It’s officially summer and we’re all excited to hit the road for our family vacations. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, you will not be able to bring along your four-legged family members. Maybe you find yourself a little worried about finding a great dog sitter to leave them with while you’re away. Luckily, there are a few options out there so that you can go on vacation with peace of mind knowing they will be very well cared for.
Now, I’m going to go over two types of pet sitting. The first is in-home pet sitting, or house sitting. The second is leaving your pet at a sitter’s home (boarding). I will NOT be covering commercial boarding kennels in this article, because I personally prefer to promote options that give our pets the best, most personalized, and highest quality of care.
As a former Trusted Housesitters member and Rover.com pet sitter myself, I have personally housesat at 10 different homes in three countries, and have watched 35 dogs (and cats) while their parents were happily away on vacation. So from the perspective of a seasoned pet sitter, in this article I would like to give you some tips on how you can choose the best sitter for YOUR dog.
Host a House Sitter
In-home pet sitting (also known as “house sitting”) is when you have somebody stay at your house to watch your pets, plants, etc. If you don’t have any neighbors, friends, or family in your area who are willing to stay at your house while you’re away, there are a lot of great websites out there where you can find house sitters. The biggest one out there is Trusted Housesitters.
Trusted Housesitters has thousands of registered (and verified) sitters who love animals and love to travel. The idea is that they will trade the responsibilities of caring for your pets and home, for free room and board. Typically, a housesitting gig will receive applicants from all over the world, who are eager to travel to new places.
The pros of having a house sitter are that your pet will not have to be anxious in someone else’s home. They get to stay the master of their domain. Additionally, your house will be looked after while you’re away, and it likely won’t cost you any money at all. The cons of a house sitter are that you are letting somebody you typically don’t know into your home.
Hire a Dog Sitter
With the other type of pet sitting, you drop your dog off to a sitter’s home for an extended stay. These sitters typically charge anywhere from $20 to $40 a day.
The pros of dropping your dog off somewhere is that maybe your dog will view it as a vacation for himself, but the cons are obviously that it costs more money, and your dog will likely experience some kind of anxiety by being away from home.
With either option, your pet will get very personalized, high-quality care while you are away.
9 Tips for Choosing the Best Dog Sitter
1. Read the sitter’s reviews
You wouldn’t buy something online without first checking the reviews of the product, so you also need to filter sitters based on their reviews. With Trusted Housesitters, you can also check their level of verification. Many will have had references submit statements, and some will have had verified identity checks and background checks through the site.
2. Have a meet and greet
If using a site such as rover.com for drop-off pet sitting, you should be able to bring your dog to the sitter’s home before booking with them. This is so that you can do a quick meet-and-greet, and get a feel for the home and quality of care that your dog will receive with that sitter.
If you’re going with an in-home house sitter, and they aren’t available for an in-person meet and greet, schedule a time to speak with them over the phone or via Skype. This is just a good way to get a feel for the kind of person they are and whether or not you think you can trust them with your beloved pets.
3. Take note of the sitter’s home environment
If using a site such as rover.com for drop-off pet sitting, take note of the sitter’s home environment. Maybe your dog doesn’t do so well around young children or cats. Or, maybe you would be more comfortable if your sitter had a fenced yard. Also, keep an eye out for things that could get your dog into trouble. For example, if the home is newly built there might be some exposed insulation that would be very bad for your dog to get into.
4. Be upfront about your dog’s quirks and flaws
When speaking with a potential sitter, be sure to disclose the funny and not-so-funny things about your dog. Let them know if your dog is a counter surfer, likes to go through the trash, or chew on shoes, for example. That way the sitter can take extra safety measures so that your dog cannot get into mischief and be kept as safe as possible.
5. Disclose any health problems or medications that your dog is taking
You don’t want to surprise the sitter on the day of with all these extra health-related responsibilities. The sitter might not be comfortable taking on those kinds of responsibilities, especially if they don’t have any experience with that kind of stuff.
6. Ask if the sitter will be sitting other dogs at the same time
If using a site such as rover.com for drop-off pet sitting, ask if they typically sit other dogs at the same time. This is personal preference for everyone, but some people might not like the idea of a sitter hosting more than one dog at a time.
7. Ask if the sitter will be home all day
If using a site such as rover.com for drop-off pet sitting, ask if they are a stay-at-homer. Maybe your dog is used to being let out every few hours, or maybe your dog gets separation anxiety when he’s alone. If so, the schedule of the sitter is definitely something to consider.
8. Be honest about the condition of your home
If you will be having somebody stay in your home as a house sitter, tell them if your home is older or has certain quirks. You do not want somebody to travel from really far away only to find that they are staying in a not-so-great house.
Story time! My husband and I once got accepted to housesit for three dogs. The gig was last-minute, so we drove hours and hundreds of miles in order to arrive on time. When we arrived, to our dismay the house was totally run down, and the yard was overtaken by weeds. When the home owner gave us a tour of the house, the mudroom reeked of dog urine, the corners of the rooms were draped in spider webs (she called it a “healthy ecosystem”), and she requested that we use buckets to bathe (there was no shower, only a tub to do so within). If that doesn’t paint a good enough picture, her dogs were infested with fleas, as well. Obviously, all of this was totally uncalled for as she never disclosed any of this beforehand. It really put a damper on the whole experience. Luckily, we had driven our RV to get there so we ended up staying in it most of the time (but were still able to give her dogs the attention they needed).
DON’T BE THAT GUY!
9. Set expectations and responsibilities
If you will be having somebody stay in your home as a house sitter, be clear about your expectations and any extra responsibilities they will have during their stay. For example, you might have plants that need watering, you might request that they don’t do too much sightseeing in one day, and you might let them know which days are trash days, etc.
Better yet, write it all down so they can reference it later!
4 Tips for After You’ve Found the Perfect Sitter
Once you’ve found the perfect sitter for your dog, here are another few tips to ensure the sit goes well:
1. Request daily updates
(Preferably in the form of pictures.) No one wants to leave their beloved pets behind when they go on vacation, and usually us pet parents worry if they are doing okay. A good sitter will send you pictures and messages daily without you having to ask, but you can always just mention it to be sure that they remember to do it.
2. Don’t take the transaction offline
If paying someone to dog sit, it may be somewhat tempting to just take the transaction offline and pay them in cash. Please consider NOT doing that. Most of the legitimate pet sitting websites such as rover.com cover emergency veterinary care costs that are only covered for bookings made through their website.
3. Remember that your dog’s safety takes precedence
Let’s say your dog’s daily routine includes being active outdoors – a two-mile hike each day. Even if the sitter is physically capable of maintaining such a daily routine, note that your dog’s safety takes precedence while you’re away. It’s simply safer for your dog to have limitations when he’s without you.
4. Remember that reviews go both ways
As somebody who hires a sitter online, YOU can also be reviewed by the sitter. Be reasonable with your requests, and treat the sitter with respect, kindness, and understanding if anything goes wrong that is outside of their control.
I hope those tips help you in finding the perfect sitter for your doodle! Do you have experience with pet sitters? What tips would you add?