Where are you going to leave your dog when you go away?

Last week, I shared some of the things we’ve learned since having a dog. You can read about what to do with your dog here. But what about when you can’t be with your dog?


This is the thing about having a puppy that really reminds me of having a baby. They need pretty much constant supervision at first. So if you want to go out to dinner or get away for the weekend or even (In the very beginning) head out to exercise class or the grocery store, you have to make a plan for your dog.

We got Bonnie when she was just about two months old, and at that age, options are pretty limited. Most dog daycares and boarding facilities won’t take puppies under 4 months because they are too young to have all of their vaccinations. We found that our veterinarian, Madison Animal Hospital, does board younger dogs. They actually board any dogs, and are a great option for less active dogs or those who need medical care while you are away. They charge by the pound, so if you have a small older dog who mostly sleeps, they would probably get all that they need there.

When Bonnie was about three months old, it was also my oldest daughter’s 18th birthday. We planned an evening out in the city and tried to figure out what to do with Bonnie. Unfortunately, Madison Animal Hospital was unable to keep her in isolation at the time, because they were keeping some contagious cats of some sort and didn’t want Bonnie exposed to whatever the cats had. In a pinch, I got a neighbor girl who had been offering babysitting, plant watering, mail gathering services and the like in the neighborhood. She was able to come by and visit Bonnie in our garage a few times, make sure she had fresh water and walk her. That worked great.

But once she hit the four month mark, she was ready for the big leagues and clearly eager to play with other dogs. We have cats, but they just don’t want to play with dogs! And the dog’s primal instincts seemed to make any unsupervised “play” with our chickens or bunny unsurvivable — those animals are prey after all!

The great news is that there are tons of options for dog day care or boarding. The slightly trickier part is that a lot of them book up at peak times. The last I checked at the K9 Resort right here in Madison, there was a 2 year wait list for daycare (you can still get an overnight stay but if it’s any kind of holiday book way in advance. We got the last spot for Thanksgiving in early October and I booked Christmas at the same time to be sure we would be able to get her in. )The K9 Resort is located in the old St Huberts building on Prospect Ave right by the train station. The dogs get plenty of attention and chances to play together both inside and out (weather permitting of course). Bit it’s kind of a boutique hotel feel. They fill up fast and you pay for all that loveliness and attention.

So what can you do if you realize last minute that you need somewhere for your dog to go? A great option is PetSmart on Route 10 in East Hanover. The dogs can participate in decamp or one on one play for an extra charge. They’ll even give her a bath and trim her nails, or you can schedule a full grooming appointment if you have a grooming type dog. We have more of a hose-her-down dog.) They don’t book completely up very often. I would call two weeks at least before the big holidays (Christmas and Thanksgiving for sure), but we’ve had luck the day before getting Bonnie in over there if we decide to go skiing all day last minute. I even booked her for the afternoon one morning on a snow day when we had some errands on Route 10 and she was particularly antsy.

There are so many options for dog boarding around, as long as you plan in advance a bit. you will find something that works for you. One weekend we found that K9 and Petsmart were booked, so I turned to our trusty neighborhood facebook group. So. Many. Ideas! There were several places suggested to board her that had the requirement that she be “interviewed” to see if she was a good fit, behavior-wise. In some cases, those appointments for the dog to come try out a place booked up as well. We wound up, that one time, at a place called Pups@Play, which is unique in the sense that they never put the dogs staying there in crates so they get to play if they want the whole time they are there. They are a lovely place off of Route 10 in Livingston. They also offer grooming and many options for pricing from hourly to prepaid multi-day packages. You can even pay $1 extra to guarantee your dog will be on their social media account! I didn’t even pay and I spotted Bonnie in the background of a video they posted. She was clearly peeing on the floor, but what are you gonna do about that? At Pups@play, I found myself drooling over the adorable co-ordinated collar/coat/bootie options for sale in the gift shop area and also feeling like I should probably get my hair done before picking up bonnie.

Another option is a home-based boarding facility. There are many dog loving folks out there who will take your dog in for a few days. This is typically a very cost effective option. Often they are in slightly more rural locales, which makes sense, but can wind up adding a lot of time to your trip preparations just to get the dog squared away. I used our Facebook community page and many members boarded dogs in their home. Many of them also listed their services on Pet Sitters Associates.

Then there are times that it’s not really you who need to leave town, it’s your dog. Even though I ought to be playing with Bonnie and taking her for walks or to dog parks, sometimes that’s just not possible. We’ve had so many doctors appointments and school meetings and just stuff going on lately, I found that Bonnie could stay by herself a lot of the day, but it wasn’t the best for her. She started scratching the floor a lot and generally acting up (nipping us when we were ready to snuggle on the couch, stealing and ripping up socks from my laundry bin, etc). I realized she really needs some play time regularly, and it’s good for her to be with other dogs.

When I have some time but not a lot, I can bring her to St. Huberts, where they have supervised playgroups for puppies up to 6 months and teens from 6-12 months old. Those are not drop-in, however, and do sometimes fill up, even for weeks in advance. So plan ahead and register on their website.

When I really don’t have any time, I found that St. Huberts also has a Doggie Day Camp. It is two huge dog runs and a small hut, and the dogs can come for morning, midday, afternoon or all day from monday through thursday (and just from 8-4 on Fridays). They give members of their “pack” (your dog is one once you go through the “interview” where he or she plays with the pack for a short time to see if she can get along) a calendar for the month, so you can schedule a regular day/days for them to come. You can also shoot the DDC supervisor an email a day or more ahead and if they have space (which they usually do) you’re in. This is so much fun for your dog and is by far the thing Bonnie clearly looks forward to the most. The only drawback is that they are mostly playing in dirt or mud, so they get quite dirty having all that fun.
But I have a solution fo that!

Petvalu in Florham Park has a self serve dog wash in the back. For $10 they give you a bag of treats, some doggie wash, towels and a waterproof apron. Across the back of the store is a fenced in area with two elevated tubs with handheld showerheads and short leashes anchored to the wall so you can keep your dog in the tub. They have a great rewards program at Petsmart, which has locations in Madison and Florham Park, locally, and I often earn a $10 credit and use it for a free dog wash for Bonnie. They have a cute video that shows how it works here.

Speaking of local pet shops, Madison Pet Shop is also a great place to check out. They will even deliver so you don’t have to lug that 50 pound bag of dog food home.

There are so many other little tidbits about dogs that I could share and that I would love to hear from you! Tell me in the comments your best dog tip!