Going on vacation is a glorious escape from the daily grind – a time when we can finally kick back, relax, and forget about our responsibilities. But, for those of us who are proud dog owners, the idea of leaving our beloved fur family in the care of others can be a bit nerve-wracking. And believe me, I learned this the hard way after coming back from vacation to a scene that could rival a horror movie.
Picture this: I had carefully selected a pet sitter, assuming that the basics of dog care were common knowledge. What I came home to was a doggy nightmare – my yard resembled a war zone with dog poop scattered like landmines, and my once-pristine floors looked like a crime scene. It was a disaster, and it could have all been avoided with clearer instructions.
So, let me share with you the importance of setting expectations with your pet sitter, before you embark on your journey to paradise. Take the time to jot down a comprehensive list of your dog's needs, detailed outline of your typical routine and any particular expectations you have of them. This should include everything from their feeding schedule, day and night routine and how you take care of them (and their poop 💩).
Choosing the Right Person
Don't just pick any random soul off the street to watch over your furry friend. Community boards are a great resource to find one in your community and of course getting a personal recommendation from a friend is best. If you don't have a personal recommendation for one, be sure to speak to references before making your final decision. The key is to find a pet sitter who not only adores dogs but is also willing to embrace your detailed instructions and fits your budget.
How much should you pay?
Dog sitter rates can vary based on location, the sitter's experience, and the specific services you require. Rates range from $30 to $75 per day for one dog - scaling up for more than one dog. It's essential to discuss payment upfront with your chosen sitter and come to a mutual, signed agreement.
Initial Meeting and Familiarization
Arrange a meet-and-greet between your pet sitter, you and your dog. Observe how the sitter interacts with your dog and how well they react to your expectations. Take note of what they ask YOU. Are they detailed in their questions to ensure they know how to meet your expectations? This point is critical to suss out those looking to do the bare minimum (keep your dog alive) and those that actually take pride in their work and want you as a repeat customer.
Creating an Exhaustive Care Guide
Now, let's get down to business. Draft a guide that leaves absolutely no room for assumptions. Here's where you get to be a bit of a control freak:
- Feeding: Include precise times, amounts of food and water.
- Routine: Detail daily routines, from first thing in the morning, to walk times, play sessions, bedtimes and naps.
- Emergency Information: List emergency contacts, vet details, and any necessary insurance information.
- Health and Behavioral Notes: Detail your dog's health concerns, medications, tendencies to bark and when, toys and limits i.e. when your dog is obsessing too much with a toy or when the toy is broken, when to throw it away.
House Rules & Set Up
Be explicit about house-related tasks, like cleaning the yard, managing waste, maintaining the household, visitors allowed, parking, weather considerations, etc.
Make sure your pet sitter knows where they can find the essentials for your dog and themselves. Things like where the dog treats are, how to clean your dog's feet if its muddy, how to use the termostat, how to use the oven & TV, etc.. can make their time in your house run smoothly.
Set crystal clear guidelines on how often you expect updates. Daily texts or photos are not too much to ask to ensure your fur family is well taken care of.
Consider a trial run for a short period. Often pet sitters are also dog walkers, so hiring them for a dog walking service can act as a great trial run. It's like a sneak peek of your dog's daily life under their care. Plus, you can address any areas of improvement ahead of your departure.
So, there you have it, my cautionary tale of pet sitting gone wrong. Trust me when I say that assuming your pet sitter knows it all can lead to a pile of shit (literally). Be obsessively detailed about your expectations. Not only will your dog thank you for it, but you'll also return home to a scene that's more pleasant than what I experienced. Happy Travels!