Top 10 Traits of a Pet Sitter Who Won’t Kill Your Dog

As the time draws closer when I’ll be leaving Honey in the care of a pet sitter for a whole month, I start to wonder. How do I really know if my pet sitter is trustworthy?

Honey the Golden Retriever is said I'm leaving her with a pet sitter when I go to Panama.

What do you mean you’re going to Panama without me?


Top 10 Pet Sitter Traits

The best pet sitter…

10. smells faintly of bacon and sardines .

9. never runs around trying to find her keys, glasses, or small child.

8. writes your travel dates in her calendar immediately and looks in her calendar every day.

7. has a really clean car so you know she won’t take your dog anywhere unless it’s an emergency.

6. loves to destroy property—especially yours, and particularly if she’s locked out of your house when it’s time to feed and walk your dog.

Honey the Golden Retriever will sleep on the bed when the pet sitter comes.

Well at least I’ll get to sleep on the bed.

5. looks forward to sharing the bed.

4. doesn’t drink so you know she won’t be giving your dog beer because it’s funny.

3. has a strong mechanical aptitude for figuring out unusual harnesses, collars, and leashes.

2. keeps a pair of sweat pants in her car so she can roll all over the floor with your dog without worrying she’ll look like an Ewok by the time she returns to her job.

And the #1 Top Trait of a Pet Sitter Who Won’t Kill Your Dog?

1. She loves your dog as much as you do.  And your dog loves her as much as she loves you.

More Thoughts on Good Pet Sitters

This post was inspired by the sad story of a friend whose pet sitter forgot she was supposed to pet sit (don’t worry, everyone was okay in the end) and another friend’s Facebook post about someone whose dog died because the pet sitter left him in the car on a hot day.

I don’t mean to make light of these awful stories by writing a humorous post. But maybe there’s some truth in the jokes that will help someone find the best person to care for their well-loved pet.

I’ve had good luck with pet sitters. One vet student did need to call a locksmith when we left her a newly cut key that didn’t work. I was so thankful for her initiative and happy to pay the bill.

But another pet sitter got bored in my house without a television so she took my 16-year-old, deaf, blind, and reactive dog to visit her family and their many cats, dogs, and farmyard critters. I guess that’s why she felt the need to give my dog beer. I know I needed one when I heard the story months later.

In September, I’ll be leaving Honey behind when I go to Panama.

Honey the Golden Retriever is happy we're leaving her with a pet sitter.

Oh, you mean my special friend will be staying with me? Hooray! Are you sure you don’t want to leave a few days early?

Luckily, my close friend also happens to be a great pet sitter. And best of all, the #1 Top Trait of a Pet Sitter describes her perfectly.

Your Turn: Have you left your animals with a pet sitter? How did you know they were good?

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  1. Have FUN!! And watch out for Sharknado!!!!! Honey will be fine!!XOXO

    • Oh dear, you mean I actually have to worry about sharks too! And not just bad tv movies? :)

      Maybe I should just stay home.

  2. We’ve also had really good luck with pet sitters. We’ve had dog walkers for many years, so we really get to test them out as walkers first. If they are reliable there and the dogs anxious to go on the walks with them, well that’s a great sign. We also once had a housekeeper who also pet sat for us…so I knew she’d take care of the house too :)

  3. We know Honey will be fine but we bet you will really miss her. Have a tremendous Thursday.
    Best wishes Molly

  4. Nothing is better than being able to travel knowing that your dog is well taken care of. I absolutely loved all of the animals that I cared for like they were my own when I was a pet sitter. I’ve always asked my pet sitters to give me a call or text me on their first visit – that way I’m certain that they got in the house and they remembered they were taking care of my animals – it helps to hire someone that does it for a living, they are more inclined to have you on their calendar :) I’m sure Honey will be in good hands!

    • “Cared for like they were my own…” Yes, that’s the key to a great pet sitter.

      My friend is fairly new to pet sitting. And she does it part time while working full time elsewhere. But she’s one of the few people I know who will definitely care for Honey as well as I do, or better.

  5. Have a great trip. I’ve never been to Panama, but I visited Costa Rica a few years ago. It was beautiful and one of my favorite trips. I’ve used pet sitters a couple of times. My own son, who was then college aged, was the WORST. I felt so bad for Lightning when we got home. It took him weeks to get over the anxiety of being left alone with his biggest “brother”. A better choice was a lady (actually a school teacher) who does pet sitting in the summer. She did really good with one exception – my dogs like to sleep on the bed, and she preferred them not. You’re #5 was an excellent point. So they were shut out of the bedroom at night. In stead, they slept on the sofa, which prior to our trip, they stayed off of. Now my leather sofa has scratches on it… and learn, I guess. I have not doubt that Honey will be in excellent hands while you are on your trip. :)

    • I certainly hope we enjoy sailing in Panama has much as you enjoyed Costa Rica.

      Interesting point about your son being a poor pet sitter. Just because someone loves you (and your pet) doesn’t mean they have the motivation, time, or skill to make a good sitter.

      Sorry your sofa paid the price for your sleep-alone pet sitter. She didn’t know what she was missing, huh?

