By Therese Kopiwoda
The pet sitting business is booming! This is because pet owners are discovering the peace of mind and convenience of being able to keep their pets at home when they themselves need to travel or work long hours. For those who have never used the services of a professional pet sitter though, the first time can be a bit nerve-wracking. There's a lot of ground to cover in looking for, and hiring, a professional pet sitter. With a little research and planning though, the experience can go quite smoothly for pet owners and pets alike.
Most pet sitters will set up a time to come to your home to meet with you and your pets before taking care of them. They'll use this time to get acquainted with you and your pet, learn about your pet's routine, explain policies, answer your questions, etc. This is also the time for you to ask questions of the pet sitter, explain exactly what you need, and determine if he or she is a good fit for you and your pets.
Here are a few major points to discuss when you meet with a potential pet sitter:
Experience and training: While there is no training required to become a pet sitter, it's a good idea to find out what type of experience the pet sitter has. Ask how long the person has been pet sitting, if he or she has cared for your type of pet, and if he or she has taken classes such as pet first aid, pet behavior, or dog training.
References: Ask for references from clients and contact them. Ask about their experiences and whether or not they would hire the pet sitter again. Many pet sitters are also happy to give references from other pet care professionals such as veterinarians, groomers, or trainers.
Contracts and other forms: Your pet sitter should have paperwork for you to complete, including a contract, information about your pet and home, your travel dates, emergency contacts, and a veterinary release form. It may seem like a lot of work to fill all these out, but it's essential that you get everything in writing. It gives you and your pet sitter a clear idea of what services will be rendered and the expectations you have of each other.
Insurance and possibly bonding: Ideally a sole proprietor will be insured, and services that employ pet sitters will be insured and their sitters will be bonded. This will not prevent accidents but may give you some protection if something unexpected does happen which is caused by pet sitter negligence.
Medical emergency plans: Your pet sitter should discuss with you how to care for your pet in case of an emergency. You will probably be asked to complete a form authorizing care and a dollar amount in case you're not able to be reached. Make sure your pet sitter has your veterinarian's name, location, and hours. And, in case of after hours emergencies, your pet sitter will need to know the location of the nearest emergency clinic.
Pet sitter emergencies: Ask what measures will be taken if your pet sitter becomes ill and is unable to care for your pets, if he or she is unable to get to your home due to inclement weather, or in the event of a natural disaster.
Key security: Your keys should never have your name or address on them, and should be kept in a secured place when not in use, preferably a locked safe. Most pet sitting business will offer to keep your keys for future pet sitting assignments, which makes storage of utmost importance.
Be honest about your pets: Be up-front about any health problems, behavioral issues, or other important factors regarding your pets. Giving your pet sitter as much information possible will enable her to give your pets the best care possible. If the pet sitter doesn't think you'll be a good fit due to these issues, it's better to know up front rather than finding out when you're 500 miles from home!
Home issues: Let your pet sitter know of any issues with your house, such as sinks that don't drain, locks that don't work, lights that are on automatic timers, etc. Also be sure he or she knows where the breaker box and water shutoff are located. These may be very important in case of a home emergency. And, if you have an alarm, be sure to clue your pet sitter in on how to use it.
Pet sitting is a very personalized service. The person you bring into your home will be caring for your much loved family members as well as your home, so it's not something to take lightly. It's important that you do some research first, and once you get to the interview stage, it's equally important that you feel comfortable with the person you hire. Look for someone who has a sense of professionalism with a personal touch, take into account your gut feeling, and watch how your pet and the pet sitter interact. By investing a little time and preparation into finding the right pet sitter, your pet will be able to stay safely in his own home while you’re away. And with that knowledge you'll sleep a little easier while you're gone.
2009 Copyright © PetsitUSA.com. Therese Kopiwoda is the owner and founder of PetsitUSA.com, where pet owners can locate professional pet sitters, dog walkers and dog daycares throughout the country, and learn more about the services they provide.