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We can’t always take our dogs with us when we travel. And, sometimes, our dogs are happiest at home, surrounded by familiar sights, smells, and sounds. Whatever your reason for traveling without your pet, hiring a qualified pet sitter is a great alternative to boarding or kennels outside of the home. Chances are your dog will already be missing you while you’re away, so allowing him to stay at home, rather than in an unfamiliar place can ease stress for you both.
To make your time away less stressful for you, easier for the pet sitter, and, most importantly, as relaxing and calm as possible for your dog, remember these important preparations:
For Your Own Peace of Mind:
First and foremost, find a petsitter you trust. For many, this will be the toughest part of all, aside from leaving your dog behind. Talk with friends and family with pets, veterinarians, a trusted groomer, or neighbors. Ask for references (and check them!), complete a thorough interview, and allow them to meet and get to know your dog in advance of their first day on the job.
Once you’ve found the perfect pet sitter for your furriest family, discuss with them, in detail, your expectations while you’re away. Will you expect a daily text or phone call update? Will the pet sitter be staying overnight at your house or making several visits each day? Work out a full schedule in advance and ensure that your sitter will stick to it.
Call ahead to your veterinarian and let them know your dog will be in the care of a sitter. Provide the sitter’s full name and the dates you’ll be away. Many veterinarians require payment up-front before performing even emergency procedures, so make sure they’ve got a credit card on file and your approval to perform necessary treatments that cannot wait until you return in the event that you cannot be reached.
And, always have a backup plan in place. Leave a key well hidden at your home or with a trusted friend, neighbor, or relative in case your sitter loses theirs, doesn’t show up as planned, or has an emergency that leaves them unable to care for your pets.
For the Pet Sitter:
Provide your pet sitter with all possible ways to contact you if necessary. In addition to providing your cell phone number, provide a simple itinerary including the names and phone numbers of family you’ll be visiting or hotels you’ll be staying in. In the event your sitter cannot contact you, provide them with an emergency contact whom you trust to answer questions or provide assistance on your behalf.
Provide a list of emergency contacts including trusted friends, family, or neighbors, your veterinarian, and an after-hours emergency veterinarian.
In a binder or notebook, prepare a detailed checklist (here’s a great pet sitter checklist template you can use for free!) or schedule that includes details about feeding your dog (What time or times does your dog eat? How much should be fed?), walking your dog (How many times a day should your dog be walked? For how long?), and potty breaks (How many times per day should your dog be let outside to potty? What times of the day?).
In that same binder, include individual “pet profiles” for each dog (or other pet) in the sitter’s care. Attach a photo of the pet with information about their personality, their likes and dislikes, favorite toys or types of play, any special requirements, medications, allergies, or behaviors to be aware of. Include information about your dog’s food (brand, flavor, etc) in the event they need to purchase more.
And, list important reminders and rules that the petsitter should be aware of. Are your dogs allowed extra treats or snacks throughout the day? Are they allowed on the furniture? Do they need to be crated when left alone, or are they free to roam the entire house?
For Your Dog’s Comfort and Security:
Make sure all of your dog’s supplies are in an easy-to-find, single location. Include collars (with identification tags), leashes, poop bags, food, bowls, treats, and grooming supplies as well as your dog’s favorite toys, games, or chews.
If your dog’s bed has a zippered cover, unzip a corner and stuff the inside with a few articles of your worn clothing. When he curls up to sleep, your scent will provide comfort in your absence.
If you have a unique morning or nighttime ritual, be sure to share that with the pet sitter so he or she can replicate it while you’re away. If your dog normally gets brushed or massaged in the evenings, if you spend an hour watching TV together on the sofa, or if you sing him a special song before bed, share these rituals with your sitter and ask that they be replicated. It won’t be the same as spending time with you, but the routine will be calming and familiar to your best furry friend.
Other Things to Consider:
For added peace of mind while you’re away, consider installing a home and pet surveillance system like the PetCube Bites, or the inexpensive Yi Wifi Camera. These easy-to-use home and pet surveillance cameras are simple to install and connect to your home’s wifi. Using a smartphone app, pet parents can simply log on and see what’s happening in the home at any time, from anywhere. Many also offer added features like the ability to pan around a room, temperature alarms, high definition and nighttime viewing, and sound.
Or, if you prefer, invest in an interactive, treat-dispensing pet camera that allows you to directly interact with your dog, dispense treats, and speak to them while you’re away.
Do you have any additional tips to help pet parents prepare for the dog sitter? Please, share your experiences in a comment below!
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