Choosing a Pet Sitter

Article by Jenn Hauta

Going on vacation is supposed to be a time to relax, kick back, and forget the worries of everyday life. However, many pet guardians have a hard time relaxing when they are away from their furry, finned, or feathered friend.

This is where choosing a professional pet sitter comes in; it can be a daunting task. Do you go with the cheapest option? The most expensive? Live in sitter? Drop in visits?

Here’s a few tips to help you in the process:

1. Ask friends and family for names of pet sitters they have used; ask the staff at your vet’s office; ask your groomer; look on pet professional websites, such as Vancouver Island Animal Training Association, the Pet Professional Guild, or Dog*Tec.

2. Look for a professional who has a valid business license and is bonded and insured.

3. Ask for references.

4. Read the pet sitter’s website. Find out what their experience and education in pet care is.  Look for courses such as the Dog Trainer Foundations Course from Karen Pryor Academy or the dog walker/pet sitter course from Dog*Tec. Completion of a first aid course is a good idea as well.

5. Arrange a meeting in your home so you can observe how the person interacts with your pet, and how your pet reacts to the person.

6. Ask the pet sitter what they would do if your pet starts offering undesirable behaviours, such as jumping up or pulling while on leashed walks. Good answers would be: ask the dog to do an incompatible behaviour such as sit instead of jumping up, or stop moving while the dog is pulling and only go forward when there is slack in the leash. Answers you don’t want to hear are: knee the dog in the chest, spray it in the face with water, or use a leash correction.

7.  Ask the pet sitter if they have another job, and if they do, consider how this may affect the level of care your pet receives. How long will your pet be left alone each day/at a time? Also important to consider if the sitter does drop in visits: how long between each visit, when is their last drop in of the night, and when is the first visit in the morning?

8.  Transparency in the pet sitter’s handling/training methods is very important. Look for professional affiliations, such as Vancouver Island Animal Training Association or The Pet Professional Guild. Professional membership to these organizations requires members to sign a code of ethics/be vetted by another professional member who is in good standing, and to use only positive reinforcement methods, which are backed by science.