Seasonal Care

Vacation Checklist for Your Dog Sitter

Dogs Vacation Suitcase

Going on a trip can be complicated when you have a dog, especially if you can't take Fido with you. You have three options – board him, leave him with a relative, or hire a pet sitter (or ask a neighbor, relative, or friend to act as the pet sitter). Some pet sitters will live in the house with your pet and others will come by several times a day to walk and feed your dog. Here's a checklist to leave for the sitter:

  • Make sure that the sitter has the proper keys and remember to leave her with all the information about your security system, including all codes. You can change the codes when you return.
  • Show the sitter where the circuit breakers are and how to turn off the gas and water supply to the house in case of an emergency.
  • Type out your itinerary and all of your contact information, including your cell phone number and the numbers to the hotels or homes where you will be staying.
  • Leave the sitter with the name and phone number of your dog's regular veterinarian, as well as the name and number of an after-hours emergency veterinary clinic.
  • Write down the names and dosage information for all of your dog's medications and show the sitter how to administer them.
  • Write down your dog's microchip number and registration information in case he gets loose and goes missing. Make certain your current contact information is up to date through the microchip providers if there have been any moves or phone number changes in your past.
  • Let the sitter know how many visits your dog requires and ask about the duration of the visits. Be sure that you are both clear about the feeding schedule, walking schedule, and playtime.
  • Leave all food and medication in plain sight and label it clearly.
  • Leave cleaning supplies in plain sight, including an enzymatic deodorizer and paper towels.
  • Make sure that the sitter has a partner or a backup plan in case he or she can't complete the duties. Also, make sure that you have a friend or relative that can watch your pet in case of an extreme emergency. If possible, introduce the sitter to this person before you leave, and make sure to leave all contact information with the sitter.
  • Let the sitter know about the areas of your home where the dog is allowed or not allowed, and shut off any areas of the house where you don't want the dog or the sitter to be.

For safety's sake, lock up all valuables—don't tell the sitter where they are, of course! If you choose to hire a sitter, make sure that the company is bonded in case there's a problem or loss of personal property. To be nice, buy the sitter some beverages and snacks and show her where they are so that she can snack while she's playing with your dog—this might actually keep her there longer, and will certainly put you and your dog at the top of her favorites list.

Nikki Moustaki, MA, MFA, is a dog trainer, bird care and behavior consultant, and a freelance writer in New York City. She is the author of more than 26 books on pet care and training and is the host of