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Your bags are packed and you’re ready to go! But wait, who’s going to take care of your dog when you’re traveling? If you can’t lasso a friend or relative to pet sit your pup, you can either hire a pet sitter or board your dog. Which option works best for you depends upon your dog’s temperament, health, personality, and of course your budget.
In-Depth Overview on How to Board Your Dog or Hire a Pet Sitter
If you’re going to board your dog, check to see if the pet hotel or kennel is a member of these professional organizations: PACCC (Professional Animal Care Certification Council), OPCLC (Outstanding Pet Care Learning Center formerly American Boarding Kennel Association), or IBSPA (International Boarding & Pet Services Association). These organizations offer classes and certifications in pet care. Ask the organizations what vaccinations they require for boarding. Specifically ask if they require kennel cough (Bordetella) inoculations, if they don’t, move on. You don’t need your dog to pick up a cold when you’re gone.
Ask the pet hotel, boarding facility, kennel or doggy daycare if you can bring your dog’s pet bed and toys to make your dog feel comfortable. Check out the boarding facility and kennels indoor and outdoor play areas. Ask them about ventilation and how often are the play areas cleaned.
Pet Sitting in Your Home
You may decide that dragging dog, dog food, pet bed and toys is too much work, do the pet sitter route instead. Pet sitting has two options: scheduled drop-in visits, or a pet sitter who temporarily lives in your home. If you’re nervous about hosting a stranger in your home, you may want to have them drop in for walks and feeding. Dogs that don’t need a lot of attention—elderly dogs, calm, placid dogs who don’t get into mischief, i.e. destroying property or barking incessantly when alone can handle being alone for long periods of time. Having a pet sitter in your home ensures that your dog has company during the day and night, your house is safer because there’s someone watching over it, and if there’s an emergency; either with your pet or your home, the pet sitter can become your superhero taking care of it in seconds.
How to Choose a Pet Sitter
You might be lulled into thinking that getting a pet sitter’s as easy as ordering delivery. After all, when you open an app or check out a website (Rover, Wag!), there’s tons of sitters looking like they’re saying, “Pick me! Pick me!” You do want the perfect fit for your pup, so take time to interview and meet sitters before you click that “Book Now” button. After all, you’re entrusting your furbaby into someone’s care. You want to make sure that your pet, and you like and trust your pet sitter. A bad pick is like an extended bad blind date, and no one wants that!
Agencies and apps/sites have insurance. Rover has the Rover Guarantee. If you’re booking an individual, find out if they have insurance and/or bonded.
Here’s a list of dos and don’ts to follow when interviewing a pet sitter:
- -Pay attention to the time of day when contacting potential pet sitters. Rover and Wag! sends emails and texts directly to the sitters’ phones the moment you click send. If you hate getting calls/ texts from strangers at weird hours of the day or night, they do too.
- -Read profiles and reviews of potential pet sitters. Some pet sitters only work with certain types of dogs, some pet sitters won’t take care of pets with special needs or medical issues. Take your time to get a feel of what your pup needs when you’re away.
- -Send lots of information in your initial email. Where you live (neighborhood is fine), what your dog is like: friendly, anxious, calm, aggressive, picky eater, how many walks a day, what you expect from a pet sitter and any special issues.
- -If you’re contacting more than one pet sitter, be upfront with the potential sitters. If you have an email exchange with a couple of pet sitters and have narrowed down the search, let the other pet sitters know, politely of course, that you won’t be using them. If you need a pet sitter again, and re-contact the sitters you’ve ghosted, they may not email you back because they think you’re a flake.
- -Set up a meet and greet in your home. While you may be tempted to meet the potential sitter at a dog park or on the street, you don’t want your dog distracted by other dogs if you’re trying to see if the pet sitter and dog like each other. If you’re nervous about meeting a stranger in your home, have a friend sit with you during the meet and greet.
- -Create a list of questions before the meeting. Some questions you may ask are, “How long have you pet sat?” “Have you ever had a medical emergency during a pet sit, and how did you handle it?” “Why do you pet sit?” An experienced pet sitter will more than likely bring up that information, but if they don’t, ask them!
- -Block out at least an hour for a meet and greet. Not only do you want to ask the pet sitter that list of questions you’ve prepped, you want to see how your pet and the sitter interact. If your intuition tells you “Nope!” keep interviewing until you’ve found the perfect match. This is an important meeting, don’t rush it!
- -Be respectful towards the pet sitter. Your pet sitter could be someone who works remotely, and they love to be surrounded by dogs. They could be a college student who misses their own pup. They could be retirees who want to be useful and adore dogs. They could be people who feel that pet sitting is their calling.
- -Let the sitter know what time you you’re leaving and returning.
- -If you’re planning on Skyping with your dog, or want video and photo updates daily, ask the pet sitter if they provide that service.
- -Go over house rules; is the dog allowed on furniture, does your dog sleep on the bed, or not. When going over house rules, ask if the pet sitter minds sharing the bed with the dog.
- -Ask the pet sitter to accompany you on a short walk with you and your dog. During the walk, point out their favorite trees, what streets to avoid (if any), and if they have a special walk routine.
- -Play down or lie about on any medical issues your pet may have. If your pup needs intravenous medication daily, is on lots of meds and/or reacts badly when getting those meds, or has any type of medical issue that would be better treated by a vet tech, hire a vet tech or board your dog at the vet’s office. Lying about medical issues or downplaying them to potential sitters can only cause a disaster.
- -Don’t tell the sitter that your dog is “reactive,” if they are, in fact, aggressive. If your dog has tried to attack other dogs when you’re walking them, let them know what they’re in during the pet sit.
- -If your dog bites or nips strangers, tell them in the introductory email. The last thing you want is a potential pet sitter to walk out of a meet and greet after your dog’s attempted to bite them.
- -If you have cameras or nanny cams in the house, let the pet sitter know ahead of time. Yes, you want to make sure your pet is safe. However, if the pet sitter is walking around in a bathrobe or less, and then finds out you’ve filmed them, you could get into legal trouble.
- -Don’t be rude. You’re hiring someone to take care of your dog. Acting as if the pet sitter is either “less than,” or stupid, is not a way to get or keep a pet sitter.
- -Don’t make unnecessary demands; don’t expect the pet sitter to clean your house top-to-bottom, run errands for you, or act as a personal assistant. If you’re going away for more than a weekend, more than likely, the pet sitter will, on their own, clean the house before you come home. After all, they’ve lived in your home for a week or more. If you expect them to do more than take care of the dog, tell them during the meet and greet. Offer to pay more for those services. If you’re not going to pay more for extra work, do not expect them to do it.
- After booking your sitter, meet with them again to go over where they can find treats, poop bags, and of course pots and pans in your home. If they’re going to be sleeping on an airbed, show them where it is. When you leave, print out important information that includes walk and meal times, vet’s name and number and anything else that’s needed. If there’s an emergency and time is of the essence, having that information right in front of the sitter could save your pet’s life.
If you’ll be gone from home for two weeks or longer, or if you’re using the same sitter for a series of trips, tip them. Agencies, apps, and websites take a cut, anywhere from 20% on up for pet sitting bookings. If you appreciate your sitter, show them. The kinder you are to them, the kinder they’ll be with you, and will happily work with you on last-minute emergencies.
After You’re Back From Your Trip:
If you were happy with your pet sitter, leave a review. Reviews are currency in this industry. If your pet sitter did a great job, let the world know!
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