Whether your pup has lived his whole life with a disability or has acquired one in his old age, your job as a pet parent has been learning about and providing for their special needs. To some extent, you’ve likely adjusted your home, your schedule, and your life to accommodate their ever-changing needs. Without a doubt, no one knows what they need or how to care for your pup better than you.
So, what are you to do when you have to leave your precious pet in the care of someone else for a day trip, an overnight excursion, or a weekend away? The best case scenario is that you have a trusted friend or relative who knows your pet and has some experience caring for him or her. But what if you’re new to the area or your go-to sitter is unavailable? How do you find someone who is not only capable of meeting your dog’s unique needs, but who will do so with the same love and compassion you do?
The qualities, skills, and experience that equip a person to be a pet sitter for pets with special needs are not always easy to define. To make it even more difficult, the people who possess them can be even harder to find. But, like with all things pet-related, we’re here to help. Below, we’ve done our best to identify what you should look for and tell you how to find it.
Set Expectations about Your Dog’s Special Needs
Before you begin your search, it’s a good idea to establish your expectations for the pet sitter of your (and your pup’s) dreams. This part of the process doesn’t have to be complicated or take up too much time, but putting some thought into what you’re looking for can go a long way toward helping you choose filters during your online search, narrow down your options, and pick the best candidates when the time comes. Here is a simple checklist to get you started:
- Availability – Do you need a sitter during the workday, on evenings and weekends, or for extended periods? How often?
- Budget – How much can you afford to pay by the hour, by the day, or by the week?
- Location – Do you want someone who can come to your home, or would you be more comfortable dropping your pup off at their place?
- Specific needs – Make a list of the tasks your sitter will need to take care of that are above and beyond what is normally expected. Examples include administering medication, changing diapers, or constant supervision.
- Other pets – Depending on your pup’s needs and temperament, you may or may not be comfortable with other animals, including the sitter’s own pets, being present while he or she cares for yours.
Start the Search
If you’ve chosen to look for a sitter rather than leave your pup with your vet or at a boarding facility, the next step of your search will take place online. The great news is that you can do it any time of the day or night while cuddled up on the couch with your pup by your side. The not-so-good news is that finding trustworthy people on the internet, for all its convenience, requires a high level of discernment.
Fortunately, pet sitter sites like Rover.com take steps, like third-party background checks and a separate in-house approval process, to vet their sitters. So, with your checklist in hand, you can begin the search for a caregiver with the experience and the compassion to care for your pet with special needs. On Rover, you can use the following steps to get started. On other sites, the process will vary slightly.
- Step 1 – Enter your info.
Fill out the questionnaire with information about your pet, the dates you need care, and your zip code.
- Step 2 – Filter your results.
There is not a filter specifically for special needs pets, but you can select “dog first-aid certified,” which should yield the sitters who are most likely to have experience caring for pets like yours.
- Step 3 – Check out the candidates.
When you click on the name of a pet sitter, you will have the option to view a list of additional skills. Look for “Special Needs Dog Experience.”
- Step 4 – Contact prospective sitters.
Before you can contact sitters, you’ll have to sign up for a paid account. After you’ve done this, you can message individuals to ask questions, set up phone interviews, and request in-person meetings.
If you’re not getting the results you’d hoped for, or if you’d just like a little help, Rover has a free program to help. Simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to reach the team, and include information about your pet’s special needs. They will then assist you in finding a qualified candidate.
Even though sites like Rover have an established reputation, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. That’s why the final step in finding a sitter for your pet with special needs should always be interviewing several candidates, calling their references, and making a selection based on your personal experience with them. During this portion of the process, use your list of expectations to ensure your prospective sitters are available, affordable, and able to handle every aspect of the job.
In the end, trust your gut… and your pet. If you are uneasy after an initial conversation, don’t move forward with the candidate. Likewise, if your pet doesn’t take to the person after a reasonable acclimation period, he or she may not be the right choice. Of course, if you and your pup hit it off with a candidate, trust that instinct too. Follow these instructions — and your heart — and we can almost guarantee you’ll end up with a reliable sitter that will love your pet when you have to be away.