Finding the Perfect Pet Sitter
By Arlo the Hound with help from Honor Tarpenning
Whenever dog owners find out they have to leave town, there is always the looming question: What do I do with my dog? There are several options. You can board your dog at the kennel or the vet, you can hire a pet sitter, or you can take the pooch with you. The best alternative is to take the dog with you, because it is traumatic for both of you to be away from each other. However, it is not always possible or even safe to bring your dog along. For most dogs, the next best alternative is to hire a pet sitter.
Advantages of Pet Sitters
• Your dog gets to stay in his familiar, comfortable environment.
• No change in diet or routine to stress out your dog.
• Leaving Fido at home means he doesn’t have to deal with the stress of travel.
• A good pet sitter will bring in the mail and newspaper so it isn’t obvious that no one’s home. They will also be in and out of your house several times a day, both of which will deter burglars.
• Your dog gets one on one attention while you’re away.
• Avoiding boarding your dog means he will not be exposed to diseases and parasites from other dogs.
Finding a Pet Sitter
• Start looking well in advance. You do not want to feel rushed in making your choice, and you want to have time to interview plenty of prospective sitters so you’re comfortable that you chose the right one.
• Ask your vet to suggest a sitter.
• You can also ask your groomer.
• If your friends and family have pets, who watches them when they go away?
• Inquire with your dog park buddies as to who watches their dogs when they’re out of town.
• Find a pet sitting service company online.
• Interview prospects in person. You will get a much better feel for whether or not you can trust someone if you can look them in the eye.
• Introduce potential sitters to your dog. Pay close attention to how your dog responds to each prospective sitter.
• Encourage prospects to play with your dog without your interfering. Watch how they interact and how comfortable the sitter is with your dog.
• Have the sitter walk your dog on a leash. Pay attention to how comfortable he or she is and whether he or she has control of the dog.
Questions to Ask While Interviewing
• What do you like about pet sitting?
• What do you not like about pet sitting?
• What is the hardest incident you’ve had to handle as a pet sitter?
• Are you bonded and do you have liability insurance?
• What is your backup plan if you get sick or have car trouble while I’m away?
• Can you supply a list of references?
• Do you have a relationship with a vet in the area whom I could contact?
• Will you be able to continue to care for my dog if an emergency causes me to extend my stay?
• Will you be reachable while I’m away so I can check on my dog’s condition and incase anything I have forgotten to tell you occurs to me?
• What services do you offer? Will you bring in my mail and newspaper? Will you water my plants?
• How much time do you intend to spend with my dog each day?
• How do you intend to give my dog the exercise he needs while I’m gone?
• Are you willing to administer my dog’s medication? (If your dog takes medication.)
• If a health issue arises or incident occurs, will you be willing to take my dog to my vet?
• Do you have the means to transport my dog to the vet if necessary?
• Do you have any pets? If so, what kind?
Before you leave
• Make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date.
• Make a list of emergency contact info including your vet, the closest emergency vet, pet poisoning hotline, a trustworthy friend in the area, and where you can be reached.
• Leave a note including location of food, leash, cleaning supplies and any specific directions. You should have the pet sitter over again (a separate visit from the interview) once you’ve decided who you will hire, and you should share these locations and directions with them at that time. However, do not expect the sitter to remember everything you’ve told them. Pet sitters often care for several dogs every day and that is a lot of information to remember.
• Make sure your dog is wearing a legible ID tag with current information.
• Purchase extra dog food in case you have to extend your stay.
• Leave an extra key with a trustworthy neighbor/friend/family member just in case.
• Put the pet sitter’s number in your phone or wallet so you can contact them in an emergency.
• Write a letter that states that your pet sitter has the authority to seek treatment for your dog in your absence and you will be responsible for payment upon your return. Give this to your vet to keep on file.