Overall, I am pretty permissive when it comes to our playful pup. As the only dog in our household, I have to confess that she’s treated like an only child. She gets to sit in the passenger seat on neighborhood car rides and wedges herself in between my husband and I on long road trips. We feed her twice daily and allow her to have way too many treats and a few of our table scraps too. We let her sleep in the bed with us at night and we let her hang out with us on the couch.
We even let her rip apart her stuffed animal toys because we’ve given up trying to get her to stop and know that for her, part of the fun is ripping out the stuffing and finding the bonus squeaky toy inside. But despite all the things we let her do, we feel like we’ve raised a super sweet and affectionate dog who wouldn’t hurt a fly. At least, that’s what we thought until we left her for the first time with a new dog sitter.
Since we have never left our dog at a kennel we thought staying at someone’s home would be a a better option. Things didn’t turn out the way we had planned. After we arrived at the dog sitter’s home, I had a feeling in my gut that things weren’t going to work out. Her yard was way too large and she cringed when she heard our dog had a hole-digging problem. She also had a swimming pool that our dog instantly found and jumped on the pool cover several times while I stood there with my mouth agape envisioning a horrible scenario were she would get trapped under the cover and drown (yes, I am bit of an alarmist). There also was another houseguest who was going to be there all week that my dog instantly didn’t like (the dog started to bark and chase her as soon as we arrived). Once our dog ran into her house, she proceeded to jump on her couch — a big no no that we found out about while we were there. When we were asked if she was housebroken, we nervously replied “yes” even though we knew she could possibly have an accident while we were gone. After saying our goodbyes, we left her in her care and went home because we had to leave for the airport early the next morning.
Within two hours, the sitter called us and let us know that our dog was not getting along with her companions. She could either keep her separate from the rest of the dogs for the week or we could take her home and find alternative plans for her. Our dog also pooped and peed in her house — shooting holes through our “sure, she’s housebroken” claim. At 10 p.m. that evening, we managed to find an amazing friend who was willing to watch her at night but we were still going to have the sitter come to our house to take care of our dog during the day.
However, on day three with the sitter, my husband’s cell phone rang and the news on the other end was pretty troubling. While at the park, our sweet dog got into an altercation and supposedly bit another dog — she also had part of her fur ripped out and had a scratch near her eye but for some reason, that wasn’t as important for the sitter to let us know how that happened. When she called us on our vacation to inform us that our dog had gone postal and the sitter told us that she was really shaken up, we decided to have her give back the key to our house so we could find someone who could handle our energetic only dog.
Thankfully, the reports from our friends who watched our dog the rest of the week were glowing. While our situation could have escalated into a full-fledged dog sitter disaster, I’ve learned that we made some big mistakes when selecting a caregiver for our pet. If you are contemplating hiring a dog sitter, don’t make the same mistakes we did and use these five important tips on how to find the right person for your pooch:
1. Take a tour of their home before you commit. Had we known that the dog sitter’s home had an expansive backyard, a pool and a couch that was off limits to dogs, that would have been our first warning signal. Unfortunately, we didn’t ask questions or tour her home before we dropped off our dog. Next time, we will know where our dog is going to be staying before we bring her over and hope for the best.
2. If your dog isn’t used to traveling with other dogs, speak up. Our dog typically travels with humans and no other dogs in our car. Unfortunately, she became a bit of a handful when placed in a car with four other dogs while heading to the dog park. Just like an only child, if your dog doesn’t travel well with others, your dog sitter must know this piece of information so they can make the ride comfortable and safe for them and the other dogs.
3. Match your dog sitter’s temperament to your dog’s. Since our dog is high strung, we needed a sitter whose personality is pretty low key. Our dog does really well with dog walkers and sitters who are mellow, laid back and strict — she needs to know that the dog sitter is still the boss even if she tries to push their buttons. When she’s around nervous people with a Type A temperament, it only amps her up even more. As a Type A person myself, I sometimes get stressed with her too — which is why I no longer take her to the dog park by myself and choose to take her instead on long and mellow walks near our home.
4. Ask them how they handle difficult situations. The most troubling experience for us was when the sitter called and told us that she was shaken up but failed to tell us if our dog was okay, if she’d run away or been hit by a car. Only after she calmed down and then shared that our dog had become aggressive after being surrounded by several dogs at the park did we learn that she was fine but that another dog had been injured because she fought back.
5. Check the reviews of the dog sitter. In our situation, the sitter left us in the lurch five hours before we were supposed to leave for our flight. She also took our dog in a car with more than four dogs to the dog park. She didn’t pay enough attention at the park when our dog became involved in an altercation and then proceeded to ask to be compensated for her time. I think she should have adjusted her fees for completely freaking us out while we we were thousands of miles away from home. Had we been working with a reputable and reliable pet sitting business, this whole situation probably wouldn’t have happened.
While our initial experience away from our dog was a bit bumpy, it doesn’t mean that we won’t leave her at home again when we take a vacation. The next time, we will make sure that she feels safe, happy and secure with whoever agrees to take her in. What works for some dog owners doesn’t necessarily work for others and I guess our takeaway is that we need to be a lot more discerning the next time we decide on a caregiver for our pet. I don’t know about you, but our dog truly is a part of our family, and we never realized it until now but having the right sitter is one of the most crucial decisions you can make to ensure that your vacation is truly stress free.