Finding a Dog Sitter

dog playing tug of war with a dog sitter

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Deciding who to leave your pup with while you’re traveling is a tough call. Finding an excellent dog sitter isn’t always easy, but it’s important for your dog’s safety and well-being while you’re gone.

Be sure that you really trust your dog sitter to take great care of your dog and your house. It might sound easy to take care of your pup, but that means that there are also plenty of people who get work as dog sitters who are lazy and not ready to do a great job!

How to Find a Great Dog Sitter

Nowadays, it’s deceivingly easy to find a dog sitter. Simply pull up an app on your phone, and you’ve got a match with a sitter in minutes. Unfortunately, despite the assurances from those apps, you can’t necessarily trust the sitters or the minimal background checks that are done on them.

It’s generally better to find a dog sitter through your personal network. You might be able to hire a friend’s dog sitter, the teenage child of a coworker, or a friend of a cousin who loves dogs. Get someone who comes highly recommended. Local universities, especially if they have a pre-veterinary track, are also a great place to find sitters. College students are usually old enough to be responsible but young enough to be affordable.

If your dog has special medical or physical needs, be sure to be upfront about that. For example, if your dog is a very high-energy dog, plan to leave them with a dog sitter who loves hiking or trail running so that they’re both happy.

Questions to Ask a Potential Dog Sitter

Once you’ve got a list of potential dog sitters, it’s time to do a bit of interviewing. Don’t be shy about this. If the dog sitter finds this offensive or annoying, that’s a red flag. You’re leaving your best friend in their care, after all.

Ask your potential dog sitter:

  • What experience do you have with dogs?
  • Have you ever watched a dog similar to my dog? (in size, breed, temperament, etc.; It’s okay if it’s not an exact match.)
  • What’s your plan if my dog gets sick or injured while I’m gone?
  • How many times will you walk my dog per day? How long will the walks be?
  • How long will you leave my dog alone every day?
  • Can I see some testimonials or talk to past clients?
  • Will my dog stay at your place or mine?
    • If your dog is staying at their place, ask to see the space.
    • If the sitter will stay at your place, decide on your house rules for them.
  • If my dog does something that annoys you, how will you respond?
  • Will my dog be walked and cared for alone, or with other clients? You might like that your dog gets the social time, or you might prefer to avoid this risk. It's a personal choice.
  • Do you plan on letting my dog off leash? Most times, the answer to this should be no. It’s just not very smart to expect your dog to listen to someone who he doesn’t know.
  • Do you have insurance? Most part-time sitters, like college students, won’t have this. Decide if that’s OK with you.
  • Will you be driving my dog around? You might prefer not to have your sitter drive, or maybe the extra adventures are a bonus!
  • Do you have reliable transportation if the weather is bad?

How to Set Your Dog Sitter Up for Success

Once you've selected your dog sitter, it’s important to make sure you set them up for success. It’s a good idea to have your dog sitter over to show them where you’ll put keys, instructions, food, and more. You can watch them and your dog interact and show them around your house.

Don’t be embarrassed if you end up leaving your dog sitter a binder’s worth of instructions! Most dog sitters will really appreciate all the info. Consider including:

  • Your dog’s name, age, breed, and medical history
  • Your vet’s information
  • What tricks and behaviors your dog knows (It’s helpful if your sitter knows both the verbal cue and the hand signal for your dog.)
  • Any behavioral or medical information on your dog, such as your dog's recent surgery or the fact that your dog is shy with strange men
  • Your dog’s daily schedule in excruciating detail
    • How much do they eat? When? Where?
    • How much do they poop? When? Where?
    • What’s their favorite walking route? How far do they go? Do they like running, hiking, or fetch?
    • How many treats do they get? For what?
    • What equipment are they walked with?
  • Whether or not you’d like your dog interacting with people or other dogs while under the sitter’s care
    • Even if your dog is friendly, it’s often a good idea to have your sitter be a bit more cautious
  • Where all of your dog’s supplies and food are stored
  • Where your sitter will sleep
  • Whether or not your sitter can/should eat perishable food left in your fridge
  • Whether or not your sitter can have friends or significant others visit
  • TV and WiFi information
  • Basic neighborhood amenities, like a nearby pet store or snack shop
  • Where to park
  • Anything to watch out for or know about in the neighborhood
  • Who your sitter can call if they get locked out or has any other emergencies with your dog

Of course, you’ll go over most of this verbally when you meet your sitter. But no matter how simple the instructions seem to you, that's probably a lot of information for them. Make sure you have all the information they will need at the ready, and above all, communication is key.