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Pet Sitting: is it Right for your Dog?

If you've ever tried to find pet-friendly accommodation you'll know how hard it is! 90% of Australian pet owners would postpone or cancel a holiday if they cannot find a suitable carer for their furry friend, according to a 2015 study by Pawshake.

If you’re planning your next holidays or need to go away frequently on business, you may want to consider enlisting the services of a professional pet sitter to take care of your pooch.

Depending on your pets, that option may work better than leaving them in the care of family, friends or a local boarding kennel. Planning well ahead of your trip enables you to compare pet care options available in your area and choose what is right for you and your pets. 

When is Pet Sitting the most beneficial option?

"Pet sitting in a home environment is often the perfect choice for small to medium-sized dogs, those who are used to sleeping indoors and prefer lots of one-on-one care and attention", advises Deborah Morrison from PetCloud.

A spokesman for the Pet Industry Association of Australia, explains “ in my experience some pets may not be suitable for boarding. If they’re old, they can be very sensitive to their home environment and could suffer from anxiety if they are forced to leave it for an unfamiliar place. Another key consideration could be the limited space available at your local boarding facilities especially during peak periods (school or summer holidays), or they may simply be located too far away”.

Sarah Gaul, Community Manager for Pawshake Australia explains “choosing a pet sitter means that your dog will be cared for in a safe, loving environment where they will be treated like family members. This is a preferred option for pets with behavioural issues – as being locked up in a facility shared with many others can be stressful – or younger pets who may not yet be socialised”.
Jenny Brearley, Founder of Don’t Fret Pet points out that “pet minders are usually located all around the suburbs and offer very flexible drop-off and pick-up times, rather than owners having to try to fit in with certain business operating hours. Some owners are very particular about their dog’s diet and are pleased to know that, because they provide the food their dog is used to eating at home, there is less chance of their dog having an upset tummy due to a sudden change of diet.”

Ms. Morrison agrees: “our pet sitters mind a small number of pets so yours will be given lots of attention and care. If your pet requires special care for a medical condition, experienced pet sitters coming from a Vet Nursing or Animal Welfare background can not only spot health issues but they are also able to safely administer oral medication or injections if necessary. The potential exposure to illness is minimised if your pets are the only being cared for in the home.”

Pet sitters set their own prices and depending on location, experience and additional services offered, the fee could vary widely from $15-$50 per pet per day. However, some inner city doggy day care will charge similar rates per hour so you could save a few hundred dollars on a longer-term stay.

Ms. Brearley added that”due to the number of dogs in their care, pet boarding facilities cannot keep an eye on all the dogs at all times, especially at night. Dogs staying with a minder often actually sleep in the minder’s bedroom or at least have access to the minder overnight should any health issues arise.

5 Tips for Choosing the Right Pet sitter 

#1. Check Dog Owners Reviews Online

Though referrals can come through word-of-mouth at your local vet, other pet professionals (groomers, trainers) or well-intentioned dog owners at our local dog park, we suggest you do your homework rather than blindly following just one person’s advice.

Whilst there are currently no legal requirements for running a pet sitting or pet minding business in Australia, there are thankfully some independent online services like PetStay Advisor, which include testimonials from dog owners rating their own experience with a particular pet sitting service or pet boarding facility: a bit like "Trip Advisor" but focusing solely on petstay services.

This should definitely help you weed out the inexperienced or unsavoury operators more interested in making a quick buck than the wellbeing of your pets...

#2. Meet the Pet Sitter at their Home with your Dog

Ms. Gaul advises that the best way to check if a pet sitter is suitable for your dog is to organise a “meet & greet” well in advance (minimum 2-4 weeks prior to the proposed stay) to ensure the pet sitter and your dog will get along. If you’re planning a longer-term stay, she recommends even organising a trial stay (this could be just one night or a day care).

Just as with any reputable dog boarding facility, you should be allowed to tour your potential pet sitter’s home and backyard and see where your pet will sleep and play. 

