I love my pet sitters. They come and live with me when my humans go away and rudely decide not to take me with them. Let me just tell you one thing. As ambassador for Pet Friendly Yucatan, I’m ashamed to say that they don’t always go to pet friendly places. What the poop is that about? Humans are weird and we all know it, accept it, and love you anyway.
This is why I wanted to talk to you about the wonderful world of pet sitting, all the different kinds of pet sitters there are, and how to decide what kind of pet sitter would be perfect for you and your four-legged companions. You might never have thought about the different types of pet sitting available, or you may not have thought about what, exactly, you want in a pet sitter.
Maybe you don’t even have a pet yet and you haven’t thought about this part of being a pet guardian, or maybe you have never thought you needed one before, but please let me assure you that having a reliable pet sitter that you can call on can certainly reduce a lot of stress, especially in urgent situations. Sometimes you humans have to go places in emergencies and worrying about our care can make it so much more complicated. There are all kinds of pet sitting services available. Some of them involve payment while others are a kind of barter or trade.
Some pet sitters will stay in your home, some will just visit, while others will care for your pets in their own homes. All these types of pet sitting services are important and helpful, but it is important to understand the difference and also to be honest about your expectations, especially if you have multiple pets, pets with high care needs, or additional work that needs to be done, such as tending your garden (to keep it beautiful for your pets of course). I’m going to explore the different options for you, from a dog’s perspective in the hope that it will help you find someone who will care for your pet with as much love and care as you do.
Pet sitters for barter
There are many kinds of pet sitting platforms that offer a barter or trade arrangement between people who are willing to care for your pets and home in exchange for staying rent free. This is an extremely popular arrangement and often suits both parties. Even the most basic trade of accommodation for pet sitting has variations. Sometimes pet sitters are asked to pay for utilities, for example. In other cases, pet guardians spoil their pet sitters making sure that they have everything they need, even some good wine. Some pet owners even allow their pet sitters to use their car, which can be important if the home is isolated, or the pet sitter is expected to take the pet to the vet or groomer.
Many pet sitters who exchange their services for accommodation are doing so because they want to travel. Some of the sitters will be digital nomads, and work from home, so they don’t depend on an income from pet sitting. When talking with pet sitters who are offering to do a trade, it’s important to know what their expectations are. If it’s a long sit, they often will want to live in your home as if it is their own, which means they may want to go on day trips, tours, go out to meals, events or shows, spend time with friends, and even entertain. All of these need to be considered.
If you have pets that are low maintenance, undemanding, and easy to care for, this may be a great arrangement for you. You have the peace of mind that someone is looking out for your pets, and you know that your home is occupied, so is much more secure. Unless you have trusted friends or family, who you feel comfortable having as pet sitters in your home, or exceptionally good personal recommendations, you may feel safest going through an organisation that offers some level of security as they can provide insured house sitters and emergency support. I will have a list of links at the end of my article so that you humans can find out more about these services.
Paying for pet sitting
Pet sitting is also a service provided by animal professionals. Professional pet sitters charge for their services, and you develop an agreement or contract with them based on the services they provide. Professional pet sitters normally have additional skills, knowledge, and training and are ideal for pet owners who want to have an extra level of care for their pets. They will be able to care for pets who have high exercise or behavioural needs, who require regular medication, daily grooming, and they will be familiar with the complexities of multi pet households.
There are even professional membership organisations for pet sitters and professional certifications although professional pet sitters may be qualified in other areas of animal care. Some professional pet sitters are able to offer professional pet services as they may be veterinary technicians, dog trainers, or groomers.I bet you’re wondering what kind of pet sitters my humans use for me.
Well, they choose professional pet sitters that come and live in our home. They want to ensure that the people caring for me are not going to be interested in going out and exploring the city and being tourists. They want the people who stay with me to focus on my care and welfare. They also want our home to be occupied and secure. They know that when they employ a trusted professional pet sitter that all instructions will be followed and that the pet sitters will do everything that is asked of them.
Pet Sitters that Pop In
Some pet guardians pay someone to pop into their home to visit their pets and care for them, but do not expect them to live in the home. This can work when owners are away for a very short period for pets like cats and sometimes dogs, if it is a multi-dog household. If pets are going to be left for more than a couple of days, this is not a safe arrangement. If one of the pets becomes sick or injured, it is vital that someone is at home to get them urgent medical care. The arrangement can also be stressful for pets who are used to human companionship and is highly likely to make any related behaviour problems much worse.
If you are only going away for one or two days and you’ve decided to have a pet sitter that pops in, do make sure that they are spending enough time with your pet giving them the companionship, mental stimulation, enrichment, and care that they need. Just letting the dogs out to go to the toilet is not adequate care for dogs and cats should be played with, groomed, and spent time with.
More than any other type of pet sitter, it’s important that this kind of pet sitter has had the chance to get to know your pets before you leave. Having a stranger coming into the home while the owner is away can be very distressing for some pets.
Pet boarding services
The other kind of pet sitting that you can consider is pet boarding. I’m not going to talk about boarding kennel services because it’s not something my humans would ever consider for their pets. But there are a number of smaller day care and overnight pet sitting services that people offer in their own homes that can also be a wonderful way for your pet to be looked after when you are away.
If you’re going to board your dog with a pet sitter in their home, it’s important to know if they will have any other pets on the property and if so, how this will be managed, especially in regard to transmissible illness. Group housing always carries a risk of injury or illness, so knowing what is done to prevent accidents and infection is a priority.
