Yes yes, it’s only November and we’re talking about Christmas. However it’s okay, because we’re not going to encourage you to buy some over-expensive electrical goods from a slightly fancy department store.
Instead, we’re going to encourage you to think forward about the needs of your dogs as the festive season starts to pick up and your routine changes. Perhaps you have people over for drinks or dinner? Or maybe you go travelling to visit family, or they might all descend on you. Whatever happens, now is the time to start thinking about how your dog might cope and how you can help.
Just as some dogs are fine with fireworks whilst others are terrified, many dogs are okay with noise, crowds, and change of routine, but there are those who find it scary, unsettling and even upsetting.
Here’s a few tips on what to do to help your dog stay safe and secure this Christmas.
Thinking about getting a dog?
Dogs can encourage a healthy lifestyle, are great companions and are always there for a cuddle. But getting a dog is not as simple as getting a new phone or ornament. They require hard work, patience, attention and a fair amount of your time. Here's a few things to consider before getting a dog.
1. Do you have the time to take care of a dog?
Many people will say that if you work full time, you shouldn't get a dog. We wholeheartedly disagree with this. Dogs are not the sole resource of rich, retired, unemployed or work from home folk.
However, you do need to keep in mind the welfare of your dog if you are out the house a lot throughout the day.
There are professional dog walkers who will come and spend time with your dog throughout the day, or ddoggy daycare where they can spend their days with other pups. Do keep in mind the costs associated with these, but also consider alternative options. Can you get home at lunchtime to walk the dog instead? Do you have friends, family or trusted neighbours nearby who would like to help out?
A dog is a huge responsibility, and not something you can ignore for hours on end, which brings us to our next question:
All dog owners understand that one of the hardest things to do is to leave them for any length of time. This might just be for a night or a weekend, but it gets even harder the longer you are away!
There are two main options for boarding your dog for any length of time. The first is kennels, where your dog is kept in a secure area and looked after by trained staff. This is perfect for many types of dogs.
The alternative option is what this blog will focus on, and what we offer - dog home boarding. It’s important that you choose the right option for your dog, and you’ll probably have a gut instinct about what would be best. Home boarding might better suit dogs that are used to being a part of a home environment.
With so many home boarders available though, how to separate the good ones in it for the love of dogs, from those only interested in earning a few spare pounds for minimal effort?
Here are five important questions you should consider asking any potential home dog boarder before you even think about taking your dog to them.
Let’s talk about something we all know about, we all hate, but we all have to put up with.
The dog tax.
What is the dog tax?
Put simply, this is what we call it when you, as a dog owner, are charged extra for simply having a dog. You will probably have experienced this before if you stay in a dog “friendly” hotel, except it’s not that friendly as they will likely want to charge you an extra £10 per dog per night - sometimes more - just for the pleasure of taking your business to them.
It’s hard to justify this charge. We walk, feed and pick-up after our dogs, we even bring their bedding! Dogs aren’t going to be swigging mugs of weak tea with manky tubs of UHT milk, are they? Or spending hours basking in the glorious power shower with questionable full-body shower gel, surely? I mean, this extra charge can’t be because they’ll be calling up room service at 4am for some liver cake and a dog chew, right?
No, the most common reason, we are told, is that it is for all the extra cleaning that dogs bring with them. On the surface, this might sound fair - dogs do tend to be pretty hairy after all. But think this through - how much more work is it to vacuum a floor with dog hair than one without?
How much more work to polish a desk in a room that had a dog, compared to one that didn’t? Even if the dogs are allowed on the bed, I would still expect the covers to be washed to the same standard than if it were just humans using it before the next visitors arrive.
It takes no more work, and that’s our issue here. We don’t object to a doggy deposit, where you pay a reasonable returnable fee for any chew damage or copious mud shakes all over the walls. That’s only fair that if your dog causes damage, you pay for it. If your dog causes no damage, what is there to pay for? Are hotels really giving your room an extra £10 per dog-worth of cleaning each day?
We don’t get on many holidays any more, and that’s by choice. When we do go away however, we are selective about where we stay. We won’t pay extra to have our two stay with us - that, to our mind, is a dog tolerant hotel, not a dog friendly one.
