experienced dog owner

  • Professional - they are being paid for their time, so that means lots of regular updates on your dog!

  • Constant human attention and care, whether for boarding, walking or day care.

  • Can establish a relationship with the sitter prior to the booking, getting your pooch comfortable with the sitter and their home.

  • You can keep track of their walks and mealtimes, and even remain (if needs be) in constant communication with the sitter.


  • Dog sitting tends to be very popular in cities rather than in rural areas, despite still being more active in these places than some other services

That rounds up the differing types of dog care out there for you and your pooch. Next, we’ll look at how to distinguish between some of the services that fall under the umbrella of ‘dog sitting’ to further explain this option.

Different Dog Sitting Services

We’ve been talking about dog sitting, but we have not yet covered the differences between the services available: boarding, walking and day care. Let’s explore the varied options and help you choose which will be the best pick for your dog:

Dog Boarding

Definition: Overnight dog care, round the clock care that is ideal for holidays

This is what Helen, dog owner and DogBuddy customer, had to say:

"Kate was really great helping us out with dog boarding at short notice. Very quick to respond to messages, gave us updates on how things were going while we were away, and most importantly gave our beloved Paddy lots of love, attention and walks - we came home to a very happy little dog."

Dog Walking

Definition: Take the dog for a walk - perfect for ensuring your dog gets exercise

Nicky, a regular user of DogBuddy for dog walking, told us of her experience:

"My dog Mitzi thoroughly enjoyed her walking today with Rhonda. Rhonda was friendly and caring, arrived on time and took photos on their walk so show me when they returned. I am very happy with this service and will be using Rhonda again."

Doggy Day Care

Definition: Throughout the daylight hours, constant care and attention - great for quick emergencies as well as when working in the office all day

Doggy day care user, Carol, said this about her time using DogBuddy:

"Quinn enjoyed his time and walks with Alice in day care. Much appreciated the texts and photos showing me that Quinn had settled in nicely in her home. Relaxed and caring Alice made a relaxed and happy Quinn. Thank you Alice."

Start your dog sitting journey with £10 free credit, usable for boarding, walking and day care - this one’s on us!

How Do I Decide The Best Care Option For My Dog?

Now we know the types of dog care available, it’s time to look at the individual differences in your dog that could affect your decision.

From breed type to age, there are many things that you need to seriously consider:

Dog Behaviour & Temperament

Think about how your dog will react around new people, and potentially new dogs or other pets - this can help you figure out which option is the perfect fit for you and your pooch. It’s important to learn about your dog’s body language, as your dog might not always bark when they’re upset. Rather than showing signs of aggression, they could simply be trying to play, which means they’re comfortable around a new person or dog.

Check out some of the most common dog behavioural signs to help you learn more about what your dog is telling you.

illustration of playful dog


Look out for pricked up ears, wagging tails and even a bark or two!

illustration of aggressive dog


Beware of bared teeth and growling - this dog needs some space.

illustration of scared dog


This dog has it's ears back; they may start whining to tell you that they’re scared.

illustration of happy dog


Lots of wagging tails; relaxed ears show that this is a happy pooch.

illustration of hungry dog


You may find your dog hanging around their food bowl, as well as following you very closely to get your attention.

illustration of bored dog


This dog will likely be staring off into the distance and when they lie down they don't close their eyes.

Assessing Your Dog's Needs

When it’s time to pick your preferred dog care option, there are several factors to consider - those affecting you such as cost and convenience, but also those factors that are down to the individual dog. Here are a few key questions that you should ask yourself for the benefit of your furry pal.

  • What sort of temperament does your dog have?
  • Are they sociable dogs or do they require individual, one-on-one care?
  • Are there any medical or dietary requirements that need to be catered for?
  • How relaxed or stressed is your dog likely to be in a new environment?
  • What are they like around new people?
  • Will they need something that reminds them of home?

Breed Specific Behaviour

Every dog has their own unique personality, and when it comes to purebred breed types there are some common characteristics that most dogs of this breed share. It’s good to be aware of what these tend to be, as this can offer their carer an insight into how your dog may behave, or what kind of care your dog needs. Here’s what you can expect from the top five most common dog breeds:

Labrador Retriever:

labrador icon
  • Super playful and always curious, no one should be surprised to see a Lab run off on the never-ending quest for ‘the bigger stick’.
  • They love going for a run, swim, or any exercise really!
  • They tend to get a bit chewy - best to give a heads up to any carer if this is the case for your dog!

