10 Questions To Ask A Pet Owner
When you're a pet sitter meeting up with new clients and perhaps entering their home, it’s important to find out a few basic (and a few not so basic) things to ensure you all have a great pet sitting experience. Here are 10 questions I like to know the answer to before being left alone with a new petsitting charge, particularly in the client’s own home.
1 - How much and how often does the pet eat, go outside, go to the toilet?
Probably the most important ones! First you’ll need to know the pet’s basic daily routine. Find out if you’ll need to feed the pet, what food and how much. After feeding, you will need to know their toilet habits. Ensure you know where the pet uses the bathroom and how your client prefers to deal with the result!
Keeping up with the pet’s usual walk schedule is important too - remember to take your plastic bags. ;)
2 - How do you deal with good and bad behaviours?
All good pets deserve treats! Find out what commands the pet can follow and how to reward them. But you need to be prepared to deal if the pet misbehaves too - what does your client usually do? What do they think it is appropriate for you to do?
3 - What is the pet's behaviour like on a walk?
Sometimes the only way you can really find this out is through experience. Some dogs might act differently if there’s a different person on the end of the lead, but you can try and be prepared. How do they deal with loud noises, other animals, and people, and do you need to avoid those if there’s issues? Does the pet walk well on or off a lead? Can you trust them to come to you in an off-leash area? (Probably best to leave the dog on-leash if you’re not sure!)
4 - What are their favourite toys and games?
Playing is almost as important as food and water to a pet! They all have their own favourite things to do and ways to tell you what they want to do. Do they play rough or jump up when excited? (And if there’s an accidental nip during a frenzied game of tug, is there any antiseptic cream available for your poor finger?)
5 - What should you do in case of medical emergency?
This information should be readily available to any pet sitter. Where is their local/preferred vet? I recommend having the vet’s number close at hand - as a note on the fridge, or programmed into your phone.
Also - if the owner is going away for an extended period or will be out of contact range, it is very important to know what you need to do if the worst happens and you’re asked to make a choice to prevent an animal’s suffering. Sad to think about, but it can be a reality, so best to be prepared.
6 - What to do in case the pet gets out when they’re not supposed to?
Uh oh! Someone’s left the gate unlatched and puppy’s done a bolt. Does the pet come when called? Do they have a particular place they like to go when they get out, perhaps a neighbour’s yard? Does the pet try to sneak out in any way? It’s good to know so you can keep an eye on it. ;)
7 - Is there anything the pet is scared of or reacts to?
Loud noises can be terrifying for many animals. Storms, fireworks, nearby building works. Can you do anything to prevent these? Are there any comforting behaviours that you can adopt? Some dogs like to be wrapped in a blanket during a storm, for example.
8 - What to do if you need to clean up a mess?
Mess happens, whether it’s caused by a pet or by your own clumsy hands. Where are the cleaning implements kept? Make sure you know where the carpet cleaner is, just in case.
9 - Is there anything in the house that you need to be aware of?
Imagine the terror of accidentally locking yourself in the backyard while your pet charge is stuck inside! Ensure you’re aware of any little things such as a deadlock that can only open from inside, a sticking door, or even an alarm system that might auto-trigger or need to be disarmed as you enter the house.
Many clients may also invite you to help yourself to a cup of tea and a biscuit while you’re there, but make sure you know what supplies are actually on offer. When doing daycare in a client’s home, I make sure to bring my own lunch and snacks in any case so I’m not tempted by their half-empty packet of Tim-Tams. :)
10 - What should you do if you need to leave for any reason?
Sometimes your own emergencies might happen, or maybe you just need to pop to the shops quickly. Is the pet okay to be left for any period of time? If so, where? Who should you contact if you need to leave for longer? Perhaps a neighbour or a client’s relative could be a helpful contact, make sure you know who to notify if your client will be out of touch.
Of course there will be variations with every single pet and client and home, so it’s important to make sure you are prepared before each job. To help out, I’ve compiled a printable checklist for pet owners to fill out so that you, the pet sitter, can be super organised and informed before you even begin!
Best of luck, and happy pet sitting!