It may be a good idea to compile a short questionnaire of all the questions you’d like to ask including:
Ms. Brearley recommends to ask “who will look after your pet if you fall sick or you have a family emergency? A great indication of a good pet sitter is how much they want to know about your pet? How could they possibly provide adequate care if they haven’t gathered this information?”.
  • Does the pet sitter have their own, reliable transport?
  • How many hours will they be away each day? 
  • Will they be minding any other pets (including their own) at the same time? If your dog(s) does not get along with other pets (dogs, cats or others), they need to know!
  • Will your dog be allowed in all parts of their house or on the furniture (if they are when at home with you, it would very hard for them not to…)
  • Will they just provide basic care (feeding) or offer regular walks or play time and cuddles too at no extra cost?
  • Will they keep you updated whilst you’re away (via Facebook or email) ?
A Pawshake survey revealed 38% of pet owners Skype furry family members while on holidays

#3. Check the Pet Sitter's References

If you are choosing an independent pet sitter, you will need to go through this process yourself (as you would for a babysitter). The pet sitter should be able to provide phone number and contact information for owners (not friends) they have sat for in the past? 

PetCloud house sitter Lauren has had a full background check

Ms. Morrison from PetCloud advises that if you choose one of the larger pet sitting services, find out what checks have been performed. A recent police check is essential if you’re allowing a Sitter to enter or even stay in your home whilst you’re away.

Personally, I know I'd feel a lot more confident if our pet sitter had been personally interviewed in their own home and their references checked by a third party rather than relying on a quick phone interview...

#4. Check your Pet Sitter has the right Insurance Cover

Legislation is yet to catch up with the new “share economy” but it does not mean that you should take any chances with your dog's welfare. Your chosen pet sitter should meet the local council’s licencing requirements before taking on multiple guest pets and as these vary, please check with your local council.

In the unlikely event of an accident or injury sustained by your pet whilst under their care or in the case of damage to third parties, your pet sitter should also have an adequate public liability insurance cover. This should come at no additional cost to you as the dog owner and it will provide you with greater peace of mind.

#5. Pet Sitting vs House Minding Option

House minding (where your dog will stay in your own home rather than travelling to the pet sitter’s home) can deliver additional benefits if you have a garden that requires maintaining, you want your mail collected or someone living there for security reasons but are you comfortable handing your house keys to a complete stranger?

Ms. Brearley commented that the best option really depends on your pet. Don’t Fret Pet does offer a home visit service in some areas however she does not agree with dogs being left alone at home for more than a few days. Generally they will cope much better (with your absence) if offered lots of human interaction!

Ms. Morrison from Pet Cloud emphasized that "the recommendation from RSPCA vets is a maximum 48-hour period for call-in visits. Any longer than that and dogs will start getting a little anxious: they may bark or howl and may even become destructive in their behaviour and try to escape to find their owners." 

Hardly the call you want to receive when you're away on the other side of the world!

When is Pet Sitting not the right option for your dog?

Ms. Morrison adds that “If you have a larger breed of dog or an extremely energetic one, you may need to widen your search radius and be prepared to travel a little further to locate a pet sitter who has a large backyard to accommodate their needs. She adds that if you have a strong or an aggressive dog, it may be best to board him at a kennel for their own safety or that of others around them, as they could create a hole in a standard residential fence or jump over it.

No danger of jumping over that secure high fence in PetCloud Pet Sitter Chris' backyard (Ormeau)

Ms. Brearley advises that “we do ask many questions about each dog to ensure they go to a suitable minder and avoid potential issues. However we can’t accept dogs who are well-known escape artists as their safety is the most important aspect of our care. For our minder’s safety we also won’t accept bookings for dogs who have previously shown any aggression to humans."

Before the Stay Begins...

As you would if your dog was going on holidays with you, you will need to pack a “Dog Holiday Bag” which includes:
  • Normal food & treats (enough to last the entire stay)
  • Any medication your dog needs to take during that period (Heartwormer, Allwormer, Tick & Flea Prevention etc.)
  • Copy of latest vaccination certificate
  • Usual bedding (if agreed with the sitter) and favourite toys to provide comfort and familiarity
  • Make sure any specific medical (history of epilepsy) or behavioural conditions (fear of thunder) have been discussed and how they will be handled
  • Include your contact details (when away) and the details of your preferred vet.
  • Your dog should always be wearing a collar with an ID Tag which includes your mobile number (also provide a leash). 
If you’ve done all the hard work and satisfied yourself on each of these points, you should now enjoy a stress-free relaxing holiday, safe in the knowledge that your dog is having a great time too (despite missing you heaps)…


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