French Bulldog:

french bulldog icon
  • Expect quiet affection from your chilled out joker of a Frenchie!
  • Short regular walks will help to keep this pooch in shape.
  • Without showing authority with a French Bulldog, you could end up with a dog with a stubborn streak.

Cocker Spaniel:

cocker spaniel icon
  • They will have bundles of energy - the more you put in, the more you’ll get back from a Cocker Spaniel!
  • Gentle natured, they’re always game for a cuddle on the sofa.
  • They’ll also be great around feline friends that you or your carer may have.


pug icon
  • These pups can catch illnesses very easily, so watch out for extremes of hot or cold weather.
  • As Pugs are inquisitive and highly intelligent, they can get bored easily - stay on top of keeping them stimulated!
  • Overeating is something that Pugs are not scared of, you have got to keep an eye on how much you give them.

Springer Spaniel:

springer spaniel icon
  • They love hunting birds - it’s what they were bred for!
  • Springer Spaniels respond to a calm but strong approach to training.
  • They usually form a really close bond with one or two family members - remember this when they may be separated from them for an extended period of time.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg! If your dog’s breed isn’t listed here, check out all of our breed profiles at https://blog.dogbuddy.com/dog-breeds/.

Cost Of Dog Care

One of the most important parts of deciding the right dog care service is whether or not it is affordable for you. Many people sacrifice their holiday because they cannot afford to keep their dog in a kennel for a long period of time.

How much does dog care cost for a week?

Take a look at how much an average week’s worth of overnight dog care will cost you:

Dog Care: Average Cost for A Week:
Dog Boarding £150
Dog Kennels £105 to £350

(Source: http://www.boardingkennels.org/)

How much does dog care cost for a month?

If you have up to a month where you will not be able to look after your dog, these are the average costs that you could be looking at:

Dog Care: Average Cost for A Month:
Dog Boarding £600
Dog Kennels £410 to £1,300

(Source: http://www.boardingkennels.org/)

You really see a huge difference at the upper end of the dog kennel price scale. The top end £1,300 service tends to be for big dogs and essentially you pay for the extra size of the kennel, as well as any ‘luxury’ items your pooch may get. Another key thing to remember is that in these scenarios, the lower end of the dog kennel average tends to be for very small dogs, combined with cheap and sometimes questionable conditions. You can’t negotiate price in the same way that you could when you are dealing with a high-quality dog sitter who will be housing your pooch, large or small, in their own home.

What Do I Need To Prepare For A Dog Carer?

Regardless of your choice of care, you'll need to make sure that you have everything provided in terms of information, schedules and even a favourite toy so that your beloved canine can relax and enjoy their time away from you as much as possible. There’s no way better to make sure that your dog feels like they’re in a home from home!

Why not take a look at an example of a sitter kit that you could prepare for your caregiver so that you know they have everything they would need to look after your prized pooch!

Walking Schedule

Ensure your dog has enough exercise while you are away. The easiest way to do this is by providing a walking schedule to your care provider tailored to your pet’s needs. PetMD suggests that:

"Though exercise needs are based on a dog’s age, breed, size and overall health, your dog should spend between 30 minutes to two hours on an activity every day."

Take a look at our walking schedule template below if you’ve not prepared one for a dog walker before:

Alternatively, you can fill out the schedule for walks when you sign up for DogBuddy and you register your dog. Also, with that link you can get £10 free credit for any service!

With our DogBuddy App you can take this to the next level, you can see your sitter sticking to the routine that you have laid out for your pooch, thanks to our GPS tracking!

Eating Schedule & Dietary Requirements

Diet and exercise go hand in hand, so make sure your beloved pet has the right food and is not going to run into anything that they may be allergic to. By providing a list of dietary requirements and a meal schedule you can rest easy in the knowledge your dog won’t be overeating or eating the wrong thing!

See our list of most common dog dietary diseases affected by nutrition:

A product of overeating and not enough exercise, obese dogs are far more likely to develop arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer.
Dietary fat tends to be one of the causes of pancreatitis in dogs, so it is definitely something to monitor at the correct levels.
Bladder Stones
Bladder stones can be caused by a buildup of various types of minerals, so no one bladder stone is the same. They can cause urinary accidents, urine discolouration as well as straining during urination.
Heart Disease
This can regularly become an issue if your dog’s diet is unbalanced, especially if there is an unusually high concentration of sodium in their food. Excess sodium can cause high blood pressure and a bulging heart!
Dogs tend to suffer from two types of diarrhoea, small and large bowel diarrhoea. While small bowel is more commonplace, large bowel is identifiable by your dog straining for a small amount of watery stool, which can occur frequently throughout the day.

