Separation Anxiety for Pet Parents

Does pet boarding guilt keep you from taking that dream vacation?

Separation Anxiety

We often worry about our pet’s separation anxiety when we leave them alone, but what about our anxiety when leaving our beloved fur babies in the hands of strangers? Two local boarding facility owners, Sue Ross, owner of R&R Pet Resort in Phoenix, and Kailani Miranda, owner of Southern Oregon Pet Services in Medford, tell us that although being away from your dog or cat may be stressful, there are steps you can take to ease your mind about keeping your pet healthy, fed, loved and safe while you’re away.

  1. Do your homework when choosing a boarding facility or pet sitter.

Miranda: “Do your research ahead of time. Take a tour of the facility and get as much information as possible. Ask about exercise, playtime and personal attention. Inquire about whether your dog will be interacting with other dogs. Read the reviews so you get a feel for other peoples’ experiences with that facility.”

Ross: “See if they are willing to give you an impromptu tour, not one you have to make an appointment for. Make sure the kennels are clean and good-sized, and that the dogs get exercised. Get a feel for the staff and if they seem willing to answer questions with answers you are comfortable with. Make sure you are welcome to call and check on your pet and feel confident they will also call you if they have any concerns about your pet’s needs.”

  1. The comfort of familiar things.

Ross: “It’s super important to keep things as much the same as they are at home. As comfortable as we try to make them, they will still be missing their home, so we try to keep as many familiar things as we can. If a kennel won’t allow you to bring your pet’s own food, their special bed or blanket or a familiar toy, to me that says they are not interested in making your pet as comfortable as possible.”

  1. Alternatives to a boarding facility.

Miranda:  “Pet sitting can be a great option for people who feel their dog or cat would be extremely stressed out by staying in a strange place. Again, you have to check them out carefully, but having someone come into your home so your pet can stay in its own familiar environment can be a great compromise. Have the pet sitter come over ahead of time and see how they interact with your pet. Ask about their previous experience, their qualifications and any references they can provide.”

  1. Keeping your pet busy and entertained means less time to stress.

Miranda: “You want to ask what kind of daily exercise or activities your dog will have because sitting in a cage or a kennel all day feeling bored can be stressful. Cats may not require exercise but ask if they get any playtime or personal attention.”

Ross: “The additional activities we offer are as much a comfort to the owners as they are fun for the dogs. It relieves some guilt when they know their dog will be walked on a leash or given doggie play time if that’s what they enjoy. It gives the dogs something to look forward to and be excited about.”

  1. What’s your advice for feeling less guilty?

Miranda: “Your biggest comfort will be knowing your pet will be well taken care of, getting exercised and having fun when you leave them. My advice for people who are very nervous about leaving their pets is to do a trial run, maybe just an overnight stay or over the weekend so your pet will be a little more familiar with the surroundings when you leave them there the second time, like a practice run before you go out of town. Some facilities offer day care or play groups, and those shorter-term stays can help them feel more comfortable with being away from their own home environment.”

Ross: “Most of the time, it’s actually harder on the people than it is on the dog. A dog lives in the moment. They don’t have the capacity to wonder where you are once you’re out of the picture. Yes, they know they miss you if you’re not around, and they miss their familiar surroundings, but if they’re distracted, they can have their mind on other things. Their people are usually much more worried about how they’re reacting and concerned with getting back to them.”

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Parting is such sweet sorrow

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

You’ve finally done it. You’ve picked the best boarding facility you can find and have actually made a reservation for Jingo to stay while you go on that Caribbean cruise. But, oh, the guilt!

When the day arrives, don’t let your distress get the best of you, pet experts advise. When you drop him off, try to be calm and matter of fact about leaving, even if your heart is racing and you’re holding back tears. Don’t make it a long and emotional goodbye. Animals are very attuned to our emotions and if Jingo senses your nervousness, he automatically assumes there’s something he should be upset about. Save your tears for the drive home, and then look forward to that happy reunion.

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