Leaving your beloved companion home while you’re at work or travelling is hard enough; finding a trustworthy pet sitter shouldn’t be. Faced with hectic schedules and long commutes—or even a pet who’s dealing with separation anxiety—more people are hiring professional sitters to ensure their animals’ health and happiness. But there’s a lot to consider when choosing a sitter.
Not only are they caring for valued family members, they’re coming into your home. They should be trustworthy, professional, knowledgeable and able to handle emergencies. And your pet should feel comfortable around them.
Here are some tips to help find that perfect sitter!
The internet (including neighborhood and community websites) is a great place to start. Professional pet-sitting associations such as the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and Pet Sitters International list members on their websites. Reading online reviews and even checking out candidates’ Facebook pages can help narrow down your search.
Seek firsthand recommendations
Check the bulletin boards at local stores or your veterinarian’s office for ads, then reach out to potential sitters for their references. You can also ask friends, relatives and neighbors for referrals. Or connect with your veterinarian and local humane societies, which may have employees who are part-time pet sitters. Just keep in mind that people with full-time jobs may not have the availability you need.
Prepare for the interview
Take some time to think through what you want to ask candidates before interviewing them via phone or video chat. Don’t be afraid to have a long conversation; you can get a good sense of someone’s personality and character that way. Here are some topics to consider:
Find out how long they’ve been in business, what their level of experience is with your pets’ species and what their backup plan is if something prevents them from coming to your house.
There’s no point in moving forward if you can’t afford their services. At the same time, don’t just go with the cheapest rate; you want a qualified professional.
Ask what specific services they offer—are they comfortable administering medications? Do they have special training or certifications? Are they bonded and insured (which could protect you in certain situations, such as if your dog bites another person while on a walk with the sitter)?
It can also be helpful to pose one or two emergency scenarios to see how candidates respond: What would they do if the air conditioning breaks on a hot day or your pet starts vomiting?
Get ready for the meet-and-greet
Before you book a pet-sitting date, you and your pets should meet the candidate. This will allow you to get to know the person better, flesh out special instructions and observe how they interact with your animal. You may even want to ask a candidate to do a trial walk to see how they handle your dog.
Don’t forget to ask for credentials such as references and copies of their bonding and license. You might also want to get a criminal background check.
Accept that it might not work out
The best screening in the world may not prevent you from hiring the wrong person. But you can take some simple steps to help determine whether the person is doing their job.
- Ask your sitter to leave notes about each visit or share photos with you via text or email.
- If you have a doorbell camera, check whether your sitter comes at the agreed-upon times.
- Get a GPS for your dog’s collar to ensure they’re being walked every day.
Still not sure whether your sitter is up to snuff?
Here are some potential red flags to look for:
- Pee puddles, feces or vomit in the house.
- Untouched treats or toys you’ve left for the sitter to give to your pet during a visit.
- Failure to provide detailed reports of your pet’s behavior.
While it’s good to be cautious when starting with someone new, keep in mind that most people who choose pet-sitting as a career are animal lovers. Over time, a sitter can become a trusted friend to you and your pet!