Basic Pet Care

How to Vet Your Dog Sitter

How to Vet Your Dog Sitter

It's always stressful asking someone to look after your pet when you have to be away. Yet there are steps you can take to ease your worries and ensure that your cat or dog will get good, reliable care.

Start by thinking ahead. You may not need a dog sitter today, but you may need one in the future. So don't wait until the last minute to begin your search.

Do you expect a sitter to spend the night or just come for walks and feedings? Even though dogs sleep a lot, they can get lonely and anxious when no one's around.

Ideally, the person you hire can stay in your home with your dog or bring your pet to their house. With someone else walking your dog, it's essential for him to be microchipped and the information on your HomeAgain account is kept up to date.

Finding a Good Dog Sitter

Personal recommendations can be the most valuable. Ask trusted friends, neighbors and family members if they know someone experienced in caring for pets. It may turn out that one of them is available or has used someone in this capacity. If they would hire that person again, that's an endorsement worth checking out.

Your veterinarian and the front desk staff may also be helpful in recommending a sitter for your dog. Not only are they in contact with many pet parents, but also they know your dog and can be helpful suggesting a compatible sitter.

You can also search for a sitter online – if you know where to look. Founded in 2011, Rover presents background‐checked sitters in more than ten thousand cities and publishes verified reviews of their services. Less reliable are online ad sites that have a pets category; these are vulnerable to scammers so it's inadvisable to pursue that avenue.

Interviewing a Potential Dog Sitter

Ask your sitter to come to your home for an interview at a mutually convenient time. Observe how the person interacts with your pet. Does she spend time petting and speaking to your dog? Will she allow him on her lap? Does she play gently – or is she a bit rough?

If you're satisfied, ask her to take the dog on a walk with you. How does she handle the leash? Does she observe traffic signals? Will she allow your dog to approach other dogs and people?

Questions to Ask

Prepare a list of questions for your potential dog sitter to ask when you meet. Examples:

  • Do you currently have a dog? Tell me about her.
  • If you don't have a dog now, when did you last care for a dog? And what happened to that dog?
  • Can you commit to feeding my dog X number of times a day at defined hours?
  • Will you give my dog X number of walks a day, the earliest at X hours and the latest at X hours?
  • What will you do in case of emergency?
  • Can you supply the names of 3 references, including a veterinarian and someone you've worked with as a dog sitter before?

Follow up by calling references to ask their opinion of the sitter and describe their experience with her. If you are satisfied, it's likely that this sitter will take almost as good care of your dog as you do.

Susan Breslow is the former head of publications for the ASPCA and is the author of the children's book I Really Want a Dog.