How to hire a pet sitter
Soon after getting a pet, you realize that you have to start planning your vacations, business trips and social events around them. This should not be a problem, if you have a reliable, responsible pet sitter on your team who will walk, watch and play with your pet when you are not around!
You are lucky if you find a good pet sitter right away; otherwise consider these steps to find the best fit for your beloved pet and for your peace of mind.
Where to look
Ask your family, friends and other pet owners if they can recommend their dog walker or pet sitter. Otherwise, ads in local newspapers, internet search and flyers are great sources of information.
You should meet and interview the prospective pet sitter at your house and watch how they interact with your pet. Before arranging the interview, inquire if there is a charge for this introductory visit. Linda O’Sullivan, owner of Lifestyle Pet Care in Burlington, ON says that she treats first visits as a job interview, and as an opportunity to present her services and to get to know the owner and their pet. “To the first meeting I bring a printed copy of my comprehensive website for reference, proof of pet care and first aid accreditation, my insurance certificate and business license, a copy of the client service contract, along with client testimonials and of course company brochures,” says Linda. “I want the prospective client to be comfortable that we are highly professional and at the same time will provide quality and loving care to their pets.”
Your place or mine?
The answer to this question is based on whether you have a cat or dog, and on their personality. Linda advises pet owners that cats are generally much happier and comfortable left in their home environments, with a visit once or twice a day, to be fed and played with, and their litter cleaned. Dogs on the other hand need more frequent attention and generally want to be around people more, even at the cost of an unfamiliar environment. If you are very lucky, you will find a sitter who provides one on one dog boarding in the homes of their staff, and your dog will spend the time with another family, and be treated as if their pet. “If you must leave your dog in your home, they must be visited at least 3 times a day,” recommends Linda, “and even then you can expect an unhappy dog when you get home as he or she will have been very lonely.”
Big or small
Are you dealing with the agency or with a sole proprietor? Is the pet sitter who you are interviewing going to be the person actually visiting your pet or do they have hired staff? Is your pet going to be visited by the same person every time, or by a rotation of strangers? Larger companies tend to have a more professional approach, with insurance, back-ups in case of illness, etc., thereby providing more peace of mind. Regardless of company size, you will want to meet the person actually visiting your home and pets.
The pet sitter should be available to be reached by cell phone or texting in case of pet emergency. Ask if they can be easily reached during the day and whether they will return your phone calls within 24 hours.
A professional pet sitter should have references available upon request. Word of mouth and references from family and friends are also helpful in finding the right sitter.
Ask the pet sitters they are certified in pet first aid. Once you hire the sitter, provide them with the contact information for your pet’s veterinarian and instructions to reach you in case of medical emergency.
Ask if there is a service contract for the services and fees that the sitter will provide.
Look for a pet sitter who is bonded and insured. If you are dealing with the agency that hires staff to provide home pet visits, ensure that all the stuff undergo criminal checks, and are bonded.
Rates should be available for services and presented during the time of the introductory interview. Bulk discount can be negotiated at this point for regular visits and multiple pets, as well as the payment terms. Some pet sitters prefer to be paid upon completion of the service, some in advance, others ask for a deposit.
Notices and cancellations
Ask how much of a notice the provider requires for a visit, as well as what their cancellation policy is. Also, ask the sitter what their plans are in case of bad weather or snowstorm. If dealing with an agency, inquire whether they provide a replacement in case their contract dog walker calls in sick.
Responsible pet sitters always look for continuous learning and improvement. Ask if the pet sitter is accredited or certified in Pet First Aid. The Pet Sitters International Accreditation program is an industry standard, and consists of a comprehensive exam for certified pet sitters.
Ensure that the keys from your house will be kept in a secure location.
Most importantly, you should be looking for a person with a positive attitude who loves your pets and enjoys playing and spending time with them.
Treat them as you want to be treated
People who turn pet sitting into career do so because they truly love animals. Treat them and their business with respect by allowing sufficient advance notice for booking and cancellations, paying them on time, and being grateful for their accommodating your last minute emergencies. In return, they will provide love and best care for your animal and peace of mind for you when you are away from your pet!
Recommended reading: Are you ready for a pet?