Dog Walkers & Pet Sitters

Super Nannies for the Pet Set


One of the biggest challenges of pet parenting is f inding someone to provide care when you can’t. Heading out of town for a night or a long trip, you f irst must decide who will look after your house, mail, and critters. Even when at home, work and family responsibilities or a bum knee can keep you from providing your pup’s daily exercise time.

While back in the day it was popular to pay a neighborhood kid to walk or watch over pets, today there are accredited, insured professionals to provide care and security. Of course, one must choose wisely when entrusting someone with their home, belongings, and beloved family members.

It’s crucial to choose qualified professionals who can provide plenty of references and offer a free initial meeting to get acquainted and discuss your needs, says Jesse Tishkoff, owner of Pawsitive Steps PDX. You also want proof of membership in a reputable professional association that provides liability insurance. Tishkoff sees the lack of insurance as a red flag, saying “if something were to happen, the owner may incur a huge bill or worse.”

Finding a sitter

Ask friends, neighbors, or your veterinarian for recommendations, and then gather information. Important things to know include:

•    Rates, frequency and length of visits.

•    Services included in a visit. Will it just be feeding and potty breaks, or will the pet get attention and playtime?

•    Are additional services offered, like taking in the mail or newspaper, putting out trash, watering plants, and maybe even taking pets to vet or grooming appointments?

Can special needs, such as medications, be managed?

Finding a dog walker

Unlike the neighborhood kid, a professional dog walker can safely react if your dog is approached by off-leash dogs, spot the need for medical care, and often can work with dogs who need to brush up on leash manners or social skills. Important things to know include:

•    Policies and fees.

•    Duration of walks, and whether your dog will also receive playtime and attention.

•    Are walks individual, or with groups of dogs?

•    Will your dog be off-leash at all? (“Big risk,” says Tishkoff).

•    Will your pet’s energy level/needs be accommodated? IE, will your young or “working” dog get plenty of activity?  Will a couch potato receive plenty of attention/snuggletime?

Once your questions are answered, trust your instincts. You and your pets need to feel comfortable with the person. “Also, if someone goes more than 24 hours without replying to texts or emails, I would suggest looking for someone different,” says Tishkoff. “You want a good communicator.”

Tell your dog walker:

•    How your dog reacts when seeing other dogs, cats, squirrels, cars, bikes.

•    Any special physical or social needs.

Tell your sitter:

•    Feeding and medication schedules.

•    Your pets’ super-secret hiding places, quirks, and favorite treats.

•    The schedule for your mail, newspaper, garbage, or watering, if requesting those services.

Before providing any services, a sitter or walker will also need:

•    A signed agreement for services and payment.

•    Your written approval to obtain emergency veterinary care if needed.

•    Health and behavior information.

•    A house key (or two, for backup), alarm codes, and other security details.

•    How to contact you, a trusted neighbor, or a relative in an emergency.