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The Ultimate Guide To Being A Well-Prepared Dog Sitter


Written by Wag! Staff

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 11/25/2020, edited: 01/12/2023


The fact that you've found this page means you have what it takes to be an awesome pet sitter — dedication. But how can you be a well-prepared pet sitter? One who’s ready to deal with any unexpected challenge that could come your way? We’ve created this guide to ensure you're prepared for any pet sitting fiasco life could throw at you.

Tips for your first meeting with a new dog sitting client

Before the dog sitting session begins, you'll likely meet with the pet parent to introduce yourself to the dog, tour the home, and discuss the dog's care needs. Here are some tips for ensuring that meeting goes without a hitch!

Meeting the pet parent

First things first: it’s time to say hello to the pet parent. Remember, this person is looking for someone they can trust to look after their fur-kid, not to mention welcome into their home while they’re away, so making a good impression is vital. 

First meetings with strangers can always be a little awkward, but just relax and be yourself. If you can show that you’re friendly, organized, and a bona fide dog lover, you’ll go a long way toward putting the client’s mind at ease.

The pet parent will also want to know a bit more about you, so you may want to fill them in on:

  • Any pets you have (or that you have had in the past)
  • Your experience caring for pets
  • Any special experience or qualifications you may have, such as pet first aid training
  • What you love about dogs and why you’re excited about starting as a pet sitter

Meeting the dog

If you’re starting your career as a pet sitter, we’re willing to bet that you absolutely love meeting new dogs. This will no doubt be the part of the first meeting you’re looking forward to the most, so feel free to shower the pup with lots of attention and cuddles.

The pet parent will have already provided details of their pet’s personality and how comfortable they are meeting new people. If the dog is anxious or unsure, watch their body language closely and don’t rush them — let them get to know you at their own pace. Play your cards right, and you and the pup will be best buds in no time!

Here are a few tips for safely introducing yourself to a new dog:

  • Stand or position yourself by the dog's side instead of approaching them directly.
  • Let the dog approach you first.
  • Before attempting to pet the dog, hold out your hand and let them have a sniff.
  • Use a soft, gentle tone and movements when interacting with the dog.
  • Avoid making intense or prolonged eye contact — this can make dogs uncomfortable.

Now that we've covered the first meeting, let's dive into some preparation tips for the service itself.

Make a pet parent questionnaire

Having your clients fill out a questionnaire may sound excessive, but hear us out. Not only will this act as a reference sheet while you're pet sitting, but it will also reassure your clients that their fur-baby is in good hands. Below are some questions we suggest including on your questionnaire:

  • Are any areas in the home off-limits to pups?
  • Where do you keep the cleaning supplies and towels?
  • How do you dispose of pet waste? 
  • Where is the scooper located?
  • Does your pet have any medical conditions or allergies?
  • Are your pets housebroken?
  • How many walks and potty breaks do your pets usually take each day?
  • Does Fido get along with other animals?
  • Are any of your pets prone to escape attempts?
  • Where is your pet's favorite hiding place?
  • Other than pet care, are there any household duties expected of me? (e.g., cleaning, watering plants, checking the mail, or taking the trash out?)
  • Do your pets take any medications? What kind and how often? Should these medications be given before, during, or after mealtime?
  • Does Fido have any behavioral problems I should know about?
  • What type of food does Fido eat? How much food is a typical serving for them? 
  • How often do you feed your pets?
  • Where are your pet's food and medications stored?
  • Are they allowed treats or human food? What kinds?

Store the questionnaire and consultation notes in your pet sitting notebook for easy access.

a person writing in a notebook with a pen

Keep a notebook handy

Speaking of a pet sitting notebook, we highly suggest you get one and keep it with you when you’re working. Your notebook should be tailored for your specific needs and work as a reference for contact info and specifics about the pet's day. Write down important phone numbers of the vet, pet parents, and neighbors you may need to reach out to if there's a problem. 

Use your notebook to log your arrival and departure times, as well as when the pet last ate, took their meds, or went for a walk. Note anything unusual like excessive scratching, changes in appetite, or diarrhea.

Also jot down stuff that isn't an emergency but is worth mentioning to the pet parents. This log will be an invaluable tool if the pet parents have questions about their pet's day or want to know when they last pottied.

Related: 12 Essential Safety Tips for Pet Sitters

small fluffy white dog eating a treat on the bed

Bring some healthy treats along

Always have some treats in your pocket, especially when meeting a client. Not only do treats help you make friends with canine clients, but they're "furrific" for bribing hard-headed pups to come inside after backyard playtime.

Be sure to ask their pet parents if it's okay to give them a snack. It's a good idea to choose hypoallergenic and grain-free treats since some dogs may have allergies.

Work with your client to create an emergency plan

Talk to your client about a plan of action should an emergency arise. Fires, health emergencies, and natural disasters happen — you need to know what to do if they happen on your watch.

