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5 Ways to Help the Pet Sitter Keep Your Dog Safe

Accidents and sickness can happen while you're away. Our resident dog sitter, Wendy Newell, tells you what info and instructions to leave with your pet's temporary guardian.

Wendy Newell  |  Jun 11th 2015


I’ve been a dog sitter for more than two years, and I’m lucky (knock on wood) that my times spent at the emergency vet have been limited to non-life-threatening visits. Though any unexpected trip to the vet is an ordeal! It’s helpful that I have great pet parents who know I do absolutely everything I can to keep their babies safe.

Any time you have dogs together in a shared space, though — whether at the park, a daycare, or even your own home — there’s a chance something could go wrong. Pups can get hurt playing with each other — or even playing with just themselves! Imagine what would happen if you had a half-dozen toddler boys roaming freely around your house and yard after eating their weight in cotton candy. THAT’S what it can be like.

Snuggling with Luna during a hiking break.

Getting love from client Luna during a hiking break.

Here are a five tips for prepping your dog sitter, and yourself, so that an emergency situation results in the best possible outcome:

1. Tell your sitter everything

Cuddling with Miles after a scary 24 hours and an emergency vet visit. (All photos by Wendy Newell unless noted)

Cuddling with client Miles after a scary 24 hours and a vet visit.

I once took care of a dog who got out and made a run for it. He was lost for almost 24 hours before I was able to scoop him up. Those were 24 hours of me being in a total panic and searching my neighborhood. Those were 24 hours of pure hell. When his mom picked the pup up, she had a friend with her who said he had done this before – more than once. If your pet is a flight risk, TELL YOUR SITTER.

Thankfully, this pup got through his unplanned adventure with nothing more than blistered feet and dehydration. It required a trip to the vet, but it could have been much worse.

Like most sitters, I tend to ask as many questions as possible, including, “Does your dog have any allergies?” “Is she normally afraid of anyone or anything?” “Does your dog have any triggers like food or the bed?” I always ask, “Is there anything else I should know?” Even if that isn’t asked, tell the sitter EVERYTHING. Don’t worry about sounding like a crazy pet parent because your sitter has heard worse — I guarantee it.

2. Provide your dog’s stats and medical history

sitter emergency_14

Client Kobe and my dog, Riggins, know that a dog grabbing onto your ear can mean lots of blood and a weird head wrap!

In your pet’s travel bag, include a list of all stats, including age and weight; dates of major vaccines such as rabies; any other relevant medical history; and contact information for her current vet. This information will be needed by an emergency vet or for administrating first aid. For example, if your dog is stung by a bee on a group hike, your sitter needs to know how much Benadryl to give.

3. Have an emergency plan in place

Mikey was recovering surgery, so his cone came with him. It was so silly I had to swap it out for one I had!

Client Mikey was recovering surgery, and his cone came with him. It was so silly I swapped it out for another one I had!

With your contact info, provide an emergency backup who can make medical decisions for your dog if you are not available. Also provide written authorization for your sitter to approve any emergency medical procedures if neither of you are reachable.

I watched an elderly pup whose parents were away for an extended period of time out of the country. They left me a card to be opened only if her health took a turn for the worse. Thankfully, I never had to open the card, but I’m told it gave the vet permission to do what was necessary and a dollar limit on what should be spent on any procedure. This may seem heartless, but I assure you its intention was the exact opposite. The dog’s family didn’t want her to have to endure painful procedures at the end of her life. That card gave me peace of mind that I wouldn’t have to face a decision without their guidance.

4. Make sure your sitter has insurance

Bella’s family felt better about her emergency visit after seeing this photo.

Bella’s family felt better about her emergency vet visit after seeing this photo.

A professional dog sitter should have adequate insurance that covers your dog should something happen. If there is no or inadequate insurance, find another sitter.

I watched a young pup who, when with me, managed to get a foxtail up his nose. His folks came back from vacation the day I took him in, so I met them at the vet when he was ready for pickup. While we were waiting for the tech to bring their dog to us, I was told how the last sitter, a large facility in our neighborhood, had to take him to the vet because he ate “something bad.” The facility, despite being an established doggie daycare and boarding facility, did not have insurance that covered the dog, and the vet bill was enormous.

5. Know that accidents happen and be understanding

Happy pups on a hike with me, their sitter.

Happy pups on a hike.

No one wants harm to come to your dog, least of all your sitter, but accidents do happen. I’m a good – nay great – sitter, but I’ve had my fair share of trips to the vet for:

  • Foxtail removal from a pup’s nose and from an eye – If foxtails are common in your area, make sure your sitter knows the signs of inhalation and when to seek medical attention.
  • Puncture wounds from another dog – Even if a bite doesn’t look bad, let your sitter know to head straight to the vet. In a bite injury, the puncture itself usually isn’t the problem; it’s the “pocket” caused under the dog’s skin. You can’t see it, and you don’t know how big it is. Infection in this pocket is the real issue that needs treatment.
  • Tick removal – I DESPISE ticks. Even so, I’m pretty good at getting them off. Once, though, I wasn’t successful in getting the entire blood-sucking creature out and had to take the dog to the vet.

Your dog can have a great time while you’re away – remember, it’s a vacation for the pup, too – but only if your sitter has the information and instructions needed to provide the best possible care.

Read more stories by Wendy Newell:

About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of “always be closing” to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy’s new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.