I have always had a strong love and admiration for animals. From that, my dog has become a pretty important part of my life. In all honesty, pretty important is an understatement and he is more like a child to me. He certainly behaves like one too. Just like parents, I worry when he doesn't eat and I worry if he eats too much. Really, I worry about anything that could seem out of his usual behavior.
I can surely say that in the past, we have definitely had our share of unnecessary trips to the vet. With that being said, still one of the concerns -- out of the long list of them -- has taken my overbearingly anxious parent role to a whole new level. This being, my absence from my dog when I travel; which happens pretty often these days.
Over the past year or so I have come up with a checklist for myself to ensure that everything I could possibly have concerns about is "covered." So for those of you who are crazy pet parents just like me, here it is -- from a source that has just about got this thing "nailed" when it comes to leaving your pet with a sitter.
Things to Plan in Advance
There are plenty of things you can do in advance of your travels and of course there will always be a few things you will have to save for later. Over all, here is your checklist.
List contact information and post it on the fridge. Include travel itinerary, your cell phone number, and emergency contact numbers for any problems that could come up.
Include your vet's phone number and directions to their office. Most often, vets will also provide an after-hours emergency number, so I recommend you post that too.
Provide the sitter a resource to go to for anything they might be unsure about. VetX -- a handy app that allows a user to shoot quick messages and photos of your pet and send them straight to a vet. The quick response will provide you greater information on what could be the problem with your pet and if further needed, can refer you to an animal hospital nearby. It is a true lifesaver for the overreacting pet owners and pet sitters, or for anyone else who is not really familiar with what the normal behavior of their pets should include or not include. VetX provides a cheap and instant consultation from a professional, which can stray you from needing to go to a vet for something that was not an emergency and which could have been easily fixed. VetX delivers users with quick, convenient advice 24/7, so whether something small or big, a pet owner or pet sitter would have rapid accessibility to making sure their pet was healthy and happy.
On a separate list, I would suggest writing down your pet's routine. Including things like, when do you usually take them on walks, what are the feeding times, and how much food is given? If your pet is on medication, be sure to leave it out visibly with instructions for how to administer them to your pet. If you make your own dog food, be certain to fix up a large supply in portion-wrapped bags.
Make maps of the walking routes -- and identify unfriendly people or dogs to avoid.
Have a space on your kitchen counter designated for things such as instructions, medication, doggy poop pick-up bags, and treats. Having everything in one space will result in an easier time for the sitter and less worrying for you.
List a plumber, an electrician, and a heating/cooling pro. Nothing is worse than a broken pipe, a furnace that quits in the winter, or an air conditioner that quits when it's 90-degrees outside.
Leave the name and directions to the pet store where you get supplies. If the treats get knocked into a sink full of water, or your pet nervously chews through his leash, they will need to be replaced.
Be sure you have a list of foods that are poisonous to dogs -- grapes, raisins, chocolate. Your sitter may have no idea. Make sure to include if your pet has any dietary restrictions.
Picking a Sitter -- The Most Important Element Really
You are in luck if you have a relative or close friend who is willing to do this. They know your home and your dog, so things will be totally familiar. If you don't have anyone able to fit that role then you will have to be very careful about selecting the right person. Here are your options:
1. Ask friends, neighbors and relatives for referrals. Usually, someone will know somebody who is reliable, responsible and who also loves animals.
2. Check with your vet. Amazingly, they often have names of great pet sitters and they know animals more than anyone!
3. Create a posting at a dedicated website like TrustedHousesitters or PetSitters.
Have the Sitter Visit in Advance (if possible)
If the sitter is a stranger to your pet, offer to pay the person to come over in advance. Spend some time with the sitter and then leave for about an hour. It is important that the sitter establishes a relationship with your pet and you will immediately know whether you feel comfortable leaving your pet with them.
Discuss the Rules in Advance
Your pet sitter is also a house sitter while you are gone. If you are having a young person -- a relative or a college student -- you need to establish the rules. Will you allow the sitter to have friends over? What foods are available and what foods are off limits? (You need to be certain that you leave either food or money for food if the sitter is staying on site rather than just coming in 3-4 times a day).
What are the rules for you dog? What furniture is okay? Most pets will follow your rules, but sometimes, in their nervousness, they will push those rules with a stranger. You want everything to be normal and comfortable.
Discuss any odd habits your pet may have. Does your dog occasionally drink out of the toilet? Does your dog have preferences for petting and scratching spots? While these may seem minor to you, they are not to your dog.
The Day of Your Departure
Put your packed bags out of sight. Many dogs will react to them. If you are leaving by car, get them in the trunk early. If you are leaving by cab for the airport, set them in the garage or outside the door.
Make sure your sitter arrives an hour early so that everyone feels comfortable before you leave.
Place a spare key somewhere outside. If you have a lock with a code, the sitter could still forget the code and need to use a key.
All items needed for the walks are located in one place -- leash, sweater if the weather is cold, toys, and poop pick-up bags.
Place all favorite toys in one spot, so they are not "missing" when your pet tries to find them.
Do not make a big fuss about leaving. Your dog will pick up on this and become anxious -- usually resulting in them whining and barking. You don't want to make this stressful for your pet, so make leaving as natural as if you were going to the store. One nice thing is that your dog does not have a sense of time -- whether you are gone for a weekend or two weeks, it won't matter -- in the end, the greeting you get upon return will be wonderful!