At The Meet & Greet
First, it’s always a good idea to have a Meet & Greet session where your pet can meet his sitter. This is so we can meet you (and your fur babies), and you/they can meet us! Not every pet sitter is a good fit for every family, but when it works well, it’s a beautiful thing! If for some reason your gut tells you that there is something not right, go with this feeling. Find another sitter, because it’s better to be safe than sorry. Professional sitters will completely understand when it’s not an ideal fit (we follow our guts just as much), and hopefully be able to recommend someone else to you.
Most pet sitters will offer a single complimentary Meet & Greet, although a few may charge a small fee for this session. If you are meeting several, it is polite to let them know ahead of time, as they may have a preferred protocol (such as a phone interview) to determine whether you even want to schedule that in-person meeting. Keep in mind that if this is your process, do NOT expect any of your sitters to save your reservation. Especially for the smaller businesses, it’s ‘first come, first serve’. Usually you only have 1 complimentary greeting session, and it is very appropriate for sitters to charge for a second, as it is more time on their part (without guarantee of being scheduled), and as we all know, ‘time is money’.
At the Meet & Greet, you can then set your expectations. What is it exactly you expect from your sitter while you are away? Are you just interested in pet care or are there other tasks you need help with? This is the best time for you to tell them about the house rules and rules you have for your pet, including how you discipline them. It is important to be specific with what you want and make sure that it is specified in the contract or pet profile. The biggest issue we find is when expectations are not clearly spelled out from both parties (or worse, when they change in the middle of a reservation). Remember, this is a team effort and you’re part of the team!
Preparation is Key
You can provide your sitter with a detailed list of instructions (in an easy to find place) even if you have filled out a form. We at ARCC have a pretty thorough Home & Pet Profile on our online Pet Portals, but definitely don’t mind a written set of instruction, as long as it is consistent. On our online Pet Portal, there are spaces to give specific information about feeding, exercise, favorite toys, medications (if needed), where things can be found and household tasks. You can also include the rules you mentioned earlier to reinforce them. Be sure to tell your pet sitter about any unusual habits your pet has, such as destructive behavior when left alone, change in bowel or eating habits, hiding places, etc.
With this list, you can also include your dog’s medical records – especially if they have a medical condition or allergies. Our Veterinary Release and Emergency Form already includes veterinarian’s contact information, preferred hospital, and a person to contact locally in case of an emergency. We also have a very in-depth conversation on exactly what you would like us to do in the event of an emergency and you are not able to be contacted. After working several years in a Veterinary ER & Specialty Center, we know the routine pretty well and can anticipate most questions.
Notify your veterinarian in writing that a pet sitter will be caring for your pet and authorize the vet to extend medical care during your absence if it becomes necessary. Don’t forget to leave some form of documentation that the pet sitter has permission to look after your pet and be in your home (our Veterinary Release Form works great!).
If you haven’t already, don’t forget to jot down your pet’s microchip number if he has one. Have your pet wear current identification and vaccination tags on its collar.
Making the job easier for your sitter means fewer problems for you while you are away. Documentation is the best way to do this!
Pet Proof Your Home
Aside from preparing your pets, we also recommend preparing your home. Set expectations by arranging it the way you want to see it when you get home. If there are important or fragile items, put them away to avoid accidents!
If possible, keep all supplies in one are that’s easy to find. They can include:
- food and water bowls
- can opener
- cleaning supplies (paper towels & garbage bags)
- litter and scoop
- towels (for rainy walks)
- newspapers (if paper training), etc.
Keep in mind, a bored or determined dog can go “where they’ve never gone before”! Make sure cupboards and storage areas are secured. Check toilet lids to make sure they are down in any accessible bathrooms (or close doors). See that medications are locked up. The sound of pills rattling in a plastic bottle is fun for most dogs, and they’ll want to chew on it and see what’s inside! Remove candy and nuts from coffee tables or locations where a pet can reach them. Check to see that any hobby supplies; i.e., paints, glue, needles and thread, etc., have been placed away from curious noses!
Since you will be giving your sitter a set of keys to your home (and gate code if applicable), make sure you notify your security company, neighbors and friends. The last thing you want is for someone to think that there’s an intruder and call 911 while we’re feeding dinner! We at ARCC prefer to use our own guest code for security systems, making it easy to remember as well as safe for our clients. Make sure to add it as a ‘guest alarm/entry’ with your alarm company. If applicable, advise gate security that we will be visiting your home and authorize entry.
Refrain from scheduling repairs, visits or other circumstances where other people are entering your home. Click HERE for our policy on job sharing and why we enforce it! If they cannot be avoided, inform your sitter of this, so that we can try and make arrangements. We can not guarantee being available, and will charge for wait time. Also be aware that our contract has a release of liability for third parties in these cases.
If possible, use motion sensors on exterior lights. For evening visits that are scheduled, we will really appreciate this safety precaution! Use timers on interior lights and program them to turn on at dusk and off at bedtime. Make sure doors and windows are securely locked before leaving. This should include garage doors, sliding glass doors and basement doors and windows. If outside doors have panes of glass near a push-button lock, consider installing a dead bolt lock as well. Make sure any fences are secure and gates are locked.
Here is a great resource from Pet Sitters International for helping you get ready for your Professional Pet Sitter: PSI Pet Sitter Checklist
We are big believers in planning ahead! Although this may seem extensive for some, it will help us provide the high quality care we aim for, and the most peace of mind for you while you’re enjoying your vacation or working late at the office. Don’t hesitate to ask us any questions about how we can be of service to your furry family!