There are times when you will need or want to travel without your dog. If you don’t have a friend or family member who can stay with your dog, consider hiring a responsible dog sitter. Many dogs find the experience of having a dog sitter in their home much less stressful than going to a boarding kennel or doggie daycare as they are in a familiar environment. Questions to ask a dog sitter include finding out about prior experience and qualifications, as well as his philosophy and approach for working with dogs. Just because someone loves dogs doesn’t mean he or she has the skills and experience needed to take proper care of your dog.
How to find a dog sitter
Finding a responsible pet sitter can feel overwhelming. Often the best dog sitters are found via word of mouth. When looking for a dog sitter, talk with other dog owners in your local area and ask who they use. You can also ask your vet, trainer and groomer for recommendations of experienced and trustworthy local dog sitters. There are professional pet-sitting organizations that you can also search for a professional pet sitter:
- National Association of Professional Pet Sitters
- Pet Sitters International
- Professional United Pet Sitters LLC
There are also pet-sitting apps to help match you with a pet sitter:
Questions to ask a dog sitter
When you get referrals, schedule interviews to get to know prospective dog sitters. You and your dog should both get the opportunity to interview a sitter. You’ll want to ask questions about a sitter’s experience and approach to working with dogs. It’s important to give your dog the chance to interact, too, so you can get a sense of how your dog feels. Here are the questions you should ask a prospective pet sitter:
- Request references for past clients.
- What is her experience with different behaviors, ages and dog breeds? If you have a young puppy, senior, large dog or a dog with behavioral or medical special needs, it’s important to that a dog sitter has the strength and experience to appropriately care for your dog’s unique needs.
- Even though your dog sitter is not a trainer, ask about his philosophy around dog training/behavior and how he navigates when dogs do something unexpected or naughty. Prioritize finding a sitter whose handling and training approach mirrors yours and make sure she will be utilizing positive reinforcement training techniques and not aversive punishment.
- Does the pet sitter have business insurance?
- Is she certified in CPR and first aid?
- What does her daily routine looks like and how that will include your dog? Some dog sitters only check in on a dog a few times a day, while others will move into your house. Some dog sitters are also dog walkers or have other jobs and may be away from your house for a significant part of the day, while other sitters will spend most of their time with your dog. Is the amount of time he will be spending with your dog something that you feel comfortable with?
- How much and when will he communicate with you each day? Does he send a text or photo with “proof of life”? Will he only communicate if there is a problem or question? Are you comfortable with the amount of communication you will receive from the pet sitter?
Information for your new dog sitter
Once you’ve hired a dog sitter, but before you leave on your trip, provide the pet sitter with:
- Your cell phone number and the best way to reach you.
- Local emergency contacts in case you are unreachable.
- Your dog’s veterinarian’s contact information, as well as your preferred local emergency veterinary clinic. You should leave a credit card on file at your vet clinic in case your dog needs to be seen while you are away.
- Contact information for anyone else locally who has a good relationship with your dog including your trainer and/or groomer.
- Establish a communication plan with your dog sitter letting him know if you want to hear from him daily or every other day, and if you’d like photos texted or emailed to you.
What your dog sitter should know about your dog
Before you leave for your trip, leave written instructions about your dog’s routine that the sitter can reference while staying with your dog. Go through these verbally:
- When your dog eats.
- Medications and medical history, such as if your dog has any food allergies or struggles with separation anxiety.
- If your dog should be walked and what equipment to use (harness, special leash, etc.). Give special instructions if your dog has leash reactivity.
- When your dog needs to go outside to potty or play.
- Your dog’s favorite toys and games .
- Any training rules you want to make sure are reinforced while you’re away, such as if your dog is allowed in bed, or not treating your dog for jumping up on people.
- Any behavioral challenges or quirks such as if your dog is reactive to other dogs or has a fear of thunderstorms.
Have your pet sitter over to your house before you leave and walk him through your dog’s daily needs, showing where he eats meals and where all dog supplies are kept.
What your dog sitter should know about your home
In addition to making sure that your dog sitter has all the information he needs about how to care for your dog, there are details about your home you’ll want to share.
- Keys to your home or the code for any alarm system.
- Passwords for your WIFI if he will be staying at your home, as well as any passwords needed to access your television and any other home amenities you want your sitter to have access to.
- Any other chores, such as watering plants, picking up the mail, what trash day is, etc.
- Where you store cleaning supplies and extra towels in case there are any messes while you’re away.
Traveling without your dog can be a huge source of stress, but with the right dog sitter at home your mind can be put at ease. Always make sure you are comfortable with his qualifications and experience. A good dog sitter will keep your dog safe and maintain your dog’s routines as consistently as possible while you travel.