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5 Tips for Choosing a Pet Sitter or Dog Walker

dog walker with many dogs

Leaving your pet with someone if you need to go away for a trip, or to work for the day can seem like a real challenge.  Even if you just need someone to take your pet for a walk every so often, how do you know who you can trust with your fur baby. But finding the perfect pet sitter or walker doesn’t have to be something to be concerned about if you’re well prepared.

So what differentiates a good pet sitter or walker from one who won’t work out so well with your beloved pet? Here are the top 5 things to look for when choosing a pet sitter or walker, to help reduce risk of separation anxiety with your pet and ensure they’re in safe hands.

1. Connection with your pet


The most important factor when choosing a pet sitter or dog walker is whether they have a connection with your pet.  No one can replace you in the eyes and heart of your four legged pal, but are they even comfortable around this person they are going to spend time with. You want someone that your pet will feel comfortable with but also someone who has control and does not let your fur baby do whatever they want.

Before committing to a long-term contract or relationship, give things a test run first. See whether your pet warms up to the particular individual, and observe how they interact. If possible, spend some time observing the interaction between them in various settings such as at home and outside. By having this trial, you can have the peace of mind of seeing both your pet and the sitter together and realize your pet will be just fine with them!

In fact, pets can be incredibly perceptive and can even pick up if a particular person isn’t totally trustworthy. At the same time, give them more than just a few minutes together to give them a chance to warm up to each other.

woman hugging dog

2. Individual dog walkers vs. group walks and care


Some sitters or walkers care for groups of dogs or other pets at the same time.  Many dog walkers, for example, will take a few different people’s pets on walks together as this is more efficient and cost effective for them. This is good for socialization too, but you have to know your pet first.

While some pets might be okay with other animals around, if you have a particularly nervous pet, a territorial, or even a pet that is aggressive towards certain animal, or even if you’d just rather them not have to be with other random pets, then don’t go for this type of care! Instead, make sure the person you hire is prepared to dedicate individual attention to your pet. 

Although this is usually more costly, it can also be advantageous for your pet’s wellbeing as they will get all the attention and just the kind of stimulation they need.

3. Flexible Schedule

Don’t have a strict schedule? Flexibility might be key! 

If you are hiring someone to take care of your pet you need to first determine how often and for how long you need this person, as well as what it is you want them to do. Having someone come at a regular time several times a week will be more cost effective then having a sporadic schedule; as well not every pet sitter will agree to a too flexible schedule but you need to determine what is right for you.  

Other questions to ask will include if they will be coming to your house or do they expect to have your pet at their location? Will they pick your pet up or whether you need to take your pet to them?  Are they able to board your pet if this is ever needed (even if initially you may not want this type of service, it's always good to know ahead of time). 

Even if you set a fixed schedule for most days you'll still want to find out how flexible this person is.  Will they charge you more if you pick up your pet late? If you want to rely on one person to come each time, it’s important to find out whether they have flexible schedules, so they can help on short notice if required. That way, if you need to stay back late at work or suddenly get called away on a trip, your pet will be looked after.

4. Reliability and trustworthiness


This may seem obvious, but it needs to be confirmed! 
Before hiring a pet sitter or walker, ask for a couple of different references and get in touch with them to see whether their experience checks out. Check if they are bonded and if they have any credentials such as dog trainer or pet CPR.  

Another way of checking a person’s background is to look through any reviews on social media like on their Facebook page or website if they have one. It’s a good sign if previous clients are leaving positive testimonials about the person! Additionally, if your pet has a particular medical condition or is a specific breed, it can help to find somebody who specifically has experience with this.

woman holding cat and ipad tablet

5. Distinguish Between a Professional and a Hobbyist 

A professional pet sitter or walker is someone who consistently dedicates their time (and sometimes money) to their personal business in the pet care industry. They may have years of experience behind them, or have some kind of certification. On the other hand, a hobbyist is someone who’s doing some pet sitting or walking on the side, perhaps just over the summer holidays or when they need some extra cash.

What you need to consider is what’s best for you and your pet in the long term. While it’s definitely a cheaper option to go for a hobbyist, whether it’s your neighbor or a local teenager who loves animals, if you want consistency for a long-term relationship, it’s worth finding and hiring a professional instead. Additionally you can have extra peace of mind that these people are considerably more likely to handle things better if something happens to go wrong.

If you’ve done your homework and gone through all the proper checks when choosing a pet sitter or walker, your pet will undoubtedly be in reliable hands and well taken care of. Plus both you and your pet will have considerably lower chance of separation anxiety and stress.

Develop a long-term relationship with the pet caretaker and you’ll have peace of mind, knowing your pet is safe and happy even when you can’t be around!

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