What should I know about hiring a dog sitter?
Hiring a dog sitter should be undertaken as seriously as researching a sitter for your children. After all, that person will be responsible for your dog’s welfare in case of an emergency and will have a direct effect on your dog’s health and emotional well-being when you’re not there.
The best way to find a dog sitter is through a referral from a trusted veterinarian, pet professional, or a friend or family member who has a sitter they know and like. If you can’t get a personal recommendation, check the website for Pet Sitters International, a well-respected professional organization for pet sitters. The site has a search feature by zip code.
Before you meet with any potential candidate, have a phone chat. Ask a few basic questions about qualifications, experience, fees, and availability for your specified dates. (Don’t be surprised if you can’t find a sitter last-minute, as most are booked at least two weeks ahead.) If you want someone to stay at your home, as opposed to stopping by a few times daily, ask whether that service is offered. And be sure to ask for local references.
The next step is to meet the potential sitter in person, as you want to see how she will interact with your dog (and vice-versa). Do you get a positive feeling about the person? Do you like the way she interacts with your dog? Does your dog seem to like her? Above all, go with your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable or hesitant for any reason, keep looking.
This is also the time to discuss specifics. If your dog has special needs as far as medical conditions or other care, does the sitter have experience in that area? If the person will not be staying overnight at your home, how many times per day will she stop by and how much time will she spend during each visit? Would you like her to take your dog for a walk, or simply feed, water, and spend time in the home keeping your dog company?
If your dog has any behavioral issues, such as aggression or separation anxiety, they should be discussed as well. Be sure the sitter is comfortable and experienced with any of these relevant issues and give clear directions as to how to handle them.
Now for the business considerations:
1. Stipulations about dates, fees, frequency of visits, and specifics as to what visits will entail should be laid out in a contract. Many pet sitters will also routinely provide extra services such as picking up your mail and watering plants while you are gone.
2. Your sitter should be bonded and insured, as are most professionals who do the job full-time.
3. Your sitter should be certified in canine CPR.
Once you have made arrangements, prepare an information packet. Detail the daily care routine for feeding, medications, and anything else you feel is important. Note the phone number and address of your veterinarian, as well as the information for the nearest emergency clinic. Leave your contact information, and be sure you have the sitter’s preferred contact number/email to check in while you are gone.
Yep, it’s a bit of a process, but the peace of mind you’ll have knowing that a competent, compassionate professional is caring for your dog while you are gone is well worth the effort.