So many times when we go out on initial consultations we find that the client has already interviewed or used another dog walker or pet sitter. There can be many reasons things just didn’t work out from, being undependable to the sitter went out of business. I have heard a lot of reasons and very few of them had to do with price. So how can a concerned owner be sure they are finding the right Professional Pet-care Provider?
Well let us get through some of the very basics when you are hiring anyone to come into your home. You want to know if they are insured and their staff is bonded. Proof of insurance should be offered to you at the consultation. They should able to explain the basic coverage for you as well. Another basic is they should provide you with at least 3 references at the consultation. If you have a special need, inquire if they have ever dealt with it before. You should also be signing a contract of some sort that spells out the details of what is covered and what is not. Some sitters will charge you for this initial consult if you don’t book with them at that time and others offer consultation for free. Keep in mind though that you need to block out about 60 minutes to discuss your pet care needs. A really good sitter won’t rush through the consultation. Ok, so that’s the basics: insurance and/or bonding, references, experience, contracts.
But what else might you be looking for? I often say if you are picking up the phone to call a pet sitter you are looking for someone who will do more than just let the dog out and scoop the litter box. Even hiring a midday dog-walker is more than just someone walking your dog. Most really good sitters will customize your pet’s visits for you. Customize, that sounds like really expensive, but it is not. It should be all part of the standard visit.
During your initial consultation your sitter will be listening to you, your concerns, and asking questions for clarification. All this is done to determine how the visits to your home and your pet will be “structured.” Does your dog bolt out the door? A good pet sitter and dog walker will not only try to keep your dog from bolting out the door, they will discuss with you how to structure the visit to work on teaching your dog good doggie manners at the door. Basic leash manners and leash training as well will be part of the structured visit. This type of basic training will discussed and shared with you. The other thing they should be asking about is your routines with your pet. You can let them know what are some of the routine things your dog likes to do and the sitter can use your techniques to keep your pet happy while you are away.
You want to watch how your pet behaves around the potential sitter, does the sitter ignore the pet or do they work to build an initial bond of trust? Sometimes a sitter just does not hit it off with your pet. Even a really good sitter will occasionally run into a pet that just does not respond well. We have all seen it. The friend that your cat just hates, but loves everybody else. A good sitter will recognize this issue and may turn you down. If that is the case they should have another sitter they can recommend for you. If your pet shows aggression towards the sitter, your pet may not be a good candidate for home visits and the sitter will likely recommend a kennel.
Lastly, does the sitter inquire about cleaning supplies. Things like mops, brooms, and vacuums are often needed during a pet sitting visit. I know we go so far as to locate the dish soap and on long pet sits ask if it is OK to use your washer or dryer to keep pet towels and bedding clean while you are away. A little inquiry like that can tell you a lot about the sitter and the pet sitting company. While it is taking care of your pet, it is also part of taking care of you and your home. Who wants to come home to muddy paw printed up floors, dirty doggie towels, and kitty litter tracked all through the home during a 10 day vacation? I know I would not and neither would my clients.
There is so much more to finding the right pet sitter or dog walker for you and your pet, than just someone showing up to let the dog out. A true in home pet care provider will hit on all the relevant points and those not so relevant ones…like finding the dish soap to help keep the water bowl clean without being told. So watch for those clues in the questions and time spent at the initial consultation and both you and your new sitter will be off to great start!