5 min read

12 Essential Safety Tips for Pet Sitters

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Overview

Pet sitting is a rewarding and often exciting career path, but it can be scary when things don’t go as planned. Adhering to some basic pet sitting safety principles can prevent accidents and help prepare you for emergencies. This guide will delve into some essential pet sitting precautions to ensure you and your four-legged clients have a safe and fun experience.


Ask your clients to supply a list of emergency contacts

The first rule of pet sitting safety is to have all your clients fill out a list of emergency contacts. Hopefully, you won’t need this information, but it’s important to have it in the event of an emergency.

This list should include contact information for:

  • the pet parent while they're away
  • the pet parent's primary veterinarian
  • local relatives
  • neighbors

If this list is supplied as a handwritten note, we recommend taking a photo of it with your smartphone to ensure you have easy access to it in case the note is lost.


Pack a pet sitting supplies kit

Having an emergency pet sitting kit is crucial when caring for an animal in someone else’s home. You never know when an emergency will happen, so it’s best to prepare just in case. These items can help you deal with minor injuries and keep the pet calm in case of emergency.

Every sitter’s kit will look different depending on their needs, but you’ll want to include these items at the very least:

  • Hand sanitizer 
  • A list of emergency contacts for yourself and your furry client
  • Treats
  • Bottled water
  • 1–2 servings of pet food
  • A spare leash
  • Waste bags
  • A towel
  • Emergency medication (if needed)
  • A basic first-aid kit

dog sitter with red hair wearing green shirt lying on white shag carpet next to collie dog

Keep your phone charged and on your person at all times

Locking yourself out of your client's house or getting lost while on a walk is stressful enough, but it can be downright dangerous if you don't have your phone.

Prevent pet sitting mishaps by keeping your phone charged and easily accessible at all times. If you easily misplace your things, consider investing in a phone clip or a fanny pack.


Secure house keys and entry points if you need to leave the home

Keeping a client's key on your person when you're out of the home can be a privacy hazard if the key gets lost. Forgetting to lock the door behind you could also leave your client's home at risk of a break-in.

If you offer pet care services as a Pet Caregiver on the Wag! app, you may work with Pet Parents who use Wag! Lockboxes. These are combination locks that keep the client's key secure while you're out on a walk. Simply place the key inside the lockbox, then scramble all the numbers in the code to ensure no one can retrieve it.

If your client doesn't have a lockbox or similar security measure, ask them what they'd like you do with their key if you need to leave the house. They may ask that you put the key on your own keyring, place it in a secure pocket of your bag, or leave it with the door attendant. Putting the key in your pocket is not recommended since it could easily fall out.


Have a plan for your pet sitting clients in the event of a natural disaster

Weather conditions can be unpredictable. It's important to formulate a plan in case of a natural disaster, particularly if you service an area prone to tornadoes, flooding, or hurricanes.

Have your client show you where they keep the carriers, extra leashes, and other essential pet supplies in case of an emergency. Ideally, you should keep small bills on you and your gas tank at least half full in the event you need to evacuate.


Mind your valuables

Many pet sitters have valuable items, like a laptop or jewelry, on their person while sitting. Always ensure your own valuables are secure while pet sitting. When leaving your client's home, double-check to ensure you don't leave anything behind.

Keep your vehicle locked at all times while sitting. Avoid leaving valuable items in an unlocked vehicle. You may want to secure valuables in your trunk or hide them so they're not visible through the windows.


Get the scoop from previous pet sitters

If you're providing pet sitting services through the Wag! app, you can see notes from previous Pet Caregivers. Be sure to read these before starting the service to learn about the pet's temperament and behavior. You can also ask the pet parent how their pet got along with other pet sitters in the past.

black bulldog lying on couch with a thermometer in their mouth

Know the risks of extreme weather

Before your pet sitting service begins, check weather conditions and pack appropriate clothes. Let's take a closer look at how you can keep yourself and pets safe in extremely hot and cold temperatures.

Heat

Sunny weather is great, but it also increases the risk of of sunburn, dehydration, and heat exhaustion. Certain breeds, like hairless cats and brachycephalic dog breeds, have a higher risk of heat-related illnesses and injuries.

Being able to identify the signs of overheating in pets is crucial, especially if you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors. Symptoms of overheating in pets include:

If you suspect the pet you’re caring for is getting overheated, take them in the house immediately and give them fresh water. Call a vet ASAP if the pet you’re sitting collapses, experiences a seizure, or shows signs of disorientation.

Cold

Extremely cold temperatures can also be a hazard for both pets and people. If you're headed outdoors for some exercise, watch the pet for signs of cold-related illness.

If you're sitting a cat that goes outdoors, you may want to ask the pet parent what to do in the event of inclement weather. You might also want to ask the pet parent about sweaters, boots, and other accessories for their pet.

Signs of hypothermia in pets include:

  • rapid breathing
  • cold to the touch
  • lethargy
  • pale gums
  • labored breathing

If you notice signs of hypothermia, take the pet inside and consult a vet right away.


Use caution when walking at night

If you're dog sitting, you'll need to walk the dog(s) at some point. For your safety, it's best to walk the dog during the day, before the sun goes down.

If you absolutely must walk the dog after dark, take these safety precautions:

  • Tell a trusted, local contact where you'll be and how long you'll be there for.
  • Stick to well-lit areas if possible.
  • Stay alert and monitor your surroundings at all times.
  • Vacate the area ASAP if you notice any sketchy behavior.
  • Bring someone along with you (if you're a Pet Caregiver on the Wag! app, this is called a "Walk-Along").

It can be tempting to carry some form of personal protection with you, like pepper spray. However, this can also put the dog at risk, so think twice about using these measures.


Scratches and bites are risks of the job when pet sitting, but these pet-related injuries are often preventable. Watch your furry clients for signs of fear or aggression. Cowering, fur-raising, tail tucking, and snarling are all signs that you need to back away and leave them be.

Never mess with an animal while they’re eating. Even the most easy-going dogs can suffer from food aggression. Do not let others interact with a dog you are pet sitting — this could not only result in a bite, but also a lawsuit.


Practice good hygiene

Practicing good hygiene is so important, especially if you have multiple four-legged clients. Germs and diseases can quickly spread via touch, so wash your hands frequently, especially when going from one client to the next. If you're unable to wash your hands, hand sanitizer will work in a pinch.


Know when to leave

Safety should be priority number one when pet sitting — and that goes for your safety as well as the pets’. If you arrive to signs of a break-in or an unusual car parked outside the client’s residence, you should leave immediately. 

Contact the police first and your client second if you see signs of forced entry into the home. In the case of an unusual parked car, call the client to see if they are expecting someone; if not, call the police immediately.


Got more questions about safety for pet sitters? Check out Wag!'s Help Center to learn more.



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