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Top Tips For Finding A Reliable Pet Sitter

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By Janine DeVault

Whether you travel frequently or just a couple of times a year, it’s always wise to have a pet sitter to turn to. You may also need one in case of personal emergencies when you can’t be with your dog. Finding someone to look after your dog might not seem like a difficult task (after all, who wouldn’t want to hang with your beloved pup?), but it’s often easier said than done.

With this in mind, start looking for a pet sitter long before you conceive of your next vacation. That way, you know your dog will be in good hands the next time you feel the urge to take a weekend jaunt. Here are all of our top tips for finding a pet sitter you can trust. 

Ask for referrals

There’s no better way to find a reliable pet sitter than through a referral from someone you trust. Ask your friends and family members with dogs who they turn to when they travel. If that leads to a dead-end, ask your veterinarian or the staff at your local pet store. When pet owners are happy with their sitters, they love to refer more business to them! 

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There’s no better way to find a reliable pet sitter than through a referral from someone you trust. Ask your friends and family members…

If you can’t find a sitter through a referral, you still have options. Post an ad on social media, look for a sitter on sites like Rover.com, Thumbtack or Care.com, or post a notice in your local pet store or coffee shop stating that you’re looking for someone. If you go this route, ask the prospective sitter for references before you hire them. 

Meet the sitter in person

Even a sitter who comes highly recommended may not be a good fit for your dog. Before you hire anyone, make sure they will meet you and your pup in person. Typically, sitters offer a complimentary meet and greet to gauge whether they’re a good fit to care for your pet.

During the meet and greet, note how the pet sitter interacts with your dog. Are they conscientious? Are they taking the time to get to know your pet? Do they seem disinterested? Does the sitter seem fearful of your dog? Even if the sitter is keen, you must gauge whether you think they’re a fit for your pet. Can they physically control your dog? Do they seem capable of fulfilling your dog’s needs?

You should also note how your dog reacts to the sitter. Does your dog seem comfortable? Is there tension between them? Your pup’s vote is even more important than yours! 

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During the meet and greet, note how the pet sitter interacts with your dog. Are they conscientious? Are they taking the time to get to know your pet?

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Discuss the details

During your meet and greet, you have two main objectives:

  • Ensuring the sitter has a clear understanding of your dog’s personality and needs

  • Gaining a clear image of how the pet sitter will be caring for your dog while you’re away.

Even a likable, well-qualified pet sitter might be a bad fit if they can’t devote the appropriate amount of time and attention to your dog.

Discuss the following points with your prospective sitter before you commit to moving forward:

  • Will your pet interact with other animals during the pet sit? If your pet sitter works with other clients, it’s crucial to know if their pets will be in contact with yours. If yes, are you comfortable with your dog interacting with pets they’ve never met before? If your dog is reliably non-reactive, this could be an automatic yes. On the other hand, meeting new pets might be a liability if your dog has any behavior issues.

  • Approximately how many hours will the sitter spend with your dog each day? If your pet sitter has a full-time job and is only home in the evening, you should be aware of this. Ask this question to ensure you’re both clear about how much attention your dog will be receiving from the sitter. If nothing else, this allows you to offer tips for how to keep your dog content when left home alone.

  • Bring up any behavioral issues your dog has: For a sitter to best care for your pet, they need a solid understanding of your dog’s personality. This involves listing both the good and the less desirable traits. Characteristics like aggression toward other dogs, a tendency to escape from the backyard, pulling on the leash, chasing cats, and stealing the dish towels, are all important points to mention. Of course, you should share what your dog loves too: their favorite toys, where they like to walk, which neighborhood dogs they enjoy playing with, what their favorite treats are, etc. 

  • Highlight any health concerns: If your dog has any health issues, such as allergies, arthritis or an ongoing condition that requires medication, you should go over them in detail with your pet sitter. Ensure they know how to treat the issue, how to avoid aggravating it further and what to do in an emergency.

Establish communication and emergency plans

Before you leave your dog in the pet sitter’s care, be clear on how the two of you will communicate.

Let the sitter know how best to reach you while you’re away, and establish some guidelines outlining how often you would like the sitter to check-in. 

You should also go over how emergencies should be handled. Do you want the sitter to go directly to the veterinarian in the case of an emergency, or should they contact you first? Should the sitter notify you of any incident that occurs with your dog, even if it’s minor (say, a small scrape or a tick removal), or should they contact you only if the issue is serious? 

While the likelihood of anything going wrong is low, it’s still important to talk through worst-case scenarios so your sitter knows what to do. 

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Let the sitter know how best to reach you while you’re away, and establish some guidelines outlining how often you would like the sitter to check-in. 

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Leave specific instructions

An experienced sitter will probably take notes during the meet and greet to ensure they know how to care for your pup and your home. 

Just to be safe, always provide written instructions for your sitter. This prevents your sitter from disrupting you constantly during your trip with simple questions. 

You’ll have peace of mind knowing you did everything you could to ensure your dog gets the care they need, and your sitter will be grateful to have the info to fall back on. 

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Just to be safe, always provide written instructions for your sitter. This prevents your sitter from disrupting you constantly during your trip with simple questions. 

The right pet sitter will be a good communicator and demonstrate that they’re attentive to your dog’s needs. It may seem like a simple request, but finding the right fit for you and your dog can take time. If you don’t currently have a pet sitter, start looking for one well before your next trip. That way, you and your pup have time to track down just the right person. 

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Janine DeVault is a Canada-based freelance pet writer, animal rescue advocate and former celebrity dog walker. She strives to help pet owners live happy, harmonious lives with their pets through actionable blog content. Her work has been featured by many pet industry brands, including Wag, PetFirst and Skout’s Honor.

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