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If you own a dog, you've probably had to figure out what to do with them when you go on vacation. We can't always take our dogs along, which leaves us with a few options. You can leave your dog with a trusted local family member or friend, take your dog to a boarding facility if he or she is well socialized, or hire a professional pet sitter. We recently covered dog boarding, so now we're looking at pet sitters. Here are 12 signs of a good professional pet sitter:
The first step in finding a trustworthy and responsible pet sitter is to make sure you're searching for ones that are properly licensed and insured. What does this mean? Interestingly, there are no professional licensing requirements for pet sitters. But that doesn't mean a sitter shouldn't have a business license, which are permits issues by the government that allow an individual or company to operate a business in a specific location.
Pet Sitters International, however, has created the Certified Professional Pet Sitter® Exam, which is a knowledge-based assessment designed specifically for professional pet sitters. PSI’s exam requires that candidates demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed and prosper as professional pet sitters. The exam was created as a helpful tool to distinguish more qualified, knowledgeable professional pet-sitters from lesser qualified ones.
In addition, responsible pet sitters will likely have insurance. There's such a thing as pet sitter liability insurance, which works like any other insurance - it covers accidents that may affect the client's pets or property while the sitter is watching them. All in all, these will help ensure that you are hiring an actual professional and not individuals just looking to make some extra money.
Another early sign of a trustworthy pet sitter is how quickly they return your call. When you start your search, you'll likely contact sitters via email or phone and a responsible one will respond to you within 24 hours. If a sitter takes too long to respond, it could indicate that there may be communication problems later.
A reputable sitter should be clear and transparent about their fees and availability. There is no industry standard for payment, so different sitters may require different means of payment. Some may ask for a deposit in the beginning, while others may want payment in-full up front. No matter the requirements, a good sitter will be clear about the fees and payment methods. You should not have surprise fees at the end of your dog's stay. Speaking of transparency, trustworthy sitters will also be clear about their availability. They may even provide you with a calendar so you can see exactly when they're free.
A great way to confirm that a sitter is trustworthy and responsible is if they have referrals and good reviews. Getting a referral can ease anxieties about first-time pet sitters. You can ask your vet or other dog parents for recommendations. If you can't get referrals, it's a good idea to look pet sitters with high ratings and good reviews. In addition, finding sitters who are part of a larger, reputable company (such as Rover.com) is a great way to go. This is because you and the individual sitter will have a larger backing and support system to help provide the best possible service.
Responsible pet sitters will want to do a meet-and-greet with you and your pets. Beyond that, they'll be willing to be interviewed by you and won't be annoyed or put off by your questions. Questions to ask the sitter include their background, pet sitting history and expertise, specific experience with animals and more. Beyond asking questions, doing a meet-and-greet will allow you to see just how much of a dog person the sitter is. This may seem like an obvious indicator, but you'll want to go for someone who absolutely loves dogs. That way you'll know your dog will get the most love and affection during your trip.
This may also seem obvious but making sure the pet sitter gets along with your dog is an important part in determining if a sitter is, not only good, but also right for you two. The meet-and-greet is a great time to see how the sitter and your dog interact and determine if the two are a good fit. It's recommended that you do it in a comfortable environment for your dog, such as your home.
While a sitter's experience is important, their knowledge about dogs is too. Usually these go hand-in-hand, as a more experienced sitter will have more knowledge of how to handle certain situations (like separation anxiety or medical emergencies). Pet sitters who own dogs or have a history of living with dogs will likely be very knowledgable of them.
Responsible and trustworthy pet sitters will likely ask a lot of questions about you and your pet. This is because they'll want to know as much as possible about your dog's personality, likes and dislikes, habits and routines, behaviors and tendencies, etc. They'll also want to know about their health and medical needs, as well as your vet's contact information.
Another sign of a trustworthy pet sitter is that they provide you with a care plan for your dog. They'll specify how long they spend with your dog and how many visits (if they aren't staying over or hosting your dog), how often they take them for walks, how much time they set aside for playtime, and beyond. Beyond the transparency, providing a care plan will allow you to make special requests as well.
Though it's not a requirement for hiring, being familiar with first aid is an indication of a highly qualified pet sitter. This includes knowing what to do in the case of minor medical issues, as well as what to do if an emergency occurs. Furthermore, if your dog takes medicine, a pet sitter who knows how to administer medications is a must.
If your dog will be staying at the sitter's house (rather than the sitter staying at yours), you'll want to make sure it's suitable for dogs. Responsible pet sitters will make sure their home not only feels comfortable to your dog, but is also safe for him or her.
While it may not seem like a big deal, asking for reviews can be one more sign that a pet sitter is responsible. This is because it shows that they are invested in their business. They can use the positive feedback to know what they're doing right and continue doing it, while the negative feedback will help them improve their services.