Dog Care - How to Choose a Great Pet Sitter

How to Choose a Great Pet Sitter

How to Choose a Great Pet Sitter

It’s always hard to leave your pet in, or with the care of someone else. Knowing that you’ve found a great pet sitter, though, can make leaving a little easier—for both you and your pet.

Why Choose a Pet Sitter?

There are a few different care options for your pet when you need to leave them on their own. You can take them to a boarding kennel, let them stay with a friend or family member, or hire a pet sitter to come into your home and care for your pet. It may make you a little uncomfortable to have a stranger caring for your pet, but there are numerous benefits to leaving your pet in the care of a pet sitter.

  • They stay in the same environment: Unlike a boarding kennel or a friend’s house, having a pet sitter come to your home allows your pet to stay in the environment they are familiar with. They’ll be able to sleep in their own bed, eat out of their own dish, and play with their own toys—all in a familiar space.
  • No disruptions in routine: A pet sitter allows your pet to follow their usual routine. Three meals a day? Check. A walk in the morning and afternoon? No problem. While you won’t be there, the familiarity will make your absence easier for your pet.
  • Your pet will receive the individual attention they’re used to: Instead of fighting for attention amongst other animals, a pet sitter is able to give your pet the focused attention and care that they’re used to.
  • No need for vaccinations typically required for kennels or risk of disease from other pets: Most reputable boarding kennels require their pets to have a complete list of vaccinations in order to stay at their facilities. If you don’t have all of these required vaccinations, you could be looking at a costly trip to the vet prior to leaving your pet at the boarding kennel. Because your pet won’t be exposed to other animals, you also eliminate the chance of parasite or disease transfer.
Finding a Great Pet Sitter

Once you’ve made the decision that hiring a pet sitter is the best option for your pet, the next challenge is to find a pet sitter that you can trust—not only with your pet’s well-being but also in your home while you’re away. While this process may start with something as simple as a Google search, it’s important to thoroughly inspect any potential candidates and ensure that they are the best fit for your pet.

  • Make a list of sitters: Compile a list of sitters in your area. Ask for referrals from your friends, veterinarian, or dog trainer. A Google search will help you find some pet sitters in your area. There's also the option of contacting the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (petsitters.org) or Pet Sitters International (petsit.com) to find members of these professional organizations in your area.
  • Give them a call: Once you have a list of pet sitters, reach out to them to see if they are available to pet sit for you. You may be able to weed out some pet sitters who are booked full or currently unable to care for your pet. If your pet has any special needs, this is a great opportunity to mention them before going through the trouble of a formal meeting. If they are able to care for your pet, schedule a time to meet them.
  • The meeting: This is the real moment of truth. Put together a list of questions that you’d like to ask them (we have some suggestions below), so that you don’t leave anything out. Make sure to cover any specific expectations you have while they care for your pet.
    • Questions to ask:
      • Qualifications:
        • Do you have any special training that will aid in your care for my pet?
        • What kind of experience do you have in caring for pets?
        • What makes you more qualified to care for my pet than other pet sitters?
        • Are you a member of any professional groups for pet sitters?
        • Do you have any certifications?
        • What prompted you to become a pet sitter?
      • Safety nets
        • Do you have commercial liability insurance (in case of any accidents)? Do you have written proof of this?
        • Are you bonded (bonding simply means that a bonding company has possession of money that is available to the customer should they file a claim against the company—this is important in case any theft occurs)? Can you provide written documentation to prove this?
      • Expectations
        • How will you communicate with us while we are away?
        • How many visits will occur each day?
        • When will the visits be and how long will they last?
        • Will the sitter provide grooming services or exercise?
        • Do you want the sitter to complete any other services in your absence(such as watering plants, cleaning up accidents, taking out the garbage, bringing in newspapers?) Are they willing to do that?
        • If there’s an emergency, are they willing to take your pet to your veterinarian?
        • If you aren’t able to make it home when anticipated, will they be able to continue care until you return?
        • Do you understand what we expect of you while caring for our pet? (Once you’ve explained your expectations, it’s always good to have the sitter repeat them back to you to ensure there are no misunderstandings)
        • Are you willing and able to do what we’ve requested of you?
      • Agreements & Fees
        • Once you’ve established a reasonable agreement on what is expected of the sitter (which you’ll want to get in writing should you choose to work with this sitter), you’ll want to ask how the pet sitter will charge you for what you need.
        • Do they charge by the day? The hour?
        • Are there different costs for certain services? Does it cost more to have them walk your pet?
        • How do they require payment? Is everything required up front? Do they need a deposit and the rest upon completion?
      • General Competency
        • Do you have any references that we can contact to help in our decision?
        • Are you willing to come to our home and interact with our pet?
        • Do you have particular types of pets or breeds with which you are most comfortable?
        • Remember, it’s important to find someone you trust. This is the opportunity to ask any questions that will rule out some of your options and show you who is most trustworthy. You know your pet—trust your gut. Even if they look or sound great on paper, if they don’t feel right, then they aren’t the right fit.
Making the sitter’s job easy

Once you’ve found the perfect pet sitter, there a few things you can do in preparation to make the experience painless. While it may seem counterintuitive to spend your time to make what you’re paying them to do a little easier, it’s important to remember that the easier it is for them to know what to do and how to do it properly, the better the experience for your pet.

  • Be clear: Write down clear, thorough instructions for what you need the sitter to do. This includes feeding, medications, exercise and routine.
  • Give them resources: Write down important contact information: Your veterinarian’s contact information and address, the number and address of the closest 24-hour emergency vet, your contact information and contact information of a local relative or friend—anything that they may need in the course of their care.
  • Stock them up: Make sure to purchase more than enough supplies to last the time you’ll be gone. This includes food, treats, litter or bags for waste removal, grooming supplies, etc. Make sure that all essential supplies are in one obvious location for the ease of access: this includes food, waste supplies, favorite toys, leash, carrier, and any other supplies they may need.
  • Access management: Leave a spare key with a neighbor or relative in the area. Give this person your pet sitter’s contact information and include their contact information in your resources—notify the sitter that they have a spare key, if needed. In addition to lock and key, make sure the sitter knows your security system or other security features for ease of entry and exit.

The first time is always the hardest. Once you’ve successfully left your pet in the care of your sitter, you’ll be able to trust them more and more for future absences, and your pet will become more accustomed to their presence. After a few times, it’ll be like you never even left!