How to Choose a Dog Sitter: A Checklist

We are a family of travelers. We’re always going away for the weekend to visit the abuelos, or simply to enjoy a quick escape at the beach. It’s part of the reason why I chose a small dog when we decided to get a pet a few years ago. I wanted one that would be easily accepted in lots of hotels.

Despite her small size, there are times when we just can’t take our pup with us, and on those occasions I always prefer to have a dog-sitter than to board her in a kennel. There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a sitter for your dog. Here’s a handy checklist to use the next time you’re looking for one:

1. Decide who’s hosting. Some dog owners prefer that sitters come to their home, while others are OK with leaving their pets at the sitter’s home. If your dog gets nervous or uncomfortable when in a new environment, it’s best to have a sitter come to your house and either spend the night or check in several times per day. Some dogs simply prefer familiar surroundings over companionship.

2. Ask for referrals from dog owners you trust. Read online reviews. If you hire from a company that provides dog-sitting services, choose one that is licensed and bonded, so you’re covered in the event of unforeseen circumstances.

3. Have her meet your dog before you go away. The day you’re leaving on vacation is the worst time to introduce someone to your pet. Both of them have to get to know each other so they can get comfortable with each other, and that means building some level of trust. “Watch how the sitter interacts with your pet, how your pet reacts to their arrival, and don’t be afraid to set up a nanny-cam if you have concerns,” says veterinarian Katy Nelson of “This is your precious pup as well as your casa, so trust your instincts!”

4. Tell the sitter about your dog’s habits. When I leave our dog with a sitter, I give her the rundown of Lola’s daily routine, including when she likes to have her Beneful Healthy Weight (after a walk). Providing a full picture of the dog’s feeding and exercise habits is the key to keeping him calm, like it’s just a normal day. Dogs are routine-oriented, and having this information will help ensure that things run smoothly and the dog doesn’t start acting up. If your dog loves to cuddle, let the sitter know that, too.

5. Ask the sitter how she handles problems. An experienced sitter will be able to share success stories for how they dealt with obstacles that pop up. What if it’s raining and your dog refuses to go outside to relieve itself? Many dogs suffer from separation anxiety. “Will the sitter be able to tolerate the behaviors that result from the anxiety?” asks veterinarian Vijay Sasi of Vets Plus in Menomonie, Wisconsin. This conversation will provide a lot of insight into whether the sitter is the right match for your dog.

6. Discuss emergency plans. Make sure you leave the name of your veterinarian and instructions on how you want the sitter to handle an emergency.

7. Trust your instincts! At the end of the day, there is something to be said for that inexplicable feeling you get when you know you’ve found the right sitter. Much like finding a babysitter for your child, sometimes you just have a gut feeling you’ve found the right — or in some cases, wrong — person. Don’t be afraid to pay attention to that feeling.

*This post is sponsored by Beneful. The opinions and stories are my own.