Being a pet sitter may seem like an easy job for quick money and many people go into pet sitting with this frame of mind. Many pet owners also have this same frame of mind, thinking it is an easy job and then look for someone cheap.Which is usually someone inexperienced or in this only temporarily.
What most pet owners don't realize is that when you deal with your own pets day in and day out, because they are yours, that instinctively and by routine you naturally do many physical and visual checks, you already understand your pets character, habits and demeanor, and you have established a bond, trust, respect and much more with your own pet that a pet sitter will not have. Therefore it requires more skill and experience for a pet sitter to truly and expertly take care of your pets to keep them well and safe.
There are many problems with the fly by night, part time, or inexperienced type of pet sitter and the above frame of thinking. The risk to your pets or home is immeasurable and the stress it can create to you and your pets is avoidable if you research just a little deeper initially.
Fly by the night pet sitters sometimes lack the experience, quality, work ethic, dependability and level of responsibility that a more qualified and experienced pet sitter has. They might need to make some extra cash for a temporary period of time.
Here is how you risk your valuable time and your home and pets safety. You take the time to meet with them, teach them the ropes, establish a rapport with them, introduce them to your pets and show them around your home. You feel that you have established trust for them to be in your home with your valuables. Your pets have also started to establish a bond with them. Depending on how often you need a pet sitter, you may use them a few times and then suddenly one day down the road you call them and they have moved on from their temporary cash making job and are no longer doing pet sitting. Now, you have to go through the process all over again. This causes you a lot of stress as well as your pets.
The following are difficult realities to be discussing, but I have heard many stories of the fly by night or cheap pet sitters by my clients. I have also experienced this myself when I have needed one for my vacations.
1. Many of these types of pet sitters don't actually engage with or play with your pets. They stop by feed them, check their water, clean up litter boxes or yards and then leave. Qualified and experienced pet sitters should be giving you at the minimum 45-50 minute visits. Many owners and my clients have put in Nanny camera's in their home and captured this as well as other horrendous situations.
2. Giving access to your home is a risk you have to take seriously and ensure you are only going with a reputable, trustworthy, experienced pet sitter. Too often I hear horror stories of how things went missing after having a young, part time, unqualified pet sitter in the home or that the owner noticed that private and personal areas were gone through. Worst yet, although it is difficult to prove in these cases, shortly after having a new pet sitter leave the business a home owner is robbed and in once case with one of my clients, her dog was stolen. Was it the pet sitter giving access or schedule information to a friend, boyfriend or someone else?
3. Inexperienced pet sitters also can put your pets health and safety at risk. I have clients who had pet sitters who allowed dogs off the leash thinking they knew the dog well enough and the dog ran off and got hit by a car. Most pet sitters, even some of the experienced ones do not have any experience or training in reading animal behavior or animal training which is crucial in being able to determine that an animal will listen and obey commands.
4. Inexperience can cause death to your pets. If a pet sitter is inexperienced in truly being able to read animal behavior and be able to identify subtle signs of changes in an animals behavior, that a serious illness or stress related illnesses can go unidentified. Some part time pet sitters only spend 5-10 minutes at the home doing the basics and do not take the time to fully inspect the animal visually and physically. Things like noticing changes in an animals disposition, demeanor, ears, eyes, nose, temperature, energy level. Being a pet owner or raised with pets does not always guarantee that a pet sitter has enough experience because many times it is the parents or a partner who was the primary caretaker to childhood pets.
I could go on about other situations that can occur with part time, fly by the night and cheap versus trusting a reputable, trustworthy, experienced, qualified and professional full time business that does pet or home sitting, but I won't. If you can imagine it, it probably can happen and has happened to someone.
I would suggest the following to ensure that you are getting a great value, exceptional quality care as well as safe guarding your home and your pets to the best, not the cheapest. Because in most cases, you truly do get what you pay for and isn't your home and your pets well being worth the best?
1. Always ask for references and call them.
2. When interviewing the reference ask probing open ended questions and really pay attention to whether that person struggles to find the answers. This might be an indicator that the person is a friend and not a true previous or existing client. Ask questions like; How long have you known them, where did you find them, are you also a friend to them, how many times have they pet sat for you, when is the last time you used them etc.
