When you’re choosing a dog sitter, you’re looking for the same qualities parents need in a babysitter. You want a sitter who’s reliable, trustworthy and capable of caring for your pet in an emergency. Finding a reliable dog sitter takes time, but it is well worth the effort.
Look for a dog sitter well in advance of when you need sitting services. Trying to arrange sitting on short notice makes it difficult to select an ideal candidate, and you don't want to settle for second best.
You can locate possible dog sitters by asking for recommendations from friends and other dog owners, or you can use online services such as the National Association of Professional Pet Sitter’s database. The NAPPS recommends checking a dog sitter’s website to review their fees, service area, availability and services offered.
Interviewing Dog Sitters
Develop a list of questions before interviewing sitters, so you can easily compare each applicant’s answers. If possible, conduct the interview with your dog present, to see how comfortable the sitter and your pet are with one another.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recommends you ask for proof the sitter is bonded and has commercial liability insurance. A bonded sitter protects you against theft. Liability insurance protects you against accidents or negligence.
Professional dog sitters should provide evidence of a criminal background check with no history of illegal activity. Many sitters will offer this information without being asked, as they know clients have security concerns.
Additionally, ask the following questions:
- Can the sitter provide references?
- Does the sitter have a backup in place if she cannot perform her services?
- Does the sitter have an arrangement for emergency care with a local vet?
- Does the sitter include dog walking, grooming, training and playtime in her services?
- How many hours a day will the sitter devote to your dog?
- Is the sitter available by email or telephone on a daily basis?
- What training has the sitter completed?
During the interview, watch to see if the sitter takes notes about your pet’s likes, medical conditions, habits, favorite toys and other information. Doing so suggests a level of involvement that not all applicants show.
Contracts and Services
A professional dog sitter should provide a written contract outlining all services, fees and related information. Read any contract carefully and feel free to ask questions. A well-written contract lets you know exactly what to expect from the sitter.
Sitters should provide at least three references. Call each reference and ask how the person rates the sitter, how their dog reacted to the sitter, how the sitter reacted to emergencies or unexpected events and whether or not the reference would use the sitter in the future.
Start With a Test Trip
The Humane Society recommends taking a short “test trip” before leaving your dog with a sitter for longer periods. Hire the sitter to look after your dog for a weekend. Evaluate how well the sitter performs her duties and how comfortable your dog seems on your return. If any problems or difficulties occur, you can resolve them before leaving for a longer trip.
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"Choosing a Pet Sitter." Humanesociety.org. Humane Society of the United States, 8 June 2011. Web. 13 June 2013. <http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/choosing_pet_sitter.html>.
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"Hiring a Pet Sitter." Pet Sitters. National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, 2013. Web. 13 June 2013. <http://www.petsitters.org/hiring_a_pet_sitter.php>.
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