December 15, 2022

How To Choose A Pet Sitter For Your Dog

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12-Minute Listen: How Patrick Would Choose A Pet Sitter – An Interview With Patrick Flynn

What do you do if you need someone to care for your dog for an extended period of time? Whether you’re headed out of town for a vacation or a family emergency, it can be difficult and stressful to find extended care for your pup. 

“There are so many different kinds of dogs, who all have different needs,” explains Patrick Flynn, founder of Patrick’s Pet Care. “And when it comes to turning over the care to someone else, you have to think about your dog’s unique needs and find the care that best suits them.” 

Some dogs are very easy going and well adjusted and might do fine in a commercial boarding facility. Other dogs aren’t suited to a commercial boarding facility, whether it is due to age, health, or behavior concerns. 

In Patrick’s case, he wouldn’t trust a commercial overnight boarding facility with his dog, Daisy, and doesn’t generally recommend them. “I operated one for ten years, and found that it took every bit of my focus and attention to provide the baseline level of care that I would expect for my dog, who is not particularly needy or complicated and does not suffer from any medical issues,” says Patrick. “But there’s so much a dog needs to be happy, whether it’s attention, enrichment, exercise, or simple companionship. It’s a lot for a guardian to provide sometimes. And I have yet to find a commercial boarding facility that can come even close to providing what a dog needs to be okay for more than a night or two.”

How To Choose The Right Type Of Pet Sitter For Your Dog

What are your options if you want to avoid a commercial boarding facility? Today, there are apps like Rover and Wag! where you can find and book a sitter. These platforms connect individuals with local potential matches that will meet their dog’s needs, giving you more options to choose from. “It’s like online dating,” Patrick explains. “Are you going to take a chance and trust ‘fate’ at the one bar in town, or give the apps a try?”

Before turning to those platforms, Patrick recommends starting a bit closer to home. “If I needed someone else to care for my dog when I couldn’t be there, I would look for the closest approximation of the care that I provide.” Start by asking friends and family who your dog already has a relationship with—and make a point to pay them. Taking on the added responsibility of a living being is a big deal. 

What if your friends and family aren’t an option or are unavailable? In that case, Patrick recommends looking for a home-based care environment—ideally a one dog, one person situation—using a platform like Rover or Wag. 

Finding The Right Pet Sitter On Rover or Wag

How can you be sure you’re picking the right pet sitter when using a platform like Rover or Wag? Here are the eight questions and criteria Patrick recommends for evaluating a pet sitter:

  1. Does the person require a meet and greet? (The answer should be yes!)
  2. Do they check vaccinations? This is especially important if the sitter provides the service regularly to multiple dogs.
  3. What do their reviews say? Look for phrases like, “followed my instructions” and “excellent communication.”
  4. Do they have repeat clients? How many? If they have a lot of repeat clients, they are doing something right!
  5. Do they have a history of working with dogs responsibly? Or is this someone who has never had a dog before?
  6. Do they have any knowledge of animal behavior? For example, do they understand that introducing unfamiliar dogs to one another is probably not the best practice with a dog that isn’t theirs?
  7. If your dog will be staying at their home: are there other animals in the house, either who live there regularly or who might be boarding at the same time?
  8. What type of cleaning protocols are in place to prevent the spread of disease between clients?

Another important decision to make is whether it would be better for your dog to remain in your home or to stay at the sitter’s home. It ultimately depends on what’s best for your dog. 

9 Questions To Ask A Potential Pet Sitter

Once you have identified a potential pet sitter, there are a few important questions you should ask, says Patrick, to ensure you’ve found the right fit. For example, will your dog be taken to any dog parks? “I don’t want my well behaved dog to go and have an unfortunate accident with a strange dog in a dog park,” explains Patrick. “Dog parks generally aren’t particularly clean, it’s very easy to pick up diseases.” 

Here are the nine questions Patrick recommends asking your potential pet sitter:

  1. Will the person follow your dog’s routine schedule (within reason)? Consistent routine helps minimize stress in times of change.
  2. Will your dog be taken to any dog parks? 
  3. Will other dogs be in the home while your dog is also there? Who are the dogs and what are they like?
  4. What would the person do if your dog got loose or seemed sick? 
  5. When should you expect to get updates about how your dog is doing? What will the updates include? For example, will there be photos and videos?
  6. What is the person’s typical schedule? For example, do they work from home? Do they have to go to work at an office?
  7. Are dogs allowed on the furniture in their house, or should you bring your dog’s bed?
  8. Should you bring your own dog bowls?
  9. Are they familiar with the type of harness and leash you use, such as how they fit and how to use them?

While this may seem like a lot to ask, it’s important to remember that you’re leaving your best friend in the care of another. How are you going to enjoy your vacation if your loved one isn’t well taken care of? “I’m deliberately avoiding a commercial boarding facility for a reason,” says Patrick. “I want the person who has the space and time to care and enjoy Daisy’s company and for Daisy to also enjoy their company.”

Setting Your Pet Sitter Up For Success

Once your pet sitter is selected, it’s important to set them up for success to ensure your dog receives the care and attention they need and deserve. 

To do that, Patrick recommends:

  1. Prepackaging meals with the correct amount of food
  2. Providing a few favorite toys for them to chew on or play with to entertain themselves
  3. Telling the pet sitter you would prefer your dog not be left off leash anywhere outside the home, including backyards—even if the yard is fenced in
  4. Let them know you would prefer your dog not meet any strange dogs while you’re gone
  5. Sharing any habits your dog has and explaining how they communicate, such as standing at the door if they need to go the bathroom
  6. Establish when you would like to be contacted with an update, such as once per day 
  7. Establish when to contact you if there’s an emergency and what you consider to be an emergency 
  8. Provide a local emergency contact to get in touch with if they cannot reach you
  9. Provide your dog’s veterinary information
  10. Demonstrate how to properly use your dog’s gear, such as their harness and leash 

“I realize not everyone is perfect,” says Patrick. “That’s why I’m providing instructions about what she eats, what her routine is, in advance.” Think of what you would need to do to prepare someone to watch a human child. It really isn’t any different—just as much work needs to go into making sure your dog is safe and well cared for while you’re away.

In the long run, in terms of establishing a regular or recurring pet sitting relationship with a pet sitter, Patrick says, “I’d watch Daisy’s reaction at pick up and drop off from subsequent visits. Dogs are very capable of conveying their needs and opinions, if you look and listen.”



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