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WHAT MAKES A GOOD PET SITTER: four key skills every pet sitter should have 

Published on
11 Jan 2022
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WHAT MAKES A GOOD PET SITTER: four key skills every pet sitter should have 


Photo via Unsplash by Erda Estremera 

When I was 12, I walked the two miles up the street to visit my regulars. They all had four legs and a tail and greeted me eagerly each afternoon after school. 

I started dog walking and pet sitting to earn some extra money, but this side hustle soon revealed itself as one of my favorite jobs and developed skills and innovation I was not expecting. Over the span of twelve years, I've gathered invaluable insights into what truly distinguishes an exceptional pet sitter. Here is what I’ve discovered separates the common dog walker from a truly engaged and trusted pet caretaker. 


While empathy is often considered a fundamental human trait, its depth can vary significantly from person to person. In the realm of animal care, whether it's pet sitters, animal care technicians, or veterinarians, one common thread unites them—a profound and unwavering compassion for animals, which results in us paying attention to and reading them incredibly accurately. 

Even the most detailed instructions from pet owners cannot encapture every possibility of the pet’s situation. Truly understanding a pet's subtle cues, body language, and emotional state in real-time is a true skill that allows for taking care of the pet, anticipating their needs, and troubleshooting what they’re feeling. Pets can react unpredictably when separated from their owners. For example, maybe the pet sitter was instructed to play with the dog daily, but after their owners left, the dog  feels mopey and only wants to cuddle on the couch. The ability to read these cues and respond appropriately creates a safe environment for the pets to express themselves and get their needs met. 


Pets thrive on routine, and disruptions to their daily schedules can often lead to heightened stress levels. As a pet sitter, maintaining consistency becomes a cornerstone of their role. This could involve adhering to their regular feeding times, following their usual walking routes, or even playing their favorite music or TV shows to create a sense of familiarity and comfort. The ability to understand and seamlessly maintain a pet's routine showcases not just competence but a deep commitment to their well-being.

“Dogs know time is passing through their daily routine,” says Frederica Caneiro, a dog trainer with Woofz. 

Studies show that dogs have episodic-like memory and react based on cues – the door opening means their owner is coming home. The smell of coffee in the morning means that their owner is awake and about to start their breakfast. That’s why you’ll often find them waiting for you at your front door when you come home. 

Implementing routine again is a highly-important skill for pet sitters that will truly encompass your pet in a feeling of safety and security. 


On the other hand, the most meticulous routines, planning, and preparation can’t cover it all! Unforeseen challenges are inevitable in the world of pet sitting. I’ve had vacuums explode, snakes wander into garages, and run-away trash cans disrupt my pet sitting gigs. A great pet sitter possesses the agility and quick thinking necessary to navigate such situations with grace and efficacy that don’t interfere with caring for their clients. Going above and beyond the job description is sometimes necessary to keep things in line! 


Lastly, a broader perspective is essential for a pet sitter to excel in their role. While minor deviations from cleaning routines or unfamiliarity with household tools may arise, these should never detract from the primary focus—the pet's well-being and happiness. A stellar pet sitter maintains a laser focus on ensuring the pet feels comfortable, loved, and secure throughout their time together. This overarching perspective ensures a seamless and worry-free experience for both the pet and their owner.

In essence, a remarkable pet sitter demonstrates a blend of ongoing learning, deep empathy, unwavering consistency, nimble adaptability, and a steadfast perspective centered on the pet's happiness and safety. There’s no one combination that works – some people need a more hands-on, firm pet sitter to stay grounded and follow a routine. Some may need someone very patient and gentle to comfort an anxious animal. These are some of the skills that I have seen in the most effective and successful pet sitters. These qualities not only elevate the standard of care provided but also cultivate lasting bonds of trust and affection between the pet sitter, the pet, and their human companions. Some of my favorite people are pet sitters because these qualities not only make great caretakers for pets, but great humans to be around too.