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Is it Safe to Leave Your Dog with a Sitter?

A recent article on the CNN website reported an incident concerning an owner leaving her nine-month-old poodle mix with a sitter she found through the popular platform Rover. The owner took care to interview the potential sitter first and even left Zorro, along with a friend’s dog, at the sitter’s home for a day-long trial run. Things went well, and she left for a five-day trip feeling confident that her dog was in good hands. After the first day, the sitter said her phone had broken (hence no photos) so she was using her computer to send updates. The night before the owner was scheduled to return home, the sitter sent a message saying Zorro had “gotten loose” while she was at her boyfriend’s house an hour away. The owner later found out through a Facebook post from her local animal control that Zorro had actually gone missing at the beginning of the stay (two calls had come in that first day reporting a stray that matched Zorro’s description). Of course, those initial moments and days were crucial to finding Zorro, and sadly, four months later, the owner is still searching for him.

In addition to asking for certifications and experience with dogs (some pet sitters are also vet techs, trainers, etc.), ask what the pet sitter would do in the event of a natural disaster. Wildfires and other natural disasters are so wideread now; you might never had to consider it before. Does the pet sitter have a safe place for your pets to go? Or perhaps you have a place set up in advance. What if your sitter becomes ill and can’t complete the job? What’s the backup plan? Of course, one of the most important things is how the person interacts with your dogs. Do they seem to understand canine body language? Are they gentle, or do they brush your dogs off gruffly when the dogs jump and tell you that you need to show them who’s boss? (If it’s the latter, say buh-bye!) UnderrtsandHow do your dogs respond to the person? Do they seem afraid, aggressive, or friendly? Lastly, although a thorough interview and observation can go a long way, even if you feel good about the sitter, I would recommend having cameras in your home, at least to monitor the first visit or two.

While more than a few reports I’ve read have implicated Rover, I’m sure the platform also has many qualified, dependable sitters as well. And it’s certainly not just Rover that’s had these types of issues. There have been many horrific incidents involving self-employed sitters as well. A post recently came across my Facebook feed about a brachiocephalic dog who had been taken for a walk in the intense heat by a sitter, despite warnings that the type of dog is extremely heat sensitive. The dog died. I cannot begin to imagine the agony of the owners in these situations. I’ve heard of dogs getting off leash and becoming lost, being attacked by another dog because the sitter was walking multiple dogs at once, and more.

What’s a dog owner to do? You could certainly leave your dog at a reputable, established kennel. Or, you could find a pet sitter through a personal recommendation. I prefer to leave my dogs in their home environment as opposed to a kennel, and have a pet sitter I’ve used for years. She’s a member of Pet Sitters International, a certifying body with requirements in both knowledge and ethics. She’s certified in canine CPR and first aid (as yours should be), and pursues behavior and training knowledge on her own. Oh, and my dogs are crazy about her! Although a personal recommendation is a good start, the Pet Sitter’s International website has a helpful, printable checklist of questions to ask here.

Although there’s never a guarantee, doing a thorough check of any potential sitter is well worth the effort. Above all, go with your gut; if something just feels off despite the person’s qualifications, move on to the next candidate. We all deserve to take a few days away from home now and then, and if you’re like me, the only way you could possibly relax and enjoy that time is knowing your dogs are safe and sound. ________________________________________________________________________________ You can find my books/ebooks, seminars (DVD & streaming), and blog at

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