How to Select a Pet Sitter for Your Service Dog or Family “Fido”

Vacation time often confronts us with the difficult decision of what to do with our service dog or pet dog while we’re gone.  Many people take their service dog with them; others may not be able to do that (depending on where or with whom they’re going).

Those with pet dogs face the same dilemma. Some dogs travel well; others, not so much. Pet dogs face even bigger hurdles because many hotels (or even campgrounds) do not allow them.  So what to do?

Come into my house (if you dare!)

“Come into my house (if you dare!)”

While many people board their dogs, others prefer to engage someone who will care for their dog(s) in their own home.

If you choose to hire a House-Sitter or Professional Dog-Sitter, consider the following before you turn your keys over:

1.  Start your research early
Finding the right sitter will take time.  Develop a referral list (see suggestions below). You need to conduct phone interviews and an in-house meeting.  Observe how your dog reacts to the sitter.  Have the pet-sitter take your dog for a walk with you. Observe and ask questions (“How would you handle my dog if he suddenly takes off after a squirrel? What would you do if you encounter another dog who is off-leash?)

2. Ensure your pet-sitter is qualified.
Just because you’ve seen an impressive ad or read a dynamite profile advertising pet-sitting services, it doesn’t mean the person who shows up at your door is qualified. Remember, anyone can post a profile exclaiming how experienced he or she is in this field. Check references!

3. Check Qualifications
Has your sitter had any veterinary experience? Has the sitter taken any courses on animal first-aid? If your dog has medical needs, has the sitter experience with such dogs? Is he or she a member in good-standing with a professional pet sitters’ organization? Is the sitter bonded and insured, an independent contractor, or self-employed?  Again, get references and contact them.

4. Meeting Response
Your most critical step, beyond getting references, is having your candidate meet your dog(s). Watch how the sitter and dog interact. Is the sitter’s tone of voice and body language appropriate? Most important: Trust your “gut feeling.”  If you are not completely comfortable and at ease, there’s something wrong. Move on to the next candidate.

5. Get it in Writing
Put in writing exactly what services the sitter will provide, how much these services cost, what would happen if you are delayed in returning from your vacation, and so forth.

Finally, be sure the person caring for your dog knows how to contact you and your veterinarian. Give them the phone numbers of key personnel who can provide advice or assistance in an emergency. These include: family members, reliable neighbors, your landlord and others who are familiar with your dog. Likewise, don’t expect your sitter to know your dog’s needs via mental telepathy. Write out his or her daily routine, food and medicine schedule, types of play he or she enjoys, safe walking areas, and so on.

For a quick review and a list of questions to ask your potential candidate, visit Pet Sitters International’s: Find the Right Pet Sitter for You and Your Pets at:

  • Quick Summary
    ⇒Meet your potential candidates
    ⇒Get references and check them out
    ⇒Conduct a background check (it’s a small price to pay to ensure you don’t have a criminal staying in your home)
    ⇒Observe how your dog reacts to the individual you are considering; have him or her walk your dog
    ⇒Ask questions (e.g., What would you do if another dog suddenly attacked your dog, etc.). Get samples of other questions on-line
    ⇒Write out your own contact numbers and those for your vet, family members or neighbors who can rush to help in case of an emergency
    ⇒Write out your dog(s) routine and your expectations
    ⇒Put any “promises” given by the candidate in writing.


  • Referrals
    The following is a partial list to help you get started in compiling potential resources for your pet’s house-sitter.
    You might contact some of the places or people listed below, or check sites such as: Professional Pet Sitting organizations and On-Line Services for Pet Sitting

    • Friends
    • Other Dog Owners
    • Supermarkets and Libraries
    • Veterinarians’ Offices
    • Senior Centers
    • High Schools
    • etc.

  • Have a Wonderful Vacation

    (but don’t forget to call the dog while you’re away!)
    Dog at phone





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7 Responses to How to Select a Pet Sitter for Your Service Dog or Family “Fido”

  1. Mary E. Trimble July 27, 2016 at 1:15 pm #

    Good tips, Patricia. We normally take our dog on vacation since it’s usually camping with our truck and camper. But one time we planned to go to St. Martin so we arranged to have a qualified person come to the house. She came beforehand to meet us and our dog and we were impressed. However, when we returned from our trip, our neighbor informed us that the person only stayed about 5 minutes each day. Our dog could go in an out through a dog door, but we felt cheated that no one gave him attention during those long days and nights. Live and learn….

  2. Ann July 27, 2016 at 2:52 pm #

    Great info. I do not have a dog but this info gave me ideas as to what to do with my pet fish when I plan to travel in November. Thank you.

  3. Norman W. Wilson July 27, 2016 at 3:47 pm #

    This makes complete sense. Good information.

  4. gloria July 27, 2016 at 4:12 pm #

    Great ideas told in an easy way to understand and remember.
    Also good reminder, I need to call to have a back-up sitter available just because.

    Thank you,
    A wagaday!

  5. Dirk July 28, 2016 at 7:40 pm #

    Hi Patricia,

    Very good article. I don’t know if you are aware that Barbara has started a pet sitting service on Camano. She has helped a another service for a couple of years and decided to start her own. Having good references is very important and that is an area that she uses from her past sitting.

  6. Hemlata Vasavada July 29, 2016 at 7:02 am #

    As always, your blog has good advice for pet owners.

  7. Kathleen Kaska August 1, 2016 at 1:13 pm #

    My parents kept our dogs when we vacationed. On long trips, we realized we weren’t enjoying ourselves as much as we hoped. We missed the dogs and worried about them. So, we took shorter trips or took them with us.

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