2a. A very interesting question you can also ask is; No one is perfect and leaving your pet with someone else can be difficult because sometimes pet sitters don't have the exact routine as you do. If you could change two things about how (person's name) is currently doing things versus your perfect vision of how things could be what would they be.
You could also phrase the question by asking, When (person's name) first started new with you, what types of questions did they have with the routine and what type of things did you have to remind them of or show them a time or two until they got it right.
This is a fantastic way to set the expectation for the person to answer something that they would change in the way your word the question.
3. Unfortunately, you will likely find more bad reviews on someone than good ones. A dissatisfied customer is more likely to complain 9 out of 10 times than a satisfied customer will write an on line compliment. So, if you are hiring a business, google them and find out if there are any complaints.
4. I have my doubts about places like Yelp or Angie's list because you can have some excellent service providers, small businesses, or qualified pet sitters out there and because all of their clients are very happy with them, and satisfied customers they tend not to take the time to do on line reviews. You may miss out on a very qualified and exceptional pet or home sitter just because know one took the time to do an on line review for them. The other issue with part time or fly by the night pet sitters, is they are not a legitimate business or have a business name, so you may not find anything when you google them. That is another reason why I suggest sticking to a reputable established professional business who does pet and house sitting.
5. When interviewing a potential pet sitter, ask open ended conversational questions versus yes and no questions.
Example: Don't ask this. When you pet sit do you stay 45 - 60 minutes each visit and while you are there do you play with the pet and do a physical check on the animal.
This is an easy answer question to just say 'yes' and tell you what you want to hear. Instead try asking more probing questions.
Your per visit rate, what does it all include?
On average, about how long does your visit take to complete all of those things?
What makes you stand out or different among other pet sitters?
Can you see the difference in asking an open ended questions such as the above? What you will be listening for is what they don't say or what they say that everyone else does. If this pet sitter does not state that they include 30 minutes of play time, exercise etc and they never mention doing a visual or physical check on the animal - it might be because when you asked them to list what they commonly do, and because they don't do it they don't think of it on their own. If you ask them, do you do a visual check and offer play time every visit, then you have just given them the answer they know you want to hear and of course will tell you 'yes'.
6. After feeling comfortable with a potential pet sitter by phone interview, then schedule an in person interview. Often times, you get a different vibe from the person when meeting face to face. If that went well then schedule a second interview at your home so you can see how the person interacts with your pets.
Watch for body language, nervousness, interaction and interest with your pets and eye contact. To be safe, always meet in a public place the first time. A true professional will have no issue with doing this as we understand safety and comfort is always the first consideration. If anyone pressures you to meet at your home for the first interview and you are absolutely opposed to it, then that is a red flag.
When you have the in home interview, watch closely how the pet sitter interacts with your pets, pay attention to the details of the questions they ask, if they are thorough, and if they are taking notes. A true professional pet sitter will be taking notes to ensure when they are doing the job, they do not just rely on their memory and they have everything down in writing. A professional and skilled pet sitter should always ask you the following questions. If they don't, you may need to consider the level of experience they have.
1. Do you have a nearby neighbor that I can call with simple questions or that I can call in case of emergency that I can't make it.
2. Who is your regular veterinarian and in case I can't get a hold of you, and there is an emergency do I have your permission to contact your vet.
3. Do you want regular updates, texts or pictures while I am pet sitting?
4. Are any of your pets on supplements or medications?
5. Are there any issues or concerns you have with any of your pets that I should be paying attention to?
6. What is your pets favorite activity, toy and treats?
Most of these questions show genuine interest of the pet sitter to reduce stress on the animal and for you, and shows that they have enough experience to consider everything.
I hope this article helps you next time when you have to leave your cherished and loved pets and valuable behind in ensuring that you have found only the best.
Happy vacations, business trips and spending quality time and relaxing. When you pick the right professional pet sitter you truly can leave home and relax.
Patricia Sunshine Hunnybun
Pampered Pets & People