From the Search to the Interview: How to Find the Perfect Dog Sitter
Planning a special getaway this summer? Don’t forget to make arrangements for the furry members of your family!
We understand that leaving your dog with someone new can be a nerve-wracking experience—for you and your pup. This is why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to finding the perfect sitter for your canine companion. Check out these pro tips so you can fully enjoy that vacation you’ve been waiting for.
Step # 1: Get clear on the TYPE of dog sitting services you want
Pet sitting is not a one size fits all deal. Every sitter operates differently, so it’s important to figure out exactly what services you’re looking for. Ask yourself: what type of sitter best suits your dog’s unique needs?
Do you want a sitter to stay in your own home, or would you prefer bringing your dog to a sitter’s home? What about a sitter who stops over in 30-minute increments a couple of times per day? Think about your dog’s personality and preferences. A particularly anxious dog may fare better in his own home, while others will have no problem spending a long weekend somewhere new.
You’ll also need to consider the level of service you prefer. This can vary greatly from sitter to sitter. Some dog sitters will include little extras such as grooming, training, outdoor exercise, and even weight loss regimens. Do you need someone to water your plants or bring in the mail? Plenty of pet sitters include these duties with their services.
Where to find a professional pet sitter
Ok, so you’ve decided on the type of sitter you want—now where can you find one? Here are a few reliable sources:
- Ask your vet: A sitter who has a professional rapport with your vet should be at the top of your list. You may even discover that staff members at your vet’s office offer pet sitting services on the side.
- Ask fellow pet owners: Friends who’ve had a positive experience with a sitter are a great resource to find someone you can trust.
- Go online: Pet Sitters International offers an easy-to-search database of certified professionals where you’ll find sitters who are as dedicated to your pet’s safety and well-being as you are. The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) is another solid organization to find a trustworthy sitter.
- There’s an App for that! The Grumble Dog App makes finding responsible pet sitters a breeze. Plug in your location and scroll through the results to find the professional who’s right for you!
10 Interview questions you should ask potential dog sitters
While being an animal-lover is a definite plus, it doesn’t exactly qualify someone to handle an emergency situation. And, as we all know, when you’re dealing with pets, the unexpected can certainly occur. Interviewing potential caretakers will help you weed out inexperienced sitters, so you can be confident that your dog is in good hands.
Before you dive into the nitty-gritty of questioning, set up a meet-and-greet in your home or a public place where you can observe how the sitter interacts with your dog. This trial period is eye-opening, and will ultimately help you gauge how well someone gets along with your beloved pooch. Is the sitter friendly and comfortable around your pup? And—more importantly—is your dog happy and comfortable around him?
This initial meeting is critical because it helps you and the sitter assess whether or not this is a good fit. Keep in mind that while most pet sitters will happily schedule a meet-and-greet for free, some will charge a nominal fee to compensate for their time and travel.
Once you’re pleased with how the sitter interacts with your dog, it’s time to dig deeper. Use the following questions for a successful interview.
1. Do you like pet-sitting?
This may seem like a silly question, but trust us—you want to leave your dog with someone who enjoys taking care of him.
It’s not unheard of for someone to get into pet-sitting because it’s an easy way to make cash that requires very little skill or knowledge. You don’t want someone like that. You want someone who adores animals and will dote on your dog as if he were their own.
2. What kind of experience do you have?
Sure, you could take the easy route and simply leave your pup with your dog-loving niece or friendly neighbor. But the truth is—you’ll feel more at ease leaving your pet with someone who has experience dealing with unexpected situations.
Ask the sitter:
- How long have you been dog sitting?
- Do you have pet-specific training (such as first aid or CPR)?
- Do you have experience with special needs pets (if applicable)?
3. Do you have references?
A pet sitter who takes their business seriously will be able to procure a list of clients willing to vouch for their professionalism. The feedback you’ll get from other clients will form a clear picture of how reliable the sitter is and what you can expect should you hire him.
4. Are you insured?
This will cover expensive accidents that could occur while you’re away. If your pet requires emergency medical attention, for instance, insurance means you won’t be arriving home to a hefty medical bill.
5. What is included (and NOT included) in your rates?
Image via Pixabay
Make sure you understand what you’re paying for. Beyond their daily rate, some sitters will charge fees for additional services such as watering plants, taking your dog to the park, or tidying up the house.
Find out what their payment terms are as well. Do they require a deposit beforehand? Or will you pay-in-full after you return home? Avoid complications by getting money issues squared away ahead of time.
6. Will you provide a contract?
A well-written contract will clear up any misinformation and set expectations about the duties your sitter will perform. The document should cover topics such as emergency care, payment terms, and communication plans. Things will run more smoothly if everyone is on the same page.
7. How would you handle an emergency?
An experienced sitter will have a plan in place should a crisis occur, whether it’s a medical mishap or a runaway dog. Make sure you provide the sitter with your vet’s contact info and let them know where the nearest emergency vet office is located.
8. How much time will you spend with my dog?
If you’re hiring someone to make drop-in visits, find out how long you can expect your sitter to stay with your dog. If you feel more comfortable with a longer visit, ask your sitter if this is an option with additional compensation.
If, on the other hand, the sitter will be staying in your own home, you’ll want to stick to your dog’s routine as much as possible. If your dog is used to having a full-time companion in the house, try to find a sitter who is able to accommodate this.
9. Are you comfortable taking care of my dog’s special needs?
Be upfront about any special needs your dog may have. This includes things like medication or specially prepared food. Make sure the person you hire is comfortable handling these extra details.
10. What’s the best way to stay in touch?
Establish a method for keeping in contact with your sitter while you’re away. Seasoned sitters will have a system in place to keep you up-to-date on your dog’s wellbeing, whether it’s a quick phone call or a daily text. If your sitter is willing to send them, regular photos of your pet are a good way to alleviate any anxiety you have with leaving your pet behind.
What you need to give your dog sitter
To ensure a safe and pleasant experience for everyone, make sure you supply your pet sitter with the following:
- Contact info: include your cell number (and the number of someone traveling with you, as a backup), your hotel info, your vet’s info, an emergency vet number, and the number of local family members or friends (in case you can’t be reached).
- Your dog’s medical history: Notify your sitter of any known allergies or meds your dog takes (with instructions for administering them). Also let your sitter know if your dog is prone to things like seizures or heatstroke.
- A detailed account of your dog’s routine: Fill your sitter in on any noteworthy habits or preferences your dog may have. Where does your pooch normally sleep? Does he wolf down his meals or does he prefer to graze all day? Is he a rascally escape artist? How does he react to other dogs during walks? Knowing these little details will make all the difference for your sitter and your pet.
- Feeding instructions: write out a thorough description of how much and how often your dog needs to be fed.
- Food, bowls, toys, and leashes: keep any dog-related necessities handy in one centralized place, so your sitter can find what he needs when he needs it.
- House keys: give your sitter a set of keys so they can lock up if they need to leave the house.
We get it—leaving your pet with a sitter for the first time can be majorly unnerving. They are part of your family, after all. Just take your time interviewing potential candidates—your dog’s perfect sitter is out there.