Sunday, 5 October 2014

10 top tips to find the PERFECT PET SITTER or PET MINDER

If you’ve read any of Perfect Pet Sitter’s references you’ll see clients confirming again and again that our 24/7 services (‘Live-in’ or ‘Home-from-Home’) are outstanding. But this Blog’s audience is world wide – so I want to give you my 10 tips to find a perfect pet sitter where you live.

Hugo & Finnegan, my 'golden boys', more of them later.....
1/  DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Obviously any dog minder, cat carer, or visitor coming to your pet must love animals – but is that enough? Pet minding is straightforward - when everything goes smoothly. However, if the unexpected happens, you need a carer with a cool head, commonsense and experience. So if you have the choice of an 18 year old with a ‘qualification’ or a mature person with a life times knowledge of living with and caring for pets, it really is a no brainer.

2/  PROFESSIONAL FOR PEACE OF MIND
If you really want the best for your pet, go for a professional sitter. A high percentage of their work is repeat and recommendations, so their reputation depends on providing ongoing, high levels of care. It matters to them to ensure happy pets - because happy pets = happy clients.

3/  CHECK OUT REFERENCES
If the Pet Minding service has a Blog featuring the pets they’ve cared for, look for a cross match between the blogs, and testimonials from the clients of those pets. And ask to speak to one or two of the referees.

4/  IS YOUR DOG THEIR JOB?  DO THEY CARE FOR YOUR CAT?
Ask how long they will be with your pets during the day. Example, when Perfect Pet Sitter is caring for dogs, over and above formal exercise we take them out and about with us just as you would. But further, we guarantee not to leave dogs alone for more than 5 hours. That 5 hour limit is important as it rules out using sitters in full time jobs.

Be wary of using someone who who has a full time job or out early morning to evening just looking after your dog ‘on the side’. Cat owners who work themselves might not mind. But with dogs, where’s the company your canine craves – and what about decent exercise?

5/  BOOK EARLY!
Don’t leave your pet’s care to the last minute - they're too important! Book early to avoid the desperate ring round ending up with that ‘friend of a friend’ (especially on a long term need). Apart from the fact they often drop out at the last minute, it is likely your beloved pet will not be high on their list of priorities.

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To take you through tips 6-10 I’ll use a practical example - a recent sit with gorgeous Golden Retrievers, Finnegan & Hugo.

Finnie & Hugo with me at Queenscliff Lagoon, NSW Australia
6/  PREPARATION
My hand-over with Hugo & Finnegan was smooth with no stress from these huge, furry teddy bears. But that didn’t happen by chance. Preparation is key, planned, and takes place by visiting owners and dogs well before sits begin – and I’d visited Finnie and Hugo four times before I came to stay.

Some sitters charge for this with others it’s inclusive, but your sitter should be willing to do this as pre-sit familiarisation meetings really pay dividends. They make the transition so much easier with dogs who then come to know you. They help owners too who see they don’t have to worry by observing how relaxed and at ease their VIPs are, in this case Very Important Pets, Finnie and Hugo. Is your sitter prepared to spend time getting to know your pets?

7/  IN DEPTH KNOWLEDGE
Once Perfect Pet Sitter is booked clients complete our comprehensive Checklist. Then during pre-sit meetings, (ideally both at home and out walking if dogs) as well as getting to know all about our furry charges, we go through our check list which informs us of feeding and exercise routines, medicines, vets and much more.

As an example, Finnie & Hugo were to have two exercise sessions a day, but as they are big boys each walk was limited to about 30 mins. Does your sitter have an existing checklist?

8/  HANDOVER DAY
On handover day with Finnegan & Hugo I suggested my arrival was just before the the owners left. I arrived and immediately took Finnie & Hugo out for their first walk of my stay.  Then, whilst we were out, the owners set off for their trip.  

This approach ensures when we return to the house there is no upset as dogs have not had the drama of goodbyes. Because they know me and I’ve already been accepted as part of the family, they settle right away as all is normal from the get go. What will your sitter do to make the parting easy and non stressful?

My daughter with the boys -  who's taking who for walkies?!
9/  COMMUNICATION
We send as many emails or texts as owners request, from daily to every few days. Such communications are vital to reassure and keep owners in the picture.

It’s good to know while you holiday away - your dogs holiday at home. Finnie & Hugo went to all sorts of places and sometimes they even enjoyed three walks a day.  Frequent emails were sent to Finnegan and Hugo’s owners letting them know all the adventures their boys were having. Is your sitter happy to meet your requirements for keeping in touch?

Finnegan - you wouldn't think he's 11 years old
10/  WELCOME HOME
Every walk is recorded by GPS with many photos taken during each outing. This is all put together and on your return your receive a complete record of your dog’s time with us. Containing maps, pictures and showing all the fun that was had whilst you were away, it’s a photo album/diary all rolled into one. Pages show how long we were out, where we went, and time of day walks took place. These albums, presented on CD, are unique to Perfect Pet Sitter. How will your sitter prove they have exercised your dog to your requirements?

After a few days we follow up to see how the pets have settled – just occasionally reassuring owners if their pets are missing us all will return to normal very soon!

Clients often offer to give us a reference - and as writing references takes a lot of effort, the fact so many of our clients have bothered to do this for us says a lot! (Finnegan and Hugo's reference can be viewed on our Refs page). What references can your sitter offer, and are they recent?

So there you have it – 10 helpful tips to ensure you leave the pet you love in the best possible hands.


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FOOTNOTE: Cuddly golden teddy bears, Finnegan and Hugo.

One of our popular recent blogs was ‘Two Dogs - Twice the Fun or Double Trouble?’ (click here to read) But if I’d already stayed with Hugo & Finnegan before I wrote it, the title would have been ‘Two Dogs – Totally Tremendous!' Spending three weeks living in with these golden boys was a very special experience.

Time for sleep, Hugo would sneak into my room hoping I wouldn't notice him on my bed.....
I’m pretty easy going about what pets in my charge do. This means I’m happy to let cats and small dogs who are used to sleeping on beds share mine. However when going to bed and finding 45Kg Hugo (yes – he is 45kgs) taking up the whole of my bed, I had to draw the line!

It was a struggle to get Hugo to relinquish the spot but I managed. (Just as well Finnegan couldn’t make it onto the bed as well – if there’d been the two of them I’d have had to have slept on the couch!)

P.S. Did I let Hugo on my bed for cuddle in the morning? I’m not confirming or denying….






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