Today’s writer is Robbi Hess, Story Editor at Positively Woof. Robbi is sharing tips on how to choose a pet sitter and how to ensure your dog receives sensory enrichment.

Pet sitters offer peace of mind to pet parents who work outside of the home, who travel for work or who go on vacation at spots their dog simply cannot accompany them. When faced with, “Who will watch our precious pup(s) when we’re away” many pet parents turn to local pet sitters.

There are many ways to find a pet sitter:

  1. Word of mouth
  2. Asking for referrals on social media
  3. Doing a Google search for “pet sitters where I live (insert your location)

Finding a pet sitter is only the first step in the process of hiring a pet sitter. Hiring a pet sitter is as important a process as is hiring a babysitter or finding a daycare for your children. A pet sitter needs to be a fit for both your budget and for the personality of your pet. You may also need a pet sitter who will watch your dog and other pets you have in the house and they need to be comfortable with that.

How To Choose A Pet Sitter: 3 Ways To Ensure Your Dog Is Receiving Sensory Enrichment

When choosing a pet sitter for your fur babies, here are items to consider:

  1. The pet sitter’s recommendations and referrals
  2. How the pet sitter interacts with your pets when he or she comes to pay an initial visit
  3. The price he or she charges
  4. The pet sitter’s availability
  5. How comfortable you feel with the potential pet sitter. Don’t ignore your intuitive feelings — if you’re not completely comfortable during your initial meetings, chances are you won’t be comfortable leaving your dog home alone with this pet sitter. If that’s the case, interview a few more pet sitters until you find the right fit.

Just as you wouldn’t want to hire a babysitter or send your child to a daycare center who plopped the kids in front of a television with inappropriate shows on, you don’t want to entrust your pets to a sitter who won’t interact with them and keep them entertained. Dogs require sensory and physical enrichment in order to thrive and to help prevent “bad” behaviors because they’re bored.

Talk with your pet sitter about what type of sensory enrichment he or she will provide your dog(s) while spending time with them. Offer these suggestions to the pet sitter as sensory enrichment possibilities. These sensory enrichment options are also ideal for you, as a pet parent, to involve your dog in when you’re home with him.

Snuffle mats. When you sprinkle your dog’s favorite treats or snacks or kibble into a snuffle mat, she will use her nose to ferret out the treats. This will help her with “nose work” as well as keep her entertained when you’re away. If you have a dog who loves nose work, you can hide treats around the house before you leave your dog home alone and she can spend the day searching the treats. Note: Make certain you know how many treats you’ve hidden and where so you can check when you get home to assure yourself the treats have been found! This is a great way for the pet sitter to provide sensory enrichment for your pup. 

DOGTV programming. If your dog is fine left home alone as long as he has something to listen to and to watch, turn on DOGTV programming to keep him company. The sights and sounds of the DOGTV programming is designed to keep your dog entertained and provide him sensory enrichment. The programming offers relaxation sounds, stimulation sounds and exposure to sounds designed to help him overcome any fears he may have of items like a vacuum cleaner or street sounds. Don’t leave your dog home alone in an empty, quiet house because then a dog who is a little bit anxious may become even more so when all he hears are sounds from the out-of-doors that he can’t identify; this could lead to incessant barking. 

Chew toys. Dogs sense the world around them through their eyes, nose and their mouth. Like toddlers, dogs always seem to want to taste items — whether they are supposed to chew that item or not! Give your dog toys that are appealing to his sense of taste and to his sense of wanting to chew. Some dogs are more chew-motivated than others and enjoy items like rope toys, toys with raised surfaces designed to help clean his teeth while he chews and others like stuffed toys with squeakers. Discover which toys your dog prefers and make sure he has access to them. Dogs enjoy playing with toys whether they’re home alone or if you’re in the room with them. Note: Swap out toys occasionally. If your dog plays with the same toys all the time, he will inevitably become bored with them. Swapping out toys will keep him entertained and the toys will seem new to him again.

When leaving your dog home with a pet sitter, ask what kind of sensory enrichment the sitter provides, tell the sitter about the sensory enrichment items you have in your home and make staying home with the sitter an event your dog looks forward to!

What advice can you offer a pet parent who is hiring a pet sitter for the first time?

Hey Shelter and Rescue Operators, and Organizations, ask us how playing DOGTV in your facility will help to calm dogs and alleviate their stress while they’re waiting for their forever homes. Also, grab your free fourteen day trial of DOGTV to play at the shelter.