Hiring somebody to care for your furry companion can be stressful.
To ease your mind and ensure your pet stays safe and has fun while you're away, follow these simple must-do steps.
Do a “Meet and Greet” Before You Do Anything Else
First rule of thumb for choosing the right petsitter: always make sure both parties like one another and that it’s a good fit, says Liz Illg, owner of Puff & Fluff Pet Sitting & Grooming in Phoenix AZ. “The unique part about hiring a pet sitter is that you are dealing with two clients, the human and the dog,” Illg says. “It’s important that the pet sitter is willing to work with both parties during the contract of time.”
The meet and great is also a great time to make sure your sitter is punctual and shows up on time to meet and greets as well as to pick up your key and go over any last minute instructions, says Ashley Jacobs, CEO/Founder of Sitting for a Cause, a website that connects pet owners with pet sitters. “The last thing you want is to worry about whether or not your pet was let out for their potty break on time or if they received their meds on time,” Jacob adds.
Share Enough Information
While you probably don't have to be reminded to let the petsitter know where the food and the toys are stored, there is additional information she should know as well. An important piece of that information is connected to your pet's schedule. “From feeding to potty breaks to when and where they like to exercise, knowing your pet's schedule is vital so that the sitter can keep things as normal as possible during your absence,” says Jacobs.
Your petsitter should also get “your contact info, your vet's information, a veterinary release they can use in case there is a major emergency, and the contact information for service providers should something go wrong with your home,” Jacobs adds.
Here's something else Jacobs says pet owners often forget to tell the sitter: the house rules and the pet's quirks. For example, is the dog allowed on the furniture? “Does he like to unroll the toilet paper in the bathroom or knock things off counters?” Jacobs asks. “Details like this can help a sitter avoid unnecessary messes or accidents while you are away.”
Other important things to share with the petsitter: whether the pet can leave the house with the pet sitter to go out on a outing and whether he gets along with other pets, Illg points out. “Also, if there is a holiday with fireworks, how does your pet handle the noise and what level of activity your pet needs,” Illg adds. These questions will make the process easier for everybody and ensure your pet receives the best possible care while you're away.
Verify Credentials if Possible
While there are no official certifications petsitters need to pass to start working in the field, that doesn't mean there aren't courses out there they could take. A pet sitter who's certified in Pet First Aid or has taken classes in pet psychology or animal care will be more prepared to deal with animals than somebody who's just jumping into it. “As a business owner, I feel being insured and bonded is important,” says Chris Herath, owner of Atlantic Pet Sitting in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. “It protects both myself and my clients.”
Jacobs also recommends asking potential pet sitters about their experience and whether they can provide references. “Ask if they have experience caring for pets like yours, especially if your pet has behavioral concerns or medical needs,” Jacobs says. “Experience alone is not enough, you need a sitter who has experience with pets similar to yours.”
Don't Ignore Deal Breakers
When it comes to things that should be “deal breakers,” Herath says his biggest pet peeves are communication and dependability. “Unfortunately, I do hear of sitters just not showing up and providing care,” Herath says. “And if you can’t get in touch with your pet sitter before, during, or after pet care then it’s time to find another provider.”
In addition to those main points, Jacobs adds that a pet sitter who can't seem to be able to arrive on time is a bad sign. “Another deal breaker is if your sitter doesn't ask questions to get to know your pet and their routine,” Jacobs says. “Or if your sitter doesn't seem to get along with your pet.”
Above all, make sure you feel comfortable with the person you're leaving in charge of your pets. “If you just get a bad vibe, always trust your gut,” Jacobs says.
Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and avid adventurer. She's gone hiking in Siberia, snorkeling in Thailand, and canoeing in the Mekong River. She also loves caves and has been known to get lost in one or five around the world. Diana's work has been published in the Discovery Channel website, Yahoo!, Popular Mechanics, and more. You can read more of her work on her website at www.dianabocco.com