Planning the perfect vacation not only means finding a secluded beach getaway or a cozy cabin in a quaint mountain town where you can go and relax; it also involves choosing a pet sitter and planning for the care of your dog (and other pets) while you are away from home. Recently, many hotels and resorts have become pet friendly so you can bring your dog with you, but sometimes it’s just not possible to bring your furry family members along. Perhaps you have an older dog or a dog with health issues, or maybe your dog doesn’t like to travel and becomes scared or anxious in new places. In many cases, your dog might be happier left at home in his familiar surroundings, so you’ll need to spend some time interviewing and choosing a pet sitter that you can trust while you’re away. Choosing a pet sitter is a big decision, as you want to be sure that your dog is happy, healthy and safe while you’re gone. After all, you’re going to have a much more relaxing time on your vacation knowing that you’ve found a responsible dog sitter who will take good care of your dog. Finding the right person may take some time, especially during the summer time and during holidays, so you’ll want to start your search well in advance before its time to leave for your trip.
Before you begin looking for and choosing a pet sitter, make a clear list of what you expect and need. You probably want someone who will not only check in on your dog several times during the day, but you might also want someone who can stay overnight to watch over your dog and take care of your home. You might want someone who has experience with a specific dog breed, or has experience with large dogs. Or you might have a dog with special needs such as incontinence, diabetes or arthritis and you’ll need a dog sitter who is able to administer medications or give insulin shots. Or perhaps you have a variety of pets including birds, cats, dogs or horses and you need a pet sitter who has experience with different types of animals. Write down everything you think you’ll need from a pet sitter, including how many visits per day you want, whether or not you want your dog walked or groomed, etc.
Advantages To In-home Care
For many people, hiring a pet sitter to come to your home has a number of benefits. In addition to providing in-home care for your dog while you’re gone, most dog sitters offer additional services, such as bringing in the mail or watering the plants. A big advantage to hiring a pet sitter is that your dog will be in an environment that he knows the best, and he can stick to his regular diet and routine while you are away. Many dogs can become stressed when they’re traveling or stay in unfamiliar places such as boarding facilities where they’re with other animals that they don’t know. A pet sitter will be able to spend time playing with your dog or taking him for walks; some pet sitters also offer grooming or training as part of their services. For older dogs or dogs with special needs, a pet sitter will be able to monitor food and water intake, assist dogs up or down stairs, and administer medications as needed. In addition to knowing that your dog is being well cared for at your home, you will also have the extra benefit of knowing that your house is being taken care of as well. Many pet sitters will stay at your home overnight, or if they are stopping by for visits during the day, they can establish a routine of bringing in the newspaper and turning on lights in the house so that your home doesn’t appear vacant while you’re gone.
Where To Find A Pet Sitter
There are several places where you can look for pet sitters, but timing is everything. Good pet sitters become busy very quickly, especially during the summer or during holidays. So you’ll want to plan well in advance and not wait until the last minute to try to find a pet sitter. It’s probably going to take some time to find the right one, so if you don’t immediately find a sitter that truly fits your needs, then the best advice is to keep looking. After all, you’re entrusting the care of your beloved dog with this person, so you want to make sure you’ve found someone you feel completely comfortable with.
Professional Referrals – One of the best places to start your search is by asking your veterinarian, dog trainer, groomer, or other pet-related businesses for referrals. A good pet sitter will be well connected and networked with pet businesses, so this is a great place to start. Many vet techs provide pet sitting services, so if you have a dog with special needs then using the services of a vet tech would be a good choice. A pet sitter with a vet tech background would be able to administer medication or give insulin shots, plus they would be able to keep a close eye on monitoring behavioral or physical changes in your dog and identify medical emergencies if needed.
Word of Mouth – Checking with friends, family members, co-workers or neighbors for referrals is another great way to help you find a pet sitter. You can also speak with people you know at your local pet store, or next time you’re out walking your dog or visiting your local dog park, ask other people with dogs if they have a pet sitter they can recommend. Word of mouth referrals are especially good because you can ask for specifics as to what they liked (or did not like) about the service.
Pet Sitter Resources – You can also search online for pet sitting services that are available in your area. Yelp is one place to start your online search and you’ll be able to see online reviews posted by other pet owners who have used the services. Sites such as National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, Pet Sitters International or DogVacay let you look up pet sitters by zip code, plus they let you filter by services offered such as overnight sitting, grooming, etc. By using the criteria specific to your needs, you’ll then be able to narrow your choices and start interviewing potential pet sitters.
