Sunday, October 18, 2009

In-home dog boarding; is it for you?

Pet sitters often add in-home dog boarding to their services. There are many benefits to your clients: their dog is not in a kennel, the pet is supervised 24/7, less stress for the dog, the caregiver knows dog better and can more easily provide for special needs. 

You, as a pet sitter, can customize the services you offer. For example, you can limit boarding to small dogs or take only as many as you are comfortable with. I have offered boarding in my home for over 10 years now, and my business in this area has grown dramatically.

Warning: This is a 24/7 job, and hard to do if you have a family.

I can have up to 8 dogs staying with me, and usually squeeze in one or two more during the holidays. I live on a half acre, so I have room, and the neighbors are not so close that they mind. I do have to monitor barking very closely, since one nuisance barker could put me out of business.

The dogs hang out in the house or outside as they choose. My floors are ceramic tile so I can clean up and disinfect. I use washable slipcovers over the couch and recliner, and my “rugs” are actually dog beds! I keep the back part of the house blocked off so the cats can have their own safe area, and I have a place to escape occasionally!

My requirements for bringing a dog into my household:

The dog has to get along with other dogs of all sizes, be current on shots and flea control, be well behaved–if not necessarily obedience trained—and at least under minimal control. No fence jumpers. If they are not crate trained, they get crate trained at my house if needed. I don’t take pit bulls, and rarely accept a Jack Russell terrier (now called Parson Russell), since both breeds are often dog-aggressive and don’t do well here.

Each dog and owner comes for a get-acquainted visit. A dog with very high prey drive or aggression issues can’t stay here. I’ve turned down a German Shepherd and a Border Terrier (I’ve had many other shepherds, Rottweilers, etc. with no problem). I had one Pharoah Hound mix that was pretty wild, but I kept boarding him until he went over my fence. Then it just wasn’t safe for him here any more. Some dogs are just better off in a kennel.

Introducing the new dog to my dogs and other guest dogs:

I let the new dog cruise the yard and get used to the smells for about 5 minutes, then let the other dogs out one at a time. Sometimes I will put the new dog in a dog run (that’s the only time) so they can sniff and get acquainted through the fence. The dog run is just for these types of situations. Visiting dogs are loose together in my house and yard at all times, and indoors at night. Crated if necessary.

Preventing problems:

If a dog is going have issues, it is usually over food, jumping on a dog that doesn’t want to play, or crowding to get out the door first. These are just pack issues, and usually settled within seconds with no lasting disagreements. I separate everyone for feeding, just to be sure.

How I handle dogs that don't get along:

I separate them and the aggressor can’t come back. It hasn’t been much of an issue. More often than not, a problem happens because someone plays too rough, rather than actual fighting. I am able to separate off a section of the yard and rotate the problem dogs so they each get time in the house. Sometimes just putting one in a crate in the house is enough. He still gets to be with everyone but the pack dynamic settles down.

Safety issues:

I have hawks, owls, coyotes, and other predators in the area, so small dogs are never outside unsupervised.

When I have a very small dog, I do worry about their safety with the big guys, even if it is just rough play, so they are separated unless I am right there, actively supervising. I crate (or use an ex pen) the little ones at night if there are big dogs here. I have crates all over the place for timeouts when play gets too rough. I also can block off rooms with baby gates so everyone can be “loose” but separated if need be. The little guys are often piled on my lap in the evening while the big dogs are spread all over the floor and couch!

My own dogs:

My four, 3 shelties and a doxie, are so used to all the dogs coming and going it doesn’t faze them much. Lily and Bonnie just want to be petted by all the visitors. Desi the doxie tells every new dog that he’s in charge, and within a few minutes they are playing happily together. He’s a typical dachshund. Tux, my black sheltie, loves everyone.

My biggest dilemma:

How do I get everyone to settle down and be quiet when someone is arriving or leaving? I haven’t mastered this yet, since the mix of dogs is always changing. I try to anticipate arrivals and put at least some of the dogs in crates or outside. Other than that, well… I’ll let you know when I figure it out!

Read my previous post about in-home boarding

Photos: Sammie and Pepper lounge next to my desk. The big dogs play outside: Xuan Yuan, Himura, Bo and Chester.  

© 2009 Terry Albert. All rights reserved.


Vicki Holt said...

Thanks, Terry, this was very helpful. I've recently started doing a little in-home boarding and have kept it to one visitor at a time. My dogs are welcoming to the newcomers, but my cat isn't as happy about it. Using the xpen is something I hadn't thought of.

Terry Albert said...

My cats have the back half of the house to themselves. I keep a permanent baby gate up in the hallway. They get me all to themselves at night, and sleep with me, so they still get one on one time. When all the visitors are gone, they come out and rejoin the family.