It’s Hard Finding a Dog Sitter

Especially for those that travel a lot, finding the right dog sitter is no easy task.  After weeks of searching for a sitter in Westchester, an area that we’re not that familiar with, we’ve been inspired to write about why it’s so hard to find a good sitter and what you can do about it.

Problem 1: It can be very expensive

Dog Holding Money

(credit iStockphoto)

We treat our dogs like members of the family. So if we had all the money in the world, the cost of hiring a professional would be an afterthought.  But most people live in the real world.  And in the real world, money IS a consideration.  Most of us have budgets and the cost of hiring a professional sitter quickly adds up.  In some cities, it costs up to $80 a night.  Some hotels aren’t that expensive! So if money is tight, the sting of paying a dog sitter especially hurts. 

Solution: Give and get.  If you have a go-to dog park or live in a dog friendly building, chances are you’ve routinely seen other dogs and met their owners.  If your dogs get along, politely offer to do some free dog sitting the next time they need it. Assuming you don’t give them the heebie jeebies and you seem like a responsible dog owner, they might take you up on the offer and be willing to dog sit for you a different time.  Getting neighborly can feel awkward, especially in New York, but the benefits of helping other dog owners might be greater than you think. 

Problem 2: No one likes scheduling

Time is money.  So who wants to spend precious time calling random businesses to coordinate interviews, arrival and departure times, key exchange and all the other important details of hiring a dog sitter?  Scheduling will always be a necessary evil in the world but there are things you can do to streamline communication and make sure you’re not missing something important.

Solution: When you contact a potential dog sitter, lay out all your needs in a simple structured format.  Make sure you include exact dates, times you would like the dog sitter to arrive and depart from your home, specific requests like ‘please take in the mail every day’, and specific medical needs your dog may have. The more information you provide upfront, the faster you’ll get a final answer about availability and final booking. Avoid writing back and forth emails because if you take too long to flesh out the details, you might not get the dates you need.

Problem 3 : The goods ones are hard to get

Sorry I'm Booked

(credit Zazzle.com)

Dog owners naturally share information with each other.  Everything from ‘who’s the best vet in town?’ to ‘what the best brand of organic dog food?’ is worth talking about.  And of course, the question, ‘who’s your dog sitter’ is a popular one.  If a dog sitter has a spotless reputation and a list of devout clients, chances are that dog sitter will be in VERY high demand.  The reality is that trustworthy sitters who feel like part of the family are hard to find and even harder to actually GET.  When owners find someone good – they will stick to that sitter and give them all the business they have.  

Solution:  Book waaaaaaaaay in advance AND have a backup plan.  When we say ‘waaaaaaay’ in advance, we mean it.  If you usually travel to Grandmas house for Christmas, set a reminder in October to call up your usual sitter and grab your dates. But remember, be respectful and don’t hoard their time.  Now’s the time to be organized and plan ahead.  If your first choice sitter isn’t available, time for plan B.  Contact that sitter that you researched but never met in person or ask your friend for a favor.  Having a backup sitter is good not only when planning ahead, but also in case of an emergency.

Problem 4: Online intel is scarce

If you’ve ever looked for a pet sitter, chances are you went on Google and typed in something like ‘dog sitter’ or ‘overnight pet sitter’.  Depending on where you live, the results of this search feel very mixed up and pretty random.  How are you suppose to pick which business to call?  Even a really good dog sitter could have a website with poor design and outdated information.  Online reviews of pet sitters are hard to find and have mixed credibility.  Sure, it’s easy to find a website with a long list of businesses in your area, but who wants to go down the list and research every one of them?

Solution: Find a dog community (search ‘dog’ at meetup.com or hangout at a dog park) and ask real people who they recommend.  This solution may not seem ideal, because it requires you to actually get out the house.  But when you get face time with a person that can empathize with your situation, they’ll almost go out of their way to give you some good leads.  That’s the cool thing about dog owners.  They’re eager to help and want to be there for you.  Heck, that’s why we love our dogs, right?

If you’ve experienced any of these problems, sign up to be part of Waggit.  These are only a few of the things we’re trying to solve through our online dog loving community.

Any other problems or frustrations you have with finding that perfect dog sitter?  Other thoughts on ways to make it easier?

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