Pet Sitter hugging her pups.

What You Need to Know Before Hiring A Pet Sitter

Professional Pet Sitters Week, which is celebrated from March 3rd to the 9th, is a celebration of the hard working professionals who care for and love our pets in our absence. For those who have never hired a pet sitter before, the process can be overwhelming and nerve-wracking. How do you find a trustworthy sitter? Are there ground rules you need to put in place? What qualifies someone for the job? Are there certifications you need to ask about?

Before spiraling out of control with panic and indecision, consider taking advice from the experts. We spoke with four professional sitters from across the country about what pet parents need to consider before letting a stranger into their home to care for their beloved pet.

Know The Difference Between Pet Sitting and Pet Boarding

Russell Hartstein, a Certified Dog Behaviorist and Trainer, and the CEO of the Los Angeles-based Fun Paw Care, has over 30 years of “happy dog experience.” Fun Paw Care offers a wide range of services to their clients, including private, luxury dog boarding.

“Pet sitting is sometimes mistaken for dog boarding,” explains Hartstein. “But the two are completely different.”

Dog boarding involves bringing your dog to a third-party facility, while pet sitters will come to your home to feed and walk your dog while you are gone.

“Our dog boarding service is more like a spa vacation for your pet! It includes private one-on-one daily walks, massages, playtime, and even aromatherapy,” Hartstein says.

He goes on to stress that the one-on-one time with your dog is an important part of the equation, and a necessary duty for potential pet sitters.

“Ensure that a pet sitter doesn’t work on volume and can mimic your dog’s traditional feeding, play, socializing, and sleep routine.”

Always Ask for References

Kelly Kandra Hughes, a PhD who left academia to become a professional pet sitter, notes that it’s important to find a sitter who has a considerable amount of experience and will love your pet as much as you do.

“Consider a person’s references before hiring them,” Hughes says. “It will help you find someone who is willing to take extra steps to put you and your pup at ease with the entire process.”

Hughes even offers to visit the house a few times prior to the pet sitting job to get to know her client’s pet and let them adapt to her presence. She understands that a pet sitting experience has to be easy for everyone involved in order to be considered successful.

“I also encourage new clients to Google me to get a better sense of who I am as a person,” Hughes says. “When they see my academic credentials show up, I’ve found that the PhD provides people with a sense of relief. They know that I’m a responsible person who will do a good job taking care of their pets.”

Make Sure to Find The Perfect Pet Sitter for Your Pet

While many pet sitters will undoubtedly love animals, the X-factor to look for is how they specifically interact with you and your pet. Alexandra Davis and her husband Ryan work as professional pet sitters, and have found that there needs to be both openness and trust before committing to a new pet sitting experience.

“We always make sure that the fit is perfect on all sides,” Davis says. “For example, my husband and I prefer caring for pets that are already trained or in the process of being trained. We’ve had instances where two new stray dogs were incorporated into the home just days before our arrival, and we were unsure about how to proceed. It caused unnecessary stress for us and the pets.”

Set Ground Rules And Stick To Them

Jeff Carbridge, an experienced dog trainer, walker, sitter, and writer for DogOwner in the UK, wants pet parents to make sure that in addition to having the right certifications, reputation, and references, professional pet sitters are insured and a contract is in place with you before working together.

“The ground rules that I always include in contracts make it very clear about what the experience will look like for both parties,” says Carbridge. “Dogs need to be well-trained and non-aggressive. I have trained aggressive dogs, but when I am pet sitting I like to be able to feel relaxed with them in their home environment.”

Carbridge also works with clients to determine what kinds of ground rules they want him to abide by during their working relationship. “Sometimes that’s just a willingness to meet with them and their pet before the sit, and sometimes it’s about not leaving them in the crate all day–which is a horror story I have heard from jilted pet parents. Communicating your needs and ideal conditions ahead of time can cut down on stress and a bad experience during the actual pet sit.”