A Pet Sitter’s Advice about Pet Sitting and Dog Walking
Lee Rienerth has worked as a pet sitter and dog walker for many years. Forced into early “retirement” from her sales manager position, she soon discovered her work as a pet sitter more fun and rewarding. Lee loves both cats and dogs, having had both, including her beloved Doberman, Fritz and she now lives with two cats, Gracie and Goldie.
Lee’s advice to pet owners hiring a pet sitter or dog walker includes:
- Do not forget the food. Be sure the pet sitter knows where to find the dog or cat food and that there is enough food for your pet the entire time you are gone. Once Lee had to go out and buy dog food because she could not locate any in the house.
- If your pet is taking medications, be sure to leave detailed instructions for administering the medications and where they are kept. Also, ask the pet sitter if she is comfortable administering medications. A couple of times Lee was brought in on a job because the pet sitter assigned to the job was unable to administer the medications.
- Provide instructions regarding your pet’s care. However, do not get too detailed. Some owners would leave such lengthy instructions that it would take Lee an hour to go through them all. Unless there is an extraordinary circumstance, it is unlikely you need to provide that level of detail.
- If there are particular routes you take when walking your dogs, it is a good idea to pass along that information. Especially, for example, if you avoid Irving Street because your Leonberger is afraid of the Chihuahua that lives on that block.
- Provide your veterinarian’s information and the emergency veterinarian hospital you use in case of an emergency.
- Provide contact information for a person who lives nearby, is familiar with your pets, and can be asked for assistance in case it is needed.
- If you want daily updates be sure to specify how you wish to receive the updates, such as email, text, or phone call.
- If you hire a pet sitter or dog walker through a service, such as Fetch Pet Care, they will have done a lot of the leg work for you, in that they will have interviewed and vetted the pet sitter. They will also have insurance. If you hire an independent dog walker or pet sitter, ask if they are insured.
- Consider leaving the pet sitter or dog walker a tip. If you use a service, keep in mind that the pet sitter is only getting between 25 to 50 percent of what you pay the service. If your dog or cat loves that person, then thank them with a tip.
If you are thinking about becoming a pet sitter and/or dog walker, Lee recommends:
- Take a first aid class. Pet Tech offers Pet CPR and First Aid Classes throughout the United States. Go to Pet Tech to find a class near you. If there is no first aid class in your area, take a human CPR and first aid class which will give you the basics. Once Lee was walking a dog when a cat lunged from under a car and scratched the dog’s face. Lee knew what to do and took the dog home, cleaned the wounds with peroxide and put some Neosporin on them to keep them clean. She then called the owner and offered to take the dog to the vet.
- Take a dog training class. At a minimum educate yourself by reading up about dog and cat behavior, so you can better understand the pets. Do not rely solely on experience with your own pets; working with a variety of pets is much different than caring for your own. Lee had a dog wiggle out of a harness while walking her. Lee knew better than to chase the dog, which would result in a great game (from the dog’s perspective) of chase. She sat down on the ground and patiently called the dog until it came back to her, which it did.
- Know your limits. If you are a petite 95 pound human being asked to walk a 100 pound St. Bernard, you may want to think twice about accepting that job. If the owner is asking for something you are not comfortable doing, such as putting pajamas on a dog to sleep at night, be honest and decline to do so. Don’t put yourself in an uncomfortable situation. The pet industry is growing rapidly, there will be other jobs.
- Lee found that 95% of pet owners are friendly nice people who just want to be assured their pet will be well taken care of in their absence. The other 5% may be a bit arrogant and ironically, Lee found their pets took on the personality of the owners. Lee claims there are snobby dogs and cats, but Lee was always able to win them over.
- Lee has worked both independently and through a service. If you work through a service, the service does all of the advertising and builds the client base, provides insurance, collects the payments and provides you a back-up, should you have your own emergency to deal with that would prevent you from completing a job. Lee found that both working independently and through a service has its pros and cons; it depends on your own situation.
Lee’s enthusiasm for her job was apparent during our interview. She loves working with dogs and cats and finds it most rewarding. She admitted that very morning that she had to pull herself away from a cat she is looking after, because the cat had fallen asleep in her lap. What a great job — paid to cuddle with a cat!