If we had to assign the internet one role in our lives, it would probably be this: to improve our existence by instantly and constantly connecting us to the rest of the world. That’s why we spend so much time searching, clicking, and typing. That’s why most of us receive a hundred emails for every piece of postal mail we get. That’s why nearly every one of us carries the world wide web around with us everywhere we go, tucked away in our pockets and purses.
Most of the time, the internet does its job. It makes it easier for us to find who and what we need, exactly when we need it. From your next meal to your next handyman, online services exist in every niche to help us locate, investigate, and rate just about anything — or anyone — we can imagine. Pet sitters are no different. If you think you’re ready to see some sitters now, choose your city below:
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Of course, trying a new restaurant or scheduling a home repair isn’t the same as hiring someone to care for one of your most precious family members. You won’t hire a pet sitter based on a five-star review, a solid resume, or a professional appearance alone. You’ll hire them based on the right combination of those things… and a few more.
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Narrow It Down
When you think about it, finding a pet sitter online isn’t that much different or more difficult than finding one the old-fashioned way. What may make it seem more complicated is the sheer number of options you now have at your fingertips. You no longer have to thumb through a phonebook or call the local vet to get a recommendation. But that convenient, online search returns more results than you can reasonably sift through. So, now what?
Luckily, popular sites like Rover.com, Care.com, DogVacay.com, and WagWalking.com offer several filters you can use to narrow the field, starting with the following criteria:
- Geography – Different sitters serve different geographical areas. Where you live and/or how far you are willing to drive to drop off and pick up your pet will remove some candidates automatically.
- Services – Some providers offer day care, and others offer overnight care. Some offer both.
- Date and time – Choose the dates and times you need service to eliminate providers who don’t have availability.
- Location – Do you want care in your home, in the home of a provider, or at a boarding facility?
- Budget – Sitters may charge daily, nightly, or hourly. Choose your price range to see professionals that fit your budget.
- Type of Pet – Some sitters only care for dogs, while others provide services for cats or other animals. Available space or other animals in their care may play a role in determining what types and breeds each sitter accepts.
- Features – Do you want a home with no children or a fenced-in yard? Would you prefer a sitter who is trained in pet first aid or who only keeps one animal at a time? Check these features off the list, and you can find exactly what you need.
Do Your Research
Once you have a small(ish) list of candidates, the real work begins. You can learn some things by simply taking a closer look at their online profiles and reading their bios. Once you’ve found a few who you want to get to know better, it’s time to interview each candidate, check their credentials, and introduce them to your pet. Just be sure you do each of the following steps in the process:
- Ask the right questions. Don’t just focus on how often they’ll feed or walk your pet. Ask why they do what they do. Find out whether they are insured, how they will update you while you’re gone, and what their emergency plan entails. You should also make sure the person you meet is the one who will be caring for your pet.
- Verify their education and experience. Your sitter should be able to send you proof of classes they’ve taken or certifications they’ve achieved.
- Do a background check. Sites like Rover.com do general background checks for the sitters on their sites, as indicated by a special emblem. If the site you are using doesn’t do background checks, you’ll need the sitter’s permission to do your own, and you’ll need to pay for it yourself.
- Set up a meeting. Once you’ve picked a final candidate, it’s time to meet in person. If the sitter will be coming to your home, invite them over. If your pet will be going to theirs, arrange a visit. Make sure your pet has a chance to meet the candidate, and pay attention to how they react to one another.
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Happy Owners Have Happy Pets
Pets can’t talk, but their parents can. Chances are, if a pet parent is satisfied with the level of care their precious pal received, so is their furry companion. While every pet is different, their basic needs are the same. So if Charlie Chihuahua was fed, walked, and loved well, there’s a good chance that Sally Shih Tzu will experience the same.
There are two ways to find out what a pet sitter’s clients really think of him or her, and you should do both. First, look for testimonials, reviews, and ratings online. If there are several positive reviews, that’s a good sign. Alternatively, one negative review shouldn’t be a deal breaker. If you choose to move forward with the sitter, just be sure to ask about that client.
As a general rule, what you see is what you get. However, you should be wary of too many good or bad reviews. While too many negative reviews indicates a real problem, too many reviews of any kind for a new pet sitter or too many generic reviews without any mention of a specific pet or experience may not be real or may have been incentivized in some way.
In addition to online reviews, be sure to ask each candidate for a list of actual customers you can call for recommendations. Don’t be afraid to ask about clients with pets of a similar age, breed, or energy level as yours. If there is a particular review you are interested in, you can ask to speak to that client specifically.
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Go With Your Gut
The last but best tool you have when it comes to finding and vetting a pet sitter is your instinct. From the moment you land on their website to the first time you talk to them on the phone to the initial meeting, listen to your intuition.
Pay particular attention to how they communicate, how they talk about past clients, and how they treat you and your pet. If they don’t return your call or messages in a timely fashion, seem secretive or dishonest, or simply make you or your pet uncomfortable, move on to another candidate. After all, could you really concentrate at work or enjoy your trip away if you were worried about your pet in his or her care?
On the other hand, if you get a good feeling from a prospective sitter, you should acknowledge that, too. If you and your pet hit it off, communicate well, and everything seems right, there’s a good chance you and Fido have found the one you’ve been looking for.