Updated: Aug 26, 2019
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.
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 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).
We sometimes do pet sitting as a family but now mainly dogs that we already know. But, as a private pet sitter, we always have a meet and greet before both parties commit. After all, your dog is precious, as is ours (and our cat) and our humans.
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?
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? Sometimes we say yes to this one and sometimes no. Depends on the dog and the size. We don't have a big house so if the bed is big - we say no. Ask if you need to bring your dog's bowl too. What you do 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 we would take to the closest vet) and any particular instructions - all in written form. Also list, when to feed your dog and how much. As a sitter, I will go over this information with you and if you are going overseas, I often put on one of our collars that have Dog Sitter and my mobile number embroidered on it - just in case your pooch skidaddles and when found - I will be called first.
Clarify with your sitter their procedures should there be an emergency. 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 love 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.
Our philosophy as a family who sits dogs: We will only sit dogs who enhance our lives and the lives of our pets. It is meant to be a fun experience for both the sitter and the dog. Everyone wins!
Would love to hear your experiences of all of the above.