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What To Look For In A Pet Sitter

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Leaving your pet behind when you go on vacation can be stressful. Worrying about whether or not your best friend is being taken care of properly can actually ruin your time off work. The key to a stress- and worry-free trip without your pet is picking the right pet sitter. In honor of Professional Pet Sitters Week, we wanted to give you some tips on selecting a pet sitter that’s right for your pet.

Image source: @spilltojill via Flickr
Image source: @spilltojill via Flickr

Certification – Do They Have it?

Anyone can pet sit. While this is technically true, there are professional pet sitters that have spent money on certifications, industry memberships and continuing education like Pet First Aid & CPR Training.

It’s easy to want to give the job to your neighbor’s teenager, but will they know what to do if an emergency happens? Can they handle your reactive dog on a walk? Can they pill your cat? These are important questions to ask yourself before entrusting your pet to a non-professional.

Professionals have insurance too. What happens if that teenager gets scratched by your cat? Your large dog pulls on the leash, and the teenager falls and breaks his arm – who’s paying for the medical bills?

There are a couple certification associations for pet sitters. Look for these on their resume:

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Some trade schools are now offering pet sitting courses with certification. Depending on the college and the program these may or may not be a good indicator of the quality of education the pet sitter has received. The best thing to do is ask the pet sitter about the program they went through, what it covered, etc. If you are not sure, ask around and see if anyone has heard of that college or their program. A good one will be recognized.

Experience – What Does Your Pet Need?

While it’s good if they have been a pet sitter for a while, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best person for the job. For example, some dog trainers may have added pet sitting to their services for extra income. While they may be technically “new” to pet sitting, they definitely have experience handling people’s dogs. Or maybe the person worked at a pet boarding facility prior to starting their own company. So before discounting someone because their personal business has only been up and running a few months, be sure to check the person’s background.

Special Needs

The most important part of experience is whether they can handle your pet. Make a list of the things your pet needs.

Does he need daily medications? If so, is it hard to give? Some pets even need shots that have to be administered! In these cases, a pet sitter that has a background at a vet’s office might be a good fit – or one who routinely has customers with medical needs who can provide references.

Is your dog reactive? Fearful? Aggressive? Pushy? Strong? Dogs with behavioral problems definitely need a special pet sitter that knows how to work with and handle dogs like yours. As mentioned above a pet sitter that is also a certified dog trainer could be very helpful in your situation. Or again, one with experience watching these types of dogs.

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Does your cat stress when you leave? Maybe she refuses to eat, or has accidents in the house when you go on vacation. Cats often get very stressed when their owner leaves. A pet sitter that understands this and has “tricks” that help your cat cope is definitely a plus. If you are going to be gone for a week, you don’t want to have to worry about whether your kitty is starving itself.

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Maybe it’s something as simple as your dog needs to go out more due to a small bladder or health issues. Or your cat needs to be brushed daily to avoid mats. Whatever it is, make sure your pet sitter is able to handle it before hiring them.

Emergencies – Are They Prepared?

Ask the potential pet sitter what they do during an emergency. Give them a scenario: your cat stops breathing, your dog ate the garbage contents, etc. Do they do what you would have done? Is it satisfactory in your eyes?

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Image source: BakersfieldCPR.com

This is where Pet First Aid & CPR certification may be something you want to look for in your pet sitter. Especially if you have an older pet or one that tends to get into trouble. Regardless of where they have this certification, or not, all pet sitters should be able to quickly and calmly explain what they would in an emergency!

Have An In-person Interview

Finally, meet them in person first so you can get a feel for them. I am big into “gut feelings” when it comes to hiring someone to look after my pets. Follow your instincts. If you don’t mesh well, feel uneasy or if your pet does not warm up to them when they normally would, interview someone else. While some pets are shy and you have to take that into consideration, don’t forget they are also an excellent judge of humans. You have many options when it comes to a pet sitter, so don’t be afraid of interviewing several before choosing one. After all, you are entrusting them with a life or several lives – so choose carefully.

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