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RedPowerLady's avatar

Looking for anyone who has experience using a pet-sitter?

Asked by RedPowerLady (12571points) June 2nd, 2009

Did you use a person you know or a “stranger”?

We are considering going out of town for a week and we do not have reliable friends/family to watch our dog while we are gone. We also find the dog-boarding businesses to be a bit steeply priced (and unfortunately our dog has no experience in a kennel). So we are looking into a pet-sitting exchange.

Does anyone have experience with this and can offer any tips?

Would you let someone into your house to take care of your dog? What would you do to ensure safety of your home (i.e run a criminal background check on the person, make sure your valuables are put up, just not do it, etc..)?

I’m just looking for a variety of perspectives on this idea of having an unknown pet-sitter, or other alternatives, as we are fairly new pet owners.

P.S. Dog is 1.5 years old (we’ve had her for a year of that) and she is a Collie/Aussie Mix (we think).

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9 Answers

jfos's avatar

You should ask kayysamm

syz's avatar

Try contacting your local veterinary clinic – they can usually provide some names. Sitters with veterinary experience are to be preferred (we see cases where sitters have given 2cc’s of insulin rather than 2 units, or blocked cats that have been hiding under the bed all weekend). Use a sitter that is bonded – they have insurance any case of any problems.

Make sure your sitter has contact info for your vet, a signed form giving them the option to make medical decisions for your pet if you are not available, a credit card number for medical emergencies (most sitters are not going to be able to afford any significant medical expenses), lots and lots of information on how to get in touch with you.

We constantly see pets that are brought in by sitters after hours suffering from a time dependent emergency – if you’re not available to make a decision, they need to have permission to make it for you.

crisw's avatar

We’ve used the same sitter for years; we found her through an ad in our small local paper.

You can always ask that your sitter be bonded/insured, and, of course, you should meet the sitter first.

There are some larger pet sitting businesses that may make you feel more secure, but of course they tend to be more expensive.

StellarAirman's avatar

My wife is a professional dog walker / pet care person. She seems to have plenty of business. She’s insured and very professional. She texts people updates on their pets after each visit, sends photos, let’s them know if there were any problems and if the person is out of town will also usually pick up their mail for them, etc on her way in. She is a certified master dog groomer as well and has a lot of dog training experience, so she also trains the dogs to walk better and behave better without charging an extra training fee. She has a professional web site, business cards, etc.

It just depends on each person, like any other business. A lot of her competitors are just teenagers or bored housewives that throw up an ad on Craigslist and start taking people’s money without being insured or having any real experience, etc. You just have to interview each person and get a feel for if they are actually serious or if they are just looking for extra cash when they are bored in between school or other jobs, etc.

References are also important, she has a long list of glowing references for her services. If a potential sitter can’t provide any references, then beware.

Darwin's avatar

As @syz says, I would start with your own vet, and I would go with a bonded and insured sitter who has proof of professional standing. Make sure to leave a letter with both the sitter and the vet authorizing health care, and make sure the vet is okay with either running a tab for you or billing you. Our neighbors across the street have used pet sitters they found through their vet and have been quite happy.

I also know some people who are professional pet sitters. Generally they are people who really love animals and who tend to pamper them. They know and are known by the local vets and generally have good judgment about health and behavior issues.

Where I see problems are with people who act as pet sitters but who may actually be amateurs. These include the teenagers and housewives cited by @StellarAirman. Whenever my daughter does pet sitting for a neighbor I always shadow her to be certain she doesn’t miss anything, but if I were to use a sitter for my own animals, I would ask my vet.

However, we tend to take our dogs to a boarding facility that we call the “Dog Hotel.” They love it there and can tell when we are getting close. The business has a website, sends emails updating you on your pet’s condition, and periodically uploads digital photos of your pets during their stay. They don’t have what some boarding facilities have, and that is a “doggie cam,” where you can log in and actually watch your pets.

RedPowerLady's avatar

Thank you for the fantastic answers so far! They are quite helpful. Lurve for all.

rooeytoo's avatar

I knew a pet sitter who would tell me she was caring for 20 pets over the weekend, now by my calculations if she spent an hour with each pet, which is not much time if you are feeding, exercising, etc. that did not leave her much time for sleep.

The best and safest place for a pet while you are away is a good kennel, not the vet. I don’t want to spend my holiday around sick people in cages. A good kennel with indoor/outdoor runs that are covered on the outside to prevent escape. It should have a security fence around the perimeter. You should be allowed to tour the kennel at prescribed hours. When you are touring, do not dawdle or stick your fingers in the runs and only one person should go in, leave the kids in the waiting room, it is not the zoo.
The kennel should smell and look clean, there can be an “accident” at any time, but in general the area should be clean. Check out the water buckets, ideally they should be stainless steel and clean. It should be attended 24 hours a day. It should be heated in the winter and have fans, ventilation and air con for the summer.

It may cost more initially but in the long run it is cheaper than redoing the walls of your house if your dog gets bored or the vet bill if your dog escapes from the pet sitter.

chyna's avatar

A friend of mine hired a pet sitter that was to come in twice a day to water, feed and exercise her 3 dogs. The dogs were kept in a room that was on the other side of her dining room. You had to go through her dining room to get to them. I was buying her dining room suit and went in on a Saturday to pick it up. The furniture was packed in the room, you had to go around it to get to the other door, so it was very noticable. I got the furniture and TWO DAYS LATER the sitter called my friend and said, someone has broke in your house and stolen your furniture. I had to wonder if the sitter had not been there for at least 2 days. She told my friend she didn’t want to ruin her vacation is why she waited. Who will ever know?

Daethian's avatar

The one time we did this it was a total stranger. Her 12 y/o daughter wanted to raise some money for a school trip and answered our ad. The mother brought her over because she planned to supervise her daughter. We had no issues at all.

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