Your first step if your dog exhibits any of the conditions above is to consult a vet over the phone. They’ll be able to advise you about the best treatment to make your dog more comfortable and whether your dog needs to be checked in person by a vet. Next, if you are aware of these problems and your pooch consistently has any of the issues we’ve listed, it’s important to notify your sitter or caregiver. Preparing them so they can protect and care for your dog’s health will help your dog stay happy and healthy, and you can rest easy on your sun lounger!

To make it easier, take a look at these simple and easy to use template for feeding schedules:

On the other hand, you could just fill out this information in the 'Eating Schedule' section when you sign up your dog for DogBuddy, with £10 credit on us!

Important Contacts

When you go away it is important to know that your care provider will be able to contact the right people or services in the event of an emergency. When you book a dog sitter with DogBuddy they have access to an 24/7 emergency vet line, but you need to be prepared for any eventuality.

We recommend that you also provide your caregiver with:

  • A designated family member’s phone number
  • Your local vet’s number, as they will easily be able to access to your dog’s medical history

Take into account that professional caregivers will have access to their preferred emergency vet, but it’s a good idea for your dog’s carer to have all the information they might need.

List Of Commands

When you leave your dog at the sitter’s house, or the place where they’ll be cared for while you are away, it’s important to leave your caregiver with a list of commands that may prove useful as they look after your pooch. Knowing whether or not a dog can sit, lie down or even shake paws can change how your caregiver approaches caring for your dog. Plus, they’ll be able to brush up on your dog’s obedience and tricks while you’re away. If you can’t think of all of the common commands that would be useful for a sitter, here are some to jog your memory:

dog sitting


dog staying still


dog obeying heel command


dog fetching a toy


If your dog has mastered the basics, here are some extra tricks for you to try to teach your pooch! Kudos to those out there who have already mastered the following commands:

  • Watch Me

  • Wait

  • Come

  • Off

  • Take It/Drop It

  • Out

  • Leave It

  • Bed

  • No

  • Settle Down

Home Comforts & Toys

chew toy

Toys aren’t just something to keep your pooch occupied, they also have an important role in mental stimulation and development, especially when you are leaving a puppy alone for the first time. This is how toys activate different parts of the doggy’s development depending on the type.

  • Fetch Toys
    These are your classic toys that can be interactive (squeaky). This game with these types of toy help to build the relationship with the dog and it’s master, instantly rewarding the dog for bringing the toy back to you.
  • Tug Toys
    Toys like a flexible stretchy rope, or a tug fleece toy (i.e. something that can be pulled on, but is not likely to rip at the first sign of a canine’s tooth!) help in obedience training - although steer clear of these toys and this game if a new puppy is teething!
  • Puzzle Toys
    This type of toy can be filled with all manner of delicious dog treats to keep your pet occupied, and more importantly, mentally stimulated for a long time. Unless of course you have a 'Houndini' and no puzzle is going to stop them for very long!
  • Chew Toys
    Chew toys work much the same as the puzzle toys, but require your dog to chew to get the treat. Plus, there are many chew toys out there that can provide some much needed dental care for your dog.

For even more information on the benefits of providing a range of different toys for your dog, head on over to Why Does My Dog.

chew toy

What Do I Need To Prepare For My Dog When I’m Away?

Let’s not forget about what your dog needs before you jet off on holiday! Here are a few things to consider doing before you leave, to make sure that your dog has a seamless transition.

Familiarise your dog with schedules

Before going away it is important that you acclimatise your pet to the walking and eating schedules that you are going to give to your care provider. You can make sure that while your dog may be missing you in their day to day, mealtimes will be a welcome constant. Typically you should integrate the eating and walking schedules into your dog’s daily life up to four weeks before you are due to go away, but to be honest, it will make your life easier to get your dog eating in a routine as soon as possible!

To get your dog (adult or puppy) to eat on a schedule, you will need to follow these steps to train them:

  1. When you feed them, leave the bowl down for five minutes.
  2. After that five minutes is up, pick the bowl up whether it is empty or not.
  3. The next time it comes to feeding time, repeat the first two steps.
  4. Your dog will slowly learn to eat its food when you are putting down the bowl, rather than snacking throughout the day, potentially letting a lot of food go stale - or causing your pooch to overeat!

(For adults, feed them twice a day, and puppies younger than five months should be fed three times a day)

For more information on training your dog’s behaviour when they are eating, head on over to PetFinder.

When it comes to walking, all you need to do is provide consistency. Make sure that you set alarms for a regular dog walking time, let’s say 7:00am. As your pooch has an uncanny sense of timekeeping, sooner or later they will start acting as an alarm for you!

