Questions to ask a pet sitter

Some dogs can’t handle the stress and noise of a busy kennel, and some aren’t welcome because of aggression. Friends and family members probably don’t want to deal with your animals while you’re away either.

Trusting your dogs with a professional pet sitter is often the best option.

I worked at a kennel for seven years, and owned a dog walking and pet sitting business for eight. If you choose to hire a professional pet sitter, don’t hire just anyone. Ask the right questions first and consider more than one option. Remember, anyone can become a pet sitter. You don’t need a degree or a license in most areas.

Questions to ask a professional pet sitter:

1. What do your rates include?

You can find most of the pricing information on the pet sitter’s web site, but you want to know what those prices cover. If the rates are based on time, find out what each visit includes.

How much time will the pet sitter actually spend with your dog? Are walks included? Playtime? Grooming? Giving medication? Will she pick up the poop in your yard? How about scoop the litter box?

2. What is not included?

Figure out what services cost extra.

Maybe it’s worth it to pay more and have the pet sitter stay longer during each visit. Maybe you want your lab mix to go for a run instead of a walk. Maybe your fish need to be fed once over the weekend. Maybe your rottweiler needs his ears cleaned. You could potentially be charged extra for all of these.

Dakotah the Cavalier King Charles spaniel3. Will you provide references?

I’m surprised how few people ask me for references. It’s a totally reasonable request to expect a pet sitter to provide references when you will be giving her a key to your home.

When you call a reference, ask him if he’s ever had any issues with the sitter and how his dog likes her. Ask him if she’s ever gone out of her way to do something special for his dog.

4. What happens if my pet gets sick?

Any experienced pet sitter has dealt with at least some kind of minor emergency such as a sick pet. You should both be on the same page for what will happen if your dog requires medical attention, especially if you have a senior pet, a puppy that eats everything in sight or a dog with an illness. You want to know which vet your dog will be taken to and if you will be notified first. You could also ask if the pet sitter has taken an animal first-aid class.

5. Do you care for cats and other animals?

If you have other animals besides your dog, make sure the pet sitter is comfortable dealing with those animals. Some pet sitters will not care for hamsters, birds, horses and other animals. Most will care for cats.

6. Are you the only person who will interact with my dog?

Some pet-sitting businesses have several employees. If that’s the case, you still want the same person to check on your dog every time so there is consistency. And you should absolutely meet the person who will be taking care of your pets.

7. What is the price for a second or third dog?

Don’t assume that pet sitting for your second or third dog is free or discounted. Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t. Three labs are a lot more work than one.

8. Who is responsible if a dog bites someone?

I have my clients sign a form saying they are responsible for any damage their dog causes on or off their property while in my care. Obviously if a dog is very aggressive, I’m not going to take care of it anyway. But many dogs need a pet sitter because they are dog aggressive and can’t be left at a kennel. As long as your dog is friendly around people, most pet sitters will agree to take care of your dog.

Cavalier spaniel and black lab mix kissing in the snow

A good pet sitter will have a plan of action for what happens if a dog bites and someone requires medical attention because of it. You could ask if the pet sitter has insurance or not, and that will give you an idea of how seriously she takes her business.

9. Can I call to see how my dog is doing?

The answer should always be yes. The pet sitter may not be able to answer her phone at all times because she has other animals to take care of. But she should provide a cell phone number and email address.

10. Will my dog be around any other clients’ dogs?

Don’t assume your dog will be walked alone. Maybe you are OK with this, and maybe you aren’t. But do ask.

11. Will the dog be taken off my property?

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You probably want your dog to go for a walk and get all the attention he can get. But maybe you are worried he will get away, and you’d rather have the pet sitter play with him in your fenced yard. Either way, you want to know what the pet sitter will be doing with your dog so you can give proper instructions and explain how your dog typically acts on a walk or in the yard.

12. When are you available?

Some pet sitters do not work weekends. Some do not work holidays. Others do house visits between certain hours like 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Some are available at all times every day of the year. Make sure your pet sitter’s hours will work with you and your dog’s schedule. If not, ask if she can make exceptions for you, but don’t expect it.

