I did an informal poll recently and asked pet owners what it is they look for when they’re looking for a pet sitter or dog walker. Here’s what they said, starting with what was mentioned most often. (bullet points that are together mean those things were mentioned about the same number of times.)
- Bonded and insured
Insurance is a definite must for pet sitters and dog walkers. It serves a few purposes; it shows the business owner is serious about his/her business, and it protects you and the sitter should something unexpected happen to pets or property. Pet Sitters Associates and Business Insurers of the Carolinas are two of the companies that offer insurance for the pet sitting and dog walking industry.
- Pet sitter should understand something about pet behavior
People with dogs mentioned this the most, but it’s important for pet sitters to understand behavior for each type of animal they care for. It’s also best for the sitter and pet owner to talk about each particular pet’s personality, likes, dislikes, fears. etc. Dog walkers need to know how the dog walks on leash, gets along with other dogs and people, handles noise, etc.
- Follows instructions
Pet sitters and dog walkers should be prepared to follow a client’s instructions. Pet owners should make sure those instructions are concise and easy to understand.
- Able to administer medications (oral, topical, or sub-q)
- Pet sitter or dog walker gets along with my pets
The meet and greet is a great time to watch the interaction between your pets and your potential pet sitter. If something doesn’t seem right, trust your gut and interview another pet sitter.
- References and experience
Most dog walking and pet sitting professionals will offer references from clients, veterinarians, or other pet business professionals.
- Love for pets
People want to know their pet sitter or dog walker is doing what they do because they love pets, not just for the paycheck.
- First Aid/CPR training
Any pet sitter who’s been pet sitting long enough knows that emergencies do happen! First aid training won’t guarantee the pet will be OK, but it definitely increases their chances. In fact, the American Animal Hospital Association estimates that one in four more pets would survive an emergency if they were given some sort of first aid. Many pet sitters are trained by Pet Tech first aid instructors and/or the American Red Cross.
- Member of a pet sitter association
This may or may not mean something. Some pet sitter associations only require the yearly dues to be paid, and if that’s the case, it doesn’t really do anything to up the level of professionalism or skill of the pet sitter. It’s what they do with that membership that matters. So, before you assume someone is a good pet sitter simply because he or she belongs to an organization, find out if that organization has any requirements for membership. Is the pet sitter required to be insured? Do they need to attend a certain number of meetings per year? Is volunteer work required?
- Offers services such as bringing in mail, turning lights off/on, etc.
- Pet sitter or dog walker offers free meet & greet
This is a meeting in your home, with you and your pets so you and your potential pet sitter or dog walker can interview each other. Many offer this as a free service, while others charge a fee.
- Record visit activities
Most pet sitters will write notes each time they visit your pets.
- Will spend time exercising and/or playing with pets
- Pet sitter is licensed
This refers to a business license – not a “pet sitter license.” There is no occupational license for pet sitters. To read more about this see “Licensed, bonded, and insured” pet sitters. What does this mean?
- Pet sitter will stay overnight at pet’s home
Not all pet sitters will stay in the client’s home with their pets, so if this is what you need be sure to let your pet sitter know up front.
- When walking dogs, the dog walker or pet sitter walks dogs separately
This is an important question to ask if your dog will be walked. Some dog walkers and pet sitters will walk multiple dogs at once.
So, what do you look for when you’re trying to find a new pet sitter or dog walker? Is there something that’s important to you that isn’t on this list?