How should I choose a pet sitter or dog walker?
Updated: Oct 1, 2019
Thinking about hiring a pet sitter or dog walker but you're not sure where to start? There's a lot to think about when considering who is the best fit for your pet. Violet Goode, Owner of Wags Pet Club, LLC - Pet Sitting & Dog Walking will walk through the process and help you get on the right path to pet sitter success.
Where do I find pet sitters and dog walkers in my area?
The best place to look for a local professional pet sitter or dog walker is the internet! Google, "dog walker in (insert your city here)", or "pet sitters near me" and you'll have many options to chose from. After doing a quick Google search you'll likely see big ads for the apps, Rover & Wag. My advice here is simple: keep scrolling! While it may seem tempting to download one of these apps, call a sitter, and check this off your to-do list, you should know what you're getting into. You, your pets, and your home deserve better. If you’d like to read more about the dangers of using these apps, Watchdog Mary, aka Mary Schwager, sums it up perfectly in her article, "Using the Rover app, you should read this first..." on the website Grit Daily. For the sake of this article let's just assume you've decided on a professional pet sitter or dog walker and go from there.
There are so many choices, where should I start?
First start by checking out their websites. A pet care business website should look and feel professional. Read the sitter's or companies bios to find out why they started their business or what makes them good at their job. Read any reviews they have, and find out why their clients love them. If you have a lot to choose from, narrow it down to a few good candidates and trust your gut.
Pro Tip: Make sure the pet care companies you are researching service your neighborhood. For example, if you Google "Pet Sitters in Minneapolis" you'll likely get a mix of sitters, some who only service parts of the city, while others may services all areas.
Okay, so I'm convinced, but how will I know if they are a Professional Pet Sitter or Dog walker?
Professional pet sitters and dog walkers build their entire businesses around the care of your pets. Here are some points to identify when looking for a professional pet sitter or dog walker.
Do they have business liability insurance?
If they have employees are they bonded?
Do they have a business license from the state and/or municipality (where applicable, not every state requires this)?
Are they Pet CPR/First Aid Certified, and through which organization? When did they become certified, and do they renew the certification periodically?
Do they have any other additional training or qualifications?
Do they belong to any professional organizations?
Other things to consider…
Does the business use employees or independent contractors?
Will I get to meet each person coming into my home to care for my pets?
Do they use a pet sitting software to track visits & handle other scheduling needs?
Next, narrow down the exact services you are looking for. What services do you need and what dates will you need these services?
Are you looking for group walks for your pup or do you prefer solo walks?
Do you have pets other than cats or dogs, such as birds, ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs, pocket pets, reptiles, or fish? Does the sitter take care of these animals?
Can they provide services at specific times for administering medications or potty training?
Will you need to make frequent last-minute requests? Can they accommodate these requests, and do they charge an extra fee to do so.
If you'd like to see what Wags Pet Club offers see our services here, https://www.wagspetclub.com/services
If you have a pet with particular medical needs, is the sitter comfortable and experienced in the care of that condition?
Do you have a pet with special temperament issues (shy, skittish, or reactive)? How much experience does the sitter have with these issues, and can they safely handle the pet in a caring way?
Do you need a sitter with specific species or breed knowledge, and can they explain their proficiency and/or training skills?
Does the sitter have specific training qualifications, and how did they acquire those skills? What is the sitter's training philosophy, and are they able to reinforce training and commands you are using with your pet?
Pro Tip: Keep in mind, there are varying levels of expertise and experience even with professional pet sitters. If your pet has any special needs, you should be prepared to discuss it right away.
Schedule a Meet & Greet!
A good professional pet sitter will insist on meeting with you and your pets before committing to services. They will have a contract, a veterinary release, and possibly other forms that need to be signed before service begins. These explain the scope of work, and other details needed to care for your pets. This is standard practice in the industry and you should be very wary of any sitter who did not require this.
Some sitters will want to do an initial phone consultation before scheduling the Meet & Greet. Meet and Greets usually last 30 to 45 mins, and are most often conducted at no charge to you.
If you’d like to set up a Meet & Greet with Wags Pet Club you can do so here, https://www.wagspetclub.com/contact
Lastly, give yourself plenty of time!
Excellent professional pet sitters and dog walkers are busy, and spots on their schedules fill fast, especially around holidays and typical vacation times. Do not wait until the last minute to secure reliable professional pet care for your pets. Leave plenty of time to schedule the Meet & Greet, fill out forms, and to get to know your pet sitter. If possible schedule a few walks or visits before you leave town. Give your pet sitter or dog walker time to bond with your pet before they are left alone to care for them.
Hiring a pet sitter or dog walker can feel overwhelming. It’s a big decision and should not be taken lightly; take your time and trust your gut. Once you find a sitter, you’ll have a trusted partner to help you with your pet’s care and you’ll wonder how you ever survived without them. Good luck on your journey!
Watch for our next blog, "How to Master the Meet & Greet."