If you’ve recently adopted a new puppy, you may be wondering how you can keep them safe and entertained while you work or have to be away for travel. While older dogs may be able to handle being alone for several hours, young puppies shouldn’t be left to their own devices. This is especially true during their first 16 weeks when, according to veterinarians of the Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center, puppies are in their most critical socialization period.
Puppies at this age (and beyond) are still learning house rules and figuring out which behaviors are acceptable. A puppy sitter can help you reinforce training while ensuring your new pal doesn’t get destructive. Further, leaving your dog with an attentive and caring companion can help quell separation anxiety.
Where do I find a puppy sitter?
You can start by asking your veterinarian for recommendations. Likewise, friends and family may have someone they use on a regular basis who would be willing to sit for you. You can also look online on sites like Rover.com, WagWalking.com, and Care.com.
|Find a Pet Sitter on Rover.com||Find a Pet Sitter on Care.com|
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What does a puppy sitter do?
You can think of a puppy sitter as a babysitter for your pet. They will provide food, bathroom breaks, and exercise, and will ideally offer a warm lap upon which your puppy can cuddle. A pet sitter will help keep your dog on your preferred schedule, and just as important, will almost certainly provide opportunities for your dog to interact with other animals. Once you have a regular sitter in place, they may even be able to take care of your puppy on short notice if you have an unexpected emergency. Sitters may offer other services, such as training, dog walking, and overnight boarding.
If you are not comfortable asking friends or family to watch your pup or if you don’t have a support network that lives nearby, a puppy sitter can make life much easier on you and your new furry family member. But if you want to avoid having your own pet sitter horror story, you’ll have to do some legwork when it comes to choosing the right person.
Choosing the right puppy sitter
Just as with childcare, not all puppy care providers are alike. Once you identify a prospective sitter, you’ll need to ask them lots of questions, interview them in person, and ideally, be invited to visit their home. If the sitter will come to your house, you may also wish to perform a criminal background check.
A few questions to ask your potential puppy sitter include:
- Do you have insurance, and if so, which types?
There are many types of insurance that a puppy sitter might wish to carry. General liability, commercial auto insurance, workers compensation insurance, and Care, Custody, and Control (CCC) coverage are common. The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) explains that CCC coverage is one of the most important for pet sitters. This is a type of insurance that provides financial protection for the service provider as well as reimbursement for you if your puppy is injured while under the sitter’s care. Under most circumstances, it will also pay for damage your puppy causes on your sitter’s property. Your puppy sitter should also be bonded, which protects you in the off chance they or someone working on their behalf steals from your home.
- Have you undergone any specialized training or puppy care certification?
NAPPS, Pet Sitters International (PSI), and the International Boarding and Pet Services Association (IBPSA), along with a handful of other professional organizations, offer pet sitting certification. These classes cover everything from puppy care and nutrition to animal behavior. It is not necessary to obtain accreditation or to obtain a license to provide puppy sitting services. However, a sitter who has taken this extra step has shown they are serious about the job and that pet sitting is not merely a hobby. Other potential classes include pet CPR and animal first aid. A sitter with the skills to temporarily stabilize a broken bone or to stop heavy bleeding can mean the difference between life and death for your puppy if he’s involved in an accident or altercation with an aggressive animal.
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- How do you plan to keep up with my puppy’s needs?
If your new puppy has special medical or dietary needs, ask your sitter how they plan to ensure these needs are met. This can be something as simple as logging this information in a notebook so that you can review it at the end of their visit.
- Which veterinarian do you use in case of a puppy emergency?
While you certainly hope your pup will never be injured or get sick outside of your care, the reality is that emergencies can happen anywhere. Your puppy sitter should have an established relationship with a veterinarian and be well informed of emergency veterinary care options outside of regular business hours. Michigan State University Veterinary Medical Center lists common pet emergencies as pancreatitis, pneumonia, bleeding, trauma, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and poisonings, among many others. These are issues that cannot wait to be addressed until you are contacted, and for which your sitter should take your puppy to his regular clinic for care.
- Do you have a backup plan if you are unavailable when scheduled
Just like emergencies can happen with your pet, your sitter is also at risk of a personal or family crisis. Unfortunately, this can be inconvenient for you, and your sitter should already have a backup plan in place. For example, if their child is injured or becomes ill and requires their attention, they should have a preemptive plan in place to care for your puppy. This is especially important if you plan to be out of town and cannot make other accommodations.
- How much one-on-one time can you spend with my puppy?
There is a good chance that your potential pet sitter will have dogs of their own or will have other animals in their care while they are with your puppy. You may need to ask how many dogs they will have on site if they provide care in their home. If you feel like it’s too many, chances are, it is. While most individuals can easily provide care and companionship for four or five animals, more than that at once may mean your puppy does not get the attention he requires.
- What other services do you provide outside puppy sitting online?
If your pet sitter offers other services, ask if these can be rendered while your puppy is with them. For example, if they provide grooming, your pup may be more comfortable having his nails trimmed with a sitter he already knows rather than being carted off to a grooming facility. Other services that may not be included in your sitter’s standard fee are long walks and trips to the local dog park for socialization and exercise. When your sitter is also a dog trainer, they may be able to further enforce the behaviors you are working on at home. The Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) offers information on how to choose a dog trainer.
- Do you provide a written puppy sitter contract with fees and exclusions specifically outlined?
A written contract serves to protect both of you from misunderstandings. According to LegalZoom, it should outline each party’s responsibilities, the nature of the relationship, and compensation promised for services. It should also contain verbiage that indicates emergency medical care authorization for your puppy as well as when and how services may be terminated.
- Do you have references?
Your puppy sitter should be able to provide at least three references from recent clients. Ideally, these will be individuals with no personal connection to the service provider (meaning no family or close friends) and who had a puppy similar in age to yours when they hired the sitter.
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Make the most out of the puppy sitting experience
Once you have settled on a new puppy sitter, there are many ways to make the experience as positive as possible for everyone. The experts at Mercola’s Healthy Pets blog suggest making a reservation ahead of time and starting with a short stay. If you want your puppy on a schedule or if he needs any special care, leave detailed instructions, and don’t be afraid to ask for daily updates. You sitter should also have access to all of your puppy’s supplies, and it’s best if these items are left in one location, such as on the kitchen counter, until they are familiar with your home. Finally, let a neighbor know that there will be someone different at your house, and if you have a home security system, teach your sitter how to use it.
Pet sitters are a valuable asset when you have a new puppy and a busy schedule. They can keep your home from getting damaged from a bored or anxious pup, and give you peace of mind when you have to be away. Take the time to interview a few different providers, and go with your gut. If something feels “off,” keep looking. There is almost an endless pool of information out there to help you make a decision. There is no reason you can’t enjoy both the freedom of not being tied down to puppy care responsibilities and the love, loyalty, and companionship of a canine comrade.