There are an onslaught of ways for pet owners to find care for the animals these days. From Rover, to Wag, to Dog Vacay, we have a whole list of online options to choose from that allow us to shop for a sitter the same way we might for shoes. But our pets are not shoes. They are our furry, four legged children. My sister just had her first baby, and I can tell you with confidence that she would never hire a hobbyist baby sitter to watch her child during a weekend trip. So why do people do so with their pets? Allow a college student who pet sits just for extra cash, or to get away from a terrible roommate, to stay in their home, care for their animals, and give you piece of mind? I struggle to understand that reasoning.
I’ve had multiple clients tell me their horror stories of a pet sitter gone wrong. ‘We came home to find the house a mess’, or ‘came home to find poop and urine all over the floor’, or ‘All the alcohol was gone and there was a char-burned circle in the patio that must have been from an impromptu bonfire hastily cleaned up’. Wow. Never again.
So how do we figure out who is a professional and who is a hobbyist? And how do you find a professional? Here are some guidelines to finding the right person to care for your loved ones and home:
- Search through Pet Sitters International. They are an international organization that certifies professional pet sitters. They have a free search engine to find the right professional for you and your pets. PSI also has continuing education programs for their members, which allows sitters to become the best they can be.
- Find someone who is licensed and insured. Hobbyist sitters will not have a business license, nor will they be insured because they see this business as just extra cash. Yes, they may love animals, but they may not know what to do if a pet in their care eats a box of raisins, or if the toilet overflows. Professionals do, and if the worst happens, they are insured to cover any damages.
- Find someone who schedules a meet and greet before agreeing to care for your pet. Some sites allow you to schedule a dog walker to come walk your dog before you or your dog have met them. It may be easy to think that your super loving dog who has never turned a side eye to anyone would be fine with this, but many owners don’t know how their dogs may behave if a stranger walks into the house without you there to give them piece of mind. As a courtesy to your dog, allow them to meet their new friend before they are taken on a walk with a stranger. Stranger danger is real for dogs too!
- Special needs. Not all people are comfortable helping a pet with special needs. When I refer to special needs, I mean a number of different things, from medications, to reactivity, to shyness. If you have a dog that is a strong puller, and has learned how to back out of his or her collar, then you have a dog with a special need for a very experienced walker. Don’t hand over your dogs leash to someone just because they love dogs. Find out how they will handle your dogs specific characteristics. Professionals are well trained and come with tons of experience. They are also comfortable telling you when they think your dog or cats special needs are beyond them and therefore must turn down the job, and are able to give you a referral to someone who may be able to help.
- Professional pet sitters see themselves as part of your pets care team. We view our job as one of the first lines of defense to you pets safety, health, and well being. We will go out of our way to work with other members of that team, by following your dog trainers walking instructions, or your vets nutritional and medication guidelines. A hobbyist loves animals, which is a great virtue, but should not be the only requirement when it comes to taking care of your pets.
These tips should help you decide who to allow to take care of your family members. Ask lots of questions, as a professional will never be put off by this, but will instead see an owner who cares immensely for their animals, and that’s something we should all take great pride in!