You know that seen in Cast Away when Tom Hanks says goodbye to Wilson? Leaving my dog when I go on a trip looks a lot like that, but more dramatic. He starts it with pouting, sighing, dodging my kisses, and finally staring me down in the entryway with a look that can only be described as "utter betrayal." Then, I have no choice but to launch into a full-blown emotional monologue about how sorry I am that I have to go.
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But how guilty should we feel about leaving our pups when we go on vacation? Studies have shown that our pups do miss us when we're gone, but is it really the end of the world?
Are our dogs as sad as we are when we leave them?
In a study called The Dog Project, conducted by Gregory Berns, Ph.D., M.D., dogs were trained to keep still enough to go into an MRI. (What?! How?! Turns out, mostly treats.) Berns subjected the pups to different scents: their own, the scents of familiar and strange dogs, and the scents of familiar and strange humans. Based on the MRI results, Berns concluded that dogs do love and miss their humans.
Fantastic. So, do we just never leave the house again? Not at all. Having a pet sitter take care of your dog can be really great for both of you. Mixing up their play time, walk route and general routine can be mentally stimulating and healthy for your dog.
How to deal with the anxiety of leaving your pet with a pet sitter
Now comes the daunting task of finding the right pet sitter for your pup. A close friend or family member that you trust is ideal, but sometimes they're not available. It can also be weird figuring out compensation because you're so close. But never fear, there is a bevy of other good options.
You can get your friends recommendations for the pet sitters they love and trust. Or, On-Demand Pet Sitting has made it easier than ever to have a vetted, insured, dog loving sitter stay with your pup. Companies like Wag! and Rover will arrange a meet-and-greet before you leave to ensure you and your pup like and trust the sitter. They also send you consistent updates about your dog while you're gone. Plus, the price is set, so you don't have to worry about negotiating payment.
If your dog is the type who loves playing with other dogs, a lot of sitters have friendly dogs of their own. The whole affair can turn into a doggie slumber party, and everyone wins! You can rest easy knowing your pup is having the time of their life while getting extra socialization and exercise.
Another way to rest easy about getting a dog sitter is to imagine the alternative of bringing your pup with you on vacation. Would they really have more fun crammed into a plane crate or car for hours? And if there aren't dog-friendly options at your destination, that means waiting around in unfamiliar hotel rooms. Your dog most likely would much rather stay in the comfort of his own home, with a loving dog sitter who maybe is sneaking them an extra treat or two.
Finally, you shouldn't feel guilty about a dog sitter because absence makes the heart grow fonder. Our dogs are perfect, duh. But, if we had come up with some constructive criticism, they could stand to bark less at the toaster for no reason. Or, maybe stop waking us up at 6 a.m. every morning. Taking a quick break from your dog's sometimes-annoying quirks can do wonders for your relationship. You will be filled with love and appreciation for each other, and can bask in the unparalleled joy that is a doggie reunion when you come home!