What To Expect When Hiring a Professional Dog Walking or Pet Sitting Service

03.01.2016 04:54 AM Comment(s)
Have you ever heard of a professional pet sitting service? Well, chances are if you are viewing this article then you have, but maybe just in the last few minutes.

Pet sitting and Dog Walking services have been around for a long time, but the industry really just boomed maybe 10 to 15 years ago. Most services before then were only in the biggest cities and usually performed only by individuals. Today there are several national organizations and countless more local organizations that promote the industry through standards and cooperation.

Now that we've covered some history, lets move on to this article main point and title - What to expect when hiring a Professional Pet Sitting or Dog Walking service.

Most individuals and families that find themselves searching for a pet sitter or dog walker are either going on vacation, busy with their jobs or have recently added a new "furry family member" and need some help with the care for the new found friend while they are are away. Again, either going on a vacation or busy at work. But some are also elderly who have found it recently difficult to continue to care for their pets solely on their own. When many of these groups are searching they will first look online with a simple keyword search such as "Cleveland Dog Walking" or "Pet Sitter Cuyahoga county" and this is likely the way you've landed here, although through the majic of the internet you may have found this article in a variety of other searches. The first step you'll take in selecting your pet sitter or dog walker will probably be clicking on their links that you found in those searches. So let's skip ahead a bit. Let's say you've already research a few or several and have found one that you'd like to call to see what they can offer you and what the cost is. The process may go something like as follows:

1) You, the client, called or emailed the pet sitting or dog walking service2) The service answers / or calls you back (dependant on hours of operation or size of company)
3) You and the company have asked and answered some questions about what you are looking for.

Here's the step that may trip some people up...

4) The company suggests a "Meet n' Greet" ... wait - what!? What exactly is a Meet n' Greet?

A Meet n' Greet is an in-home consultation where you and your potential pet sittter (or maybe owner of the company) meet at your home for the purose of getting to know your pets and for you to feel more comfortable with their service; after all, letting someone new into your home is always a stressful experience. The meeting also facilitates the filling out of a few forms and in some cases contractual documents. Usually it will entail the companies policies, emergency preparedness plans, and veterinary release forms. Of these the first two are rather self explantory, but what that release form? This document essentially gives you sitter or walker the permission to have the animal treated in an emergency by a vet. And this is also very good to have on file at the vet office so if their is concern regarding care limits the sitter already has the answer. You can also expect to pay for the service (or at least the first week or so) up front. This is typical to reserve your time and sitter. However, some pet sitting and dog walking services will bill afterwards.

Ok. So now we know the meet n greet. What about after that?

GREAT QUESTION - I'm glad you asked!

Many companies today are tech advanced so they will either enter your information into their scheduling systems or send you a link to fill out the information. They will also confirm your visits and schedule them. In the future you might have to schedule them via an online scheduling system, though most services will take phone calls, texts and emails. During your service period they will provide the service you are looking for such as pet sitting, dog walking, overnight in-home care, potty breaks, litter cleaning etc. Some will even handle the less common pets such as reptiles and amphibians. Many services offer to send you a text or email after the service is completed just to let you know that everything is "A O K", although some accomplish similar reporting through logs or notebooks or a hybrid of it all.

So most of this is understandable, right? Good. But maybe you are curious about what you should ask your potential sitter at the meet n greet. Another great question!

It is simple - whatever you want! But you should include a few staples. Here they are:

1) Are you insured? - THIS ONE IS VERY IMPORTANT. Insurance protects your animal and the company in the event of an accident involving the animal while it was in the care, custody and control of the pet sitter. Typically it covers accidents that are a product of willful and negligent behavior. However, many accidents are not due to this circumstance and just happen and may have been unpreventable.

2) Are you bonded? - Some companies carry dishonesty bonds - which is basically another type of insurance that covers the sitter actually being in your home and either something comes up missing or is broken etc. While it is rare that these instances occur, it is still a good idea for a service to be bonded especially if they have employees or independent contractors, because as much work as the company may have put into the research of their workers - things still happen. So bonding is sort of a way of keeping honest people honest and dishonest people at bay.

3) References? - Definitely get this. Even if the service or sitter is new to the industry they should have at least personal reference to make available. The newer sitter may need a day or two to get permission from a few people before offering up their information.

4) First Aid Certified / CPR Certified? - Many pet sitting/dog walking services require that their employees or independent contractors to be certified in pet first aid. Some are also requiring pet CPR certification. Usually these certifications are granted by the American Red Cross or PET TECH. Some newer services may not have this available so its a good idea to evaluate your sitter to make they at least have good common sense. (ie. what to do/not to do to prevent accidents in the first place)

5) Are they affiliated with a national or local organization? Many pet services today are part of organizations (as mentioned previously) that promote the industry through cooperation and standards. These may be organizations such as Pet Sitting Partners of Northeast Ohio, Pet Sitters International, Professional United Pet Sitters, or the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. It's a good practice to ask this to evaluate whether or not your potential sitter or service is serious about what their doing. Some new sitters may not have taken this step yet.

So there you have it. A quick (sort-of) guide to hiring your next or first pet sitter, dog walker or service. We hope it helps. Happy Hunting!