A good home boarder, who is caring for multiple dogs, will be thorough in checking on vaccination and parasite treatment records. They will have set their home up so that dogs with different needs can be managed separately. They will not allow free play without supervision. When your dog is staying in someone’s home, they may not be able to receive constant human companionship, so make sure you find out how often your dog will be cuddled, played with, and exercised individually, where they will sleep, exercise, and toilet. If you’re not comfortable with this situation, the good news is that there are also people who do home boarding and will only care for one client’s pets at a time. They may have their own pets, but if your dog is comfortable with their pets, this may be a good alternative to having someone staying in your home.
If you are considering this for boarding and training services, so that your dog gets to go to school while you are away, make sure that they are qualified trainers and are using humane, effective, science based positive reinforcement methods and that they will provide ongoing training for you and your pets together upon your return. My human has heard some horror stories of dogs that have been sent to board and training situations and have returned traumatised.
Below is a list of helpful hints to help you find the best pet sitter for your non-human family members.
Personal recommendations and references – these are the best ways to find a reliable, local professional pet sitter.
Experience – find out if they are familiar with the type of pets you are asking them to care for. Elderly dogs have quite different needs than young, active dogs of working breeds. They may be great at getting a pill down an old arthritic cheeky Chihuahua, but do they know how to manage a reactive Malinois on walks? They may love pit bull couch potatoes but not be prepared to get up every few hours to help housetrain your new puppy.
Knowledge – your pet sitter should have good general knowledge in pet behaviour, health, and welfare. If they are a local, professional sitter, they should be familiar with local animal hospitals and emergency veterinary services. If they don’t drive but need to transport your pet to the vet, they should also have contacts who can provide that service and if you want your pet safely secured in the vehicle, make sure you check that any vehicle they use is or can be fitted with the safety equipment to do that. They should also be able to do basic animal first aid.
Additional services – pet sitters are often willing to take care of important things around your home while you are away. They can receive deliveries and water your plants and garden. They may even be able to provide dog training services if they are qualified to do so.
Contracts – It can be useful to use a contract when agreeing on your pet sitter’s responsibilities. This can protect your pet, you, and the pet sitter from any misunderstandings. You can find many pet sitting contract templates online for free to make this easier. Or your pet sitter may already use their own contracts.
Insurance – This is something that is easy to forget but particularly important to think about. What happens if the sitter breaks something valuable or is seriously injured while caring for your pet? What happens if your pet injures someone on a walk? What if your pet destroys something valuable that belongs to the pet sitter?
How to make sure your fuzzy friends have a great pet sitting experience
Leaving pets at home can be stressful for humans and their pets, so it’s important to do everything you can to make it easy for everyone. Here is my handy guide on setting your pet and your pet sitter up for success.
• Make sure your pet has had a check-up, is up to date on all vaccinations and parasite prevention, and, if they use medication, has a full supply of what they need.
• Provide your pet sitter with a detailed outline of your pet’s breed/type, temperament, age, health, any behaviour problems, and medical needs.
• Give your pet sitter a list of all the words your pet knows. For example, my vocabulary includes – ‘don’t be rude’ & ‘tacos.’ But of course, I know all the tricks like ‘sit,’ ‘lie down,’ ‘stay’ and a bunch of other silly things that my humans seem to enjoy. Whatever makes them happy.
• Provide a clear outline of your routine with your pets. This should include feeding times, exercise times, play times, and grooming times. This should be given in a lot of detail as these routines are what will make it less stressful for your pet. Your pet sitter may even provide you with a detailed questionnaire. You can never give them too much information.
• Be extremely specific about how much your pet is fed and any rituals that you practice around feeding time. For example, I must sit and wait politely until my human tells me ‘dinner.’
• Let them know what treats are allowed, how many, and under what circumstances.
• Show them how to fit walking equipment such as harnesses and how your pet is trained to behave while exercising. If you’re pet is reactive, make sure the pet sitter knows how you prevent this from happening and what to do when there is an incident.
• Let your pet sitter know what parts of the house they are welcome to use and if there is anything you don’t want them to touch.
• Warn them about any issues in the neighbourhood. For example, we have a backyard breeder of big mean dogs at one end of our road. The dogs are not very nice and can jump the fence, so my human never lets me walk that way.
• Show your pet sitter all the plants that need watering and tell them about any quirks your house has. All it takes is a door that sticks or a window that won’t close to worry your pet sitter when they are trying to look after your pet and home. Things like ovens that won’t switch on, or confusing remote controls can all make things more difficult, so try to provide all the information they’ll need for a comfortable stay.
• Make sure that you leave back up instructions for any emergency. Torches/flashlights for power outages, instructions in case anything needs to be switched off. Make sure that they can reach you or know who to reach in an emergency and what to do if they get locked out. Even more important is leaving them with numbers in case there is an emergency with your pet. Let them know where they should take your pet and how the costs will be covered.
• Of course, if you are a really kind human who wants to keep your pet sitter sweet, find out what kind of food they like, buy them a bottle of wine, make sure that their bed is comfy and clean and that they have fresh fluffy towels to use. Provide them with instructions for TVs and remotes as well as Wi-Fi passwords. If they are staying with your pets, they are your guests and they are in charge of the most valuable things in your life, so treat them well.
• And finally, always make sure your pet sitter spends time with your pet before you leave. Have them come round on another day if your pet sitter is staying in your home or do a couple trial runs if your pet is boarding at their home. Show them around your home and let them get familiar with the way you do things. This will make sure things go well for everyone.
Whether you use a professional pet sitter to stay in your home, board your pet at someone else’s home, or do a barter with someone so that they get to stay in your home for free in exchange for pet sitting, make sure that you and your pets feel absolutely happy with the person who will be caring for them because there’s nothing like being able to relax knowing that your home and your beloved companion animals are in the safest hands.
Pet and house-sitting websites
If you’d like to find pet sitters that humans have recommended to me, you can click here