  6. It’s me again – I forgot to tell you about the best experience I had with a pet sitter. She has a large familiy and was actually boarding the dogs at her house, with her dogs. My dogs already knew hers and they got along. She sent me a message one day that Thumper had gone swimming with her kids. What, I asked? Her kids were playing in their pool, and Thumper decided to jump in with them. She didn’t freak out or mind a wet dog. I was freaking out – I was thinking OMG what if he tears up the pool (I thought it had a liner). She said he was having fun and the kids loved it too. That’s how I knew she was a good sitter.

  7. I’m terrified to leave my dogs with anyone, especially after the two stories you highlighted. Since we are going to a wedding soon, I’ve enlisted three people to care for my dogs. One to feed them in the morning, one to feed them at night and one to stay at the house. The dogs will not get walks, but I’m okay with that, I’d much rather have a dog that is bored for a couple of days then to have something happen due to someone not being responsible.

    I am glad that you have a great sitter, I bet that brings you a lot of comfort.

    • Sounds like Sampson and Delilah will get plenty of mental stimulation just from keeping track of three pet sitters. They’ll probably be exhausted by the time you get home. :)

  8. Having to leave us at home is the biggest problem for Mom. If her cousin can watch us, she is okay with that but last time we had a pet sitter and Mom was a wreck. It worked out just fine and she was great but it is totally stressful. A neighbor had a dog at the kennel, a kennel with high ratings that she visited twice and when she went to pick up her dog, they denied ever having it there and then she found out it got loose and we hit by a car and killed, then I read the post about the cat sitter simply forgetting to watch the cats…it makes us very uneasy!

    • I’ve never cared for kenneling a dog. It works for some people. But to me it feels like you’re taking away two pillars of stability for your dog–your presence and their familiar setting.

      If you can find that awesome pet sitter like the vet student or my friend we use now, (or your Mom’s cousin), I think that’s the best option.

      Lucky you, Emma. Your Mom’s worry about pet sitters must mean you get to travel with her or stay home together. That’s not too bad.

  9. I thought I’d better read this post since I’m doing some pet sitting in August and September. Seriously, how do you forget that you are supposed to care for someone else’s pet? Why would you EVER leave a dog in a car – much less a hot car? And who the f*ck gives a dog beer? Wow!

    • You would be surprised at all of the idiots out there. It’s always a good idea to hire someone who does this service as a career. Just my thoughts.

  10. I’ve been a professional pet sitter for the past eight years, yet I feel your anxiety. I won’t leave my dog with a pet sitter. Crazy, right? I know I’M a good pet sitter, but how can I trust anyone will be as awesome as I am? I’m kind of ridiculous. There are some irresponsible pet sitters out there, but if you’ve done your homework, and it seems you have, all will be well! I always have a list of references available, and I’m pretty shocked that my references have only been called upon a handful of times.

    I usually text my clients pics of their pets so they know they are content and I didn’t forget to come, and I always let them know that they can feel free to call any time to check in. I definitely love 99% of the animals as much as their owners do (there’s always that 1%…lol). Even so, all are equally treated with lots of love.

    Your list of 10 is awesome. Don’t forget that a proper pet sitter will want to kiss all animals on the lips!

  11. Finding someone to sit with your pets can be really, really hard. Especially when you need someone you can trust to do the ‘right thing’ with them. I, too, have been lucky lately with a good friend who loves Sage. Honey will be fine and you’ll have a wonderful trip!

  12. Hey Pamela, nice job on this post. I do hope you don’t mind that I won’t be RTing it through Triberr this one time as my friends follow me on Twitter and could (possibly) see it. I’m being very protective of what they see and read right now.

    I have had nothing but positive experiences with pet sitters and am friends with some. I know Honey will be just fine while you’re away. I hope you enjoy your trip.

  13. When I only had Wilson, I used to leave him with a friend he knew very well and who owned Wilson’s BFF. That worked out pretty well. Being me, I still worried, but I knew Wilson was with someone he was comfortable with (he’s shy).

    Since we have added Jimmy, we have only taken road-trip vacations where we could bring the dogs along. That’s fun, but certainly not nearly as exotic as Panama! Also, we own a condo in Myrtle Beach and feel obligated to use a lot of our vacation time there, so again, the dogs come along.

    My next door neighbor hired a dog sitter that was supposed to provide her 2 super high energy Brittanies with 30 minute walks each day (not nearly enough but better than nothing). Their collars were fitted with GPS units and my neighbor could track their walks online. They were getting 5 minute little jaunts to the corner and back! And she was paying extra for the long walks!

    And finally, just this morning, that same neighbor is dog-sitting for another neighbor. The dog is staying at her house (with a fenced yard). I am in my kitchen and out of the corner of my eye, see something streak past behind my fence. At first I thought it was the fox, but I looked again because the colors seemed wrong. Sure enough, there goes the guest dog, running free, after having jumped my neighbor’s fence! I immediately ran and got my neighbor and within a few minutes we had the dog back. But still, it was a scary few minutes and my poor neighbor was frazzled from almost losing someone else’s dog.

