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Hiring a Pet Sitter: 5 Tips for Success

Hiring a Pet Sitter: 5 Tips for Success

As much as we love our dogs, unfortunately, we can’t always take them with us when we leave. Business trips and vacations mean we're gone for days.  Sometimes, you are just going to be gone for a long day and want someone to care for your dog or cat. 
A pet sitter can truly save the day. They’re a great alternative to pricey kennels and afford your pets the opportunity to remain in the cozy, familiar confines of home. Pet sitters give your animal buddies the personal attention they crave, in the environment they know better than all others. To get the intel on pet sitter best practices, we spoke with Jessica Johnson, a pet sitter with Rover who has more than 10 years of experience in pet sitting.
man looking at phone sitting next to cat on couch

Learn How to Find a Sitter

First, how do you even get connected with a pet sitter? Of course, you can knock on your neighbor’s door if you’re lucky enough to have someone nearby that you trust and who may be game to take on your pet brood. You can also ask a friend. But feeding your pets or walking your dog is a lot to ask of a busy adult. And, the job may be too much for the kid next door.

Herein lies the beauty of a pet sitter: there are people who do this all the time and they’re good at it! And, hiring a pet sitter and formalizing the relationship creates a whole new level of service and expectations.

First, get a referral through a friend or ask your vet for a reputable pet sitter. You can put technology to work for you and rely on an app to source a local pro. For example, Jessica works with Rover, a website and app that makes it easy to find pet sitters, communicate with them, pay them and more. (Bonus points for Rover: they do background checks on all their sitters). Rover is one of many in the space, making it easier than ever to link to folks with adore dogs and love taking care of them.

Show Them the Ropes

“The first step is usually a meet and greet,” Jessica explained. “Depending on the pet owner and the pet, this can happen at their house or at a local park.” So, no, you don’t just hand over your keys to a stranger—you get to meet and evaluate them first, and then walk them through how you like to get things done.

This initial meeting may be a few minutes, or it could take an hour or more. Every situation is unique, just like every dog has his own personality quirks. For example, if your dog has a complex care plan and requires numerous medications, the initial meeting may run longer than a meet and greet for an 'average' canine.

For at home visits, Jessica is shown around the home, given instructions for food, medications, emergency numbers and much more. It’s an opportunity for both parties to ask questions, get comfortable and exchange information.

man walking multiple dogs

Tell Them Everything (Yes, Everything)

There can never be too much information exchanged. No detail is too simple, obvious or unimportant. If you’re going out of town and leaving your pets in the hands of another, it’s best to share all the details. It’s good practice to think of your pet with fresh eyes and tell your pet sitter the things that you may consider basic.
In fact, this is so critical that Jessica created a form to capture information from new clients, covering topics such as:
  • Feeding: where is food located?
  • Treats: what are the rules?
  • Daily habits: how long can the dog or cat be left alone?
  • What locations in the house are off limits?
  • Cats: are they indoor or outdoor kitties? Or both?
  • Dog walking: what’s the dog’s favorite route? How long should walks be?
  • Supplies: what type of leash is best?
  • Vet info: What is the number of your vet?
  • Risky behaviors: is your animal prone to behaviors like digging in the trash or chewing on furniture?
  • Have they ever tried to escape?
  • Poop: what’s the routine with picking up and disposing of the poop.
“I don’t know a dog’s behavior, so I ask a lot of questions,” Jessica said. “If I don’t know your pet, I don’t know what’s strange or if they are acting unusual.”
calico cat looking into distance

Prepare for the Unexpected

We never think it’s going to happen to us, but emergencies happen. Runway dogs, missing cats, medical emergencies, damage to the house. Anything can happen. The good news is there are several things you can do to help your pet sitter should the unexpected occur. “I have some clients who put a retainer at the vet just in case something happens. Then I don’t have to worry about trying to pay for it,” Jessica said. “So, they leave their credit card information with the vet, because you never know.” Consider situations such as:
  • What should your pet sitter do if your pet gets lost? Does your dog have a chip or a tracking collar?
  • What happens if your dog gets sick? Does your pet sitter have permission to get your pet treated, and how should they pay for the treatment?
  • What happens in the case of a lock-out?
  • What happens in the event of a house emergency, like a flood or fire?
  • Is there an emergency kit for the dog or cat?
woman taking selfie with dog

Find the Right Fit

Just like dating, you may go through a few pet sitters before you find one that you can trust. But the number one sign you’ve found the perfect match? Your pets are happy while you are away and enjoying that vacation or head down in your work.