Just because you hear someone call herself a pet sitter does not readily mean that she’s actually qualified to do the job. Hiring a professional, experienced individual to care for your pooch offers both you and your little furry friend a number of benefits while you are away. While you get the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your pooch is being cared for by a pro, your pet gets to enjoy the kind of environment he knows best, his regular diet and daily routine, relief from having to travel to (and stay in) an unfamiliar place with other pets (like in the case of boarding kennels), and gets the attention he needs despite your absence.
Things to Look For in a Dog Sitter
Hitting upon the right person can be rather tricky so before you start looking, think about the various skills and characteristics that are especially important to you. Here are some of the traits a good pet sitter should have.
- Flexibility and composure. It’s helpful to have a dog sitter who is adaptable enough to step in even on short notice. That way, if you have a work schedule that is subject to change, you can be assured that your little pooch will still be taken care of. Also, any dog owner knows that with pets, things don’t always go according to plan. That’s why a pet sitter must stay calm and patient with your fur-friend if he doesn’t behave as expected.
- Sensitive and trustworthy. It’s crucial that your pet sitter can easily recognize your dog’s needs and can respond to them fittingly. And since you will most likely be handing your spare keys to her, it’s very essential that you can rely on this person. A good way to get an idea of whether this potential caregiver can be trusted, run a background check and contact references from previous employers before hiring.
- Consistent and reliable. You have probably already worked hard (and invested a lot) in housetraining your pooch. Make sure that your pet sitter knows the rules of the house as well. She should not be undoing any of your instructions by bending the rules. The person you think is qualified to do the job has to be firm and consistent, and won’t easily give in to your pooch’s begging puppy-dog-eyes! Also, since your pet sitter is there to basically make your life easier, she should not be the kind to cause you any more headaches. See to it that you set clear agreements between her regarding the rules, protocols, and scheduling. You want to make sure that you can count on her when needed.
- Genuinely loves animals and has a connection to your pet. Ask interesting questions so you can gauge their love for animals as well as their level of excitement about the job opportunity. A good pet sitter will show sincere affection for animals in their answers to your interview questions like “what’s the most embarrassing or the funniest thing you have encountered with an animal?” or about the pets they owned or cared for in the past. These kinds of discussions will help you get a feel of the candidate’s personality and determine whether or not they are innately concerned with pets in general. Also, find time to set up a meet-and-greet with the potential pet sitter and your pooch. It’s alright if your little fur-friend doesn’t warm up to her right away but always watch out for signs that your pet is very uncomfortable or if that person is handling him incorrectly. By observing the pet sitter you are looking to hire, you can tell somehow if the person truly has the comfort and the experience with pets that they claim to have.
- Experienced and insured. As much as possible, get a pet sitter who has a lot of experience especially when your pooch is high maintenance or quite challenging in terms of care. You may ask for references or certificates to prove their background in certain areas and their experience level. Lastly, if your candidate has a license and insurance, it suggests that this person is professional and takes the business seriously. It’s also a good sign that she is willing to setup a contract with you to define the services, rules, pay rate, and many more.
Where Do I Find the Pet Sitter?
Start by asking for a recommendation from friends, neighbors, dog trainers, and veterinarians. You may also check online or the Pet Sitting Services in Yellow Pages. But the best way, probably, to get a hold of a professional, qualified pet sitter is by reaching out to the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (856-439-0324) or Pet Sitters International (336-983-9222).