When you need to go out of town for work or a vacation you want someone you can trust and that is reliable to care for your home and pets. Naturally people look to neighbors, friends, and family. Of course you can trust them, but it may not always be the best choice. Unless of course, your neighbor owns a pet sitting company!
About 70% of people calling us say they have used a family member, co-worker, neighborhood kid, or someone from sites like Rover, care.com, etc in the past. When asked how their experience was we’ve gotten responses from “it was fine, but they came at random times throughout the day“, ” I don’t think my dogs got as much attention as I’d like“, “I need someone more reliable“, to flat out horror stories! Don’t worry we will elaborate on some stories in a minute!
First Things First
Why do people use a neighbor, friend, or family member to watch their pets instead of hiring a professional?
1. It seems easier to ask a neighbor or friend than to set up a 30 minute consultation through a company.
2. it’s less expensive and sometimes practically free! Only if everything goes well though. You might end up with a pricey vet visit, because of lack of awareness or training.
Yeah sure, who doesn’t like to save money, but at the expense of my beloved pets and home with absolutely everything I own?? I think I will pay the going rate to get peace of mind. Afterall, that feeling really is PRICELESS.
So why don’t these family members or friends do a great job when sometimes they are the ones who offer?
People offer to care for your pets for many reasons. Maybe your neighbor volunteered her son because he plays too many video games during school break and he needs to get out and make a little money. Johnny doesn’t really want to, but no one argues with mom.
Maybe the person needs to make a little extra cash and they see it as an easy opportunity to do so. Sometimes we guilt people into it or they feel obligated because they are family or close friends. The common denominator with all of these scenarios is it’s not their JOB or main priority!
These people may adore pets, but the truth is they don’t really have anything riding on the line. Sure they will try to do a good job, but they have so many other “priorities” on their mind they may forget to lock the door behind them, or even worse, forget they had to visit at all! Oh believe me it’s happened!
I had a friend, and she was telling me how she pet sits like us. She said the neighbor asked her to watch her two labs for a few days, no problem! She thought it was going to be easy and she wanted to help out. However, visiting these labs three times a day wasn’t her main priority. She proceeds to tell me how easy it is as I pretend not to get offended, because clearly she should start her own business at this point! “I just put food in their bowl and let them out.”
Oh and she did mention while they are out back walking around trying to find something to do she has a couple cigarettes. That’s it! She also told me how obnoxious it was that they jump all over her and she has to go a couple hours earlier than expected so she can get back home in time to change into her nice clothes before her evening plans. Oh and yes while she is telling me how great a caregiver she is she realizes mid sentence she forgot to go see them this morning….it is almost NOON!!!
I begged her to never EVER watch anyone’s pets again!
When neighbors, family, or friends watch your pets you probably don’t pay them anywhere close to what it’s worth to do the job, if you’re paying them at all. A big problem with paying them very little or nothing is you can’t really pull out the handbook for how to care for your house and pets. You’ll be lucky if they come on time. Hell, you probably just told them to come whenever to make it easy or more convenient for them and not your dogs. Want a general idea of how much pet sitting costs?
The Samurai Warrior
A recent client that signed up told me about a terrible experience she had with a neighbor. While on their trip the lady called her saying that her two pitbulls were scared of her teenage son and didn’t like him for some reason, so she felt uncomfortable to continue. So they had to return home early, because they had no one else to care for their pets. When they returned they discussed what was going on. The neighbor told the client that her son took her husbands military sword off of the wall and was playing with it and the dogs started to act weird around him. Uhhhh….There is so much liability with this story I just can’t…
I had a co worker who smuggled a dog into work once. I asked her if it was hers and she said no she was “pet sitting”. *sigh* Her story was she was out partying with a friend and ended up getting too drunk to drive back home. Luckily she brought the dog to her friends house before they went out, so in the morning she just brought the dog in with her. Her house was about 45 min away and she couldn’t get home in time to drop off the dog. She said she was going to take her home at lunch to feed her…
Here are a few more incidents that we have heard of:
- Client accidentally closed cat off in closet. Neighbor didn’t look for the cat because it was shy. When client came home a couple days later the cat was barely breathing and had to be rushed to the ER. Side note: she was ok. Do you have shy pets? Most companies make it madatory to ID all pets.
- Professional pet sitter was walking clients dogs and saw two little girls coming out of a house with 2 dogs. One of the dogs went crazy seeing the pet sitter with her dog and the little girl drops the leash and the dog charges the pet sitter’s dog. The pet sitter was able to keep her dog from being injured all while the little girl was screaming jumping up and down on the porch.
- Friend forgot dog was allergic to chicken and brought them some treats. Dog had an allergic reaction and was throwing up and wasn’t active. The friend just thought they were tired and hot. After a while of this they finally called the client and client told them to go to ER. First aid and CPR helps us to evaluate and see symptoms early on.
