HOW TO FIND A GREAT DOG SITTER

There's no easy way to do it. You can go to various sites that have independent dog sitters and look at reviews, you can get recommendations from friends, you can book  from a local professional service. But how do you know your sitter will give your pet the best care?

The answer is:
You don't. 

When we come to a client's house for the first time for an interview we always get a story. They tell us about their pets, anecdotes, quirks and they tell us about their needs for a sitter or walker. Probably a couple of times a month they tell us that they had a sitter before and that sitter disappointed them. 

We get stories about sitters doing several things:

  • Not spending enough time with the pet(s)​​​​​​
  • People other than the agreed upon sitter entering their home or substituting for the sitter
  • Sitters not showing up at all
  • Sitters having parties in the home


I once had a client tell me his friend was taking care of his dogs. The friend casually called and said he hadn't show up for two days. These dogs were in crates that entire time. No food, no water. Guess what? They're not friends anymore.


Another client said they installed cameras and the sitter would show up hours late and one time a total stranger came in to take care of the dogs. 


A third client called us when a sitter who had been her daughter's roommate was arrested, at the clients house, for forging checks.


We also see sitters whove lost their client's pets. Absolutely tragic and usually a result of a slip of attention or a lack of knowledge regarding pets. 


The weirdness goes on and on. 

So you can imagine how difficult it was for those people to entrust us with their house and pets. With these types of cases we try extra hard to send them detailed messages, tell them our lines of communication are always open and make sure they know what to expect. We're by no means perfect but good communication and careful monitoring on the part of the client can make for a positive experience.

So here are some tips:

Someone who will stay with your pet overnight and do visits during the day and evening is putting in a lot of time and energy. It's hard to uproot your life and move to someone's house and also adjust to a pet's schedule. Often sitters are woken up during the night or earlier in the morning than they usually get up. It's hard and can be stressful. So the price they ask is minimal compared to the effort. If a sitter is asking for too little, be suspicious. You want someone who takes the job seriously and you want to compensate them for being responsible and dependable.

How to find an overnight sitter:


  • Many vet techs do house/pet sitting for extra income. Check with your vet's office to see if they know someone. This may be a person who is already familiar with your pet so you know your pet will warm up to them easily.


  • Ask friends and family: Sometimes you'll find someone in your circle who can stay with your pet. Beware though. Be thorough with your expectations and don't be afraid to ask them for what you want. Sometimes with friends and family we are fearful of offending them by asking them to be accountable.


  • Boarding facilities/Doggie Daycares: Some doggie daycares or boarding facilities may have employees who do dog sitting at your house. Call around and ask.


How to interview:


  • Check the references. Any good, experienced dog sitter should have several references. Call them, email them. Ask if they were sure the sitter was coming when they said. Ask if they would hire the sitter again. Ask how long they've known the sitter and where they found the sitter. Along with your judgement of the sitter and your general feeling, ask others about theirs. 


  • Background check. You can pay for a background check online or you can do your own. Check the local courthouse records for free. Make sure that it's the right person and not just the same name. (That's happened to us.) Do a little digging online... Facebook pages, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Make sure you are comfortable with that person. And if the profile is private, don't be daunted. Sometimes it means they're being professional by separating private from business.


Expectations:

  • Make your expectations clear. Don't just say "I need you to look in on her a few times a day and then spend the night." Be specific: "I'd like you to be there until 7 in the morning then come back around noon, then around five, then as soon as you can in the evening, preferably 8 to spend the night until the next morning."


  • Let them know if you don't want other people in the house. Let them know how long you expect them to visit during the day. Remember, they probably have another job and many pet sitters do visits at other homes. If you are concerned about how much time they'll be able to spend with your pets ask about their daily schedule. Pay them well enough that you feel comfortable asking for what you want. 


How to make sure they're doing what you asked:

  • Cameras! Best way to make sure they show up and everything is in order is to use cameras. Of course, let them know you have them. No one wants to be caught picking their nose or scratching themselves in a way they'd rather others not see. If you always have a camera going you can make sure it's the sitter showing up, there are no parties and they are there for the alloted time. No one wants a camera on them when they're relaxing so you may want to let them know you'll turn them off, give them the ability or maybe no camera in the bedroom. 


  • If you don't want to use a camera, ask neighbors to check and make sure they are showing up. Of course, neighbors aren't always home and may miss things but they can keep an eye on things and let you know. Also, there are devices to tell you when you're door is opened. 


Communicate:


  • Ask them for updates. If you don't receive them, call. If you don't get an answer, have someone who can go over and check on things and talk to the sitter. Some sitters, especially friends of friends and family members, may not be the best at communicating. Just make it clear that you need to hear from them. 


We can't emphasize enough that a good sitter is worth his or her weight in gold. The trust you have in them gives you peace of mind and gives your pet the life and love they deserve. They are hard to find. Don't be afraid to look in different places and interview several sitters. It's just like a job interview. If you're not comfortable with someone, even if it's a relative, look for someone else. 

OUR SERVICES:


Go Dog Rockford has ceased having our employees do overnight sitting for new clients because we take it very seriously. The price we had to charge was quite a bit more than an independents system. Even with the increase in price we were spending a lot of time and energy finding a sitter, doing a meeting with the client and sitter, managing the sitter and filling in when the sitter couldn't make a visit. It was a lot of extra work for us.


We can sometimes recommend sitters who will stay overnight in your home but start looking early, they are in high demand. 

We always are able to do visits though sometimes we need notice of a week or two. Booking the Tuesday for visits over Thanksgiving weekend may prove to be the straw that broke the camel's back and we may have to say no. 

Whomever you chose as a sitter should want you to be comfortable and will be open with you. They will answer any questions you have and you should feel, above all, that they love your pet and want what's best for him or her.

Red flags:

  • If they are overly interested in how much money they will make. 
  • If they are overly interested in the cool items in your house.
  • If they don't show much interest in your pet.
  • If they ask a lot about what kind of food you have (Though it is good measure to offer them food while they are staying in your house)
  • If they're scared of any of your pets. 
  • If they don't know about the general care of pets i.e.: How many times a dog needs to go out a day, that a dog needs to be fed each day, that doors need to be closed at all times. 


Be clear and specific. Things that seem second nature to you may not occur to a sitter. They may not know you have to keep all the doors closed or that the dog cannot be outside without a leash or that you have to check that the gate is latched. It's so important to cover everything they might overlook. It can mean the difference between a great vacation and a tragedy. 

Go Dog Rockford wants nothing more than for all pets to get great care when you are away from home whether you use our services or you are looking for more than we can provide. ​