5 Tips For Finding An In-Home Pet Sitter
Back in the ‘ol days when we needed to hire a professional to complete a service or provide care for ourselves or family members, we had to peruse the phone book, with it's infinite pages (depending on how big the city you lived in was) and try to find the perfect match. You, most times, had only the receptionist’s greeting and countenance to go on. If you were really lucky, a referral from a friend. The world of internet hadn’t quite advanced enough to use it for much else than checking email. But it was so riveting though, right?! Watching the page load slowly...just teasing you...when all of the sudden the phone rings and you lose connection!
Fast forward to current day where in a few seconds we have tons of information right at our fingertips...from restaurant menus, to reviews from patrons of just about every business in the continental US.
Here are some tips for finding the perfect pet sitter/dog walker for your family using the most up to date resources and, of course, some of the tried and true methods!
Tip One: Check for Pet Sitter’s Insurance
I would say the quickest way to weed out any potentially bad apples would be asking if they are insured. Most professionals have Pet Sitter Insurance credentials listed on their websites.
Why is this important?
Pet Sitter’s Insurance can help in situations that are completely unavoidable, like a bite incident caused by an unleashed animal in a public space (like in your neighborhood). They can also provide coverage for emergency vet care for your pets while you are away for an injury caused by rough play or a sneaky pup getting a hold of something they shouldn’t in your house or yard.
Being fully insured as a professional pet sitting business means they are fully prepared for unforeseen circumstances and are committed to making sure your pets get the best care in those scenarios. If a pet sitting/dog walking business has independent contractors or employees, being
bonded is also important as bonds are usually
protection from theft or negligence on the part of the employee.
Tip Two: Read Online Reviews
Online reviews can be a sure fire way to avoid a lot of bad experience by reading through what other members of your community have said about the business. Did others comment on things that are important to you?
If there is a mix of positive and negative reviews, maybe notice if all of the positive reviews seem to be the most recent and negative reviews were several years ago. It is possible there could be new management or supervisors in place.
Always remember to take the time to peek at what the owner of the business responded to any unsatisfactory reviews. For the most part, if a disgruntled customer goes on an online rant, the owner will make sure to respond publicly to facilitate transparency in situations where they have nothing to hide.
Tip Three: Check for Web Presence and Give Them a Call!
If the business has a website make sure to review the content. A committed pet sitting business will usually have a website with details like photos, contact information, services they offer, and a little more
about their professional experience. Fly by night pet sitters who may decide this career isn’t right for them suddenly, or that those special concert tickets are more important than your pre-scheduled vacation services will most likely not have a solid web presence. If numbers are outdated and content doesn't appear accurate it could possibly mean the business and professionalism isn’t a very high priority. Which usually translates into the fact that your family may be pretty low on their priority list as well.
If everything is checking out, give them a call!
Make sure you ASK QUESTIONS! Most pet sitters will use this time to make sure that your family is a good fit for their services or business model. Some in-home sitters only let pets out in fenced yards, no walking on leash. Some charge individually per pet. Some don’t do canines over 30 pounds. Make sure you ask what is important to your family.
They will most likely be asking you questions about your pet’s specific needs and your home set up. Answering as honestly as possible is so very important during this time.
Two Examples of WHY Honesty is the Best Policy:
Let's say your pup battles something like thunderstorm phobia but you are worried to tell the pet sitter in fear that they might not want to take you on as a client. This could end in devastating results if your pup is indeed triggered while under their supervision and protective measures weren’t taken before the anxiety arose, resulting in an injury to the sitter or your pet.
While out on leash your dog becomes aroused by other canines and can pull and lunge when they see another dog out on a walk. You are embarrassed and don’t want the dog walker to think your pup is aggressive because he is just the sweetest cuddle bug and would hate for them to get the wrong impression. Every single professional dog walker or in-home pet sitter has encountered this issue, knowing this beforehand can help you both decide if they are a good fit for your family, becoming an established client only to find out the sitter isn’t comfortable walking your pup and you need to start over from square one is less than desirable for anyone.
Skip the embarrassment and just be honest. I can assure you most professionals who are in this business have seen it a ton, and do NOT think any less of you. In fact, a client who preemptively expresses possible concerns will most likely be seen as a person the sitter can trust, and that can go a long way in a business where liability plays such a huge role.
Tip Four: Complete Paperwork and Always Review Contract
Most in-home pet sitters require a consultation before any services are performed. Some charge, some do not. While there they may collect paperwork and review their contract with you, answer any questions. If a sitter doesn’t have ANY paperwork, it is wise to question how they will remember the details unique to your home and family. Recalling details such as those at the end of that particular day would be difficult for most people, what about in two weeks when your services begin?
When a sitter’s paperwork is sparse and you are finding there isn’t nearly enough inquiries about Pee-wee’s routine, food, and medications...this is a sign that Pee-wee’s routine, food, and medications aren’t of upmost importance and there is major cause for concern. If their paperwork isn’t very detailed, how detail oriented are they as a caregiver?
Take a look at the contract. A few things to look for would be cancellation policies, inclement weather protocols, permission to enter your house, and your permission to take Pee-wee to the vet in the event of an emergency. Professionals have back up plans for their back up plans!
Tip Five: Tap Into Your Spidey Senses
We all have them, right? The tingles that come when something just doesn’t feel right. Your intuition is reaching for the “alarm” button whether the cause is obvious or too subtle to notice outwardly.
Speaking with the business representative on the phone and during the consultation…be observant. Are they hurrying you off the phone and constantly checking their cell while at your consult? Have they been constantly talking the entire time, barely letting you get a word in…leaving you feeling like you didn’t have the opportunity to ask all of your questions? Do they barrel into your home and ignore your warnings about Pee-wee being shy around strangers, immediately getting too close for Pee’s comfort and almost
getting bit? Does their vibe match your
If things are usually peaceful around your home and they are exuding a very large and loud presence, how will your pets feel when alone with this person?
Finding a professional service doesn’t have to be as scary as it used to be. Use these tips to find an in-home sitter that is trustworthy, committed, and prepared. Doing the hard work on the front end of your search can avoid having to find a new sitter after finding out the previous one got out of the biz after a year or, even worse, was negligent and your furry family members paid the price. And remember, go with your gut, if something doesn’t feel right keep looking!