Many owners want to take the dog everywhere they go but in reality that’s not always possible. Many owners prefer finding a responsible, professional individual to take care of their dog instead of using a boarding facility. There are many things to consider before hiring a pet sitter. Here are ten tips on finding a qualified and professional pet sitter to care for your dog.
1. Ask your veterinarian: A qualified dog sitter should have a support network in place. Many veterinarians have a list of sitters they are willing to recommend. For dogs with special needs or in their senior years, a dog sitter with an established relationship with your vet provides peace of mind should your dog need medical treatment or there’s an emergency while you’re away.
2. Word of Mouth: Fellow pet owners or animal trainers who have used the sitter will gladly recommend them to you. Instead of finding a sitter or sitting service on-line or in an ad, ask fellow pet owners if they have a sitter they would recommend.
3. Prepare for the interview: Plan ahead before you meet the sitter. Compile a list of questions or information to share prior to the interview to cover your expectations and to minimize misunderstandings. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has a comprehensive list of qualifications you can use to screen potential pet sitters. Important questions to ask are: Can they provide written proof of commercial liability insurance coverage to cover accidents and negligence? Are they bonded to protect against theft by a pet sitter or employees?
4. Ask for references:
A qualified and responsible pet sitter will have a list of both regular clients and pet care services that would be willing to vouch for their professionalism. When provided with references to speak with, be sure to ask questions that cater specifically to your expectations and your pet’s needs.
5. Select a Certified Pet Sitter: There is an alternative to asking friends, veterinarians or family for a pet sitter recommendation. There are certified pet sitters. Two agencies who train and certify pet sitters are: The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS), or Pet Sitters International (PSI). PSI even has a “Pet Sitter of the Year” award for excellence, which has been granted since 1995.
6. Double check the contract: After a decision has been made to hire the pet sitter, if a contract is provided, read the entire contract to confirm that everything discussed and all services agreed upon are correct and included in the contract. The pet sitter will have total access to your home, belongings, in addition to trusting them to take care of your dog.
7. Have the sitter and dog meet before hiring: The person selected should willingly agree to meet your dog before you finalize the arrangements. During the visit, observe how well your dog interacts with the sitter. Their time together should be long enough for the dog to begin to feel familiar with the sitter and to observe their relationship.
8. Discuss emergency plans: Unforeseen accidents or medical problems may come up while away. The pet sitter should have resources and experience to provide unexpected care for your dog. If your dog has special needs or is a senior, discuss any medications the dogs may require, special feeding instructions or other health-related situations. Provide a list of medications or special instructions; don’t leave it to chance for the sitter to remember. Also provide the name and phone number of the dog’s veterinarian and the name, address and phone number of 24-hour emergency facilities close to your home.
9. Know what services you will need: Pet sitters can provide an array of services. Some will water plants, gather mail, collect the newspaper or other incidentals while you’re away. Depending on their background, some may provide grooming service, take the dog on walks, offer play time or other forms of outdoor exercise. If the sitter will be taking the dog from the home, make sure harness and leash are easy to find. If your dog is use to a regular walk, make sure to share how often and long the dog typically walks.
10. Alternative to pet sitter: There are always times when unplanned situations may cause the pet sitter to cancel due to illness, death in their family, etc. Pet sitters with an established reputation and solid network should be able to suggest a back-up housing plan for your dog. If the sitter recommends a boarding facility, confirm that the pet sitter has a relationship with the facility. In such cases, the facility will have equally stringent standards for working with qualified pet sitters.
It’s important to factor in what is best for your dog. Although it may seem sensible to take the dog along on a trip, such a decision may not be beneficial to the dog. Dogs like routine, familiarity and may not be comfortable roaming the country. Ideally, the best place for your dog when you are away is for the dog to remain in their own home. Planning ahead finding a pet sitter, interviewing them and having your dog spend time ahead of your departure may be the best solution for you to enjoy your time away knowing your dog is safe and happy at home.
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