January 16, 2015 – So…you’ve been asked to do a vacation pet sit for your client’s dog or cat for a week, and it’s time for the first visit. What can you expect?

  • To start…the animals will know something is off and that itself sets a different atmosphere for your visits. You’ll see it in their eyes as soon as you walk in that they’ve watched their family leave with all their clothes, and the animals want to know what’s going to happen to them.
  • You too will feel a change in the air. When you go in on a lunch visit, even though the house is empty, it feels lived-in. But as soon as the family leaves for a holiday, it feels quite hollow. It’s up to you to change that so the animals feel comfortable.
  • Attitude is everything. Take on an in-control attitude right from the start at every vacation pet sit and the animals will follow suit. Otherwise you’re leaving them to band together and find their own alpha…which can make things difficult. You can still be fun and loving and you’ll certainly be shelling-out more hugs and comfort, but you’ll also be providing them with the confidence that everything is okay.
  • Be less concerned about your timing. You’ve priced-out three or four half-hour visits, but the reality is some will take 45 minutes and others maybe 20. At the end of some days you’ll break even but on others,  you’ll run a little long. It’s the nature of the job and at the end of the day, you just want the dog to be comfortable and happy.
  • Most clients want three visits a day because the cost does mount-up after a week. To keep the spread of hours best for the dog, we schedule-in dinner for around 3:00. This way the day is a bit long but the portion between dinner and bed is much longer than it would be if dinner was at 5:00. If you do have a four-visit day, then you can spread the times out accordingly…fitting them into your other visits naturally. There’s no really long period for the dog to wait so you don’t have to worry. What you do have to be concerned about is you! A four-visit day is very tiring even if the client lives close by. Add up seven days, and you’ll be pooped! Have a look at these pointers from a previous article on Taking Time for Yourself and consider bringing-in help if you can’t manage it all.
  • You’ll be SO tempted to haul out your favorite foods and treats and cook up some liver or chicken and buy the best cookies so you can show the dogs or cats how much you love looking after them and what FUN you’ll be having. STOP! If the dogs are on a good diet…you don’t want to mess with that! Yes…we will often boost the treats a little, but we stick with their foods. They’re going to have nervous tummies anyway. Do you really want to make it worse? You’ll be the one finding out when you walk in at the next visit and the dog couldn’t wait to get out! Been there…don’t recommend it!

Morning Visits

Despite your client’s worry that you won’t get their early enough (they want you at 6:30 a.m. when the dog usually rises with them and you are adamant that your first call is at 7:30), it’s very likely the dog will be snoring when you arrive. The first day you might find him in the front hallway…but once he knows you’re on the job, he’ll be tucked in bed the rest of the week. (Probably enjoying a lovely sleep-in for a change!)

Get him outside right away. If you’ve been told to walk him before breakfast…off you go. If not, then as soon as he heads back in, make his breakfast and then out-you-go for the walk. The difference here is that when you arrive for a lunch visit, the dog will generally do a pee…but you’re not worried about the rest because someone will be home in a few hours. When you have he dog in your care 24/7…you need to at least try to get a poo from him in the morning so he’s not uncomfortable later on or has an accident.

The morning and dinner visits are the longest in the day for feeding reasons – so feel free to adjust your timing slightly for a lunch visit if you’re asked over, or the bedtime one.

Above all else…give plenty of hugs, but remember to keep the attitude that everything is great and you’re all having a little holiday too.

Lunch Visits

Most often we’re asked for three visits a day for holidays but if you’re asked for the lunch visit too, you can treat it the same way as a regular pet sitting visit. In fact, you have the bonus of using this time period for a good long walk, which enables you to cut back on the others. The dog doesn’t necessarily need to be walked at each visit as long as he’s getting a leg stretch and has sufficient time to do all his business without feeling worried about you being in a hurry.

Dinner Visits

We do the same at dinnertime as we do at breakfast. Get the dog out for a pee right away, and then walk a little or go straight to dinner. If you’ve walked him at lunch there’s no need for another. We do like them to have plenty of time to do their business after their meal, so let them roam the yard or go for a stroll that allows them to sniff.

Bedtime Visits

Our main object for bedtimes is to settle the dogs down so they aren’t uncomfortable during the night and they don’t worry. We do that by making the bedtime visit very low key. Once again, get them out and make sure they do something! Often they want to play so they hold off doing a pee. You have to watch! We very seldom do a walk at night that’s farther than a few houses, if at all. Usually a wander around the yard is fine but some dogs are trained to do their poos off the property so you have to get them out. (You’ll know this from your meet-and-greet paperwork.)

Once back in, everyone gets a cookie and is allowed a little water. We steer them clear of anything more than a little drink by catching their interest. The water is there for them…but if we can get them to sleep first they won’t drink it. If you’ve kept things low-key, this is a good time to lower the lights and give tummy rubs and sit on the floor chatting with them. It’s often the shortest visit of the day, which is fine…you’ve had a busy day with longer visits behind you.

Make sure there’s a night light at least…or a lamp on somewhere. Especially the first night a table lamp is a good idea, too. The night sounds seem scarier when there’s no humans there. (Or even when there are but it’s not their own!) We also leave a radio running quietly out of the sleeping area…perhaps in the kitchen. Keep it low. It’s for background white noise only and animals have really sharp hearing. You don’t want to drive them bonkers listening to it all day and night.

And then it’s time to go home with a job well done. Try to get some sleep, pet sitter, because it all starts again at 7:30!

Today is the 16th day of our 365 Days of Pet Sitting and we had only two dog visits, a cat visit, and the multi-dog family of pups went home for the weekend. It’s a quiet weekend coming up…as far as we know. But anything can change with the sound of a text, email, or phone call.

Until next time…have fun out there!


Other articles in this series…

You’ve Arrived! What’s Next, Pet Sitter? Part 1 – Cats

You’ve Arrived…At Your First Small Animal Pet Sit – Part 2

You’ve Arrived…At Your First Dog Sit – Part 3