Finding someone you can trust to take care of your furry family member while you’re away can be a daunting task. However, with some preparation and research, you can find the perfect dog sitter to give your pup the love and care they need in your absence. Follow these tips to make the process as smooth as possible.
Define Your Needs
Before beginning your search, take some time to consider what exactly you need from a sitter. Things like:
How long will you be gone?
If it’s just an overnight trip, you likely only need someone to stop by once a day to feed, walk, and play with your dog. For longer trips, you may want someone to stay at your home and provide full-time care.
Does your dog have any special needs?
For example, older dogs may need medications administered or more frequent potty breaks. Puppies require more supervision and training reinforcement. Make a list of your dog’s care requirements to share with potential sitters.
Do you need any other pet care services?
Many sitters can also feed cats, fish, birds, or other pets while you’re away. Know all the duties you’d like them to handle before you start your search.
Ask Friends and Family for Recommendations
One of the best ways to find a qualified, trustworthy sitter is through word-of-mouth from other pet owners. Ask your network:
Who do you use to watch your pets when you travel?
Friends and neighbors who are pleased with their sitter will likely be happy to pass along their contact information.
Can I speak with them and ask how their experience was?
Getting firsthand reviews can give you greater peace of mind before hiring someone.
Would you trust them to take care of your pet again?
Knowing someone is willing to rehire a sitter is a good sign of their capabilities.
Research Pet Sitters in Your Area
Here are some places to look for professional, licensed sitters in your community:
Pet sitter directories like Rover or Care.com
Browse profiles, reviews, and rates then contact candidates who seem like a good fit.
Ask your vet clinic for recommendations
Vet techs often moonlight as pet sitters and already have animal handling experience.
Check with local kennels or boarding facilities
Some have staff members who offer in-home sitting services.
Search neighborhood Facebook groups and Nextdoor
Neighbors may advertise pet care services on local community boards.
Interview Potential Candidates
Once you’ve compiled a list, take time to interview sitters before making a hiring decision:
Ask about their background and experience
How long have they been a pet sitter? Do they have formal training? Have they cared for dogs similar to yours? You want someone knowledgeable and competent.
Request references from previous clients
Reputable sitters should provide contact info for past customers who can vouch for them. Take time to call or email a few references to ask how their pets were cared for.
Discuss your dog’s routine and needs
Explain your dog’s usual schedule, personality quirks, commands, favorite games – anything the sitter should know. Also, discuss any medications or health issues.
Clearly outline your expectations
How often do you want walks, feeding, playtime, and potty breaks? Will they stay overnight or just visit daily? Be very specific about what duties you expect.
Ask about emergency protocols
Know what steps they’ll take in a crisis like a medical emergency or escape. You want someone who can keep a cool head in stressful situations.
Do a Trial Run
Before entrusting your pet to a new sitter for an extended period, do a test run:
Hire them for a short overnight gig
This gives you a chance to see how well your dog responds to them and their care style without the stress of a longer commitment.
Install pet cams to remotely monitor the sitter
Watch real-time videos of them interacting with your dog so you can spot any potential issues or get peace of mind.
Assess how well they followed your instructions
Did they stick to your dog’s schedule and fulfill all duties as discussed? A trial run shows you their reliability.
Check for any signs of stress in your dog
A distressed or anxious pup may indicate poor compatibility with the sitter. Pay attention to their mood and behavior.
Request a report card at the end
Have the sitter provide updates on your dog’s activity and care during their trial run. This helps you evaluate their skills.
Secure an Agreement
Before officially booking your dates, get everything in writing:
Confirm the booking dates and exact services to be provided
Outline start and end dates plus daily duties like walking, feeding times, medication administration, etc.
Agree on a service rate
Compare their fees to average pet sitting rates in your area. Many charge $15-$25 per 30-minute visit or $50+ per overnight stay.
Sign a pet sitter contract
This should define expectations, consent for emergencies, and liability terms in case of injury or damages. Having a formal contract protects both parties.
Share vet contact info and permission for care
Provide your vet’s office number and written authorization so the sitter can make care decisions or take your pet in for treatment if an emergency arises while you’re away.
Finding a trusting and caring sitter takes diligence and effort upfront, but gives you priceless peace of mind while traveling. Take it slow in your search, do in-depth interviews, and watch for red flags. With the right person, you can relax knowing your furry family member is in good hands when you’re gone.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hiring a Dog Sitter
Q: How early should I start looking for a sitter before a trip?
A: It’s best to begin your search 1-2 months in advance so you have time to thoroughly vet candidates, do trial runs, and make the best choice. Don’t wait until right before your travels.
Q: What qualifications should I look for in a dog sitter?
A: ideal sitters have prior experience caring for pets, training in animal first aid/CPR, credentials from a service like Pet Sitters International, bonding and obedience knowledge, and genuine affection for animals.
Q: What questions should I ask potential sitters?
A: Ask about their animal care experience, training, what services they provide, if they have references, their emergency protocols, how they handle medical issues, their availability, and rates. Get a sense of their competence and reliability.
Q: What are the warning signs of a bad dog sitter I should watch for?
A: Red flags include no experience or training, inability to provide references, poor communication, claims to “love dogs” but no real qualifications, seeming impatient or unkind to your dog, and not being dependable or professional.
Q: Should I inform my neighbors that I will have a dog sitter? **
A: Yes, it’s courteous to give neighbors a heads-up that someone unfamiliar will be entering your home to care for your pet. Provide the sitter’s name, photo, car description, and your contact info in case of any concerns.