Though it pains us to admit, we know that it’s not possible to take your pet along on every trip. We’ve written advice on choosing the best pet sitter – but once you have a caretaker lined up, what things can you do to prepare for your time away? Whether you’re hiring a professional or having a friend or family member stay with your pet, nail down the details in advance and your pet may not even notice you’re gone.
Naturally you’re going to leave the essentials: your emergency contact information, the phone number and address of your veteranarian, and your pets medication and feeding schedule. But let’s take a look at how you can take it up a notch …
Meeting your pet’s needs may seem intuitive to you, but recalling the details of any conversation can be a challenge, even for the best of us. Having Post-it’s, a journal, or a PowerPoint to look up the size of their meals, the timing of their medication, and every other minute detail of your pet’s care will take the pressure off your sitter to remember all the fine points of your instructions.
Pets like routine. Don’t believe me? Try serving your pet’s dinner 15 minutes late.
You can help your sitter stick to the schedule by informing her of your pet’s routine. For a few days before you leave, pay attention to details of your pet’s habits and make some notes.
For example, anyone pet sitting for us would benefit from knowing that Buster and Ty get up around 7am and immediately go for a walk to take care of business. We then feed them, administer their medications in their food (you have to check to be sure Buster doesn’t eat around his), and play with their toys a bit before they settle in for a morning nap. Try to do things in a different order and Ty will stare at you blankly … assessing whether or not you’ve lost your mind. Keeping things consistent will help relieve the anxiety your pets may feel about your absence.
Our pets all have their unique personalities and things they like and dislike. Buster, for instance, is a cuddler. After dinner, our big, tough German Shepherd gives his best puppy eyes until you invite him up on the sofa for some snuggling. Ty, on the other hand, believes people were put on Earth to feed him, walk him, and scratch him – but only when he indicates he’s interested in receiving affection. Try cuddling Ty like you would Buster, and you’d have a very unhappy pooch on your hands! That’s why it’s important to give your sitter some insights into your pet’s personality and preferences.
Just like kids, dogs will test whether the rules still apply while you’re gone. Make sure your sitter knows if you want your pup on the couch, sleeping in your bed, or sharing dinner from the table. Last time we left the boys with a sitter, Ty tried to convince her he gets fed three times a day!
If your dog gets walked every day, leave your sitter a map indicating some of your favorite routes and mark your dog’s preferred spots to visit. Let her know approximately how long you spend on your trek and what equipment (leash, harness, treats) you use.
If your pet has a yard they play in, let your sitter know how that works – must time outside be supervised, will your dog expect her to throw the frisbee or ball, and how long does your dog expect to play outside.
Even though your pet will be staying home, pack a bag where the sitter can easily find all their favorite things. Don’t forget to include special toys, a few treats, and an old t-shirt or blanket that smells like you.
Though leaving your pet behind may be breaking your heart, sobbing and wailing will only create anxiety for your pet. Take a quick walk or play a game of fetch and then keep your departure casual. Hopefully your pet will be snoozing and you can slip out without him noticing.
This post was written for Richard, who’s preparing to travel without his dog for ten days. He’s looking forward to having is daughter pet sit his spoiled pooch and sent us an email looking for some tips to make things easier for them both. Do you have any suggestions that could help?