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What to consider before hiring a pet sitter

Before you meet a local pet sitter, make sure you take plenty of time to plan ahead. Don’t wait until right before you leave for a trip. You will be rushed and will settle for the first option.

All the professionals might be full if it’s a holiday or weekend, and you might be stuck staying home or hiring a neighbor kid to walk your rottweiler – probably not the best idea. Instead, take your time and know what questions to ask a pet sitter.

You should also decide whether you want a pet sitter to stay overnight in your house or if it’s enough for her to visit throughout the day, evenings and mornings. The other option is having a pet sitter keep your dog in her home while you are away. Think about what you and your dogs would be most comfortable with.

What do I need to know when I hire a professional pet sitter?

1. Don’t worry if your dog seems extra tired when you come home.

Dogs react differently to new schedules. When something changes in my mutt’s schedule, he is exhausted for about 36 hours. If we have a new dog stay with us, Ace has to keep track of that dog every second. When that dog goes home, Ace figures he can catch up on sleep. The same happens if Ace stays somewhere else for a few days. He is not sick, he is just tired.

If your dog is extra tired when you come home, don’t be concerned. If your dog is throwing up or has diarrhea for more than a day, it is probably related to stress. But don’t hesitate to check in with the pet sitter once you get back if you notice anything out of the ordinary with your dog.

2. It’s reasonable to ask special requests.

Most pet sitters are great about making adjustments so each dog’s unique needs are met. If your dog needs extra playtime, then say so. If he needs eye medicine or his ears cleaned, it shouldn’t be a big deal for the pet sitter and probably won’t cost you anything extra. If the litter box needs to be scooped twice a day because you have a really messy cat, then say so.

3. Don’t expect the pet sitter to visit at a precise time.

It’s hard for a pet sitter to be somewhere at a specific time. You should expect her to visit your pet within an hour or half-hour range of the times you request, but not at exactly 3:52 p.m. Most pet sitters are driving all over town taking care of several animals and things come up. Maybe a dog throws up and she has to clean the carpet. Maybe a puppy is taking a long time to go to the bathroom outside. You just never know. Dogs can’t tell time anyway, so don’t worry too much about it as long as your dog doesn’t have to wait too long between visits.

4. Watch the pet sitter handle your dog.

People with powerful breeds tend to be more hesitant to hire a pet sitter. If you are concerned that your hyper pit bull terrier will get away, then watch the pet sitter take your dog for a walk down the block and back. You’ll be able to tell right away if that person is capable of handling your dog. If you are nervous about it, then boarding your dog might be a better option.

5. Provide honest information about your dog.

The pet sitter needs to know about your dog’s special needs. If your dog has some aggression issues, don’t try to hide it. The pet sitter will find out soon enough. She needs to know if your dog has food aggression, if your dog is scared of thunderstorms, lunges after squirrels, has seizures or food allergies. Make a list of these types of things so you don’t forget to share them.

6. Consider hiring a dog walker or dog runner.

My pet-sitting business involves mostly dog running and dog walking. People call me to take their dogs for a run if they are going to be gone for the day. It makes more sense than hiring a long-term sitter. Some pet-sitting businesses offer dog running and dog walking. Some do not.

7. Tip the pet sitter.

Why wouldn’t you want to give a little extra to someone who is taking care of your pet? You should expect exceptional care no matter what, but an extra $5 or $10 might mean your pet gets a longer work or more playtime.

8. Make sure the pet sitter knows how to use your dog’s leash and collar.

Not everyone knows how to use a dog Halti, Gentle Leader, pinch collar or a Flexi leash. Even a professional pet sitter may not know how to use all these tools. I run a Solana Beach pet sitting business, and I have never used an anti-pull harness, for example. Just make sure you show the pet sitter how the training tool is used and which collar you want your dog to wear during walks. Some people want their dogs walked on a harness, others want them walked on a choke collar.

9. Ask how many other dogs the pet sitter will have in her home.

If she throws out a crazy number like 12 or 15 dogs, you might want to think twice about it. How many dogs can one person really take care of without being considered a boarding kennel? There’s nothing wrong with a boarding kennel if that’s what you want. But it’s not OK if you believe your dog will be staying in someone’s home when really he will stay outside in a concrete, chain-link dog run.

Talk with more than one sitter until you find one you are comfortable with. Even in our small-sized town, there are several Solana Beach pet sitters in addition to my business.

10. If your pet will be staying in the pet sitter’s home, ask to see where the dog will be.

This is totally reasonable to ask. You should see where your dog’s kennel or bed will be, what kind of yard she will be in and where she will be left alone. If you have concerns, speak up or find another pet sitter.

What are your concerns about hiring a pet sitter?

Above is Ace’s buddy, Radar, a black cairn terrier. If you are interested in starting a pet-related business, check out my posts on how to start a dog walking business and how to start a pet sitting business.

Tammy Betson

Saturday 21st of May 2016

I run my own dog walking and pet sitting business. I have to tell you this, it amused me! I went to a meet and greet the other day, she had two dogs and a horse she wanted sitting for weekends and maybe up to 4 weeks next year. We sat down to discuss all the animals habits etc and I pulled out my pre- prepared questionnaires for dogs and horses, she made a passing comment on how thorough I was being. At the end of the consultation she pulled out a ring binder, which had pages for each animal, how to use the appliances, set the alarms, what security lights will come on and even what "noises" the house made!! It made me have a silent giggle! I always joke with my clients that the first time I left my dog with my parents when she was still a puppy (now over 10 years old) I left her with a longer note on her habits than I did when I left my children with her!! It is really important to let a sitter know as much as possible about your animals, I have one this weekend who suffers from imaginary fly catching syndrome. My dog has epilepsy so I know the signs for a fitting dog, so if I didn't know it was just a syndrome I might of been caught unaware.


Tuesday 2nd of June 2009

Very good advice, thanks. In my opinion, hiring a pet sitter is a good choice in order to provide your animal the care he deserves.


Wednesday 22nd of April 2009

These advices are very helpful for those who hire a pet sitter for the first time. There are many pet sitter agencies where you can find some one who is trust-worthy and qualified.

Saint Lover

Tuesday 24th of February 2009

Another good tip is to write out a little bit about the dog... likes dislikes habits medical stuff - a little instruction manual... It helps out the person watching your beloved dog.

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 24th of February 2009

Yes, that is a great idea. It will make both sides feel more comfortable, the owner and the sitter.