Tips To Help You Find The Right Pet Sitter

Everyone needs a vacation, sometimes with the kids, sometimes without. No work emails to answer, no set meal times, no schedule…bliss.

The in-laws or friends welcome the human kids for a fun stay at Grandma’s or Aunt Lynnie’s. But as for the furkids…

Can you find a safe, friendly place for them to stay? What should you look for in a dog/cat sitter or boarding facility?

According to several recently surveyed devoted dog moms, pet sitters and dog trainers in Hunterdon County, NJ, a sitter should have a good rapport with dogs, but that alone is not enough.

“Simply loving dogs is just not enough to care for someone’s dogs (or other animals),” said Kelly Fahey, owner of The DogSmith of Hunterdon.

Others echoed Kelly’s comments.  Laraine Weiveris Mocenigo considers herself “very fortunate to have a great friend who has lots of animal experience, who stays at my house when I go away…Having somebody who knows what to do in my absence and doesn’t freak out is a big plus. I also like that she stays at my house and the animals’ routine is not upset by our absence and they continue to have a warm human to share the bed with. She also sends me updates via email, which assure me that everyone is happy.”

But unless your friend, like Laraine’s, is a “Dr. Doolittle,” there are several reasons why such care is best left to professionals. Sitters should be mature, reliable—and trained and insured; being certified in dog/cat first-aid and CPR is a plus too—injuries and illnesses can occur under the best care.

Sitters who are certified dog trainers often have expert knowledge of how to handle reactive or fearful dogs. “If I needed a walker for my dog, I would only hire someone who is always a trainer since they would know what to do if my dog started to react and is capable of keeping him and everyone else safe,” explained dog owner Amanda Hedrick.

In addition, using a professional sitter or boarding facility means your pet is booked for its stay-cation just as your hotel room and airfare are. Space is secured for the animal so there are no last-minute snafus if your human BFF or Uncle Frank bails on you.

Kelly Fahey said she “has obtained quite a few clients because people [who] are not professionals committed to caring for someone as pets and then backed out because of scheduling conflicts. I feel terrible for the people who called me in a panic because they’re supposed to be leaving for a day trip, long weekend or vacation and the person they hired has decided they can no longer help them.”

And a professional is unlikely to second-guess your explicit instructions about Jamie the little Lab who likes to hunt.

“[It’s] someone who does as the owners ask and does not assume they know better,” said Lisa Cerone, owner of Minglewood Kennels in Glen Gardner, NJ. “I had a longtime boarding client who once asked their neighbors to watch the dog overnight. She gave specific instructions to never take the dog out unleashed. Well, the neighbor never leashed his own dog and thought it would be fine…My client’s dog took off and was gone for 24 hours.”

Some questions to ask prospective sitters:

  • Will you stay in my home (if requested)?
  • Do you have a back-up sitter/trained staff member in case of illness or accident?
  • Can we arrange a meet-and-greet before boarding/sitting so my dog will recognize you and I can see your interactions?
  • What should I bring when I drop off my dog for his stay?
  • Will it be a problem if I am delayed returning?

It may take some time, but once you find the best sitter for you and your pets, you can “hit the road” without worry!

Posted in Education & Information and tagged .

Bryna Elder-Munro affectionately refers to her home as the "petting zoo", reflecting her status as "mom" to rescued dogs, cats and guinea pigs. Well, the pigs call her "The Maid." A former award-winning journalist, Bryna is now a licensed massage therapist, Reiki practitioner and canine massage therapist. She, her wife and their four-legged brood live in rural Hunterdon County.

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