Four dogs walking side by side on leash; red and white Shiba Inu, a black lab/chow mix, a brown chihuahua mix, and a white husky.

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How to Set Your Pet Sitter Up For Success

When you go out of town and leave your pets with someone, let it be a family member or a professional, you want to make sure they have the information they need to be able to take proper care of your pet. Make it easy on your pet sitter by giving them the necessary information in an easy-to-read format so you can relax when you are away from home. Read on to find out exactly what your pet sitter needs to know.

To get a free Pet Sitter care sheet, subscribe to our community. This will give you access to all of our available templates in our Freebie Library that will help you become more organized and take better care of your pets at home and when you are on the road.

If you are not quite ready to leave your dog at home, here are some great tips for taking your dog on vacation or on a camping trip.

Four dogs walking side by side on leash; red and white Shiba Inu, a black lab/chow mix, a brown chihuahua mix, and a white husky.
Our Pack

Not Everything is Common Sense

When you get in the habit of taking care of something (or someone), you tend to complete the tasks automatically and you no longer think of all things you are actually doing to get the job done. Many times, people assume that everyone takes care of their pets the same way that they do, they quickly pass on what to feed their animal and no other information. 

If you think about it, there is so much more that goes into taking care of your pet. When you explain or have to teach the tasks to somebody else, you tend to leave out vital details because these are things that you do unconsciously, to you it is just common sense. I see this all the time when I pet-sit for someone new. I also saw this frequently when I was a zookeeper and had to learn a new area.

Once you have a routine in place and have worked with an animal for a while, all of the little quirks and adjustments that you have made to ensure that the day goes smoothly becomes second nature and you forget that not everyone takes care of their animals and areas the same way.

White husky laying on a brown dog bed with a small, black, scruffy mutt who is sitting right next to her.
Emma with Bailey- one of the dogs we have sat for

Don’t Forget to Share Your Tips and Tricks

Some dogs may need to be let outside to go to the bathroom as soon as you wake up, others can wait until after your shower. Some cats may need their litter boxes cleaned daily because they will not go to the bathroom in a dirty one, other cats will use the litter box several times before you must clean it.

This includes the quirks that your house may have. For instance, my front door has a mechanism so if you turn the handle a certain way, it locks the handle itself in place, and there is no way to undo this from the outside. The only way back into the house is through another door. I forgot to mention this to one pet sitter and she accidentally locked herself out that way.

For the zookeepers reading this, some animals must shift in before Santa ziplines over their exhibit because they hate Santa and it will take them a while to calm down and come inside after this happens. By that time, you should have already clocked out for the day and now you have to explain the overtime to your managers.

Two Cheetahs laying down. One is looking to the side, the other is looking directly at camera.
These guys hate Santa

What is a S.O.P.?

In the zoo field, every area and/or animal has an S.O.P.- an acronym for a Standard Operating Procedure. With an S.O.P., the idea is that any keeper should be able to walk into an area and be able to take proper care of the animal/s in question after reading it. It should explain what needs to happen in the morning, throughout the day, and during the evening routine. It should also break down what and when they eat, any medications they take, and any special care that you would need to provide. This is all vital information to ensure that the animals are going to get what they need. This is important information that your pet sitter needs to know about your animals at home too.

Numerous medication bottles and supplements such as Cosequin on a shelf in front of Greenie's Pill Pockets.
Our dog medication shelf

Include Helpful Tips

What is not as common in an S.O.P. (but I strongly feel should be!) is a section or a separate form that contains any helpful tips or things to watch out for to make the job run smoothly. These would be things such as their favorite treats or toys, things that they hate (ex: thunderstorms), personality quirks, and any random information that may help the caretaker.   

On our S.O.P., I added a note that we recently had seen a coyote next door and to make sure Charlie, our 14lb chihuahua mix would need to be supervised closely when he is outside because of this. I also include that Emma tends to eat non-edible things so the pet sitter will know to be careful with things left within Emma’s reach and to monitor her closely. 

Brown and white Chihuahua mix laying on its back with front feet in the air. The dog is laying on a checkered blanket.
Charlie is too small to be unsupervised outside with recent Coyote sightings

Veterinary Information and Emergency Contacts

It is also crucial to leave your veterinary information such as the name of your current vet clinic with their address and phone number in case something goes wrong. Additionally, make sure to leave the information for the closest Emergency Vet Clinic, if something goes seriously wrong, nobody wants to have to waste time trying to figure out where to go on Google.

Along with veterinary clinic information, I also leave the contact information for someone nearby that has an extra key or that the dogs respond. This is just in case the pet sitter misplaces it or if the pet sitter cannot make it to the house for some unforeseen event.  This has come in handy a few times when the pet sitter accidentally locked themselves out of the house.  We have also had a pet sitter try to cancel because they wanted to go out of town halfway through our trip. Having someone in the area that had a key helped ease our minds that our dogs would be okay no matter what.

Create Your Own S.O.P.

If you want to put together your own S.O.P. for your pets, make sure to include the basics (food, water, meds, when or how frequently they need to go to the bathroom) and I personally would include some details about each of your animals. Details such as what they might be scared of, any bad habits to watch out for, and what to do if any of their health issues act up.

For example, our oldest dog, Remington, has epilepsy and there is a rare chance he may have a seizure. I make sure the pet sitter knows that in the event of a seizure, they need to clear objects from the area around him, and when it is over he will need to go to the bathroom right away and it will most likely be diarrhea. Then he will need to be convinced to rehydrate (he typically refuses water after a seizure so he would need to be given dog ice cream). If the seizure lasted longer than 3-5 minutes or if it was a cluster of seizures, he will need to go to the vet and I would like to be notified of the seizure as soon as possible, no matter the time. 

Brown and white Shiba Inu laying down on a brown blanket that is on a black couch. Dog's head is on a brown pillow.
Remington has special instructions due to his epilepsy

Before You Go On Vacation

As someone who uses pet sitters and who also pet sits for others, having the information written down is incredibly helpful. There is no way someone can remember everything they need to know so they can take the best care of your pets, especially if there are multiple animals or any animals with special needs. If it is written down, this will ensure your pet sitter will have instant access to important information, without having to worry about calling you for the information when you are on vacation. 

When you put together the SOP for your pet sitter, I suggest thinking of all of the things you have learned about your pets. All the tricks they play, what they are scared of, tips to get them to take their medication, their favorite things, etc.  Include anything that you wish someone could have told you, so you did not have to figure it out the hard way. I have the SOP for our house saved on our computer so we can update it as needed without having to re-write the whole thing each time. By having it typed, I also do not have to worry about our pet sitter having to read my horrible handwriting.

Form with information for pet sitters. it has a place for medical issues, description/markings, likes/dislikes, and AM/PM routines

Do you want access to a Pet Sitter S.O.P. form like the one above? Subscribe to our website here.

Travel Insurance Master logo on a photo of a man standing on the edge of a cliff looking out towards mountains

For extra peace of mind, take a look at Travel Insurance Master. They can help you find a travel insurance company and plan to fit your exact needs and budget. If you have pets at home, there is even a Pet Bundle that you can add to your insurance plan. The Pet Bundle adds trip cancellation and interruption so if your pets get critically sick you are able to cancel your trip or go back home.

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About Author

Animal and wildlife enthusiast that currently owns four dogs, loves to travel, and try new things while saving as much money as possible!

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