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As you know, I travel constantly and I can see that it takes a toll on Niki Belle as much as it does for Heather when I leave for a few days. Over the past few years though, I've come up with a few different ways to make it easier on her when I leave and you should be able to apply this advice for your dog or other pets too. This is especially important when both of us travel and leave her at home with a pet sitter.
Choose a Good Pet Sitter
When she was younger, we would take her to a kennel, but as Niki Belle has gotten older this was more disruptive and nearly as costly as hiring a dog sitter. There are many many people and services out there from the kid next door to corporate house sitting services. Many of them are good, but the most important thing here (besides being able to trust them) is to ensure that your dog is comfortable with the person who will be taking care of them. By having someone you trust and that she trusts, it makes it easier for Heather and I but also allows Niki Belle to relax too. She knows that she will have a regular routine and that there won't be any "oops, I forgot" situations like we've had in the past with a well intentioned neighbor who was in a hurry.
Make Sure Your Dog Has Plenty of Food and Treats Available
This might sound obvious, but make sure that your dog has plenty of food, water and treats available. Before I left for my Nevada trip last week, I made sure to stop by Tractor Supply Company here in San Diego and picked up some Purina One for her as well as some treats.
Tractor Supply Company has locations all over the country and it's one of those stores that is really designed to fit rural life with a little bit of everything for people who like to stock up. Even though I'm in an urban loft it's still a fun place to visit.
Right now they are celebrating Purina Days for the fifth year in a row and so make sure to look for the free standing insert in your local paper to get some great deals. There will also be some in-store deals as well that vary from location to location. We used the insert to save $5 on a 40-lb bag of Purina ONE® SmartBlend® Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Dog Food and got two cans of Purina® Pro Plan® Chicken & Rice Wet Dog Food for free too!
Niki loves Purina ONE and so do I since I trust the brand and I love that the first ingredient in their Chicken & Rice Formula Dog Food is real chicken! Even though she tends to eat less when I'm away, it's still important to make sure she gets plenty of nutritian when she does. Otherwise, she tends to act up and nobody wants to return home to a mess.
Monitor Your Dog's Behavior With Cameras
I have several cameras throughout the house starting with the door, another pointed to where her food dish is in the kitchen and more in the livingroom where she has her bed and couch to sleep on. While this helps Heather and I maintain our peace of mind, it is important for her too. For instance, we can monitor if she is acting strangely and respond by calling our dog sitter. Additionally, should something go wrong with your dog sitter, he/she will know that you are monitoring the house. Luckily we haven't had any trouble with this but you can never be too sure.
NOTE: If you add cameras to your home like this - you should ALWAYS make sure to disclose to your pet sitter that you have cameras monitoring both audio and video. State laws may require this depending on where you live - but it's just a good idea and helps establish trust.
Even if nothing goes wrong, we've been able to help locate "lost" toys by telling our pet sitter where a bone went by simply looking at the video. This helps Niki Belle stay happy but it also keeps our house from being torn apart.
Have a Good Plan For Delivering Pills and Other Medicines
Niki Belle has gotten older and so she now has to have heart pills twice each day. However, she quickly figured out that these were NOT treats. We were able to help her take these by mixing them in with some wet dog food like Purina® Pro Plan® Chicken & Rice Wet Dog Food. Your mileage may vary depending on your dog's preferences and pill type but we found that the gravy was able to coat the pills after breaking them up. She was so excited to have a special treat that she gobbled everything up without even realizing she was taking her pills.
For other medicines that we're not able to break up, the other way that we deliver them is to wrap the pill in a piece of buttermilk bread and create a ball around the pill.
Leave Items With Your Scent To Make Your Dog More Comfortable
By leaving an item - used undershirt for instance - with your dog, it will help make the dog feel at ease since they have a strong connection to you. This scent will help them relax and worry less.
Leave The TV or Radio On If You Live In a Place With Ambient Noise
If I lived in a house out in the country, there might be less reason to leave the TV or radio on. However, I've found that Niki Belle is a very curious dog (as most are!) and so she will go and investigate if she hears someone walk by our door or hears noise from a neighbor. To help combat this, we leave the TV on or pick a playlist for her to listen to. I don't know if she has a preference for classic rock vs Enya, but we always ask Google to, "play me some spa day music". It's relaxing to us ... so maybe to her as well.
When You Return, Make Sure to Give Your Dog Extra Love!
Make sure to always give your dog extra love when you return from the trip. No matter how tired I am, I always take her out for a walk immediately after getting home. Not only does this give Niki Belle a chance to do her potty thing but it also is some time together. When we get back I make sure to give her a treat, kind words, and check to make sure she has plenty of fresh food and water. Then we usually spend some time on the couch together giving hugs.