Let me start off by saying: The idea of leaving my fur kids with a total stranger was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life. It was something I had an entire year to prepare for, yet, when the moment came to say goodbye for the evening, I still wasn’t ready.
You see, it all started last year when I received my cousin’s wedding invitation in the mail. Second to the joy I experienced for him and his soon-to-be wife, I knew my regular dog sitters (AKA my parents) would be a little occupied that night. Because, well, they were invited to the wedding too! And unlike my usual “If my dogs can’t come, I’m not going” mentality, I absolutely could NOT miss this wedding.
So, as each month passed, I grew more anxious. Who the heck is going to watch my dogs? After asking around with no luck, it became clear that a website or app was going to be my only choice.
There are several apps that can connect you with dog sitters. You get to see a profile photo, bio, ratings, and reviews. They’re sort of like the Tinder for dog care!
But, I want you to think about Tinder for a moment…
Chances are you’ve heard some dating app horror stories, and you’ve also probably heard about some matches that led to a walk down the aisle. Rover is just like that. Just because a sitter is listed on Rover (or someone has a dating profile) doesn’t mean they’re a great fit for you.
Prior to hiring my sitter, a few close friends shared their amazing experiences with the app. But, I also heard a disturbing news report where dogs were mistreated and, some even died, while in the care of an app-hired pet sitter. EEK! It’s important to realize that CAN happen. But the same can be said for babysitters (you know, the ones who watch human babies). That’s why, when hiring someone to leave your kids with (may they have two legs or four), you have to do your due diligence!
My Experience & Tips When Hiring A Rover Sitter
I’m happy to report that my experience with Rover was wonderful! My dogs loved our sitter, she was extremely respectful, and she even sent photo updates throughout the night to keep us feeling comfortable. Here are my tips when hiring a Rover sitter:
Read Their Bio
The first few things to look at are their background, what they have to offer, and their experience level. Have they been dog sitting for a while or are they just someone who just loves dogs? Is this their business or a side hobby? Just because someone has a dog of their own or gets warm tingly feelings inside when they pet a puppy, that doesn’t mean they’ll be a great sitter. Look for someone with plenty of experience.
Also, identify their strengths. Do they only watch little dogs and you have a big pup? Do they have experience with young puppies or senior canines? Will they just swing by for periodic walks or do they usually spend the night at someone’s house? Make sure their background and expertise match your unique needs.
A Note About Background Checks …
Rover claims that they run a background check on all of their sitters. However, in a recent Canine Journal article, they reported:
“Someone on our team who has personal experience sitting on Rover since 2016, was curious to find out how the background check process works, so she did the “simple background check” which consisted of verifying her birthday and passing within a few clicks.
On the results page, there is an option to upgrade your background check that prompts you to enter your social security number and agree to allow a third party reporting agency which may obtain information about your ‘character, general reputation, personal characteristics and/or mode of living.’ It also says it may contain information about your criminal history, social security verification, motor vehicle records, verification of education or empowerment history.”
The search is conducted by Checkr who also works with other peer to peer services such as Lyft on verification of service providers. Upon agreeing to the search, she passed within a few hours (and was not notified of the status of the check). The only way to find out the result was going to the background check section of her sitting profile.”
While a criminal history won’t tell you how a person will treat your dog, I highly suggest looking for sitters with a Verified Enhanced Background Check badge.
Carefully Read All Reviews (And In Between The Lines)
Reviews are extremely important. You want to make sure other pet parents had an amazing experience with this person. But, don’t just read the review itself. Glance up at the date it was submitted. Were all of the reviews submitted on the same day? If so, that’s a little fishy and they probably have really supportive friends who are willing to say kind things about them! Make sure the review dates are spread out and there are some current ones. Also, make sure that Rover labeled the review as a “Verified Stay.”
Schedule a Phone Interview
In the Rover app, there is a calendar that lets you see the sitter’s available dates, along with a “Book Now” button. Before you even consider booking a sitter, I highly recommend hopping on a phone call (or, better yet, a FaceTime call) with them.
This is your first opportunity to get a feel for their personality. Will they be patient if your pooch barks and caring if he/she is timid? Will they treat your dog as if he/she is their own?
Plus, it’s your time to ask as many questions as possible. Ask about their background, pet sitting experiences, what they would do in an emergency, etc. Some topics to cover:
- How many years have you been a professional pet sitter?
- What kind of dogs do you usually sit for (big, small, etc)?
- Are you licensed and insured?
- Can you give medications? (Get specific about your pet’s unique medical needs)
- Do you know the signs of distress in a pet?
- Do you have an emergency backup plan and what is it?
- Can you follow my specific instructions?
- What are the house key arrangements?
Meet In Person
Meet the sitter beforehand to make sure you all (that includes your dogs) hit it off. If possible, I would recommend setting up this meet and greet for a week or two before the actual puppy sitting date. If you’re traveling and using an out of town sitter (like I was) then you won’t have that luxury. So, ask the sitter to arrive an hour early. I was so pleased when my dogs immediately ran up to our sitter and asked to be pet. They loved her and she loved them!
Clearly Outline Your Rules
In our case, we only needed a sitter for 6 hours (someone to watch them at the hotel while we were gone). Our rule: Don’t leave the room! We stressed this point big time and our sitter was extremely respectful.
Whatever your unique requirements are, make sure to go over them in detail with your sitter. And go over them several times … they should be taking notes! I’ve heard many complaints of sitters who didn’t visit enough for potty breaks and feedings.
Leave Emergency Contact Info
We all hope for the best, but we need to plan for the worst. So, make sure your sitter is armed with your dog’s vet info and health records.
Get Their Real Number
Rover sitters are given a special phone number through the app, which they can use to make calls, send texts, photos, and videos. Before we left the hotel, though, our sitter gave us her real phone number. There was something about having her real number that made me feel better!
Request Photo Updates
Trust me, it will help ease your mind! Here are some of the photos I received:
Set Up A Video Camera
I didn’t personally do this, but if a sitter was coming into my house then I would definitely set up a camera in the common areas (kitchen, living room, and near the doors) for extra security. There are fancy cameras on the market that actually let you speak to your pooch and release treats. If those aren’t in your price range, there are less frilly options.