Planning a vacation presents a challenge when you have 3 dogs you need to care for. Now that we have Lucky, boarding in a kennel is our last resort. We don’t know anything about her history before she found us, but we have discovered that she has a fear-induced anxiety at the vet’s office, and we don’t want to risk any fear-biting that might happen if we try to board her. That leaves pet sitters as our only option; generally family or friends.
If you don’t know myself and my husband, you might not know that our dogs are our children. We don’t trust them with just anyone. And even then, I become super overbearing and write down pages of instructions for even the friends who are most familiar with taking care of our dogs. I just like to be prepared for every scenario and situation I can come up with.
Even if you’re not as crazy with your pet sitters as I am, it’s always a good idea to revisit the information you’re leaving them – especially if you’re using someone new, or a caretaker who isn’t family or a friend.
If you haven’t already introduced your pet(s) to the sitter, do it! If you have nervous or protective pets, set up a time before your trip so that your pets can get to know him/her and feel comfortable with them.
Take your pet sitter on a quick home tour. Point out the locations of the thermostat(s), breaker box, alarm keypads, and the entry points. Be sure to also point out bathrooms, any off-limits rooms or doors that should stay closed, and the locations of trash can(s), pet toys, any emergency items (like flashlights), and cleaning supplies. Better yet, set out a small stash of cleaning supplies so that your pet sitter will have them at hand in case of an accident. Let the sitter know what they’re welcome to having/using (if applicable) such as the fridge, TV, game stations, etc.
Talk through all of your expectations with your sitter. The key information will be written down on your checklist, but this is still good information to discuss together. When are you leaving? When are you coming back home? How many times do you want him/her to check on the pets? When are key times that the dogs need to be let outside? How much are you willing to pay the sitter? What happens if a pet gets injured or lost? Make sure you answer any questions that your pet sitter comes up with, too.
In Case of Emergency
Before you leave, make sure your pet sitter has the name and contact information of your back-up sitter or neighbor in case anything comes up. Consider hiding a small amount of cash somewhere, just in case. When our friends were dog-sitting for us, we unknowingly gave them a broken garage door opener and forgot to give them a house key. We ended up having to call a locksmith to open the front door, and he wouldn’t take a credit card over the phone! Luckily, our friend was willing to pay the locksmith and be reimbursed when we got back.
It’s also helpful to leave your pets’ immunization records and microchip information somewhere handy. You can usually get this information from your vet over the phone in an emergency, though.
The Pet Sitter Checklist
Whether you use the free checklist I’ve provided down below, or just writing down a few instructions of your own, consider including the following information for your sitter:
Provide all of your contact information: phone number(s), where you’re going and when you’re leaving/returning. If you have a friendly neighbor, write down their information too (and be sure to give them a spare key). Note a back-up sitter in case of emergency – this could be the neighbor, a friend, or family member. Lastly, provide your vet’s information. Bonus points if you include the vet’s hours or directions to the office.
On the checklist I created, I included space for 3 pets, because of our own babies. Print out copies if you have more than that! This is the section to list your pet’s name, breed, and age. Note if they need any medications (dose, schedule, tips to get them to take it) and whether or not they need to be crated when left in the house alone. If the pet has any special behaviors or things of note, write that here. For example, I used to always write in big letters “LUCKY IS A RUNNER.” Thankfully she’s done with that stage, but it’s important to write down characteristics of your pets that the sitter might not be aware of.
This section is self-explanatory, but still important. What type of food do your pets eat? How much? When do you feed them? Do they usually eat all of it, or is it normal for them to only want a little in the mornings? Where (our little Hershey likes to eat her food under the safety of our coffee table, away from the big dogs)? Will they try to eat each other’s food? Are they food aggressive? Can the pet sitter give them treats? How many? Where do you keep the extra food?
Outside / Playtime
Although you discussed your expectations with your pet sitter before leaving, be sure to still write it out. What’s the minimum number of times your dogs should be let outside? Should they be leashed? Can they be left alone in the yard? Do they have any weird behaviors to watch out for (like eating poop)? Favorite toys? Mean neighbor dogs to stay away from? Special requests (like wiping off their feet before coming inside)?
You might not want to leave your alarm codes written down in your home, but be sure that your pet sitter has them, if applicable. If you want to be nice, note your wifi password. Reiterate what rooms are off-limits, and what furniture (if any) the pets are not allowed to be on.
That’s all I’ve got!
Next time you go on a trip, try out my checklist and let me know how it goes! Is there anything else you include for your pet sitter?