You love dogs, and want to share your love and look after other people’s dogs while they are away?
Being a pet sitter can be a rewarding experience.
First thing to remember is that they are not your dogs, which means they may act differently than your own dogs. Just like people, dogs all have different personalities. Different breeds also have different traits and characteristics which make caring for a Yorkshire terrier very different to caring for a 120 lb Doberman. Take some time to research the dog breed you will be caring for. This will give you a great start in dealing with any behaviours that maty come up during your pet sit.
The owners probably have different feeding and walking routine to the one you have with your dog. As an avid dog lover you might be tempted to try and improve on that routine, however do remember that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. As a sitter you have to exercise sound judgement on what can you do to keep the dogs happy while their owners are away and what you can’t do differently. Extra love and attention is not likely to cause any problems, however changing diet and the exercise routine could lead to unwelcome consequences, such as ballooning pets or muscle or joint problems from too much walking and Frisbee throwing.
Your role as a sitter is to provide continuity for the dogs and their owners. This means sticking as closely to the owners and dog’s usual routine as possible, if you deviate from the routine you risk ingraining new habits into the dog. For example, the owner might have a strict ‘no human food, or scraps from the table’ policy and you give into those big brown eyes and start giving scraps. When the owner returns, the dog, now used to being fed tidbits from the table, will try it on with them.
In-home pet sitting provides a continuity of care which extends to all aspects of caring for the dogs. This is why it’s important to have time to learn the pet’s routines before you take over. Get detailed information from the pet owner about the following:
It is also important to watch the interaction between owners and pet, some owners and pets enjoy cuddles and belly rubs others not so much. Cuddling a Great Dane is not an easy task but some owners do just that.
The more you can treat the dog the way their owner does, the more continuity of care you can provide them as their pet sitter.
After you have been introduced to the dogs, spend some time getting to know them as much as possible. Once you are comfortable with each other, stroke and brush them and try to get a feel for their general level of health and vitality. Pay attention to how their fur feels, note their usual breathing rate and if they have any lumps or bumps anywhere.
This initial assessment serves a few purposes. The first is that the more comfortable and familiar they are with you before their owners leave the better, as it can help minimize separation anxiety.
The second purpose is to familiarize you with the health of the pet. With your own dogs you know immediately when something is wrong with them because you know their normal state of health. With other people’s dog’s you don’t have that built in familiarity, so this allows you to develop a basic understanding of what is normal for them. If you did feel any lumps or bumps, discuss them with the owner who can reassure you that it’s an old injury, a lump they have had for a years or if it is something that needs attention or monitoring.
It is important that you have the phone contact for the owner’s usual veterinarian and know their location in case of an emergency. You also need to chat with the owner to decide on an emergency plan in the case that their pet is critically ill while in your care. Would it be “do anything at all to save them, no matter what the cost?” Or “Yes, get them to the vet but no expensive last ditch efforts”. There may be a strict limit to the amount of medical care they would authorize. This can be a difficult conversation, but it’s important you know what level of care the owners want from the beginning of the sitting job. This is even more important if it’s a longer-term sitting job or they are going to be hard to contact while away.
As you can see there is a lot to consider when you first meet your new charges, but following these steps will help ensure a happy, stress free time for you, the owner and the dogs in your care.