As much as we love our dogs, unfortunately, we can’t take Fido with us everywhere. Business trips pop up, vacations call, and then there are long days spent exploring…these are just a handful of the reasons why you need a plan for your pet while you’re away.
Ta-da! This is when pet sitters can truly save the day. They’re a great alternative to pricey kennels and afford your pets the opportunity to remain in the cozy, familiar confines of home. No need for your dogs to squeeze into tight crates 24/7, or deal with a potentially high ratio of caregivers to pets. Nope. Pet sitters give your animal buddies the personal attention they crave, in the environment they know better than all others. (Plus, pet sitters can be a surprisingly affordable alternative to posh pet hotels).
To get the intel on pet sitter best practices, we spoke with Jessica Johnson, a pet sitter with Rover who has more than 10 years of experience in pet sitting.
Where to Find Your Pet Sitter
First, how do you even get connected with a pet sitter? Of course, you can knock on your neighbor’s door if you’re lucky enough to have someone nearby that you trust and who may be game to take on your pet brood. You can also ask a friend. But feeding your pets or walking your dog is a lot to ask of a busy adult. And, the job may be too much for the kid next door.
Herein lies the beauty of a pet sitter: there are people who do this all the time and dang, they’re good at it! And, hiring a pet sitter and formalizing the relationship creates a whole new level of service and expectations. (*Ahem*, you get what you pay for). A good place to start: get a referral through a friend or ask your vet for a reputable pet sitter.
Or—(and this is our favorite way to go, of course)—you can put technology to work for you and rely on an app to source a local pro. For example, Jessica works with Rover, a website and app that makes it easy to find pet sitters, communicate with them, pay them and more. (Bonus points for Rover: they do background checks on all their sitters). Rover is one of many in the space, making it easier than ever to link to folks with adore dogs and love taking care of them.
Show Them the Ropes
“The first step is usually a meet and greet,” Jessica explained. “Depending on the pet owner and the pet, this can happen at their house or at a local park.”
So, no, you don’t just hand over your keys to a stranger—you get to meet and evaluate them first, and then walk them through how you like to get things done. Whew!
This initial meeting may be a few minutes, or it could take a solid hour or so. Every situation is unique, just like every dog has his own personality quirks. For example, if your dog has a complex care plan and requires numerous medications, the initial meeting may run longer than a meet and greet for an ‘average’ canine.
For at home visits, Jessica is shown around the home, given instructions for food, medications, emergency numbers and much more. It’s an opportunity for both parties to ask questions, get comfortable and exchange information.
Tell Them Everything (Yes, Everything)
Which is a great segue to our next point: there can never be too much information exchanged. No detail is too simple, obvious or unimportant. If you’re going out of town and leaving your pooch in the hands of another, it’s time to dish out the details.
It’s good practice to think of your pet with fresh eyes and tell your dog sitter the things that you may consider basic. In fact, this is so critical that Jessica created a form to capture information from new clients, covering topics such as:
- Feeding: where is food located?
- Treats: what are the rules?
- Daily habits: how long can the dog be left alone? What locations in the house are off limits?
- Cats: are they indoor or outdoor kitties?
- Dog walking: what’s the dog’s favorite route? How long should walks be?
- Supplies: what type of leash is best?
- Vet info: What is the number of your vet?
- Risky behaviors: is your animal prone to behaviors like digging in the trash or chewing on furniture? Have they ever tried to escape?
- Poop: what’s the routine with picking up and disposing of the gifts our pets leave us in the yard.
“I don’t know a dog’s behavior, so I ask a lot of questions,” Jessica said. “If I don’t know your pet, I don’t know what’s strange or if they are acting unusual.”
When the Unexpected Happens
We never think it’s going to happen to us, but emergencies happen. Runway dogs, medical emergencies, damage to the house. Anything can happen. The good news is there are several things you can do to help your pet sitter should the unexpected occur.
“I have some clients who put a retainer at the vet just in case something happens. Then I don’t have to worry about trying to pay for it,” Jessica said. “So, they leave their credit card information with the vet, because you never know.”
Consider situations such as:
- How do you want your pet sitter to react if your pet gets lost? For example, does your dog have a chip that the sitter should know about?
- What happens if your dog gets sick? Does your pet sitter have permission to get your pet treated, and how should they pay for the treatment?
- What happens in the case of a lock-out?
- What happens in the event of a house emergency, like a flood?
It’s All About the Right Fit
Just like dating, you may go through a few pet sitters before you find one that you fall for. But the number one sign you’ve found the perfect match? You can be away and enjoying that vacation or head down in your work—because you know that your dog is happy, healthy and well cared for.
And just like that, all is right with the world.