Whether you're looking for a pet sitter to care for your fur-kid during your vacation or on a regular basis, finding the right person can be challenging. Before you start looking, think about the characteristics and skills that are particularly important to you. Here are 10 traits a good pet sitter should have.
Especially when your work schedule is subject to change, it’s advantageous to have a pet sitter who is flexible and can step in on short notice. That way, if you have an important appointment or need to stay late at the office, you can trust your pet will be taken care of.
Any pet parent knows that with animals things don’t always go according to plan. But a pet sitter must remain patient when your pet doesn't behave as expected, and stay calm so your pet doesn't feel and react to the anxiety.
A good pet sitter recognizes the needs of your pet and responds to them. The person should realize when your cat doesn’t want to play anymore and give her space. Look for someone who handles your pet affectionately and never uses physical punishment or force, like dragging on your dog's leash during a walk.
Since you'll probably be handing your spare keys to your pet sitter, it's very important that you can trust this person. To get an idea of whether a caregiver may be trustworthy, check references from previous employers and run a background check before hiring. Remember, if you get a bad feeling after meeting someone, always trust your gut.
Especially when your pet is high maintenance or challenging in terms of care, hire a pet sitter who has a lot of experience. If you have a big and dominant German Shepherd, your pet sitter should not be new to the pet care field. Instead, find someone who has handled large dogs before, and can provide references or a certificate to show their experience level. Does your pet have a medical condition or need special treatment? Look for a caregiver with a background in this area.
Check out these pet care certifications for ideas of things to look for.
You've probably worked hard to teach your pet the rules of the house. Make sure your sitter knows them too. If you don’t allow your pooch to lie on the sofa or sleep in your bed, your pet sitter should not undo your training by bending the rules. The person you hire must be firm and consistent -- even if your pet gives him the begging puppy-dog-eyes!
Your pet sitter is there to make your everyday life easier -- not to cause you additional headache wondering if they'll be late or show up at all. It's important that you can rely on your caregiver and schedule your plans confidently. Set clear agreements between you and your pet sitter about rules and scheduling. If the sitter is running late (as happens to everyone occassionally), what is the protocol for letting you know?
Having a license and insurance shows that this person is professional and serious about his/her business. Insurance protects you and the sitter should something unexpected happen to your pets. It’s also a good sign if the pet sitter is willing to set up a contract between the two of you, defining services, pay rate, rules, etc.
- Genuine Love for Animals
Ask interesting questions during your interview to get a feel for the candidate‘s personality (for example: “What’s the funniest or most embarrassing thing you’ve experienced with an animal? ”). A good pet sitter will show a genuine love for pets in their answers to your questions. Ask about pets they've owned or cared for in the past -- a person who loves animals will be eager to tell you stories of their own pets. Through these types of discussions you can gauge their love for animals and their level of excitement about this job opportunity.
Also, is the pet sitter taking notes? Does the person ask questions about your pet's eating habits, characteristics and dispositions? These are good signs that the caregiver is really interested and dedicated to getting to know your pet and its personal needs.
- Connection to Your Pet
You wouldn’t hire a babysitter without having her meet your kids first -- it should be the same with your pet! Set up a meet-and-greet (this can be part of your interview or separate) with the candidate and your pet. It’s okay if your pet doesn't warm up to the new person immediately, but watch for signs that your pet is very uncomfortable or that the person is handling the pet incorrectly. Observing the pet sitter with your pet is a great way to tell if the person really has the experience and comfort with animals that they claim to have.