5 Tips for Choosing the Right Pet Sitter

Two dogs standing on a dock
Photo: Lindsay Stordahl

Hiring a professional pet sitter can be a great option. Some dogs don’t do well in a busy boarding kennel environment. They might not get along well with other dogs, or they might get too stressed out from all the barking. For those dogs, hiring a professional pet sitter allows them to stay in the comfort of their own home while receiving plenty of one-on-one attention and exercise.

But how do you go about finding the right pet sitter? Here are five tips.

Choosing the Right Pet Sitter

1. Plan ahead so you don’t feel rushed.

The last thing you want to do is head out of town feeling uneasy about the pet sitter you hired at the last minute. Make sure to give yourself at least a month to start finding the right sitter. You could start by looking at a few of the local pet sitter’s web sites. Read their About pages to see who might be a good match for your unique pets. Look for a testimonials page and search for reviews on Google + or Yelp.

It’s also important to find someone who will meet your pet’s unique needs. For example, if you have a high-energy dog you definitely want to hire a pet sitter who is in good shape. Some pet sitters will consider a “walk” a five-minute stroll around the block. Others will take the dogs on some serious power walks or running sessions. As another example, maybe your cat requires medication at specific times every day. You’ll definitely want to find a pet sitter who is comfortable giving medication to cats.

2. Set up a meet and greet.

It’s a common procedure for sitters to set up a meet and greet with each potential new client. This is your opportunity to ask questions and get to know the person. Ask about her experience such as how long she has been offering pet sitting. The pet sitter will most likely have some forms for you to fill out at this time, but don’t feel like you have to commit to this particular pet sitter quite yet. If you want to take some time to think about it and meet another sitter or two, that would be OK. It’s great if there are a few options in your area.

3. Watch how the person interacts with your dog or cat.

When you meet the pet sitter, does he seem like he likes dogs and cats? Is he down on the ground interacting with your dog? Does he seem to have the right energy? Some dogs may need someone with a calming energy, while others do better with a more upbeat person.

You could also ask the pet sitter to take your dog for a short walk while you go along. Just say something such as, “Hey, sometimes Lucy is a little nervous around strangers. Could we take her for a five-minute walk and see how she does with you?” This will give you an opportunity to watch how the pet sitter handles your dog, especially if you have a big, strong dog and are at all worried about your dog getting away. This is also the perfect time to point out specific routes you might take or to ask questions about the pet sitter’s training techniques. If your dog wears a specific type of training collar, make sure the pet sitter knows how to use it.

4. Ask if he or she is insured.

All professional pet sitters should carry pet sitting insurance. Don’t bother hiring someone who does not.

5. Ask for references.

If it makes you feel better to hear from a few others who have hired this pet sitter, it’s OK to ask. All pet sitters should be able to provide references upon request.

Additional safety tips: Make sure the pet sitter has emergency numbers for your pet’s veterinarian before you leave town. Also make sure your dogs and cats are wearing pet ID tags. You just never know when they could slip out the door, and that would be extra stressful if you are out of town. Make it easy for your pets to get home.

Have you ever hired a professional pet sitter?

About Lindsay Stordahl

Lindsay Stordahl is a blogger for dogIDs.com. She has a black Lab mix named Ace and two naughty cats named Beamer and Scout. Lindsay owns a pet sitting business called Run That Mutt and also maintains the blog ThatMutt.com. ... Add Lindsay to your Google+ circles at . You can follow Lindsay on Twitter @ThatMutt.

  1. Thank you for the help. I am looking for a pet boarding service for the first time. I definitely plan on having a meet and greet, as you suggested. Do you think I should try to meet with multiple people before deciding on one?

  2. These are some great tips, and I appreciate your advice to plan ahead when hiring a pet sitter. My husband and I are going to be going on a trip in a couple of months, and we need someone to watch our two dogs for us. We don’t want to rush this, so we’ll definitely start looking for a pet sitter right away so we have everything figured out ahead of time. Thanks for the great post!

  3. We are excited to be taking a vacation to Hawaii this summer but are hesitant to leave our dog behind. It is good to know that asking for references can be a successful thing to do when finding a pet sitter. I like what was said about how it would feel better to hear from a few others who have hired the same pet sitter. We will definitely have to do this, thanks.

    • Word of mouth goes a long way, too. If you have any social groups in person or just online like in a Facebook group, ask about any sitters in the area that you should ask about or avoid. They can give valuable insight!

  4. I like that you mentioned to make sure whoever you choose to watch your dog is insured. I didn’t realize that was such an issue, but it makes sense that if something were to happen, you would want to be covered and protected. We are trying to find the right place or person to board and watch our dog while we go on vacation. This is something we will definitely ask about.


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