Whether you have one dog, a flock, or an entire pack, finding the right person to watch your pets can be challenging. Factor in the common problems of behavioral issues, medical conditions, and general logistics and it can become a real headache. Nevertheless, finding the perfect pet sitter for your fur babies is an important decision to make and Embrace wants to help:
Start Searching Early
Start the search as soon as you know you’re going to be away. This is especially important during holidays, peak travel times, and if you have special-needs or high maintenance pets. No matter your situation, it doesn’t hurt to begin looking for someone immediately - it could take longer than you think. Fortunately, you can hire pet sitters, dog walkers, and overnight pet care through apps that help narrow down potential candidates:
Wag!, as one reviewer put it, is like Uber for dog walking. Just download the app and enter a request for a pre-screened dog walker to come take your dog for a walk. Available between 6am and 11pm, most Wag! walk requests are filled within 30 minutes. All of their walkers are vetted, licensed, and bonded and your home is insured for up to $1,000,000. You can also read their profiles and reviews from other clients. After your dog has been walked, you’ll get to see a GPS map of the route your walker took with the dog. Wag! does offer overnight boarding and pet sitting through their app, but their niche definitely seems to lie with the last-minute dog walking service. Walk pricing varies by market, but, on average, a 30 minute walk is $20. Wag! is currently offering the first walk free for new customers, and you can save on future visits by buying credits in advance.
Rover also provides dog walking services with short notice, but they’ve built a reputation as one-stop shopping for pet sitters, dog walkers, boarders, and home doggie daycare. You can view a list of people in your neighborhood, read profiles, and see pricing (which varies by person) for different tasks upfront. It also shows you how many repeat customers that pet care worker has had. When I see sitters with multiple repeat customers, I not only appreciate that they’re good to the pets, but it tells me Rover is good to their pet care workers too. Rover allows pet parents to see a map of their pet’s walk route and receive updates and photos from the sitter. You can screen for specific things, such as homes with cats, and you can do the same to find sitters with certain specifications, memberships, or skills (even whether they allow dogs on the bed). You can also request extras, like grooming.
In contrast to Wag! and Rover, which allow you to view the profiles of pet sitters, Fetch! is taking the decision-making aspect out of the equation. A pet parent submits a request for a dog walker or pet sitter and a pet care coordinator selects the caregiver most suited to your needs in your area. You can set up a meet and greet to screen the caregiver before you hand over the leash. They offer walks, overnights, and stop-by pet sitting. Fetch! doesn’t use an app, but they have 24/7 access online for scheduling and customer support. Their caregivers will contact you with updates and photos of your pet. Fetch! is also licensed and bonded. The main difference between Fetch! and services like Rover or Wag! is that you’re connecting with a franchise directly, instead of an independent pet sitter, making it feel a bit more old school.
Pet Sitters International
If you're looking for a referral for a professional pet sitter, Pet Sitters International is your go to. PSI allows you to search by area to find a sitter for just about any type of animal. They'll provide you with a list of sitters and you can see at a quick glance if they're insured, bonded, and certified in pet first aid. Click on a sitter's profile to read more and fill out the web form if you'd like to contact them directly. They can share testimonials and provide references before you hire them. It's a clean, easy way to find a sitter close by. No app required, and the sitting fee goes entirely to the sitter, because there is no overseeing company.
You might have heard of Care.com for hiring babysitters and nannies, but they can also be pretty handy when looking for pet care. The website allows pet parents to post specific jobs with dates and times when care is needed. Caregivers will reply within 3 days, and you can screen them, call references, and arrange a meet and greet. You can also view the profiles of caregivers in your area, so if you prefer to contact someone before putting a job out there, that’s an option. Care.com does offer insurance and most of the providers will offer you background check information as needed. So, again, you’re working with insured, independent contractors. Care.com cares so much about their reputation for safety and reliability that they’re invested in how their caregivers interact with customers and won’t hesitate to let you know if a caregiver has had a negative interaction with another client.
Ask People With Pets Like Yours For Referrals
You can find pet sitters by asking other people who have similar breeds, multiple pets, or animals with the same conditions. Social media can also be a lifesaver. Hiring within one or two degrees of separation gives owners a peace of mind. If you can’t find someone you know to watch your pets, you may want to go through a friend of a friend.
Tip: If you don’t know many pet people, start by asking at your vet’s office - many techs offer pet-sitting services.
What does your pet need in a sitter?
Before you start asking around, make a list of what you need:
Do you want someone to come to your house or is it okay for your pet to board somewhere else?
Do you want a home setting or commercial facility?
Do you want day visits or someone to stay overnight with your pets?
Should they be walked?
Are there any special handling requirements?
Are there any medical issues to be aware of?
Make sure you find out what your potential pet sitter’s schedule is like during the time you need her services. If your sitter is a professional, chances are very high that she has other clients at the same time. Ask her honestly about her obligations so that you can figure out if she will have enough time for your pet. Steer clear of sitters who seem to have too much on their plate, whose phones are buzzing off the hook, or who have trouble scheduling a meeting with you to begin with. Being busy is okay; being overloaded and unable to juggle competing priorities is not.
How close does the sitter live?
All else being equal, a sitter who lives close to you wins out. If the sitter is coming to stay at your house, their familiarity with your area could prove to be vital in the event of an emergency. If the sitter is not staying at your house, but rather, providing day visits, their proximity becomes more important. Think about worst-case scenarios, like natural disasters or a house fire, where your sitter might have to hurry to reach your pet. If that’s too far-fetched for you, consider that the less she has to deal with traffic or other commuting factors, the more time she has to spend with your pet.
Tip: Your sitter should have reliable transportation and a current driver’s license. Even if she’s staying at your house, there might be a situation that requires her to drive (like an emergency trip to the vet). In the past, our sitters have brought their own cars, but we also leave our car keys for them to use if needed.
Experience with Special Needs
If your pet has any special needs, make sure your sitter has experience with them. This could be a life-saving conversation. You don’t have to hire a medical and behavioral expert, but your sitter should have some experience and a high level of comfort and confidence when dealing with whatever the need is. Don’t leave any circumstance un-addressed. The more you share directly with your potential sitter, the better prepared everyone will be.
Experience With Pack Management
If you have multiple pets, you want to hire someone who knows how to manage a pack. In a multiple pet household, things can escalate quickly if not under the supervision of an experienced manager. Some may need sitters who have professional experience being an alpha, but a more mellow pack might simply need someone who has spent time with 2 dogs before.
Meet With Your Candidates
Once you’ve identified some potential matches, people typically email a few times to get a sense of their experience and give them a glimpse of what awaits them here. If they fit your expectations, a home visit can be arranged to meet the pets and get a sense of who they are. A home visit can also include training, walk sessions, and feeding routine review. You should always talk to your sitter about safety, including lost pet prevention and emergency protocol. Additionally, this could include leaving notes behind about day-to-day, toys, and vet contact information.
Bribing--Er, Keeping—A Good Sitter
Always treat your pet sitter with respect, care, and hospitality. Make your home comfortable and accessible. Some ask their pet sitter what their favorite foods are, leave the WiFi password, and make sure they feel appropriately comfortable. This approach is twofold: first off, it demonstrates how much you appreciate them. Secondly, providing little extras makes it more likely they will spend extended amounts of time here.