- Neighbor didn’t think the dog’s change in appetite was an issue. On the next visit found him listless and took him to the vet, he had bloat (twisted stomach). She thought it may have been caused from drinking too much water and playing. He was ok. A trained professional would have noticed symptoms quickly.
- Sitter from a site was hired to play and walk the dogs multiple times a day. The camera caught her visiting for roughly 10 minutes and no walks. The dogs were jumping all over her as she was trying to leave.
- Friend says they can watch client’s dogs while they are away for their destination wedding. A few days before they leave friend backs out leaving the bride to be stressing even more than she was originally. Companies typically don’t have black out dates and will never cancel on you.
- Neighbor leaves dogs unattended out back. They escape and neighbor searches for them all day. Client didn’t know anything about them escaping until they returned home. Companies do not leave pets unattended and would notify client of the situation immediately.
Continued Education & Training
Most people you find on sitter sites (rover, care, sittercity), family, and neighbors who offer to watch your pets say “I’ve been around pets all my life”. This is usually their sole qualification. A company or individual who does this for a living has been trained in animal behavior, pet CPR and first aid, how to safely break up a fight, knowledgeable on what’s harmful to pets (food, toys), understands many medical issues and signs of symptoms, and understands all kinds of breeds and their specific characteristics, etc. They also will have back up plans in place and insurance and bonding to protect your home and pets. But most of all this is our life, our career, our main income and only focus. Need help finding the perfect care giver?
We aren’t saying you can’t have a good experience with just anyone, it just depends on what level of care you want for your home and pets that determines who you choose.
What is a polite way to tell the new homeowner next door that I’m not interested in committing to regular pet duty for her two dogs. She’s a single lady nurse who works 12 hr shifts. When she moved in a couple of months ago, we met het, and I said if you ever need a neighbor..etc. I didn’t mean letting her dogs out at 9:30 pm every night!!
HI Lori, Just politely tell her that you are busy but have some recommendations for companies that offer this service. Good luck!
If you own an animal, be prepared to pay for their kennel or babysitting care. Too many people want to just dump their animals off on others. If you get an animal, you may not be able to take a week trip. Pet owners want it both ways.
Hi please can anyone help me here, my dog goes next door whilst I work,they have 2 older dogs of the opposite sex, he has been absolutely fine up until a few weeks ago and now he doesn’t want to go there anymore, he also used to go out with them for 5 mins run when I was home but he refuses jay aswell, I’ve asked my neighbors what’s happened they said nothing, but something has and I’m worried sick now because I haven’t got anyone else and he is also a nervous dog around other dogs.
Yes it sounds like something has happened. Hire a dog walker to come let your baby out while you are at work and just let them know he shouldn’t have any other dog interaction.
One time a kid told me they were starting a pet-sitting business and they could take care of all of the animals that live at my house. In my opinion they are irresponsible and no matter how responsible a kid is, they are still a kid and shouldn’t be trusted with the animals. I think they would be okay except for the fact that I live on a farm with over 30 animals including a sassy horse, a 130 pound guard dog, and a rooster. How do I tell them no without seeming rude.
Just tell them thank you for offering, but you need a specific care giver. They will understand.
When feeding someone’s dogs while they are on a business trip, you drive over several times a day, take care of them and don’t get paid for watching them, are you responsible for the damage they might do when you are not there and have gone home?
Marian, yes you could be. If someone is upset, even if it’s a friend or family they may come to you to fix the issue or they may see you were in the wrong for doing something that caused the incident when you weren’t there.
Great article. I am a professional sitter. I meet “friend/neighbor” competition quote regularly and it’s easy for me to get around that, but anyone referring me has issues.
I had a client who I was sharing duties with a neighbor so the client could save money. Neighbor frequently left the front door unlocked or the house alarm unarmed. Dog was well cared for, but when you hire a professional pet sitter, we don’t forget to lock your front door.
I am not a Pet sitter but do it for friends…much cheaper but I LOVE their pets and I Love on them and care for them and send pictures of them to the owners…I dont do anything dangerous with them…right now I have a cat…she is a sweetheart and loves on me as well…I treat them all as family
That’s great. It always nice when you can help out family and friends. The point of the article was to show the differences of friends and family pet sitting vs a company. Not saying these things would happen while in your care but they could and they could happen to a company as well. Just usually with a company you have more in depth systems and policies to follow to prevent it or quickly fix the issue.
Do you know of any professional pet sitter in WPB, FL who would ever agree to caring for an elderly small dog and a long haired cat for a year to 18 months while the owner is out of the country? And only charge $1000 which is $55/ mo for the 18 month period?
I have a friend who claims she found care for her pets. The older dog requires special care.
I am concerned that she did not find reliable professional care.
That amount seems a little too good to be true. I would be curious to know if the dogs were staying at the care takers homes or care taker at the pet owners home. If they are staying at pet owners home I could see a chance of it being so low because they are getting to stay somewhere rent free. You really just have to do your research to make sure you found a good person.