Before you make your final decision on choosing a pet sitter, you’ll want to interview several candidates to see who’s the best fit for you and for your dog. You’ll want to start first with a phone interview, then ask for (and follow up with) referrals, and lastly you’ll want to meet with the potential sitter in person. Have a list of questions ready before you start calling the pet sitters, and make sure you’re clear on what you want covered as well as any special needs your dog may have. Here is a pet sitter interview check list that you can print out and use for your interviews. You’ll want to find out whether or not the pet sitter is licensed and bonded or is a member of a professional pet sitting association. You’ll also want to request at least 3 client references that you can call for referrals. Ask the pet sitter how long they have been pet sitting, and what extra services they can offer such as bringing in the mail or watering plants. Also find out whether or not they charge extra for these services. Discuss with the pet sitter services you’ll need such as dog walking or administering medications; also let them know how they should spend their time with your dog, such as walking, feeding, cleaning, playtime, grooming, etc. If your dog has any behavioral or medical issues, make sure you’re honest and discuss these with the pet sitter, too. Ask the pet sitter if they have a backup plan in case they’re not able to pet sit due to a personal emergency, and discuss an emergency plan with the pet sitter in case your dog becomes ill. Some of the best questions to ask are open-ended questions so you can observe the pet sitter’s response and enthusiasm for dogs. Questions such as “why do you like being a pet sitter” or “will you play with my dog” will let you know that the person actually enjoys dogs, and that’s it’s not just a way to earn some extra cash. Also, check out their social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Linked In. Remember – the interview is not only about you and your pet, but the pet sitter should also be asking questions, too. If the candidate doesn’t seem interested or curious about your pets, then this person might not be a good fit for you. The interview process is very much the same as if you were interviewing a babysitter or a nanny; you want to make sure that you’re leaving your dog with a responsible, trust-worthy person while you’re on vacation.
Make sure to call the references following the interview process. A good pet sitter will always have a list of regular clients that you can call and ask questions about the candidate’s pet sitting services. When you call the references, ask questions that are specific to your needs and expectations, ask them if they were satisfied with the pet sitting services and whether or not they would hire that individual again.
Meet And Greet
Lastly, you’ll want to arrange at-home meetings with the top potential candidates. Even though everything might sound fine from the interview and from references, you’ll still want to see how your dog feels about the person. During the meeting, watch how the pet sitter interacts with your dog and observe how your dog responds to the pet sitter. It’s better to find out in advance how your dog reacts to the potential pet sitter instead of finding out after you leave town that your dog and the pet sitter aren’t comfortable together. Also, watch how the candidate interacts with your dog – is she comfortable playing and being around your dog? And how does your dog react – is he comfortable with this person as well? If you have enough time, try setting up a short trial visit to see how things go. Even if it’s just for the day while you’re at work, this is a good way to see if there are any questions or problems that come up while you’re still available locally.
Preparing For The Sitter
Once you’ve selected your pet sitter, ask them to email a contract to you and review it before you leave. It should clearly state what to expect from the sitter, including all of the services that will be provided, the number of days and number of visits per day the pet sitter will provide, plus a list of rates and cancellation policy.
Before you leave, you’ll want to write down all of the responsibilities that you’ll need from the pet sitter, including instructions for feeding and what supplements (such as joint supplements) your dog needs. You’ll also want to write down instructions on cleaning up, playtime, exercise and your dog’s basic daily routine. You’ll also want to provide contact information, phone numbers and addresses of your vet, local animal hospital, and friends or neighbors. Make sure your dog’s food and water bowl are out in the open and easy to find, and stock up on extra food, supplies and medications in case for some reason you’re delayed in your return. Ask the pet sitter to call or text with daily updates – some pet sitters will text photos of your pets to you or even set up a FaceTime session, which is always a nice touch! In addition to giving the pet sitter the keys to your home (and maybe leaving an extra set in a hidden place or with a neighbor), show the pet sitter the safety features of your house such as the circuit breaker, water shut off valve and security system. Here is a list that you can print out and use to help you prepare for your trip.
Whether you’re gone for just a few hours or for a couple of days, choosing a pet sitter to take care of your four-legged companion is an important decision. By spending some extra time and doing some research in advance, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your trip knowing that you’ve found a pet sitter that is a good match for you and your dog. Do you have any tips to add in finding a good pet sitter?
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