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Dog Tip: Petsitters and Boarding Kennels

By Robin Tierney

NOTE: The content on this website cannot be used in connection with any profit-seeking activity due to agreements with the writers, editors and sources contributing to the content. These articles may NOT be reproduced in any form without author permission. To contact the author, email Robin at Tierneydog@yahoo.com.

It's great if you have a friend or family member you can trust with your pet, but if the person lacks pet care experience, this could lead to problems unless you fully prepare the person for caring for your pet.

So if you are going on a trip, or you'd like your dog to have a walk and human attention when you're at work, a pet sitter is typically a safer choice for individualized attention. Boarding kennels are another option when you're traveling and can't take your pet.

Pet sitters can come for scheduled visits to your home during the day, or stay in your home while you are traveling, or can keep your dog in their own home while you are away.

* First, get recommendations for good sitters from friends and your veterinarian. Then gather references from the pet sitter you are considering, and call the references.

* Interview the pet sitter well before your trip. Get a clear picture of the sitter's experience with animals, including experience with your species and breeds of animals. Inquire about the timing and length of walks or exercise sessions. Observe how the sitter and your animals interact. This visit will give your pets the opportunity to see that you know this new person and to get to know the person themselves.

* When considering a pet sitting service with multiple employees, realize that the service is only as good as the individual employee who gets assigned to visit your pets. For such services, in addition to references, ask: many questions.
Is the business and all of its employees/subcontractors bonded and insured?
Does the business belong to an organization such as the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (www.petsitters.org) or Pet Sitters International (www.petsit.com).
Check with Better Business Bureau are any complaints on file?
How does the service find, screen, train and monitor employees?
How does the service check to confirm that employees show up and do their job with competence? Does the service have trustworthy back-up sitters in the assigned sitter has an accident or illness, transportation problem or other complication conflicting with a scheduled visit?
Will your dog be walked alone, or with other clients' dogs? If with others, how will the sitter prevent or deal with potential problems such as fighting between animals?

* Also, when considering a pet sitting service with multiple employees or subcontractors, find out who will be taking care of your pet. Ask for details about the business's as well as the assigned sitter's experience. Have that person also meet you and your pets beforehand.

* If you like the way the sitter interacts with your animals, this preliminary visit is a good time to give the sitter information about the pets, especially if the sitter has not provided a questionnaire for you to fill out. In addition to verbally discussing your pet's needs, provide this information in writing, and make copies for yourself and the sitter. The written information should include:

** The animal's daily schedule, including feeding times, walking times and the usual duration of the walks. If there is a part of your area that you want the sitter to avoid, such as a yard at which dogs often run loose, note that as well.

** Special needs, health considerations such as allergies or difficulty with steps, medications the pet needs and when, where you store the pet food, what commands your dog knows, what situations might trigger fear or aggression.

** The amount and kinds of food, and supplements, in addition to feeding times. Include a reminder to wash and refill the water bowl daily.

** Note all behavioral issues. Help your sitter avoid surprises.

** The phone numbers at which you can be reached while away.

** The name and contact numbers for a local friend or relative who, preferably, knows your pets and definitely has a set of your house keys, in case you are involved in an emergency, or in case the sitter encounters a problem that will prevent him or her from taking care of your pets.

** A plan to be used to care for your animals in case you yourself encounter an emergency and cannot get home on time. For example, note that you will call the sitter by 6 p.m. on the date you return from your trip. If the pet sitter does not receive that call, then the sitter would know to return to your home to feed and walk your pets.


* Leave medical information, including photocopies of vet records and rabies certificate, and your veterinarian's name, address and number.

* Make sure you supply any necessary heartworm pills and other medication, with written instructions for the pet sitter.

* Make sure the leash is handy and that the sitter knows where it is. Make sure your pet sitter knows to never let your dog out the door without being on leash unless the door leads to a fully fenced yard.

* It helps to place all needed supplies and food in a central location in the kitchen.

* Remind your sitter not to leave your dog in a parked car and to always keep your dog on leash when walking the dog. And of course, not to give your pets any chance to run out the door.

