5 Ways to Choose the Best Dog Walker

It seems just about everyone here in Auburn, Alabama has a pet!

Just last year, Lee County Humane Society adopted out almost 2,000 animals (Such a testament to the hard work of Lee County Humane Society’s fostering, volunteering, and adoption efforts!). With pet ownership on the rise,  search engine pet sitting websites are becoming very popular. Search engine pet sitting sites act as the middle man between you and pet sitters offering  access to multiple local sitters. They may offer a variety of sitters searchable by location, availability, price and even experience. This set up also makes selecting a sitter very easy – message them online, set up a play date – voila, a pet sitter is found. While you can certainly have a positive experience using these sites, they also have their downfalls.

Anyone and everyone can create a profile and say they “love animals” and “have experience”.  While many sitters on these sites are pet owners, having a pet of your own doesn’t necessarily give you the same type of experience as working with various breeds/species of various demeanors/behaviors on a daily basis as with a professional pet sitter who owns or works for a local business. Here in Auburn, there are plenty of pet owning students who use these sites as quick, temporary means to make extra cash. A professional pet sitting service has taken the time to train their pet sitters about animals beyond the basics of pet ownership, such as breed/species specific characteristics and illnesses, nutritional and exercise needs, home invasion emergencies, how to handle a dog fight, etc.

Bottom line: Simply owning a pet does not equate to being a knowledgeable and responsible pet sitter who is prepared for emergencies (veterinary or otherwise!), nor does it guarantee care for your pet to YOUR standard. I’m not saying that makes them a bad choice for your pets, but it also doesn’t make them the best.

DAISY, AKA MY DAISY BABY

When choosing a pet sitter for my loves, Daisy and Luigi, I go with local small businesses. A key advantage of a local pet sitting businesses is their experience with particular species, breeds, behaviors and illnesses. Essentially, businesses offer tailored care for your pets with knowledge, experience and resources to support their high standards. Some businesses even require periodic training for their sitters which assures they are prepared for emergency pet situations.

Here are some of the reasons why I start my search for a pet sitter at a local small business:

1. Long Term availability

A locally established pet sitting company is more likely to have history and continue to be available in the future. The #1 reason I love being a professional pet sitter is the long term relationships I build with my pet nieces and nephews. We build trust – we learn each other’s personalities, quirks, and fears and as we bond, I look forward to watching them bloom into the amazing beings they’re destined to become. Having a local student check in on my cats may seem convenient, but I know pets are happier and less stressed with routine and consistency. I do not want to have to search for a new, trustworthy pet sitter after each semester or graduation or have a revolving door of sitters having access to my home.

2. Fair Pricing

We have all heard the old adage “you get what you pay for”. This is not to imply that a pet sitter is inherently “better” if they are more expensive, but I do not want a “bare-minimum” mindset when it comes to caring for my pet.The $7 dog walker may sound appealing, but prices that low make me question the value the sitter is bringing to the table.The cheapest pet sitter on the block will also be the most over-worked! I want my sitter to feel fairly compensated for their time so they take their time with my pet/ see time with my pet as worth their time. On the other hand, if I’m paying more for a sitter, I want them to have the credentials and experience to justify my spending.

3. Full time availability

A small business is more likely to have reliable sitters available through the holidays, eliminating the last minute sitter scramble. Many clients come to me around the holidays in need of a sitter for Thanksgiving or Christmas day. Why? Because their usual sitter won’t be available those days. While I don’t criticize sitters who take time off to celebrate, as a client I don’t want to search for a “holiday” petsitter in addition to my “regular” sitter. A small business is likely to have a pet sitter available full time.

4. No middle man

I want to deal with the person who is directly in charge. If an emergency happened with either of my sweet babies under a pet sitter’s watch, the last thing I’d want is to be filling out a “Contact Us” form or calling some national headquarters. While search engine based pet sitting platforms do offer some (incomplete) coverage that varies from site to site, a local pet sitting business is more likely to have a comprehensive policy. My clients can rest assured that in an emergency situation not only will I keep their pet safe and am pet first aid/CPR certified, but I can coordinate with their vet and other parties. I can also access my PSA insurance agent quickly and effectively. If their pet needed additional special attention, I can make arrangements for back up sitters to tend to my appointments as I tend to their pet. In the words of Olivia Pope, I can confidently assure my clients that “it’s handled”.  I’d want nothing less for my own pets!

 

LUIGI, AKA RESIDENT FAT
BOY

5. I don’t want to feel guilty

No one enjoys burdening a friend or family member with pet sitting requests. Who wants to ask a friend to dog sit while they go on spring break? And does anyone really enjoy pestering their neighbor for updates on their cats during Thanksgiving? With a small business, “business is business”. I know exactly what I’m paying for and what to expect regarding updates and quality of care. I know that a sitter who chose this profession will see my “burden” as an opportunity to work. I won’t feel guilty requesting a sitter over the holiday or extending a trip last minute. Instead, I’ll just pay the last minute fee, leave a tip and move on!

The best perk of business-based pet sitters is the peace of mind that comes with their services. While individuals may not have back up sitters on hand, insurance coverage or a reputation to uphold, businesses do. These all go a long way when it comes to providing proper care for your pets. Personally – and professionally speaking – I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Are you ready to book a professional pet sitter or dog walker? Schedule your FREE consultation to get a Pet Nanny Expert today! 

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