The most stressful part of going on a vacation or work trip is leaving our dogs behind. After all, they trust us to give them excellent care and they are a beloved part of our lives. Trusting them to a stranger can be scary. The following are a few tips on how to pick a pet sitter so you can relax and enjoy your trip, knowing your best friend is receiving the best care possible.
It’s easy to assume someone who has been pet sitting for 30 years is better than someone who just started. And while that is sometimes true, it’s not always the case. For example, a dog trainer may decide to add pet sitting to their services. Or maybe a retired vet is looking for something to do and so decides to pet sit a bit on the side. While they may be technically “new” to pet sitting, they definitely have experience handling people’s dogs. So look at their full resume before deciding to interview.
Be sure to notice if they have specific experience that may be useful when caring for your dog. The following are some things that require some knowledge and experience.
Daily medications that are hard to give can cause trouble with a stranger. (This is where a retired veterinarian or a vet assistant with a side job is a great plus!) Some pets even need shots that have to be administered. Ask for references of pet owners with medical conditions they have watched in the past.
Dogs with difficult temperaments is another that can cause issues. Whether it’s reactivity, fearfulness, pushiness, or aggression, these require a savvy person to handle. In this case, a pet sitter that is also a dog trainer may be a plus. They could even train your dog while you are gone.
Some dogs get overly stressed and even have separation anxiety when you leave. Again, a pet sitter who has experience dealing with this is definitely a plus if your dog is prone to anxiety.
Maybe it’s something as simple as your dog needs to go out more due to a small bladder or health issues. Whatever it is, make sure your pet sitter is able to handle it before hiring them.
Can they handle emergencies?
Ask the potential pet sitter what they do during an emergency. Give them a scenario: your dog stopped breathing. Do they have a ready answer? Is it what you expected?
Some pet sitters are certified in Pet First Aid & CPR. That’s a nice bonus. Especially if you have an older pet or one that tends to get into trouble. All pet sitters should be able to quickly and calmly explain what they would do in an emergency!
What about certification?
So anyone can pet sit. A lot of teenagers make extra money by feeding the neighbor’s dog while they go on vacation. But there are also professional pet sitters who spend money on certifications (which means they have more knowledge on pets and participate in continuing education) and industry memberships
(which means they stay up on the latest information and are dedicated enough to their business to spend money on it). Professionals have insurance too, which pays for any accidents that happen while you are a way. What happens if that teenager gets pulled by your large dog, he falls and breaks his arm. Who’s paying for the medical bills?
The Pet Sitters International is a great organization to source a certified pet sitter if you like.
Definitely ask for references. Just remember that they were chosen by the pet sitter so these are going to be guaranteed positive reviews. If they are a legitimate company, look for Facebook or Yelp! reviews that will be more truthful.
Have an in-person interview
One of the most important tips is to invite the pet sitter to your home for an in-person interview. This is so important because it gives you a chance to see what your “gut feeling” tells you about the person. It allows your dog to meet the potential sitter. Do they like him or her? Dogs are very good at judging character. If your dog isn’t warming up to them right away (especially a dog that is not normally shy or reserved), then I’d keep looking.
You have many options when it comes to a pet sitter, so don’t be afraid to interview several before choosing one. After all, you are entrusting them with a life of your best friend, so choose carefully.