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3 Lies Every Professional Pet Sitter Has Heard

Asking the right questions is the key to getting the truth.

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AS A PROFESSIONAL, you carefully screen potential clients and conduct a thorough initial consultation to ensure you have all of the information you need and that the pet-sitting assignment is a good fit for you and the client.

While mutual trust is vital in the pet sitter-pet parent relationship, at some point you’ll encounter pet owners who lie, or at least omit the truth.

So, what are some things pet sitters have discovered pet owners being less than honest about?

Pets’ behavior. While they likely have no bad intentions, some pet owners are not forthcoming about their pet’s behavior. Without an accurate understanding of a pet’s behavior, you are unable to provide them with the best care and you may also be putting yourself at risk. Often, you can ensure you receive more accurate information by asking more specific questions. For example, don’t simply ask, “Is your dog aggressive?” Instead ask specific questions, such as if the dog has ever bitten another person or pet.

You’ll also want to know how they react to the owner’s absence and how they react in other situations. Again, refrain from general questions and instead focus on specifics (e.g. Does your cat have any specific hiding places? Does your dog pull on the leash when you are walking her?).

Others who have access to the home. Job sharing and pet sitting when others have access to the home are often hot topics in the pet-sitting community. While some have no issue with job sharing or pet sitting in a home where house cleaners, adult children or even neighbors will be coming and going, many do not want to assume the liability that results from these situations — and often turn down these assignments. However, we often hear from members who don’t discover others have access to the home until they are already in the middle of the pet-sitting assignment.

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How you respond to job sharing and/or others having access to the home (whether you know in advance or find out when the assignment is already in progress) will be a business decision you should make in advance — and this is a policy you should make your clients aware of upfront.

Departure and return dates. Have you ever arrived at an assignment and had the distinct feeling that the clients didn’t actually leave the night before (or that morning) as they indicated they would when they booked your services? Instead, the cat’s overflowing litter box and empty food and water bowl make you feel as if the client tried to skirt around your every-day-cat-visit policy by lying about when they’d actually be leaving town? It’s unfortunate — but it happens! As a professional pet sitter, your most effective way to combat this is to be proactive: Be clear in your policy regarding every-day visits and educate clients on why it’s so important for even pets they consider “low maintenance” to be visited at least once every 24 hours.

If you are worried about clients who may not be returning when they say they will, your business policies can go a long way in preventing this. Most pet sitters have a policy that clients must contact them (by call or text) when they return home. Accidents and delays happen, so this is a great policy to ensure that pets do not go without care because the client is unexpectedly unable to return home. This is also a great way to combat a client who may be less than honest on when they plan to return home.

Beth Stultz-Hairston is the president of Pet Sitters International (PSI), the world’s largest educational association for professional pet sitters and dog walkers. PSI offers members resources and support at every stage of their business.

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