It just goes to show how well dogs adapt to a routine.

As a guide of what other dog owners are doing, check out the most common times that people are walking their dogs:

walking times infographic slice

Meet & Greet

owner meeting sitter

To make the transition as easy as possible for your dog, you should introduce your dog with their sitter face-to-face before the time of care so:

  • You can see if the care provider is a good match for your dog
  • You can find out about their experience with dogs
  • You can discuss schedules

But most importantly, it means that your dog will be looked after by a familiar face!

Here are DogBuddy’s tips for the perfect meet and greet:

Meet in public, if possible meet at a neutral location

This prevents any potential resident dog from becoming territorial. A neutral location also allows the guest dog to find their natural place in the pack, which is especially important if other dogs will be present in the sitter's home.

Ask questions

A meet and greet is the perfect time to learn more about a guest dog’s health, diet, behavioral history and other needs. It’s also a great opportunity to discuss what the dog sitter and the dog owner will provide (e.g. tags, leash and collar) for the duration of the stay. Remember to get each other’s contact details and veterinary information (especially if you'll be travelling during the booking).

Confirm the booking

If the booking has not been paid for yet, remember to pay online through DogBuddy to make sure your booking is covered by our insurance policy.

If you have any more questions about meet and greets, check out our dedicated FAQs site, help.dogbuddy.com

Consider Walking Or Day Care First

Even if your meet and greet went okay, it may be worth testing how your dog will be in a sitter’s care by using a walking or day care service before booking care for an extended period of days or weeks.

It will pay to get the sitter used to the behaviour of your dog when on a walk, giving them (and you) a feeling of how your dog will act in the presence of someone else on walks. In fact, while 79% of dog owners say that their dog is well behaved, 54% of those owners admitted that their dogs pull on the lead and 64% say their dog runs after the local park wildlife!

dog behaviour on walks infographic slice Already tried walking services? It’s time to move onto doggy day care as the next step in making sure that your pooch is going to be at ease in the sitter’s home. The other advantage of doing day care after walking is that your sitter will already be used to the particular times and routine that you have trained your dog to follow. Even if it is not the same sitter for your day care, your dog will have had a soft introduction in meeting new people through their dog walker!

After a few day care experiences, your dog is bound to be far more easily adaptable toward boarding for your week’s holiday. You could be potentially waving goodbye to separation anxiety in your dog that may have appeared otherwise. Plus, by then you may have forged a lasting friendship with your sitter, and created a doggy’s home from home!

Here's some help to get started

To help you on your DogBuddy journey, use the link below to get your £10 credit. Feel free to use this on any of our boarding, walking or day care services!

How Can I Check In On My Dog While I’m Away?

So you’ve confirmed your dog caregiver, packed your bags and jetted off on your holiday. You want to be able to check in on your pooch at a moment’s notice.

We know that owning a dog can come with some obstacles. You always want to know that your dog is safe, and when you can't... you worry. We wanted to know what restrictions these concerns can lead to, so we asked dog owners all about it. When talking about restrictions, 60% said that owning a dog stopped them from taking a short break or going on a holiday longer than a week.

Even 11% of those people suggested that owning a dog has stopped them from taking a certain job or career!


At DogBuddy we aim to make these situations a thing of the past, and turn owning a dog into a walk in the park!

Your other options include GPS dog collars, which we had a look at not that long ago, so why not take a look at our review of GPS collars. That way, you will know where your pooch is, confirmed by satellite!

A way that we personally make this possible is through our DogBuddy App, which offers you:

  • Walkies Tracking:
    View your dog’s exercise routine and where they have been walked, making sure that your sitter is following the schedule that you have set out! Take a look at how walkies works.
  • Instant Messaging:
    Contact your sitter immediately (for free) and get updates as and when you want them, meaning that you can ease any worry that pops into your mind, and even get photo updates so that you can get your fix of your beloved canine even when you’re not around. This allows you to also save on any phone bills or overseas text charges!
dogbuddy app screenshot walks dogbuddy app screenshot

Why not check it out yourself?

Download from App Store
Download from Google Play Store

Ready to give dog sitting a try?

Now you have all the information and options around dog care while you’re away, you can feel confident to move forward with the best dog care for you and your pooch. To start your search for the perfect dog sitter, click on the button below and let us help you find the sitter that your canine companion deserves:

Use this guide to make your decision and choose not only a ‘least stressful option’ but the decide on the dog care option that will enrich your dog’s life: combating separation anxiety, increasing socialisation and giving them a new home from home.