You love dogs, you have owned dogs since you’re a kid, you have looked after your friends and family’s dogs several times…basically you know what you are doing. But now that you are working as a professional sitter, what is really expected of you? How can you make the whole process more formal and professional? This is a sample day in the life of a dog sitter.
After the initial contact, you should meet up with the owner and dog to go through all the details. You can have the meeting and move straight into your assignment afterwards, or you can schedule the meeting separately and then book your actual appointment. These initial meetings are usually free of charge or included in the price of the assignment. This first meeting is extremely important; it’s the chance the owner gets to get to meet you and see how you interact with the dog, so make sure you adopt an open, positive and reassuring attitude. This is also your chance to ask questions and confirm all the details – dates, preferred routes for walking, how you will get access to the owners property if you are looking care of the dogs at their place (some people might give you a copy of their keys, others might leave the keys with a friend or neighbour). You might consider asking some of these questions (and perhaps take notes!):
– Where can I find the dog’s leash, food, water bowl, toys, grooming equipment, etc?
– Does the dog have any naughty habits? Are there any rules regarding behaviour or off limits rooms?
– What is the dog’s favourite game? Does he/she have any favourite toys?
– What is the dog like around other dogs and people?
– Can the dog be let off the leash or will the dog run away?
– Are there any health issues, including allergies?
DOG WALKING APPOINTMENT
A dog walking appointment means you will be walking someone else’s dog for either 1/2 hour or 1 hour. You will pick up the dog from an agreed location (owner’s home or work place) and take it back to that same location at the end of the walk (unless discussed otherwise). Ideally you will take the dog to a local park and exercise the dog appropriately (only let the dog off the leash if you have authorization from the owner). You are responsible for picking up any residues (that means, poo!) and you may need to dry/clean the dog quickly before you return it if it’s been raining. Usually feeding is not included on a dog walking assignment, but you should make sure the dog has access to drinking water before you leave.
If you’re doing a home visit you will be going into the dog’s home and aim to be there for about 1/2 hour to 1 hour. A home visit may be necessary when the owners are are away or at work, especially if they own other animals that cannot be taken out for a walk (cat,guinea pig, etc). Dog walking may or may not be included in a home visit. In addition to feeding, grooming, playing and dealing with other pet-related tasks (e.g. you may have to change the cat litter if there is a cat in the house), you are usually responsible for performing other general house sitting tasks, such as basic cleaning, picking up post, taking the trash out, leaving some of the lights on and opening some curtains so that the house doesn’t look abandoned, etc.
Boarding/Overnight stay is the most complete type of Dog Sitting. It basically includes all of the above, and it means you are responsible for looking after someone else’s dog in your own place or at their home. If you are boarding a dog, you may offer a pick up service, or the owner can just bring the dog to you. You are responsible for looking after the dog like it was your own, feeding, grooming, playing, exercising and devoting all your care and attention to make sure the dog has a wonderful time and does not miss the owner too much. Ideally you should be with the dog at all times, but if you do need to leave the dog unattended make sure you’re not away for longer than 4 hours. If you’re boarding a dog in your own home, you must make sure your house is in a suitable condition and “doggy-proof”. Make sure there are no obvious escape routes, especially if you have a garden.
If you are staying over at someone else’s house and looking after their dog there, you are also expected to perform general house sitting tasks (see above).
PHOTOS AND RECORD KEEPING
Regardless of what type of dog sitting assignment you have, you must keep records of your time with the dog. That usually means taking pictures. You can write a “report” and take several photos and make sort of a “collage” illustrating the time you’ve had with the dog and leave it for the owner at the end of each assignment (you can print the photos, leave them in their home on your last day or hand them in to the owner personally, or you can send it by email). Otherwise you can just take some pictures with your phone and send them to the owner. You can even make videos – be as creative as you like, but the main thing is to show the owner some evidence of your time with the dog. And believe me, this is VERY IMPORTANT! Every owner wants some sort of report.
At Tailster we are working on an app that will help you record and share your time with the dog, including a GPS walk tracker, so keep checking our page!
KEEPING IN TOUCH
The owner might like to receive updates regarding their dog – email, text message… but of course you also don’t want to pester the owner with constant updates! Talk this through on your initial meeting and find out their preference. If they prefer not to be updated, that’s fine, but you still must have a contact number in case of an emergency, and you must always make contact at the end of an assignment.
This is a basic sample day in the life of a dog sitter. Things like initial meetings and record keeping are pretty much standard to all assignments, but every assignment is slightly different, and you should discuss any details with the owner and make them aware of any extra services you can offer – perhaps you can include dog training services while you are boarding their dog? Or offer bathing and grooming services?