Choosing A Great Pet Sitter

Choosing a Qualified Pet Sitter

Guest Blogger:   Daniela Angelon of Barks and Blooms Pet Sitting in Charlotte

When you think of a pet sitter what comes to mind? The teenager posting to Nextdoor app? The neighbor? A family member? Many people are quick to make that connection with the term “pet sitter.”

At business networking meetings, I’ve been approached by the inquirer “with good intentions” quick to define all of the above as “competitors for my pet sitting business.” I politely inform them that while these may be options for some, they are hardly my competitors.

Here’s why:

Professional pet sitting is a profession

It’s a career that provides a level of care and peace of mind that other options simply cannot. While you may leave your human children in the care of a family member or neighbor and feel very good about that. Pets are the same…right? Not so fast.

Most kids can talk or can at least provide verbal cues/ signs that a human can easily interpret to know something is not right. “I’m not feeling well,” or “I swallowed something.” Not the case with pets. The person caring for your pet should be tuned into their “frequency” and preferably knows their personality/ behavior on a normal day so they can recognize and interpret changes. Most importantly you need someone that knows what to do if things go really wrong.

Some points & real life examples:

*Supervision- This is important for so many reasons. A professional is there for your pet and your pet only. When we service our clients, our eyes never leave them. So many things can go wrong without proper supervision. Does your dog have certain behaviors that need to be managed? Does your dog need structure? Is there guarding? Dominance? Chewing? Digging? Fence jumping? What happens if the person caring for your pet lets your dog out, goes back to let him in and he’s not there? Will they know what to do? Are they connected to groups and services that will better the chances of ensuring your dog gets home safely while you are away?

*Following directions/ reliability – Easy enough? Not always for some people. Some diabetic dogs need to eat on a schedule, maybe medications need to be administered, or perhaps your dog needs a strict routine to stay on track.

We had a client recently inform us they would be using the teenage neighbor who “needed extra income.” They got busy with school and simply forgot to come one visit. An honest mistake for them, but the dogs were in distress and damaged the home as a result. This would never happen with a professional.

*Security & Privacy– Be careful of who you give the keys/alarm codes to your home. I can’t stress that enough. Have they been background checked? Will they be checking the overall security of your home? Professional pet sitters come into many homes daily, they don’t care that your dishes are still in your sink from the weekend. They are focused on your pets only. You can rest assured they will be doing their jobs and you will be free of judgement.

*Liability– Bites or home damage. Let me set up a scenario: Your caregiver decides to bring another person to your home without your knowledge. A child. Your dog is great with kids, but maybe this child has some reservations with dogs (energy). Your dog will instinctively know this by the way. This child (unsure of appropriate interactions) pulls your dogs tail a little too hard or displays behavior your dog doesn’t understand. Your dog reacts with a bite (out of fear). You now have a BIG problem that was completely avoidable and your dog will pay the price.

No one should EVER be in your home without your knowledge or permission and anyone entering your home (to work) should be fully bonded and insured. There are many, many reasons for this. Professionals also help home owners address unexpected situations or issues that might arise in the home in your absence (like busted pipes or break-ins). Happens more often than you might think.

Ever thought about a police officer’s job? You could say in a sense that sometimes they don’t get paid for what they do …but what they MIGHT have to do. You may not have a crime occur every day but that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to pay and keep police officers on staff daily. They are trained in their field to do what they might **have** to do. Are a police officer and pet sitters the same? Of course not. My point goes back to putting a price on the well-being and safety of your pet.

Some questions to ask yourself:

Does your pet have a medical condition that needs to be monitored? What happens if you dog needs to go to the vet or the ER? Will your care giver be able to take your dog? Will they have the medical history on your pet to interpret the situation and make decision accordingly should they not be able to reach you? Will they need to follow specific instructions medications/ feeding to avoid issues? Will your caregiver be able to identify early signs of renal failure in your senior cat? Will they know the signs of bloat and what to do? These are life or death scenarios. A good professional pet sitter will be prepared for all of these things because your pet is their number 1 priority. Experience and professionalism matters.

I recently had a situation where a dog was under our care while the owner was away. The dog’s behavior was a “off” from what we knew it to be normally and our pet sitter reported it right away. He was clearly sick, but the symptoms combined with the behavior were concerning, and I knew this COULD be deadly. I rushed over immediately where I was met by the neighbor who had been called. I assessed the dog’s vitals, observed the behavior and photographed the vomit and diarrhea while the owner called her vet. It was a holiday and we were quickly assessing and preparing to make decisions. The neighbor who was observing me said, “that is so funny that you are taking pictures of all of that.” She meant well and was a VERY nice lady, but that stuck with me. She just didn’t know. What she thought was odd or “funny”….was actually very important. I knew that dog would likely need to go to the ER vet and the first question that vet was going to ask me was “what did the vomit look like” and “how much,” “color,” “consistency.” Important details, especially in a life or death scenario.

When trying to find care for pets maybe it’s a monetary decision or perhaps there is simply an unawareness of what a professional pet sitter offers. Ask yourself, “would you put a price on your pets safety and well-being?” When you hire a professional, you are hiring dependability, life experience, medical training, maturity and so much more. Don’t be that person who chooses a professional after something really bad happens. We see it all the time. I would urge you to forgo a few souvenirs at Disney and invest more in a professional. You won’t regret it. You’ll be able to go on vacation with a level of peace of mind the “hobbyist” can’t provide.

How to find a good pet sitter

Not sure how to find one? Pet Sitters International, an organization for professional pet sitters has a few suggestions. Their “Get A Real Pet Sitter® campaign” encourages pet owners to ask seven important questions when interviewing potential pet sitters:

1 Does the pet sitter have the proper business license for your city or state, if required?
2 Is the pet sitter insured and bonded?
3 Can the pet sitter provide proof of clear criminal history?
4 Does the pet sitter provide client references?
5 Will the pet sitter use a pet-sitting services agreement or contract?
6 Is the pet sitter a PSI Certified Professional Pet Sitter and/or has he or she participated in pet-care training, such as pet first aid?

Resources: National Association of Professional Pet sitters (856-439-0324) or Pet Sitters International (336-983-9222)

Daniela Angelon is co-owner of Barks and Blooms Pet sitting Company in Charlotte, NC
Certified professional pet sitter, Pet Tech/First Aid Instructor #2102, owner of fur kids.

Dana Brigman