What to look for in a Pet Sitter or Dog Walker

In a hugely growing market where the choice of care for your pets is expanding on a daily basis, it’s hard to know what you should be looking for when choosing a carer for your furry friend. The industry of home pet sitting is fairly new, and dog walking is now more popular than ever, but do you really know how to choose who is best to look after your beloved pet?

We have created a checklist so that you can make sure you choose the person or company who is not only right for your dog or cat, but also who will put your mind at ease whilst you are away.

 

Meet a Number of Sitters

With any service that you would use, it is a good idea to have a selection of sitters to initially meet with to make sure you are choosing the right Pet Sitter or Dog Walker. Compare prices, availability, level of service offered, look for confidence and efficiency of service etc. and compare before making a decision.

 

Membership of an Association

It is recommended that you choose a Pet Sitter or Dog Walker who is registered with an association. NarpsUK are the largest Pet Sitting and Dog Walking Association in the UK and have almost 1,000 registered and active members. NarpsUK provide pet owners with a postcode search on their website to find their nearest registered members www.narpsuk.co.uk. Using a registered Pet Sitter ensures that you are using a company or individual who has agreed to the Terms and Conditions and Code of Conduct which has been developed over many years. Any business registered with an association will bring their membership certificate with them to your initial meeting.

logonarps

Initial Meeting

We recommend meeting any Pet Sitter or Dog Walker face to face before agreeing to commit to using their business. Any reputable sitter will be happy to do this and will also suggest this happens so that they have an opportunity to meet you and your pet before the booking date. If you find that the Pet Sitter is trying to avoid this initial consultation, we would recommend moving on to the next company.

 

Insurance 

All Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers MUST have insurance to protect both themselves and you and your pets. At your initial meeting they should have their insurance certificate available to show you. Ask to see this and check the date to ensure it is valid.

cache 6501267NarpsUK CRB Emblem  

 

Basic Disclosure Criminal Record Check

Any individual in the UK who holds keys to a residential property should have a Criminal Record Check (Basic Disclosure). This may include house sitting, pop-in services and dog walking where the walker will be collecting and returning your dog to your home each day. Before you hand over your keys, make sure you see a copy of this person’s certificate. Again, check the date and the name which you can also ask for them to verify with photo ID. There is no fixed renewal date on these check but we recommend a renewal every three years. A reputable pet sitter or dog walker will have no problem in showing you all of this information.

cache 6498791pet first aid emblem

 

Training

Although not essential, it is good to know whether the Pet Sitter or Dog Walker who you are using has had any training or qualifications in relation to their industry. There are a wide range of courses available such as pet behaviour, dog training, first aid, business courses, animal care, animal therapy, grooming, etc. In using a Pet Sitter or Dog Walking who has invested their time to expand their knowledge and professionalise their business, you are raising the standard of carers that are available as well as ensuring that you are using someone who has a committed attitude to their business and your pets, rather than someone looking to just make money.  

 

Experience

We recommend that you only use a Pet Sitter or Dog Walker who has experience with animals. It may be that they have owned dogs all of their lives, or they may have volunteered at a rescue centre to gain the experience before starting their own business. The person should be comfortable around animals and be confident when handling your pets. You can ask as many questions as you like about previous animals they have worked or lived with, or bad experiences they have had and what they learned from these.

 

Recommendations

Ask the Pet Sitter or Dog Walker if they would be happy for you to contact an existing client  for a reference. A reputable sitter will normally bring some reviews with them or letters of recommendation but you are free to ask if you can speak to one of their current clients. The NarpsUK website shows each of the member’s profiles which include a reviews/feedback section with a star rating system.

 

Home Boarding

If you are leaving your pet in a carer’s home whilst you are away, make sure you visit the house where your pet will be staying and take the pet with you. Ask to see where your pet will sleep, have a look at the garden, ask where the nearest park is and check to ensure your pet will not be able to escape easily. An open plan ground floor may mean the postman provides an ideal opportunity to run, or a gap in the garden fence may mean that your beloved pet will end up in a neighbour’s garden. Feel free to thorough check to ensure your pet will be safe. Home boarders should be licensed by their local authority, most councils have implemented this legal requirement although not all, ask your sitter if they are licensed.

 

Service Contract

Any pet sitter or dog walker should have a service contract which they use. You can ask to see this before you book their services to make sure that you are happy with their terms and conditions. If there is anything you are unsure about, ask them if they can change this or amend to suit you. They will also ask you to complete other standard forms for example booking form, veterinary release form etc. You will only usually need to fill these in once as they will be kept on file for future use.

 narpsimage

Questions to Ask

 • Will my pet be boarded alone or with other pets?

 • Will my dog be walked alone? (NarpsUK recommend a maximum of four dogs being walked together at once)

 • How many people live here?

 • Are the visits always carried out by the same person? (If helpers are used, make sure you see their criminal record checks too)

 • How long will my pet would be left alone for at any one time? (The maximum should be 4 hours)

 • What happens if my dog is ill or injured?

 • Will my dog be kept on a lead? If you want your dog off-lead when being walked, the sitter or walker should get you to sign an off-lead disclaimer form

 • What happens if the sitter or walker is unwell and unable to carry out their duties?

 • How much notice do you need to give for a booking?

 • How much one to one time will your pet receive?

 • Is there a routine for walk times and feeding times? They should match your routine to ensure your dog has minimum disruption

 • What would happen in the event of a fire?

 • Will the pet sitter let you know when they have services your pet?

 • Will a log be left each day to give you any information on their walk or feed?

 • What are the payment terms?

 

Medication

If your pet requires medication or has an existing medical condition, make sure that the pet sitter or dog walker fully understands this and is confident in providing treatment. You may choose to only use a sitter or walking with some training on administering this so make sure you make them aware of this from the start.

 

Behaviour Problems

If your pet has any behavioural problems, discuss this with the sitter or walker. If your dog is not completely housetrained or perhaps it is reactive on the lead you should talk to your pet sitter about this rather than receive a phone call during the service because of problems incurred. Some dog walkers may not feel confident in walking a large dog who pulls on the lead, so make sure everyone is aware of the situation from the start to avoid ongoing problems.

 

Test Walk

Many dog walkers will suggest a ‘try out’ walk with the potential clients to watch the pet’s usual behaviour. They may want to check their recall or just get them used to someone else walking them. It is a good idea for you to go along with them so that you can see how they walk your dog and how your dog responds to them.

 

Good Rapport and Confidence

The most important thing when selecting a pet sitter or dog walker is how much confidence you have in their ability to provide the service you expect. You will probably get an instant feeling when you meet them and see them with your pets as to whether you are happy to use them and then as long as all of the other essential documents are in place you should be able to establish a long term relationship with this person or company. Many pet owners now rely heavily on the services of their pet sitters and the pets love their daily visits or stays whilst their owners are away!

If you have any doubts about a Pet Sitter or would like to discuss any of these points further, contact:

 

logonarps

NarpsUK

W. www.narpsuk.co.uk

E. info@narpsuk.co.uk 

T. 01322 683564