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There are many options for pet care when owners are away. Some owners board their pets with their veterinarian or a dog-boarding kennel. Some have a family member or neighbor take care of them.

Increasingly, when dog owners need someone to watch out for pet when they travel, they’re turning to professional pet sitters. But what’s the difference between hiring the teenager down the street from paying a professional pet sitter? Read on.

Professional pet sitters can offer a variety of services, from dog walking to overnight stays at your house. According to Pet Sitters International, “Caring for pets in the client’s home is what separates pet sitters from boarders or doggy daycare.”

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What Pet Sitters Offer

Pet sitters are a great option for households with multiple animals, dogs with special needs, or when owners prefer that their dog stay in the comfort of the home environment. Many dogs are less stressed when they can stay in their own homes and follow their normal routines. Plus, having a pet sitter in your home avoids exposing your dog to other dogs and possible illnesses

A professional pet sitter offers reliability and peace of mind while the owner is away. Plus, they offer a variety of services, from dog walking to overnight stays at your house. Here are a few things to look for when seeking a pet sitter:

  • Are they trained in pet CPR and first aid?
  • Do they have a business license, and are they insured and bonded?
  • Can they offer client references?
  • Do they have an agreement or contract? It should include terms of payment, cancelation and inclement weather policies, a veterinarian release form, and an emergency contact or guardianship form..
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Before Choosing a Pet Sitter

Ask the pet sitter for an in-home consultation before hiring. This gives you a chance to meet them and ask questions about the sitter’s experience, methods, education and training, and communications with you when you’re away. Ask about rates and cancellation fees. Find out how the pet sitter deals with emergency situations.

An in-person interview also gives the prospective sitter an opportunity to meet the dog and ask about any special needs, the dog’s routine, and where the dog food and supplies are kept.

Just as important, you’ll get a chance to observe how the pet sitter interacts with your dog – and whether they seem to get along. Find out how well suited they are for each other. If you have a young, active dog, how much exercise is the pet sitter willing to give them? If you have a big dog, does this person know how to handle them?

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Before you hire a specific pet sitter, even if you and this person seem to click, ask for references and check them. You’re considering someone to stay in your home when you’re away and to care for your dog, so solid recommendations are very important.

If you have time, it’s a great idea to test out the sitter with your pet. Hire the person for one day, go out for the day, and see how your dog is when you return.

How to Find a Pet Sitter

Many owners find pet sitters by asking their friends and neighbors, veterinarian, groomer, or dog training facility. There are also organizations for professional pet sitters, including Pet Sitters International and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. These websites include pet sitter locators to help you find a professional pet sitter member in your area.

Many pet sitters designate the size dog they’re willing to take care of, so find that out before scheduling an interview. And if the person is unwilling to meet you and your dog ahead of time – consider it a red flag and look elsewhere.

And don’t forget to think about a backup plan. Does the pet sitter have an alternate or business partner who can fill in if there’s an emergency? You may want to meet that person, as well.

Related article: Should You Bring Your Dog to Work? Pros and Cons of Dogs in the Workplace
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