THE SCOOP ABOUT PET SITTING, PART I: | How to choose a good pet sitter/dog walker

Originally published in PET CENTER NEWS, May, 2013
(no longer online)

The Doglady at workI first started a pet sitting business in 1994, after being “downsized” (a nicer way of saying “fired”) from my corporate job and not finding a suitable replacement. We were apartment dwellers at the time, so it was mostly house calls for cats, plants, birds, fish etc., plus dog walking all over town.

After about 10 years or so, the running around 7 days a week with no time to myself was wearing on me, so I switched to offering home boarding for dogs only. (We had become home owners in the meantime and have a large back yard.) This has worked out well and my house is like a little “doggie commune”.

With so many years experience behind me, I can offer multiple insights.

You wouldn’t trust your babies to just anyone, so, it’s important to find someone experienced, conscientious and reliable. Word of mouth is the BEST recommendation, but, if that’s not available, then always ask for references and make sure you contact them.


Just because someone is bonded and insured, does not necessarily mean they are good. I remember watching a van pull up to a house one day, with the name of a large, well-known pet sitting service written on the side. The person went into the house, came back out about 5 minutes later and drove off!


Observe carefully how the person interacts with your pets during the initial meeting. You will be able to tell right away whether or not they have an affinity for animals. Too many people go into this line of work, thinking it’s a quick and easy way to make money and they aren’t fully committed to the clients! Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their background, experience, etc. When making house calls, I always left a note for each visit. If they don’t offer to do this, it’s a good idea to ask for it.

How to choose a good pet sitter

When you travel and can’t take your dog along, there are several options:

1. Boarding Kennel
This, to me, is like putting your dog in jail, because he will spend most of the day in a cage,
no matter what they tell you.

2. Pet Resort
Much better! Dogs usually have actual rooms and lots of green space to frolic in.

3. Have someone live in your home

This is a great option but also expensive. It would have to be someone who has your full trust, as well.

4. Home Boarding
This is what I do. The dogs are part of the family and have the run of the house.
(must be spayed/neutered, fully housetrained, non-aggressive and sociable)
They loll on the furniture, hang out on the bed with us, go for walks together, play in the backyard.
Many of them consider this their “second home”.
Owners have told me they get excited as soon as their car hits the neighborhood.
No better advertisement than that!

Home boarding for dogs: The Scoop on Pet Sitting

On a couple of past occasions, people have left their dogs at home and asked me to visit them three times a day. In my opinion, this is NOT a good option. Dogs are social creatures and get lonely, especially overnight.

This touches on a few basics.
Please feel free to ask questions or offer comments.


So You Want to be a Pet Sitter/Dog Walker
Read More ►

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Debbie D.
Canine Innkeeper in suburban Toronto, Canada, known as "The Doglady". Writer/website owner, photographer, animal lover, music fanatic, inveterate traveller. History, literature and cinema buff. Eternal "hippie/rockchick". Binational, German/Canadian and multilingual. Looking for the next adventure!


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