 

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Have you hired a pet sitter? What was your experience?

10 thoughts on “Questions to ask a pet sitter”

  1. Since we’re doing the never-ending remodeling project we have taken Gus to other places when we are out of town. I am not a fan of leaving him in a cold, concrete kennel at all. The first time we went out of town we left him with a guy is licensed to have a “kennel” out of his home. The second time, we left him with his foster family. I have another friend that has offered to dog-sit next time we go somewhere.

  2. There are some kennels that will allow unaltered dogs. They won’t get to interact with the other dogs, but they will get one-on-one attention if you pick the right kennel. If you can’t find one, then hiring a pet sitter might be perfect for you. You just have to find the right person, someone who you trust with your two big, young dogs. Remember that pet sitters are experienced professionals who deal with unruly dogs all the time. By that I mean they deal with dogs a lot more energetic than yours. But like with finding the right kennel, you need to find the right pet sitter as well.

  3. We’ve never hired a pet sitter. I guess we don’t even know where to start looking. Our two GSDs could be a tough crew to handle. We wouldn’t even think of doing it now as they are 6 month old pups who would need a stay in sitter. We’ve looked into places like Camp Bow Wow but we aren’t planning on neutering our male and it is tough to find a daycare or more interactive boarding facility (other than the vet) that takes unaltered animals. Any suggestions? We try to take them everywhere we got but I’m sure sometime soon there will be a time when they won’t be able to make the trip.

  4. I have the same problem as Chrisina. My dog is not neutered and most kennels will not take him. Though I really don’t care for most of the ones that won’t accept him, Petsmart’s Pethotel being just one example. I use off site dog sitters, but only if it is through a referral. The smaller independent ones that look after a few dogs and give them free run of the property are usually a much better option for me. They are also more flexible about the dog not being neutered.

  5. Lindsay Stordahl

    Hi Adrian. Thanks for stopping by! At least there are a lot of options out there for someone to watch your dog.

  6. I am glad I don’t have to leave my dog with anyone else. The guard dogs at the office are great dog sitters and Sheba has something to do all the time. Dennis stays at home when we’re away, which is fine by him, since guarding is his job :-).

  7. This may be too much of a twist of human psychology on a dog but I know a gal who had her neurotic daughter watch her dog while she was at work. This dog is the most neurotic dog known to man. I totally believe that the neurotic tendencies of the daughter were fostered in to this little dog as the other dogs this gal owns now that she is retired are as pleasant as ever.

    Not knocking pet sitting, just one story to add to the mix.

  8. I find it very interesting that not one single client has asked me for references now that I think about it! This is my 5th year being a professional dog walker/pet sitter and my 2nd year running my very own dog walking/pet sitting business. Lately I’ve been contacted by quite a few new clients who appreciated reading other clients’ reviews on my website & Facebook page. Social proof works 🙂

  9. Sandy Weinstein

    when i was looking for pet sitters last yr. i went through all of the these questions. i was surprised at some of the replies by some of the petsitters that i called. some of them were very well known and advertised alot. one said we only go out in the early am and late pm, nothing during the day. scratch her. another said no we dont pick up poo or clean up, if your dogs cant hold it for a long time, forget it. granted my dogs have oops, but many dogs do, if they are left alone for a long time. scratch her. i ran into so many that i would never even thing abt calling again. now i have to find someone to sit for my girls when i go out of town for the day. i am rather upset with the person that i have used off and on for the past 2 yrs, i asked her a month in advance and she said she was too booked and did not know anyone. i am real picky because of my oldest gal, cant take her out of the house to some other place, need someone that knows how to deal with older, blind, dementia, deaf dogs. cant take her with me b/c she does not travel well now. so i am hoping that someone will pop up and a miracle will happen. i really liked this person i was using because she was a registered vet tech and worked at the vet school, she was so good with my girls. hoping she will get a cancellation. i think some people just decide they can pet sit and earn some easy money, but then they dont do want they are supposed to do or dont want to.

    1. Sandy Weinstein

      in addition, i dont do bordetalla, so most places wont take my dogs. i dont like my girls to be around dogs that i do not know anyway.

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