The start of the COVID-19 pandemic saw a rapid increase in pet adoptions and purchases. A survey of 350 Durham residents found that almost two-thirds of respondents added an animal to their household since the start of the pandemic. Indeed, most of us know multiple families who got a new pet in the last couple of years.

With many of us working from home and with not too many places open, it was easy to care for a pet. But as the pandemic-related restrictions lift and there are more opportunities to be out and about, families have to figure out a way to care for their companions when they are away. We are one such family.

We got a yellow Labrador Retriever during the middle of the pandemic. Being a pandemic puppy, he is not accustomed to being left alone for long periods of time. In fact, when we tried it for the first time, we came back to a ripped toy and two puppy pee accidents. I guess our couch survived because when we bought it, it was (rightly) advertised as the best couch for pet parents!

Now, we are fortunate that our work is location independent and it allows us to work from home. But we also want to go for day trips and weekend outings and with our pooch in tow does limit us. So we decided to figure out ways to get some help to manage our dog while we are away for the day. My wife and I brainstormed and came up with these cost-effective dog-sitting tips.

House Training

Not exactly the top of mind when it comes to dog sitting, but we figured that if we can house train our dog to hold his pee longer, it will give us a clear five to six-hour window, which is good enough for a long hike or a meal within an hour’s driving distance. There are entire books written on house training your dog, tut what really worked for us was observing our dog’s system. We tried to keep consistent times that he would be let out to pee. Within a week, he was able to hold himself longer. We also restricted his access to water an hour or two before leaving.

Friends and Family

Our first port of call were our friends. We reached out to a couple of pet owner friends and asked for help. Both of them were gracious enough to step in when we asked them. Of course, being dog owners themselves helped – they loved pooches! Whenever possible, we returned the favour, or else gave a gift card as a token of our appreciation.

Help Thy Neighbour

We are lucky to have great neighbours and we have never shied away from lending them a hand when needed. So on the off occasion that we have to go out for more than five hours, we have requested them to come and let out our dog.

Facebook Groups

We did not want to bother our neighbours more than required. So we posted on the local community Facebook group to hire someone occasionally when we have to go out, to come and let the dog out. We got really lucky here. A teacher in our neighbourhood has two dogs and she has had to start going back to school with things opening up. So we volunteered to let her dogs out every weekday in the afternoons. she in turn is able to let our dog out during the weekends and she has also offered to take in our dog if we are gone longer. Not everyone will be able to get such a convenient arrangement in place, but you will certainly not get any support if you do not put the word out.

Dog Sitter/House Sitter

An option that came up (although, we did not need to take it) was that of a dog sitter or a house sitter. Through friends, family and online recommendations, we found quite a few people who were willing to come over and assist with our dog. Some of them offered more detailed services like walking and grooming. Of course, the more services you need, the more you would have to spend. Once again, the best place to find someone like this would be online local communities. One such organized service is A Pet Nanny Plus. They can provide in-home pet care services like dog walking, grooming, etc or they can take your dog to one of their “Pet Nannies”. They service the entire Durham region

Finally, if you are in a bind or want a full-service option for your dog, one of the following local businesses can take care of your pet when you are away. although not inexpensive, it can be the fastest and most reliable option for some.

In closing, we figured that owning a dog in the post-pandemic world is not very different from owning a dog in the pre-pandemic world. We do not need to spend an arm and a leg sending our furry pal to a doggy daycare if we want to take a week off in the summer and travel. There are many ways we can employ to get our dog looked after in our absence for free or at a very low cost.

About the Author

Gaurav is passionate about travel, culture, and family. He lives in Durham region with his wife, their son, and their yellow Labrador Retriever, Woofy..