By: Amber Roberts
Though some dogs are accustomed to traveling by car or plane, staying in hotels, and exploring new areas, a vacation or business trip may not be ideal for every dog. Even if your dog is an experienced jetsetter, some locations may not be pet friendly. What should you do when you need to leave your dog behind? In a world chock-full of boarding kennels and pet sitters, how do you choose the right care for your furry best friend?
Types of pet care: You could consider boarding your dog at a kennel either at your veterinarian’s office or a dedicated boarding facility, though this is not an ideal situation for every dog. In addition to increased stress levels, your dog could be exposed to illness while in a kennel environment.
Many dogs benefit from staying in their own home where they can eat, sleep, and play where they are comfortable. You may have a neighbor, friend, or local teenager who will agree to provide care while you are away. This may be beneficial if they already know your dog and can provide the quality of care you expect. If you are looking for a more experienced caregiver, you could hire a skilled pet sitter.
The most common pet sitting services are overnight care in your home, overnight care at the pet sitter’s home, or daytime visits including feeding, walking, and playing, without overnight care. Consider whether your dog needs to be medicated, the amount of exercise or socialization necessary, or if she may have additional needs, and choose the option that’s best for your situation.
How to find a dog sitter: A great first call is your own veterinarian’s office. A pet sitter who already has a relationship with your veterinarian can be a wonderful opportunity. Some veterinarians will not make recommendations due to liability concerns, but offices may still allow a bulletin board for pet sitter ads. You may even find one of the veterinarians or vet techs provide pet sitting services.
Pet sitting agencies can assign a trustworthy caregiver. The staff members at an agency may come with additional qualifications such as special training or certifications, backup care in case of emergency, and insurance to cover accidents or damage.
A pet sitter association’s directory may turn up potential pet sitters. Though an association membership does not guarantee better quality of care, associations often provide members with additional training and professional development opportunities.
An independent pet sitter may be available to stay in your home, or perhaps allow your dog to stay at her home. This may be a less expensive choice than a pet sitting agency, but may lack some of the benefits of an agency, such as insurance coverage or background checks.
You can source recommendations from your trainer, groomer, friends, family, or neighbors. Online resources such as the yellow pages, care.com, craigslist.org, or other recommendation services may also be useful.
No matter where you find a caregiver, be it at your veterinarian’s office, through an agency, or online, every pet sitter should be given the same appraisal.
Interview some pet sitters: Whether you choose a neighbor, agency, or independent pet sitter, you should interview them prior to leaving your dog in their care. Make a list of important questions concerning your dog’s safety and care. Some questions to consider when interviewing a pet sitter include:
- Tell me about your experience with dogs. Ask about specifics pertaining to your own dog, for example:
- How will you help my high-energy labrador retriever get enough exercise while I am away?
- What safety measures would you take to ensure my inappropriate chewer doesn’t eat something he shouldn’t?
- What medications are you comfortable administering?
- What training or certifications do you have?
- How would handle an emergency situation, such as an injury, illness, or natural disaster?
- Describe your training techniques and philosophy.
- What does your pet sitting fee include? Are there any additional fees I should be aware of?
- In case of emergency, are you able to transport my dog to the veterinarian?
It is also appropriate to ask for references. Once you have been given references, call them.
It is also important to have the pet sitter meet your dog as part of the interview process; watch their interactions during the visit and pay attention to any concerning behavior. It is absolutely appropriate to trust your dog’s instincts and reaction to the person. If your dog is not comfortable with the person providing her care she may choose not to come when called, or worse. It’s often hard for owners to fully understand that even their trusted companion may not behave the same way around other people. Any dog could bite someone, even if they’ve never done it before. You can help prevent these situations by making sure you, your dog, and the pet sitter are all comfortable with each other.
Once you choose a pet sitter: You should be clear about what you expect out of the arrangement, and verify that your pet sitter understands and agrees to your terms. Creating a contract which outlines your expectations and requirements will help ensure everyone is on the same page. Do you want regular texts and photos or to have a checklist completed daily? Are you expecting house sitting services such as watering plants or collecting mail? Be upfront about your expectations so miscommunication doesn’t spoil an otherwise wonderful arrangement.
In order to create a beneficial relationship for everyone involved, including your dog, communication is key! Your expectations are important, but you should also be open to, and even ask for, the requests and concerns of the person you hire. They have likely been providing care for people’s animals for quite some time, so their knowledge and input is important. They may be able to make recommendations for things you haven’t thought of yet.
You’ve found someone who seems perfect, but the task isn’t quite complete. It may be useful to set up a trial run prior to a longer trip. A stop for a walk or romp in the yard, a dinnertime visit where the pet sitter is responsible for feeding and medicating your dog, or even an overnight visit in preparation for a longer stay can help to sort out any problems that may arise.
Hiring a pet sitter may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process. Your dog’s care and peace of mind are important, so make your wants and needs priority when searching for a pet sitter. If you keep at it, you can find the pet sitter that meets all of your requirements. The right pet sitter can help make your trip easier and keep your canine companion happy, which is a win-win.