If we were to stay somewhere for a week with our two, that’s an extra £140 we’d have to stump up. Now really, does it cost any hotel or B&B an extra £140 a week to clean up after two little well behaved dogs?
We object to this dog tax, and we think you should too by refusing to pay any extra for your dogs. Offer to make a refundable deposit instead - that’s much more fair.
By taking your business elsewhere to somewhere that truly welcomes dogs deserves your custom, we believe your stay will be made all the better for it. Just because we own and love dogs doesn’t mean we should be taxed for it.
And if you think that's bad...
These days, we tend to nip away for a couple of nights in our wonderful little caravan. Beautiful surroundings, peaceful countryside, starry nights in beautiful Scotland. Surely there can be no additional dog taxes here, right?
Well, obviously, wrong. Some sites, beleive it or not, do charge extra to take dogs with you in your own caravan. I mean...what? In what world does having a dog in your own caravan cost the campsite any more? As responsible dog owners - as we all should be and, if you are reading this, probably are - we pick up after our dogs and nobody would ever know they were there.
Why do some campsites charge extra? Well, you'll have to ask them and whilst we don't want to publicly shame anyone for this, the next time you come across this charge at a campsite why not ask them what it's for? It might make them think twice.
Technology Dog Taxes
It’s not just in holiday accommodation that we see such dog taxes arise.
Take, for example, the security cameras we use here at Happy Home Dog Boarding. They are from Motorola, and don’t get us wrong, they are very good and let us keep an eye on the dogs at night or when we pop out, but have a look at these, both taken from the UK Motorola website.
Spot the difference:
These two cameras are, other than their colour, completely identical in size, shape and function. Completely. Identical. So why would the one on the left cost more than the one on the right?
The dog tax, that’s why.
The Motorola Scout 85 is promoted as a pet cam, to keep an eye on your furry pals when you’re not around. As it says, it is to "...keep an eye on your pet". At time of writing, it costs £95 at Pets At Home and £95 at fetch.co.uk and £89.99 on Amazon (when not on sale, as it fortunately is now).
Compare this to the functionally identical Motorola Focus 85, available for £59.99 on Amazon, £79.99 at Argos and £79.99 from Maplin and marketed as a general household security camera, to "...keep an eye on your home".
Again, let me repeat - the only differences between them is the colour, and the fact the more expensive Scout is targeted towards pet owners. Seems a bit dodgy, right?
No more stealthy taxes for dog owners!
The worry is that the dog tax is a stealthy tax, where we don’t even realise we’re paying more than we should or, in the case of hotels, may not be able to refuse if it’s the only place available.
We’re fed up of being taken advantage of. We’ll happy pay more for a premium service, but businesses please - don’t try to fleece us for a few extra pounds. We’re onto you, and if there’s one thing you don’t do, it’s don’t upset dog owners!
We’d really love to hear any instances where you felt you have been taken advantage of, just because you own a dog. Let us know below, or over on our Facebook page.
And remember, if all else fails and you can't take your dog away with you...well...not to blow our own trumpet, but we do know two pretty awesome home dog boarders you could use. Yes, we're talking about ourselves.
Like many of you, we love to take our two dogs away with us when we go on holiday - we even took Sprocket on our honeymoon in a VW Camper to the Isle of Skye!
Whilst we're here to care for your dog if they can't join you, it is lovely to pack up your things and take the whole family away for a break, letting your dog explore new smells and find new awkward places to poop.
Dog Holiday Pre-Departure Checklist
Before you leave, it's a good idea to make a list of all the things to take for your dog to ensure a safe and fun trip.Here's the checklist we use:
Leads, Collars and Harnesses
If you are away to the country, you might need to keep your dog on a lead due to livestock.
In this case, it's better to have a harness for long spells on the lead as that eliminates the danger of throttling your pal when he lunges to chase a rabbit.
We use these Ezydog harnesses, as they can also be clipped onto your seatbelt for added dog safety on the road.
We've also started using Halti leads for our boarders, as they are strong and you can alter their size to suit the dog using clips.
