Ollie pulls up in front of our house in his dad’s car, right on time. I can see his little head poke out of the window as his dad puts on his leash. He jumps out and heads straight for the big tree in the front yard to lift his leg and water my garden. I smile and open the door to welcome them. Ollie’s officially home.
He’s been one of my longest repeat clients during my time as a Rover sitter. He’s been with me through pregnancy, nurturing a small baby, and now chasing after an active toddler. When I look through old photos, I’m amazed at how fast my son is growing up, and I’m always reminded of how big a part of our lives my Rover dogs have become.
There’s a pic of Ollie staring back at me incredulously after I surprised him sleeping in the baby chair. There’s Hank patiently accepting pats on the head from my child. And then there’s the classic snapshot of Daisy playing ‘kitchen’ with my son, seriously contemplating whether she can eat his fake groceries. These priceless memories have filled our home with laughter and joy.
My recipe for being a great dog sitter is pretty simple: I treat every one of my Rover dogs as an extension of MY family. They’re another one of my dogs, just like Rye and JoJo, my pets. It’s just that I only see them once or twice a month, or maybe only during spring break, or over major holidays.
No matter the length of the visit, as their sitter, I’m always the home away from home that they’re excited to visit. I send them home happy, healthy, and ready for a long nap. Based on my years of experience in the field, here are some tips on how to choose the best dog sitter for your dog.
How to find the right dog sitter
Finding the right dog sitter is made so much easier by Rover’s user-friendly platform. To get started, you can select your desired category from a variety of Rover’s services, including dog boarding, house sitting, drop-in visits, dog walking, and doggy day care. If you’re interested in finding a new sitter to board your dog, you select the dates you’re looking for and your preferred location.
Pro tip: Even though it’s nice to live right down the street from your sitter, it may be just as convenient for your sitter to be located near your work, if you do doggy day care, or the airport, if you go on frequent business trips.
Next, search results based on your parameters will populate and you can scan initial sitter information, such as name, profile picture, distance to you, and price per night. Once you click into an individual sitter’s profile, you can read up on their home and skills with dogs, and learn more about them through their bio, reviews from previous stays, and pictures.
I personally prefer sitter profiles that include a lot of reviews and pictures of their home and outdoor areas. That way, a new client knows exactly what to expect when comparing that profile to other potential sitters.
Choosing the best dog sitter for your pet
Once you find a profile you like, you can select the “contact this sitter” button to send them an introductory message with your selected dates and pet info. If you’re in a time crunch, you may end up with the first sitter you reach out to, but if you’re planning for a trip further out, you may decide to set up two or three “meet and greets” with sitters in your area before committing.
Pro Tip: If your pet is easygoing and low maintenance, you can chat about everything during your in-person meeting. If your pet has special needs (such as separation anxiety issues) or medical needs (such as a daily pill routine), it’s beneficial to mention that during your initial conversation with your potential sitter, to ensure they’re comfortable and capable of handling all of your dog’s needs.
Meeting your dog sitter for the first time
Meet and greets are an important part of finalizing your first booking with a new sitter. The meeting gives you a chance to talk in person about your pet’s stay and what both parties can expect.
I’ve done lots of meet and greets, and I give my new clients a detailed run through of our home life, and a tour of all the spaces their pup will be living, playing, and hanging out in. I also ask detailed questions about their dog, so I can learn more about my guest such as their feeding schedule, what they eat (wet/dry/combo food or specialty), any dietary restrictions (including severe allergies), any medications or specific medical needs, and their daily routine (how many walks, naps, and play sessions they usually get).
Pro Tip: If your pal spends his afternoons lounging on the couch or loves to cuddle in bed at night, ask your sitter about their house rules regarding pets on furniture and sleeping arrangements. That way you’ll know if your dog can expect a similar lifestyle to the way things are at home.
Introducing your dogs
The most important part of a meet and greet, besides meeting the sitter themselves, is the introduction of your own dog to your sitter’s pets, if they have any. Just like me, my two poodles, Rye and JoJo, are experts at hosting their friends. JoJo is the energetic one who likes to play with everyone, and Rye likes to lounge on the couch and watch the action from afar. They’ve never met a dog they don’t get along with, but you can never be certain until you make the introduction.
Pro Tip: Dogs can get territorial and protective of their home when meeting a new dog, so your sitter may recommend meeting at a local park for the initial introduction (on neutral ground) before heading to their home for the full tour.
When I introduce the dogs to each other in my home, I usually ask Rye and JoJo to hang out in the yard for a bit while I welcome our guests inside the home. That way, the pet parents get a chance to chat uninterrupted and the new dog gets an opportunity to check out the house. We let their dog off the leash to explore the rooms and all the unfamiliar smells. Then we introduce Rye and JoJo, which results in a lot of excited tail wagging and, of course, some butt smelling (you know the drill).
What about additional pets?
Open lines of communication are essential, and if you have any questions for your sitter before or during your stay, ask them! After all, you’re entrusting your sitter with your beloved pet, so they should be more than happy to answer any of your concerns.
Pro Tip: Ask about additional pets in the home. You’ll meet your sitter’s pets during your meet and greet, but feel free to ask your sitter about their rules regarding hosting multiple dogs at a time. Some sitters may be restricted by smaller spaces, like an apartment, but others with large homes and backyards may often host several dogs at a time. Don’t forget that they’re experienced sitters, so this shouldn’t ever be a problem, but if you prefer your dog be in a smaller group, you should discuss that openly with your sitter before finalizing your booking.
My goal at the end of each new meet and greet is for the pet parent to feel completely comfortable leaving their dog in my care, because I’ve done my homework, proven my expertise, and left no questions unanswered. The dog sitter you choose for your dog should do the same for you. To find the best sitter for your dog, start searching in your local area on Rover.com or your Rover app.