When You Travel, Who Will Watch the Dog?
Tips for finding a reliable sitter to care for your furry family member when you travel.
Trusting someone else to watch your precious pooch can be extremely daunting, particularly for over-protective pet moms like myself.
I was faced with a near-crisis when I found out my usual pet sitter was unavailable to watch my dog during my upcoming week-long vacation in August.
After exhausting all the usual options (family friends, trusted neighbors and business associates), I was left with a serious choice to make: board Kaya or find a new pet sitter to stay in my home and care for her.
After years of doling out pet care suggestions it was time for me to take my own advice and find a good pet sitter for my baby.
Anxious pet owners should know that there are reliable, animal-loving pet sitters out there. However, you do have to take precautions to make sure the pet sitter is trustworthy, honest and responsible. Here are some suggestions to finding a provider worthy of caring for your four-legged friend:
1. Pet Sitters International: This is an international association for professional pet sitters and their website is a great resource to help you narrow down what companies offer various pet care services in your town.
On the website, click on the button in the upper right-hand corner that says “locate a pet sitter.” Then, enter your zipcode and check off the boxes of the services for which you are looking (i.e., overnight sitting, dog walks, mail pickup, etc.). The results will include all the companies that offer those services in your area. I always recommend checking off the “bonded” and “insured” boxes to ensure you are getting a reliable sitter.
2. Ask for referrals! The best way to get the inside scoop on a sitter is to ask someone who has had first-hand experience with the individual. Whether it's from your trainer, your groomer, your vet or a family friend, people are likely to give you their honest opinions when they have first-hand experience with a sitter.
3. Service review websites such as Angie’s List, Yelp and even Google Reviews are helpful, too. Although it is impossible to trust 100 percent of online reviews, it is a good way to get a sense of what a pet sitter or a pet-sitting company is all about and what kind of experiences people have had with them.
Once you have found your sitter, there are a couple of steps you should take to ensure that your pooch is happy and safe while you are away:
1. Meet the sitter in advance. Any trustworthy, legitimate company should always offer an opportunity to send the sitter over to meet you in your home. Show your sitter around, point out where the supplies are located and see how he or she interacts with your dog.
2. Leave detailed instructions. When you are away it is a good idea to have your sitter mimic your dog’s typical routine to prevent your dog from experiencing added stress. Be sure to tell your sitter details about your dog such as: likes and dislikes, exercise habits, location of supplies and medical history. Include everything your sitter should know to keep your dog happy, healthy and safe while you are away. In my humble opinion it is better to be thorough then to not provide enough information.
3. Have a backup plan! Things always tend to come up unexpectedly when you least expect it. Always provide a sitter with emergency contacts as well as the name and number of someone who has a key to your home. Provide your sitter with the name and number of your vet and local animal poison control. In my experience, things tend to go wrong when you least expect it, and you can never be too prepared!
4. Check in with your sitter regularly to make sure everything is going OK. I will never forget the story a friend told me of a pet sitter she found online and only when she came home did she find that the person did not let the dogs out for five days in a row. She couldn’t call the sitter because she was out of the country, but in this day and age you should have access to email almost anywhere so be sure your sitter knows to expect your call or email.
5. Don’t make a big fuss about saying goodbye. I have already made this mistake one too many times, and now, the second I pull out my suitcase, Kaya goes and sulks in the corner until I leave. As tempting as it is to give your dog big hugs and kisses when you leave, if you make a big deal about your departure he is going to know something is amiss.
These tips should help you find a reliable sitter and ensure your peace of mind and your pet's happiness. The best way to enjoy your vacation is to know that your pet is in good hands.