* Leave toys and bedding that remind your pet of you...and of home if the pet is staying at the pet sitter's place or a kennel.

* Leave photos of your pet in case he escapes and you need to make "lost pet" posters. Include a photo with family members in case you need additional proof that the pet is yours.

In addition, before your trip:

* Let your vet know that your pet sitter has authorization to take your pet in for treatment in the event of an emergency. Some vets require your authorization to be in writing.

* In case the sitter encounters a problem or emergency that keeps him or her from watching your pet, make sure that you give a local friend or relative your housekeys, travel contact information and a copy of your vet information. Let your veterinarian know that this local friend/relative also has your permission to authorize emergency medical treatment for your pet. This is a wise thing for any pet owner to do.

* Keep a card in your wallet noting that you have pets back home and listing numbers for reaching your pet sitter and local friend or relative entrusted to care for your pets. This way, your contacts will be called in case you get seriously ill or injured when you are away from home.

* Make sure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations.

* Make sure your dog's flat collar is secure and that the ID tag is, too. If your pet is staying at the pet sitter's place, make a temporary tag with a phone number and address for your sitter.

* Apply flea and tick preventative.

* Have a first aid kit handy and make sure your sitter knows where it is. First aid kit contents appear below.

During your trip:

* Check in with your pet sitter from time to time.

* Pet sitter organizations:
National Association of Professional Pet Sitters 800-296-PETS www.petsitters.org
Pet Sitters International 800-268-SITS www.petsit.com

Boarding Kennels

* If using a boarding kennel, ask for referrals from other pet owners, interview the staff and tour the facility. Some canine professionals suggest using kennels that are members of the American Boarding Kennel Association. The ABKA website is www.abka.com.

* Visit the kennels you're considering beforehand. Ask questions...and watch the staff in action. Things to note:

** How do the staff members treat the animals

** Do they wash their hands between handling one pet and the next

** Do they seem conscientious and knowledgeable

** Are there places for your dog to sleep, such as boards and bedding, besides the concrete floor

** How often are the runs cleaned

** Does each animal have a private run ... is it indoor, outdoor or both ... is it large enough ... and is it protected from rain, snow and other elements

** How often are the dogs exercised

** When are the animals fed ... what are they fed ... and will the kennel feed your own food if you provide it

** What about water in terms of frequency, cleanliness, access

** How often are the dogs checked on weekends and holidays

** Is there adequate light and ventilation

** Is a proper temperature maintained day and night

** Are sections for dogs and cats totally separated ... what about sight- and sound-wise

** For your cat, will there be adequate space between the litterbox, resting area and water/food bowls

** Does the kennel offer additional services you might want, such as grooming or training

** Ask about medical care arrangements in the event your animal gets sick or injured

* Washington Consumer Checkbook has published ratings of local facilities.

* When you choose a kennel, leave feeding, contact and other information similar to what we recommended above for pet sitters.

* Make sure the kennel is not in a flood zone, since you may not be allowed to get your pet in the event of an emergency. Also ask if the kennel is staffed 24 hours a day, which is vital in the event of a medical emergency or fire.

* Good details about choosing a boarding kennel:

* Locating a boarding kennel:

First Aid Kit:
Keep a pet First Aid Kit in your home and car. This webpage lists items to include:

First Aid Guidance:
http://www.sniksnak.com/cathealth/firstaid.html (Feline First Aid)

Poison Emergency 24-Hour Hotlines:
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center 1-888-4-ANI-HELP or 1-888-426-4435
National Animal Poison Control Center 1-800-548-2423
Other helpful web resources for traveling with pets and finding boarding kennels or petsitters in other locations across the country:

Pet Travel Sites listing boarding kennels and/or pet sitters nationwide:

Travel with Pets -- Packing, Preparation, Lodging and more:


For more Dog Tips and other information about pet
care, adoption and the work PAW does, visit our
website at:  www.paw-rescue.org

Partnership for Animal Welfare
P.O. Box 1074, Greenbelt, MD 20768

Last Updated: April 26, 2018 (LET) PawSupport