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Choosing A Pet Sitter

May 3, 2023

choosing a pet sitter

Are you considering forgoing a local pet boarding facility and trying a professional pet sitter instead? If so, there are several steps you’ll want to take to get the sitter and ensure they’re qualified for the job.

6 Tips To Find A Qualified Pet Sitter

Here are some basic steps to find qualified pet sitters in your area. 

Try word of mouth before the internet

Most people start looking for pet sitters online. That option works, but we recommend starting with people you know. Anyone can create an online profile, so word-of-mouth recommendations from dedicated pet lovers are almost always preferred.

We recommend asking around in your community, starting with:

  • Your veterinarian
  • Dog trainer
  • The groomer
  • Local shelters (often part-time shelter employees also offer pet-sitting services)
  • The people hanging out at the dog park
  • The local pet supply stores

These resources are far better than picking and choosing from what you read online. Getting referrals from those who love their animals and have personal experience with the pet sitter is always the best way to find your dog the right match.

Search for professional pet sitters online

Newer to the area, or don’t get to the dog park that often? The internet is still a good resource for finding qualified pet sitters. The key is using high-quality sites to find them. We recommend:

These sites allow you to search for pet sitters in your area and read reviews from their current and former clients.

Schedule interviews

Once you’ve narrowed the list, we recommend scheduling interviews. You may want to keep the first connection neutral, like a local dog park or walking path where you can bring your pet with you. After that, the next session can occur at your home or theirs - depending on where you’ve decided. 

Most pet sitters offer a variety of services, including:

  • Coming to your house for daily visits, walks, playtime, feeding, etc.
  • Overnight and long-term stays to keep all of the animals comfortable in their own home
  • Opening their home to your dog(s), which often is more affordable

What to ask during a pet sitter interview

Things to ask during the interviews include:

  • Whether they have a business license (bonding? insurance?)
  • Do they have a Pet CPR and First Aid certification?
  • Will they provide you with a professional agreement (including payment terms, cancellation and inclement weather policies, emergency contact form, veterinarian release, and an emergency contact or guardianship form)?
  • Are they open to sending you pictures, videos, and updates while you’re gone?

During these interviews, you get a chance to get a feel for the individual and see how they interact with your pet. If they watch your dog at their house, you’ll see the environment and ensure it’s clean and safe and accommodates your pet’s needs.

Check their references

Do not be shy about checking their references. You want to talk to current or very recent clients about their experience. Optimally, you want to speak with pet owners who are engaged in the same type of service (visits, homestays, or boarding in their own homes).

This is your opportunity to learn more about what these clients like and any concerns they may have had in the past.

Consider doing a practice run

If you plan to use a pet sitter for the first time and are taking a longer vacation, we recommend scheduling a short “practice run” for a night or a weekend. This gives your dog and the pet sitter a chance to get to know one another and go through the routine together before the official event. 

You’d be amazed at all the things you don’t think about to write down, or let them know, about your pet. Whoops! The enrichment toys are in the top cabinet OR we always go to the dog park on Saturday afternoons, etc. After the trial run, things will be more dialed in for a longer stay.

Take stock when you come home

When you return, take stock of what you see (and what you don’t) regarding your canine companion and the home’s status. For example:

  • The house is a disaster.
  • Is there evidence your dog was unusually destructive or that they urinated/defecated frequently while you were gone? 
  • Are the treats you left still there (evidence they didn’t come as often as they agreed or that they didn’t follow instructions?)
  • Did your neighbors report hearing excessive barking or notice your dog was shut out of the house?
  • Are toys you left seemingly untouched?

All of these are worth talking to the pet sitter about and may indicate they weren’t as diligent as they seemed to be in the initial interview.

The good news is that if you’ve done your due diligence choosing a pet sitter, it’s very rare you’ll experience any “fails.” Those who work hard to create a reputation and build their pet-sitting business love animals and do their best to take great care of them while you’re gone.

Bonus Tip: Take Advantage of ACT’s Doggy Boot Camp While You’re Gone

Have a new puppy, an adult shelter adoption, or a dog that isn’t entirely taking to the ropes at home? Consider forgoing the work required to hire a pet sitter and sign them up for Alternative Canine Training’s Doggy Boot Camp instead.

We're Here To Help

You’ll return home to a well-trained, respectful, and mannered dog, and we’ll show you the ropes so you can keep it that way. We’re also happy to provide you with a list of vetted pet sitters in the area for the next time you’re heading out of town. Contact Alternative Canine Training to learn more.

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