Bed or Blankets
Taking a bed or blanket is not only to keep your furry pal warm, but the smell of home will also be comforting. This is why we ask you to bring your dogs' bed when they stay with us, as it reduces stress and reminds them of home.
Many dogs like a quiet corner of a room that they can call their own, without being disturbed or harassed and have a sleep. Of course, that's not always the case...
If your dog is a big breed, you might not want or need these. For little breeds, like our Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, we need to either keep them dry, or get them dry quickly as they are so little and totsy they can get ill with the coldness.
We think of dog jackets as having two types - ones where you go out in the rain, and ones where you come back home wet, whether by accident or design.
In the "going out in the wet on purpose" category are these waterproof jackets from 3 Peaks which we find are easy to get on and off, and keeps our two dry on top.
One tip we have with these is to keep the velcro sections by the dogs head always connected, and push/pull the coat over the head of the dog instead. Otherwise, the loud noise of ripping velcro right by their ear could cause them to fear/hate the coat, making your life much more difficult.
The second type are those to dry off after becoming wet, or to warm up after swimming or just generally cold conditions.
We use these little jackets called Equafleece, the blue version modelled on Sprocket here.
Designed initially for horses, they do two things. One, they draw moisture away from your dog's skin, drying them off quicker. And two, they are nice and cosy, helping your dog heat up if they have been in for a swim.
We have found that after a swim, our pups can be quite shivery and tired, but putting these on them gives them a second wind and off they go running amok again.
Our other type of jacket is a onesie, and Indie's comes from Willowheart Onesies, a growing local Edinburgh business that creates bespoke, hand-made jackets for your pup. They are frankly adorable, and create quite the talking point when out and about! They are really well made and durable, washable and very funky.
This is more important in the summer months, but worth having year round.
Some people are squeamish about removing ticks, and if you are prepared to pay a vet to do it, that's fine. But for those of us who enjoy getting far away from civilisation it becomes more important, because the longer a tick is on your dog (or you!) the more damage it can do, including passing on Lyme Disease.
There are a range to choose from, but our current favourite is this kind of tick remover, which acts like a claw from a soft toy arcade machine and is very easy to use, and makes tick removal a very simple process. We've also been known to use these tick twisters, and although effective, we found that they can can be a bit finicky with smaller ticks. We've also tried these ones, but they aren't worth the money.
Don't even think about using a sharp pair of tweezers/some vaseline/a hot knife either as they can make matters worse:
For more information on ticks, how to deal with them and how to dispose of them, here's the Lyme Disease Action link (which contains photos of ticks, in case you are one of the squeamish ones).
I mean, obviously bring food, unless your dog has to hunt for himself. At least remember to take his food and water bowl, don't make him a complete barbarian.
For out and about, we carry a bottle along with one of these sorts of plastic bowls, but we've also seen folk use bowls made out of a lighter material It's a handy little bowl, and really useful for when you'll be away from any source of freshwater on your walks to keep pup hydrated.
We've reviewed the poop pots before, and are generally favourable to them. Here's a photo of Cheryl modelling her finery.
We've since added a caveat to the review as we find ours sometimes pops open when it's full, but that shouldn't necessarily put you off.
They are still great for when you are far from a bin and Fido lets loose the dog poops of war, and when not totally full they keep the smell in and mean you are not leaving poop all over the country paths.
Something else we would recommend is never breathing in the air when you open the pot up. The concentrated stench is enough to knock out a hippo.
Here's one I bet you didn't think of.
Whilst vinegar is an important part of any chip diet, it's also a magic ingredient for removing the smell of fox poo on your dog. Many people recommend tomato ketchup for this, but it is the vinegar in the ketchup that does the trick. Also, if you have a white dog, we really don't recommend you covering them in red sauce...
I've tried to find the science behind why this works, but have drawn a blank. I guess the only way to prove it to you is to give it a try next time your dog rolls in a present from Mr. Fox. I sometimes know how Boggis, Bunce and Bean must have felt...
So what have we missed? Anything slightly unusual that you take on your hols?
And remember, for when you can't take your dog, we're here to help and make sure they get a holiday of their own!