In-home pet sitting has been around for quite some time, but for some it is still a new concept. In-home pet sitting is an alternative to boarding your pets at a facility or asking a family member to take care of your pets while you are away. Even though my company has been around for over eight years, we still field weekly calls from pet owners who have never heard of these services and want to understand what we do.
In-home pet sitting typically consists of a pet sitter coming to your home for a predetermined amount of time, several times per day, in order to keep your pets at home, where they are most comfortable. Our chief goal is to keep your pets on their normal routine. For example, if your dog eats breakfast and then takes a walk every morning, that is what your pet sitter should do on the morning visit with your dog. If you put your pet’s food away at night, a pet sitter will do the same.
There are many benefits (for the pets and the people) to having a pet sitter. By staying at home and keeping their routine, pets generally don’t experience the anxiety of other arrangements. Your pets receive one-on-one attention from their sitter, just like the time you spend with them at home. Additionally, there is no increased risk of potential illness or injury being with other dogs they don’t know. I know that every time I travel, I’m always looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and being back in my comfort zone when I get home. Pets are the same way. They prefer to sleep in their normal space, eat from their regular dish and roam their yard looking for their favorite spot.
I often hear from our clients that peace of mind is one of the things they like most about our service. Every visit, they get personal updates from the sitter, letting them know how their pets are doing. If desired, our sitters send a picture of the pet enjoying their walk or cuddle time. People also love that their house is being monitored while they are away. There is a great security benefit to having a car in the driveway at different times of the day, someone to bring in the newspaper or mail and switch the lights to make it appear like someone is home. Additionally, if there is an emergency (like years ago when our client’s heater broke when it was 9 degrees outside), it can be identified quickly and handled before it gets worse (say the pipes freeze, burst and flood your home).
One benefit that many people say they didn’t think of beforehand is how much time it saves them. For our daily clients, they no longer have to load their pets up, drive to a facility, drop them off and then repeat the entire routine after a long day at work. For vacation clients, they don’t need to worry about forgetting supplies at home, fitting their pets in to the car with their luggage or missing a flight and making it home after the facility has closed and then having to pay for an additional day.
Of course, not all pet sitters are created equal. Generally speaking, there are hobby pet sitters and professional pet sitters. Professional pet sitters are responsible adults who are insured and bonded. Depending upon the company, these policies will protect you, your pets and your home from damage, theft, injury and a number of additional things that could go wrong while you are away. Obviously these policies come at a cost, but this is an extremely important detail that often can help you identify whether you’re hiring a professional or hobbyist.
Professionals are typically affiliated with one or more of the national associations of pet sitters. Pet Sitters International, Pet Sitters Associates and National Association of Professional Pet Sitters are examples of some well-respected organizations. These groups provide ongoing education surrounding best practices, industry trends, information regarding new legislation and a forum for members to discuss their challenges and receive support.
A professional pet sitter will always understand that the comfort of you and your pets is the primary goal. We want to learn as much as possible about your pets and their routines before we begin providing services. Most companies will have information forms or a service agreement for you to complete before they are able to provide services for your pet. For example, our form asks for the basics, like age and breed, all the way down to feeding schedules, treats, and listing their favorite toys.
It is imperative for all parties that an in-home consultation take place before services are guaranteed. I have found this to be of utmost importance, because the pet owner needs to be able to spend time interacting with person (or people) who will be in their home. For the pets, this lets them recognize that it’s alright for these new people to be in their home. The owner needs this time to make sure they are comfortable with their service providers, just as the pet sitter needs time with the pets to make sure they are comfortable. As a best practice, many pet sitting services now require you to meet multiple sitters so there is always someone else who knows your pets and home in the event of an emergency. You can begin your search for a professional pet sitter at Pet Sitters International’s locator site (https://www.petsit.com/locate).
There are several things you can do to aid in the process of starting a new relationship with a pet sitter. Take time to provide all pertinent information and directions (no matter how small) to care for your pets while you are away. The best opportunity for this is during the in-home consultation, so you can discuss your pet’s needs in detail with your sitters. This also allows the pet sitter to clarify instructions and allows you time to ask additional questions. It is critical for you to share medical information, even if it is something that doesn’t occur often. Recently, one of my team members was caring for a dog who suddenly starting exhibiting strange medical symptoms and we were quite worried about him until we were able to get ahold of the pet’s parents, who informed us that this was relatively normal for him and directed the pet sitter to his medicine in the cabinet, which solved the issue. So, make sure to take time and think about everything you think someone caring for your pet may need to know.
Even if you have completed paperwork about your pets ahead of time, it is perfectly ok (and actually appreciated) for you to leave some additional quick written notes or reminders on the kitchen counter or table. Things like feeding or medicine schedules as well as all contact numbers for you while you are away are always helpful.
Remember, the goal of vacation pet sitting is for you and your pets to be as comfortable as possible. A good pet sitter understands how much you love your pets and will care for them as their own. My favorite feedback from our clients is how excited their pets are to see our sitters and how much happier the pets seem when they get home. If you haven’t considered these services in the past (or didn’t know they existed), give it a try and see if it’s a great fit for you and your pets.
Jeanna Ruehter is the founder and owner of Latchkey Pets, a daytime dog walking and vacation pet sitting company serving Lee’s Summit, MO and Overland Park, KS. She resides in Lee’s Summit with her family, including three pups.