Tips For Selecting a Pet Sitter

Tips For Selecting a Pet SitterRoger Caras, the long-time host of the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show as well as an accomplished writer and photographer, once said “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” Yet, any time I am about to go on vacation or even go out for a quick excursion, ALL I can think about are my dogs. In preparation for a two-day weekend getaway, I spend maybe 3 times that making sure my dogs will be well taken care of. These are my babies after all, and for most of my waking consciousness they do seem like my whole life.

I have several wonderful dog sitters that I can count on to watch over the pack. They are reliable, honest, trustworthy, gentle, easy to communicate with and I have known them for years. I have seen them interact with my dogs and the dogs do very well with all of them. I found each of them through recommendations and friendships. They take very good care of my dogs. And while there will never be a substitute for a mother’s (or father’s) loving vigilance, there are some guidelines you can keep in mind to help alleviate your worries.

When choosing a pet sitter…

    1. Check references
    2. Verify insurance and background
    3. Ask about proper training and experience
    4. Always pre-interview (observe the interaction between sitter and pet)
    5. Make your instructions VERY clear
    6. Make sure the sitter is readily available when you need them
    7. Have phone and email access seven days a week
    8. Provide all medical info. for your pets and vet contact numbers, have food and supplies in place
    9. Ensure an emergency back up if necessary


Did you know that there is a National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) ( as well as member-based organizations like Pet Sitters International (

Elyse Marks, director of marketing for Fetch! Pet Care, the nation’s largest professional pet sitting and dog walking franchise, notes “selecting a pet sitter takes a little more effort than dialing a random number you may see in the Yellow Pages.” If you need help finding someone in your area, they even offer a locator guide.

Of course I worry that the dogs miss me and are not getting all the attention I give them. I make myself crazy, thinking in advance about things that can go wrong, about some emergency that might come up. But I love to go on a vacation, so what can I do?

I think the most important thing to do is to be organized before you go. I make sure I have everything ready including food, supplies and all the necessary information written in a folder for each sitter. I plan far in advance. I think of every detail and it makes me feel better about leaving. I also email or text everyday, if I can, when we are away.

I also cannot emphasize the importance of a back-up sitter in case of emergency. Have several contacts in place before you leave town. We missed a connecting flight last year and had to stay an extra day, my original sitter was not available, fortunately I had a back up person to help.

If you are trying someone new, start small, maybe just for an overnight to see how the pets do, then work your way up to a week or so. Plan ahead, you will feel more comfortable.

So again, get organized, make a plan, find someone you are really happy with and enjoy yourself.

Vacations are good for all of us, so as I tell myself; try not to worry, your pets WILL survive without you for awhile. You can look forward to many warm cuddles when you return! Next week we are going out of town for a few days and I have begun my worrying in advance.

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