    I have a hard time trusting anyone with my dogs. I’ve made my own mistakes with them and that’s bad enough. Fortunately, corgis aren’t much good at jumping fences!

  14. Julie Blackwelder says:

    When I have to leave for an extended period of time I have a friend, who is retired and lives with her son and granddaughter, come live at my house and take care of my 4 dogs and 2 cats. She house sits, gets the mail, takes phone messages and takes care of the animals. Since I have 2/3 of an acre fenced back yard walks/exercise is not an issue. Two or 3 times a day, depending on weather, she sits in a comfortable chair in the shade with a large iced tea and reads while everyone enjoys their back yard romp. The kiddie pool I got from WalMart has to be emptied and refilled at least once a day but that is the most strenuous thing she has to do. She enjoys the month long vacation away from her son and granddaughter and they appreciate her cooking a lot more when she goes back home. I leave the freezer and fridge well stocked and pay her only $20 a day, which she always tries to refuse to take. I explain how this is a great bargain for me and she says it is a vacation for her and she appreciates the pocket money.

    I suggest anyone in my position look for someone retired that might appreciate a similar deal.

  15. Sue @ The Golden Life says:

    Wow! Panama! That will be quite a trip! And Honey will be fine with your friend.

    I found our pet sitters on the International Pet Sitters Association website several years ago. Corinne owns/runs the business but has several folks working for her. At the time I hired her, Jennifer was one of the two “girls” who were doing the sits in my area. Andrea was the other, and they are best friends since childhood. Before I asked either of them to stay with Callie and Shadow while Sam and I went to his son’s college graduation in Ohio, I wanted to be sure they could “handle” my two super-hyper dogs for just a few hours at different times of the day. They both did great. As soon as they got to the house, they texted me at work. I took a short break and called them back while they were here at the house.

    Oh, and before I even agreed to the first 1/2 hour visit, I interviewed the girls here at the house so I could see how they interacted with the dogs. As you know, most Goldens are “equal-opportunity people lovers”, so I wanted to see how the girls would handle my girls. Well, long story short, all 3 of my girls LOVE their Auntie Andrea and Auntie Jennifer and are loved back. I don’t know what I would do without them! With Ducky added to the mix, we haven’t left them for more than a few hours, but only because I don’t want Andrea to have to cope with Ducky’s attitude toward Shadow for a full 12 hours at a time. It’s stressful enough for me. I’ll have to have a long talk with Andrea before that happens to be sure she feels she can deal with it. Who knows? Maybe Ducky will be a perfect little angel for Andrea.

  16. Can’t believe you had a bad experience too. That must have been so stressful for Shadow (and for you when you found out!) Glad you found a new sitter that you absolutely trust and that Honey adores for your upcoming trip.

    A whole month, huh? Should we calling you Panama Pam? 😉

  17. We’ve left our dogs in the care of petsitters, and they survived. However, we always found little signs of things that hadn’t been right while we were gone. In addition, I’ve seen friend’s petsitters literally “abandon ship” in mid-job (we’ve stepped in). So, for now, we’ve given up on petsitters. It limits what we can do… but that’s okay with me.

    I met a woman in a course recently who sounded like the *ideal* petsitter. If she lived anywhere near me, I’d trust her. Maybe I’ll find someone near me someday!

    Panama – that sounds like fun!

  18. Nanny and grampy usually look after me. Grampy sneaks me treats and gives me bellyrubs while nanny looks after all the practical stuff. its the perfect combo.
    Hope you have a great time, and hope Honey and the sitter have fun too!

  19. I’m sure it can be almost as difficult as leaving your children with a babysitter, but for a whole month!!! I’d be worried sick, especially after reading those horror stories! Thank goodness for close friends.

  20. You’re lucky you found a great one :) I’ve been looking for that perfect pet sitter for a long time and still haven’t found one that I’d be comfortable with. For now, we have more peace of mind leaving them in the dog kennels but I’m still on the hunt (if anyone knows of a good one in Melbourne, Australia, let me know!)

  21. Thanks for the info. Honey you look so cute.

  22. Our two most recent pet sitters, my sister and a close friend, don’t pass all 10 traits, but they both pass #1 and that is also the most important to me. I also know neither of them would ever take my dogs anywhere without checking with us first, and even though they might have a glass of wine, they would never give any to the pets! My friend also came through for us when we were in a pinch recently, and almost had to cancel our plans, because the pet sitter we were supposed to have couldn’t even come and meet us and our pets ahead of time!

  23. Great Post Pamela. Honey is a lucky girl and I loved reading your clever tips for finding a good sitter. I’ll be sharing this!


  1. […] routine as much as possible to keep theirs the same). Because of this, I really loved Pamela’s Top 10 Traits of a Pet Sitter Who Won’t Kill Your Dog over at Something Wagging This Way […]

  2. […] week, Pamela at Something Wagging This Way Comes shared a tongue-in-cheek post called Top 10 Traits of a Pet Sitter Who Won’t Kill Your Dog. She took a humorous look at the topic but cited some heart-wrenching examples to illustrate the […]