If you're going to be out of town and plan to leave your dog behind, you have several choices. You can have a friend or family member watch your pet, or you can leave the dog at a boarding facility. If you really think your dog will be more comfortable in his or her own home, you may be leaning towards having a friend or family member pet sit. If you do decide to go this route, there are some steps you need to take to ensure the experience goes smoothly for you, the pet sitter, and your dog.
Make sure the dog meets and interacts with the sitter first.
Many dogs are not particularly fond of strangers being in their home when their owners are not there. Even if your dog does not act mean or vicious towards strangers, they may feel uncomfortable with a stranger watching them in their own home. You can avoid this problem by making sure your prospective pet sitter spends plenty of time with your dog before you leave for vacation. Have them come over and feed your dog, spend time playing with him, and just hang around your home so that the dog gets used to their presence
Agree on payment or compensation beforehand.
Asking someone to care for your dog is asking them to take on a lot of responsibility. It's important that you make them feel appreciated so they're motivated to do a good job and don't feel like they're being taken advantage of. If you were to kennel your dog, you'd pay between $25 and $45 per night, so paying your pet sitter a fee within this range should be acceptable. You may want to pay a bit more if staying at your home means they have to drive further to work or forego other obligations. If they are a close friend or family member, they may offer to pet sit for a lower rate or to exchange the service of pet sitting for another service you can provide them. This is perfectly fine -- as long as the two of you agree upon the compensation before you leave so there are no surprises when you arrive home.
Provide a list of emergency contacts.
What if the dog gets loose and your pet sitter needs help catching him? What if he swallows something dangerous or cuts his paw? Make sure you assemble a list of emergency contacts for your pet sitter and tell them who to call under various circumstances. Your vet should be at the top of the list. Include the number of a local emergency vet, too, if your regular vet office does not deal with emergencies. Also include a few individuals who will be in town and able to help with lower-level emergencies, such as if the dog runs off. These could be neighbors or other friends. Tell them you're going out of town and that your pet sitter may call them if there's an emergency.
Write out instructions for the sitter.
Your pet's care may seem straightforward and obvious to you because you take care of it day in and day out. But it will seem more foreign to your sitter, even if they're experienced with other dogs. Don't just give verbal instructions, as your sitter may accidentally forget them or misinterpret what you say. Write down instructions for the sitter so they have a visual reference and don't have to call or text you each time something comes up. Your instructions should at least include:
- How much to feed the dog and when
- Any rooms the dog is and is not allowed into
- Where the dog should sleep
- What time the dog tends to "use the bathroom"
- How to tell if the dog needs to go out
- When, where, and how to take the dog for walks
You may need to include additional information, too, based on your dog's specific needs.
Remember, not everyone is suited to being a pet sitter. If you don't have any friends or family members who you particularly trust to care for your dog, you're probably better off leaving your dog at a boarding facility, such as The Pets Place Animal Hospital, while you're away. That way, you know that knowledgeable staff members will be there to provide the quality care that your dog needs.