Leaving our dogs behind when we need to travel for business or vacation is always a bit stressful. Before you ask a favor of friends or family, especially those who maybe don’t have much experience with pets, you may wish to consider hiring a professional.
Why Friends or Family May Not Make a Good Pet Sitter
Friends and Family mean well, and you trust them to have the best interest of your dog in mind, but unless they are accustomed to having a dog in their house, you may wish to consider hiring a professional instead.
- Is their house puppy-proof?
- Do they know for certain their yard is inescapable?
- Is it natural instinct for them to look behind their chair before they push back?
- When they step out to fetch the mail, do they assume a dog is under their feet and ready to bolt to the great outdoors?
- Do they know which common human foods are poisonous to dogs? (Onions, grapes, chocolate, etc.)
- When their friends come over to visit, do the friends know to make sure the door is shut behind them, the gate is closed, etc?
The point is, for anyone who is accustomed to having a dog in the house these sorts of precautions and knowledge are just second nature. We’ve learned these lessons through plenty of trial and error and outright mistakes. You may not want your dog to be a newbie’s learning ground.
Luckily, the business of Doggie Daycares, Kennels, and Pet Sitting is booming. Depending on where you live, you will likely find lots of options for finding a Pet Sitter.
How to Find a Pet Sitter.
- Ask your veterinarian. Assuming you know and trust your veterinarian well, they will almost always have a list of pet sitters who they can recommend. Any serious pet sitter should have already established a network of referrals based on their time in the business and their professional experience.
- Word of mouth. Ask people you trust for anyone they have used, know, or can recommend. If possible, start with friends and co-workers you already know share your pet raising values and ideally have similar types of dogs. We don’t mean similar as in breed, but in age, size, and lifestyle.
- Check with a local and reputable pet boarding facility. Now this might seem a little bit awkward since, after all, your local doggie daycare or kennel is also in the business of looking after your pet, but any solid facility will understand and appreciate that maybe their overnight services isn’t best for you and your pet and will have established relationships with other providers they can recommend with trust.
- Check the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS). Yes, there is indeed an organization for professional pet sitters. NAPPS has been around since 1989 and is a non-profit organization providing tools, training, resources, and certification for pet sitters. You will find a link for locating a NAPPS certified pet sitter near you along with additional resources for helping you choose the right sitter for you and your pet.
- Pet Sitters International (PSI). Pet Sitters International has been in business over 20 years providing educational training and assistance for pet sitters worldwide. Yes, they are truly international, but no, that doesn’t mean they have certified sitters they can recommend in EVERY country. In the US, however, they are very strong. A local search with just my zip code returned well over three dozen options.
- Rover. Rover also provides a site for finding a local pet sitter, but they say very little about how their referrals are screened, trained, or certified. It appears anyone can simply register on their site and claim to be a pet sitter. We suggest it’s still okay to use them to find pet sitting candidates, but definitely make sure to do your own screening. (More info below.)
- Dog Vacay. Dog Vacay is also a nationwide pet-sitter locator service and they do appear to have more of a screening process. Their literature claims a ‘five-step screening process’ including contact from their staff to each interested pet sitting host applicant. Still, we recommend that after you find someone you continue with your own interviewing and screening diligence. (Tips below.)
Now that you’ve found some Pet Sitting candidates, it’s time to start interviewing.
Questions to ask a Pet Sitter
- Are they insured? Can they provide written proof of commercial liability insurance coverage for accidents or negligence?
- Are they bonded to protect against theft?
- Do they have reference from both clients and other professional pet services?
- Do they have a contract to cover the services provided and associated fees?
- Review their emergency plans. Are they familiar with the medications or conditions of your pet, and do they know what to do if something goes wrong?
- Do they provide additional services such as watering plants, turning lights on and off, taking in the mail, etc?
- What training does the pet sitter have? Obedience, Animal Behavior, CPR?
- What is the backup plan if the sitter become unavailable?
Once You’ve Chosen a Pet Sitter, You’re Still Not Quite Done.
- Carefully review the contract. Does it include everything you’ve covered in your interview? If it’s not in writing, why not? And if it’s not in writing, it doesn’t exist.
- Have them visit your home and your pet prior to an agreement to see how they and your pet get along. Any reputable pet sitter will likely insist on this on their own, so please don’t feel like you’re putting them out. If you or your pet get a bad feeling, be polite but honest and let them know you’ll need to keep looking. (No one gets every job they’ve ever interviewed for, and hiring your pet sitter is no different.)
- Ask about the varying level of services available. If all you need is someone to let them out and feed them a couple times a day, that may be fine. But many sitters will offer extra services including in-home care, exercise, training, etc.
Final Checklist to Help both the Pet Sitter and Your Pet
- You’ve already had a meet-and-greet with your chosen Pet Sitter and your pet, but also make sure your pet is comfortable with strangers when you’re not around. A well socialized pet is a happy pet.
- Make sure your pet’s identification tags are current AND readable. Tags get dirty and worn. Get some new ones if you need. And consider getting tags with a secondary contact of a friend, neighbor, or local family member in case you will be unreachable during your travels.
- Ensure your pet’s vaccination records are up to date and have copies of those records available to your Pet Sitter.
- Provide clear instructions and information regarding the care and feeding of your pets. You cannot be too detailed here. When to feed, what to feed, how much to feed, etc. Also include medication information and emergency contact information including your veterinarian.
- Keep all food and supplies in the same place for easy access and retrieval.
- Leave more food and medication than you’ll think you’ll need just in case you become delayed or somehow the supplies become lost or damaged.
- Familiarize your Pet Sitter with the safety features of your home – Window and Door locks, Alarm System, Fire Extinguisher, Circuit Breaker, Water Main Shutoff, etc.