How To Find The Right Dog Sitter For Your Pooch

dog sitter with pups at playground

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If you’re hankering to take a vacation, or if your daily routine simply keeps you away from your furry friend for long periods of time, you may want to consider enlisting the services of a dog sitter.

Pet sitters are more than providers of your dog’s food and water. Professional pet sitters take your dog on regular walks, offer play time, and have the experience to recognize if your dog is in need of a veterinarian.

When you are away on a vacation, your pet sitter can also give your home that “lived in” look by picking up newspapers and mail, turning on lights, radios, etc.

However, anyone can place an ad in papers or on the internet and call themselves a pet sitter. Only a professional has the training and skills to keep your dog healthy and happy when you can’t.

Why Hire A Pet Sitter?

dog sitter with german shepherds on a bench

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When you’re going away from home, you have several choices for your dog’s care: a boarding kennel, friends or family, or a pet-sitting professional. There are pros and cons for each.

Boarding kennels can range from a bunch of cages in a backyard, to posh, hotel-like accommodations that provide your pet a luxury stay at a luxury price.

Because that option requires taking your dog out of his or her comfort zone, many opt to leave Fido at home and have a friend, neighbor, or family member come in a couple times a day to check their food and water and walk them around a bit.

This can work, but you’re asking a lot of someone who may not have the time to spend with your dog each and every day. It’s also possible that they won’t know what to look for should your dog have any medical conditions that require attention.

Another option is to hire a professional pet sitter, who can offer the type of visiting plan to meet your dog’s needs with the professional knowledge and expertise to keep your buddy healthy and happy while you are away.

With A Pet Sitter, Your Dog Receives:

  • The comforts of the home and area they’re familiar with
  • Thier usual food and feeding schedule
  • Not having to stay in someplace they don’t know or feel at ease in
  • Quality attention on a daily basis

With A Pet Sitter, You Receive:

  • Family and friends who are not burdened by having to take care of your dog
  • The security that comes from your pet being watched and taken care of by an experienced pro
  • A person who will give your home a “lived-in” look to thwart potential thieves
  • Being able to come home to your dog instead of having to drop them off and pick them up at a kennel
  • Other house-watching services such as taking care of plants, bringing in papers and mail, and keeping your dog groomed

Where To Look For A Professional Sitter

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Family, friends, your vet, and others who care for pets may be able to recommend a dog sitter they know. Asking people you trust is a good place to start.

The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (800-296-PETS) or Pet Sitters International (336-983-9222) offer referrals to accredited pet sitters who have completed pet-care courses, attend professional conferences, and abide by a code of ethics set by the organizations.

You can use the internet as a further guide, but make sure that any potential pet sitter has positive online reviews from customers. Find a professional company that does background checks on their sitters and will meet with you beforehand.

Some people rely on apps to find dog sitters. While many people have found success with these apps, there are many drawbacks. It can be difficult to tell exactly who is showing up to take care of your dog, and some users have reported incidents. Use these apps with caution, and only if you have limited other options.

What Makes A Good Pet Sitter?

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A pet sitters’ experience and services offered are important to ascertain before hiring. Interview them over the phone and meet with them at your home before your trip. That way, you can introduce them to your dog, explain your expectations, and get a feel for who will be caring for your pet.

Ask any potential dog sitter the following questions:

  • Can they show proof of commercial liability insurance to cover accidents and negligence, and are they bonded to protect against theft by a pet sitter or their employees?
  • What training have they gone through?
  • Do they take notes of your dog’s habits, schedule, health problems, medications, veterinarian, emergency contacts, etc.?
  • Are they either associated with or aware of emergency veterinarians who are available during off hours or holidays?
  • If they cannot make it to your home because of illness or personal emergency, do they have a back-up person they can call on?
  • Do they offer services such as basic grooming, walking, training, and play time if needed?
  • Do they put all fees and services into a written contract?
  • If you want the sitter to stay in your home while you are away, are the specific times he or she agrees to be with your dog written into the contract?
  • Will they check to ensure you have returned home on time and continue services if you have not?
  • Will they give you references who you can contact?

If you like what you hear, be sure to have the sitter come to your home and meet your dog.

Observe the interaction between your dog and the sitter–does your dog seem happy and at ease? If so, it is a good idea to hire the sitter for a weekend get-away or while you are away at work for a couple days before you go on a long trip. That way you can both address the services, times, or other issues before they become problematic.

What Can I Do To Prepare?

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Regardless of a pet sitters’ experience, you will still encounter problems if you haven’t done your own preparation.

Here are things you must do to prepare your home, your dog, and your pet sitter:

  • Plan ahead and reserve your sitter in advance, especially during holidays.
  • Be sure to train and reinforce doggy socialization. If your dog growls or runs away from other people, how will they react to a stranger trying to feed or walk them?
  • Be sure your dog has current collar ID tags or, if they have a microchip, be sure to let your sitter know.
  • Ensure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date and let your sitter know where to find copies of these records.
  • Leave clear directions detailing pet-care responsibilities and emergency contact information. Include information on how to reach you, a nearby friend or family member, and your veterinarian.
  • Stock up on supplies, enough for longer than you plan to be gone, and keep them a clearly designated area.
  • Before giving your sitter a key, be sure it works. Leave an extra key with a nearby friend, neighbor, or family member. Your sitter should have their phone numbers.
  • Go over all safety and security features of your home with the sitter. Fire extinguishers, alarm systems, breakers, and fuse boxes are just a few of the areas to cover.

Don’t forget to bring your pet sitter’s phone number along with you in case of changes in plans, unexpected delays, or just to check in and see how your buddy is doing. Have a wonderful trip!

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