Book your pet sitter in advance
Unless dictated by an unforeseen circumstance (such as a hospital stay), do not wait until the week before your vacation or business trip to make arrangements for boarding your pet. While last-minute arrangements can sometimes be made, they are usually less than ideal for all parties involved (including your pet). It is a good idea to be just as conscientious about planning your pet’s stay away from home as you are about planning your own.
If boarding your pet, visit the home or kennel
Make it your business to get to know the place where your pet will be staying. If it is a kennel, be sure to speak to patrons who have boarded their pets there. If it is a private home boarding situation, be sure that you have a “good feeling” about the sitter before leaving your pet with him/her. Never leave your pet with a person who will not let you inside their home to see where your pet will be living during your absence.
Do not assume that every organization that offers animal care-giving does it in the same way, as there are a multitude of factors that can affect the overall picture – e.g., kennel boarding versus private home boarding, boarding your animal alone versus with other animals, the level of experience of the individual taking care of your animal, whether crates or cages will be used, whether children will be in the home, whether the person doing the boarding is a student versus someone whose love for animals is the primary motivating factor behind their choosing to do the work.
Also realize that what may be obvious to you may not be to your pet sitter. For example, if your pet will be staying at a private home during the summer – and particularly if your animal does not fare well during hot-weather months – ask the sitter if s/he will be using the air conditioning while your pet is there
Ask for references
Just because a sitter is insured and bonded through the organization that s/he works for does not necessarily mean that s/he is the best sitter for your pet. Each sitter will have a different approach and. It is best to ask for two references of individuals who have used his/her services and can share their experience. When talking to a reference, among the questions to consider asking are: (1) How many times have you used this particular service or sitter? (2) For how long was your animal boarded? (3) When was the last time you used this sitter (or the sitter’s agency)? (4) Would you use this sitter or service again? and (5) Did your pet seem perfectly okay in every way when s/he was returned to you?
Provide emergency medical information
Make it as easy as possible for the person caring for your animal to access emergency veterinary care. Always give the name, address and phone of your veterinarian. Also let your pet sitter know where the animal’s carrying case or leash is kept.
Consider where your pet will be most comfortable
Think about your pet’s individual personality and demeanor. For example, some dogs are more “sociable” than others. Some much prefer the company of other dogs to humans and some, vice versa. A dog who is aggressive by nature is not a good match for a home with young children. A dog that needs a good amount of exercise might not fare as well with someone who is not able to walk your dog. A dog that loves peace, quite and individual attention might do best staying with a single person who works from home. Along similar lines, some cats are easily traumatized when moved to a new “home” and might do better with home visits.
Things to consider if your pet will be boarded with other pets
If your pet will be boarded in the presence of other animals, give the sitter guidelines as to what you would like done if your pet does not get along with the other animals. Do not hesitate to ask the sitter if s/he has a specific plan as to what s/he will do if such a situation arises (sometimes even “friendly” dogs can get into fights).
Tell your pet sitter what makes your pet happy
Let the person who will be caring for your pet know what makes your pet happy. This includes activities as well as toys. You want your pet to be happy while you’re away.
Go over any medical issues
Similarly, let him/her know if there are any “special” needs (particularly medical needs) and give specific instructions. Remember that most animal caregivers are not veterinary professionals so it is important that medical information and directions are reviewed in detail.