How to Find a Dog Sitter You and Your Pup Love

by Sundays

Going out of town? Here’s how to find a dog sitter that will live up to your high yet reasonable standards.

You’re halfway down your checklist for your trip, and next on the list is to find a dog sitter. 
Sounds simple enough, right?

All you have to do is find a super-responsible, caring, loving person who has 10+ years of experience with dogs and is capable of following all of the very detailed notes and explanations you’re going to leave. 

OK, so maybe it’s going to take more than a simple Google search to find a dog sitter. At least one you can trust to provide the level of care you expect (and your pet deserves!). Here’s how to find a dog sitter that will live up to your high yet reasonable standards.

Step 1: Create a list of potential dog sitters. 

Get recs from neighbors and friends.
Start with your inner circle and even a little beyond. You probably have friends or coworkers nearby that are just as particular as you when it comes to trusting someone with their dog. The easiest way to vet a dog sitter is when they come pre-vetted with references from your friends! 

Beyond your friends, you know there are plenty of neighbors on Nextdoor that love giving solicited and unsolicited advice. Here’s your chance to tap into that energy and use it for good. You’re sure to get more than a few recommendations for good dog sitters that are closeby. Of course, you’ll need to vet those recs, but we’ll get to that.

Look for professionals.
Sure, neighbor so-and-so says they’ve had pets their whole life, so they know how to take care of dogs. But simply having a pet does not make you a qualified pet sitter. It means you were able to keep a dog alive, not that you actually know things like how to give pills, which foods are poisonous to dogs, or signs that you should take a dog to the vet. 

Do a search for professional pet sitters in your area, and pick three or four with at least 4.5 stars as their average review. Make sure that rating comes from at least eight or more reviews, not just one or two. 

You might want to also check their website for rates if they’re listed and only include pet sitters that fall within your price range. Yes, they do charge a lot more, but the peace of mind might be worth it in the end.

Ask vet techs.
Call your vet’s office and ask the staff if anyone who works there does pet sitting. These are the people you already trust to help care for your pet, and they would have to have knowledge about pets to be hired there. Plus, if anything happens while you’re gone, they can easily bring your pet to the vet because it’s also where they work. 

Don’t be afraid to call your friends’ and coworkers’ vet’s offices, too. A lot of vet techs also do pet sitting on the side.

Step 2: Evaluate their worthiness to watch your pup.

In case you had any doubts, it’s OK to be a bit extra when it comes to picking out a dog sitter. This checklist will help you find a dog sitter that you can trust with your pup.

Check their references.
Whether you found a potential pet sitter through word of mouth or an online search, you want to make sure they have good references. You may already have recommendations from friends or neighbors, but if you found someone online, you can ask your network if anyone has used them and whether they recommend them. You should also read through the google reviews and make sure there aren’t any 1- to 3-star reviews that say something terrible.

Look at their experience.
Here are some questions to ask the potential dog sitter about their experience with dogs:
  • How long have you been dog sitting?
  • Who have you done pet sitting for? (Was it just for friends and family?)
  • Have you ever worked with dogs professionally (as a trainer, volunteer, or in a vet’s office, etc.)?
  • What kinds of dogs are you experienced with (certain breeds, puppies, older dogs, dogs that need medication, special needs dogs, etc.)?

Ask about certifications.
Did you know that dog sitters can have several different types of certifications? Here are some legit certifications to look for:

Always do a meet and greet
You can tell a lot from just meeting the person ahead of time and seeing how they interact with your pet. You should always do a meet and greet at least a few weeks before you need a dog sitter. This way, you have time to check out other possibilities if it doesn’t work out. 

When you ask for the meet and greet, make sure that they know that it’s not guaranteed that you’re booking them and that you want to see if it’s a good fit first. You should also offer a small fee for their time and travel, as if you were paying for them to do a drop-in 15-minute visit or walk with your dog. That way, there’s no hard feelings if you choose not to book them.

It may be that your dog just doesn’t like them, or you have a gut reaction one way or the other. You can also see how they greet and approach dogs, and you can ask them to walk your dog with you to see how they handle that, too. 

Always trust your gut, and trust your dog’s reaction to them, too. You don’t want to leave your pup with someone they seem to hate or are terrified of.

Ask about their method of care
You might just assume that they will give your dog lots of cuddles and playtime, but this is something you should also ask about. How do they feel about sleeping with pets? Will they take your dog on walks and play with them? What would they do if your dog got into something they shouldn’t (wrong answer=scolding and punishment)?

Look for note takers
This one is important. The person you want watching your dog is the one that takes notes and asks tons of questions about your dog’s care–things you might not have even thought were important. If they don’t ask you a bunch of questions, and they don’t bring a notepad or ask if you’re going to leave in-depth notes, you might want to cross them off your list. 

The note takers are the ones that are going to follow all the directions every time and not just “try to remember” or “kind of follow” all the detailed instructions for caring for your dog. You also want someone who will take a lot of photos and videos and send them to you daily without you even having to ask or beg for them. 

Ask about emergencies
Your dog could have an emergency while you’re away, and you should know what you can expect the dog sitter to do in that situation. Ask if they have transportation and what their protocol would be. You may also ask these questions:

  • - Do they know what foods and plants are poisonous to dogs?  
  • - What symptoms would they consider emergency situations where they should call you or a vet?
  • - Are they willing and able to take your dog to the emergency vet whenever needed?

It may seem like a lot of work to find a pet sitter that can handle the task, but once you find the right person, you hopefully won’t have to look again for a while, and your pup will have a new best friend (while you’re out of town, of course!)

Try Healthy, Easy Sundays