Ask your client the following questions:

  • What is your vet's name, address, and phone number?
  • Who should I call if there is an emergency?
  • Are there any relatives, neighbors, or nearby friends I should reach out to?
  • Where should I take your pets in the event of a natural disaster? Is there a storm shelter nearby?
  • Where is your first aid kit?
  • Where is your fire extinguisher?
  • Where is the pet carrier located should we need to evacuate?
Sitter and dog snuggling on the bed while the sitter talks on the phone

Keep an open line of communication

If you take nothing else from this article, let it be this. Communication is crucial when you’re caring for someone else’s pet. That’s their baby, and naturally, they’re going to worry. Keep your notifications on, and don’t hesitate to call the pet parents immediately if something happens. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you need to.

Your job is to give their pet the best care “pawssible” — occasionally, that might mean late-night messages or calling someone to lend a hand.

Related: How Often Should I Send Pet Parents Updates?

Know how to handle anxiety and other behavior problems

How do you handle anxiety while dog sitting? The best way to soothe an anxious pup during a dog sitting service is to follow a detailed care plan that caters to their needs.

Chatting with the pet parent beforehand about their dog's temperament will go a long way toward keeping them cool, calm, and collected while their humans are away. Here are a few questions you should ask:

  • Are there any undesirable or "bad" behaviors I should watch out for?
  • What are your dog's triggers? (e.g., people passing by the window, other dogs barking, etc.)
  • When does your dog tend to exhibit this behavior? (e.g., when you're out of the house, in the morning, etc.)
  • How do you typically correct the behavior?
  • What are your dog's favorite toys, games, and activities?
  • Do you use or recommend any anxiety products for your dog?

Once you've learned the dog's triggers, you can avoid situations that might result in undesirable behaviors. Knowing the dog's favorite toys and games will also come in handy if you need to distract them.

Related: 3 Dog Training Certifications to Level Up Your Pet Care Biz

Consider the weather

Providing adequate exercise is a key part of your job as a dependable dog sitter, but you'll need to be prepared for inclement weather. Here are our top tips for dealing with rain, extreme heat, and extreme cold.


While some dogs "pawsitively" love frolicking in a light rain, heavy storms can spell disaster for dogs. Here are a few tips to ensure you're prepared come storm or shine:

  • Check the weather forecast. If you have an iPhone, the Weather app provides up-to-the-minute updates and even lets you know approximate times that rain conditions will stop and start. Turn on notifications, and plan your walks and outings accordingly.

  • Ask the pet parent if they have rain gear for their dog. If they do, ask your client to set them out or tell you where you can find them in case you need them.

  • Avoid getting wet as much as you can. Try to avoid wet conditions as much as possible on your walks. If the dog doesn't have any rain gear, use an umbrella, or try to walk in covered areas.

  • Dry off the dog after a walk. Wet fur and skin can cause health issues like fungal infections, hot spots, and matted fur. Bring along a towel and dry them off thoroughly before heading indoors.

Extreme heat

How hot is too hot to walk a dog? Temps of just 85 degrees Fahrenheit can cause adverse effects, like heat exhaustion and paw injuries. Here are a few ways to prepare for hot weather as a dog sitter:

  • Ask your client whether they have summer booties for their dog. If they do have booties, ask where they're located in case you need to use them.

  • Avoid walking dogs during the hottest part of the day. If your client asks you to walk their dog in extreme heat, remind them of the dangers and ask if you can walk their dog at a different time.

  • Exercise and play games indoors. Puzzle toys, snuffle mats, and other interactive games are a "furrific" way to ensure your four-legged client gets the physical and mental stimulation they need on hot days.

  • Steer clear of pavement and asphalt. If you need to walk a dog in temperatures higher than 85 degrees, avoid walking on the pavement, especially if the dog you're sitting doesn't have booties. Try to walk in the grass to avoid paw injuries and burns.

  • Stick to the shade. To prevent overheating, try to walk in shaded areas out of direct sunlight if you can.

  • Provide plenty of fresh drinking water. Bringing a collapsible bowl and spare bottle of water with you is always a "grrreat" idea when you're out and about with a four-legged client.

Extreme cold

Even without snow or sleet, cold conditions can be dangerous for dogs. Here are a few tips for keeping pups safe on winter walks:

  • Ask your client if the dog has winter booties, sweaters, coats, and other accessories. If they do, ask them to set these out in case you need to use them.

  • Limit the dog's exposure to cold conditions. Spending too much time in the cold can increase a dog's risk of hypothermia, frostbite, and other conditions.

  • Stay dry. Wet fur and skin can cause a dog's body temperature to drop quickly, increasing their risk of hypothermia.

  • Know the signs of hypothermia. Trembling, shallow breathing, confusion, dilated pupils, pale gums, and lethargy are all telltale signs of hypothermia in dogs.

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Comments (4)



Thank you for all the great tips and suggestions! They are very helpful, thank you!

Jessica Pividori


Great tips!!!

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