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Dog Sitting. House Sitting. What you should know. What you should ask.

Updated: Aug 19, 2022

UPDATED 19 August, 2022


Labrador snoozing on couch

My family and I embarked on a journey of 'dog sitting' way back in January 2015. First it was from friends, then friends of friends and that went down the line to signing up with an online pet sitting platform.


It was a fun way to have two dogs without having two dogs all of the time. It's also a good way to get a variety of company for our very chilled dog, Finn. But now that we have our other dog, Luna, we don't dog sit anymore. Unless it is dogs that we already know and dogs that both Luna, Finn and Frankie our cat can cope with.


If you are looking at getting your dog looked after in a sitter's home - here are a few things that you need to do/look/think about before you decide.


How do you find a sitter?

There are a variety of ways. There are online platforms like Madpaws, Other ways is by searching Google of course, word of mouth and/or belonging to Facebook dog groups like Bayside Dog Owners Group and asking there.


Going through such platforms as Madpaws can help ease your mind. The sitter sets the rate they charge you per hour but the sites take out 15% to 20% of that rate - this goes towards Public Liability Insurance, site fees etc.


A private sitter generally offers a family lifestyle while you are away. Many don't have insurance but are geared to have only one or two guest dogs and will give them individual attention.


A registered pet sitting business will have insurance (you need to ask them what it covers), normally a Police Check but may be less personal than the private sitter due to a higher number of dogs in their care (note that I said MAY).


Always have a meet and greet before both parties commit. After all, your dog is precious and you want to see how your pet reacts with the prospective sitter in that environment. During your meet and greet with any sitter, you need to look for compatibility of the animals, of the sitters to your dog, of the home and the lifestyle they offer.


You need to ask questions like: Where do they get to sleep? How often are they walked? Would they be left alone? For how long? Are you comfortable giving medication? As a prospective client, you need to make sure that the property is escape proof for your dog.


A good sitter from any of the above scenarios will ask you questions like: Are they toilet trained? Are they comfortable with other dogs? Big dogs? Small dogs? Cats? Other animals? Are they sensitive to loud noises? Do they have any food allergies? What else should I know about your dog? Let them know how you feel about them taking your dog to an off lead park. Do you prefer your dog have on lead experiences only?

Once you and the sitter decide it's a great match then you can sort out the nitty gritty like - will I bring my dog's bed? Ask if you need to bring your dog's bowl too. What you generally have to take is the food, collars, lead, coat and maybe even a familiar toy.


It is a good idea for you to supply a list of emergency contacts, your dog's vet details (although if it's an emergency most would take to the closest vet) and any particular instructions - all in written form.


Also list, when to feed your dog and how much. Go over this information with the sitter with them and if you are going overseas, make sure your sitter has the relevant information to be able to collect the dog from the pound etc.


When we used to dog sit, we put an embroidered collar on the guest dog that had the words 'pet sitter' and my mobile number on it. This was just in case the dog got out or away from us and it would have made it easier to return to me.

Clarify with your sitter their procedures should there be an emergency also, most sitters will also update you along the way with photos and messages as to how they are settling in.


You know, to lessen the stress on your dog in its new environment, as sitters, we allow them to do the things that our dog is allowed to do. ie they are allowed on the couch (if we invite them) and, in fact, if they fancy, they can sleep there all night. Our philosophy is - the owners are on holidays and relaxing, why not the dog too? Of course, if specifically asked not to, we won't let them :) So, you need to be specific on what you allow.


Many people think - oh they won't love my pooch enough and he/she will miss me. Well, from experience, we loved on them lots. Sure, some become more favourite than others but we always love on them.


In my experience, having your dog sat either in the sitters home or in your own home, is a MUCH less unsettling experience for them than sending them to kennels where they are more of a number than a member. However, formal kennels often offer peace of mind. Secure premises is the main factor.


THINKING OF GETTING A HOUSE SITTER INSTEAD? Read on...

Then there is the idea of getting a house sitter where your dog will be in their home environment. This is another terrific option, yet it presents itself with more questions to ask.


WHAT MAKES SOMEONE A GOOD PET + HOUSE SITTER?

Confident – animals respond well to upbeat and happy personality.

Flexible – pet sitters, need to be reasonably flexible

Responsible – looking after other people’s pets and home requires someone who will be responsible for their actions.

Sensitive – as pets cannot talk, pet sitters need to be acutely aware of the pets trying to communicate.


QUESTIONS TO ASK A PET/HOUSE SITTER:

What experience do you have?

Do you have references?

How long will you leave my dog alone by themselves?

Are you intending on having people over? If so, who?

(make sure the sitter knows how you feel about this and outline your acceptable parameters)

Do you know how to look after the garden? Other animals etc in the home?


WRITE DOWN YOUR PET’S ROUTINE, INSTRUCTIONS + EMERGENCY CONTACTS - this is very important.

When you’re writing the routine, it needs to be very similar to what you do with your pet daily. For pets, having their owner missing can be very stressful, and they’ll rely on their daily routine for normalcy. If this routine changes too much, it can increase their stress levels. For example, if you walk your dog in the morning, but the routine you write asks for twice-daily walks, your pet may become confused and stressed.

The instructions you write are different to the pet’s routine. Instructions can cover:

  • How, what and when to feed your pets

  • Where to buy food if required - talk about reimbursement options if this is needed

  • Grooming instructions

  • Training tips, including a list of commands

  • Walking routes

  • Who to call in emergencies? Have a list of these contacts on the fridge.

  • What medications are required and make sure the sitter knows how to administer

  • Any behavioural issues they may have

  • Where your pets sleep

The more details you write for your pet sitter, the easier their time and the happier your pets will be while you’re away.


Specific feeding instructions are essential as some pets will not eat unless prepared in a certain way.


MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ENOUGH FOOD, LITTER, AND CLEANING SUPPLIES FOR YOUR PETS

Whenever you’re leaving your pets with other people, you need to be sure there is enough food.


If you regularly have pet food delivered to your home, ensure your pet sitter knows what days to expect delivery and who to call if it does not arrive. It may be best to put in an extra order, so your pets have enough for your entire trip.


If you have cats and they use a litter box, you’ll need to ensure that you have enough supplies of this and their food. Same goes for any other types of animals that live in your home. Guinea pigs, fish, birds etc.


Make sure you have enough poop bags on hand, so your pet sitter doesn’t need to buy any. In most councils, poop bags must be carried (and used) while walking dogs. Make a note in your instructions for where poop bags can be disposed of (compost, household rubbish bin, etc.).


Remember to give your sitter your WIFI details too. Leave instructions on how to work electronics etc. Have a pool? Remind them of safety around that and any other important issues.

The great thing about a house sitter is that your home is occupied and therefore this offers extra security.

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