Pet-owning Travelers: How to Find the Right Dog Sitter

find the right dog sitter

My dog’s special needs make it difficult to find the right dog sitter or boarding facility that is willing to care for him during our travels. He comes with some baggage. Thanks to friends and family, we’ve been able to put off looking for professional sitting and boarding services for a year-and-a-half. But it’s time. He needs to socialize in a controlled environment. It’s the best for him—and for us.

My dog, Pete, is a rescue. He’s 88 pounds of complicated. A black lab, he’s mild mannered, sweet natured and extra lovable. He’s okay with rain, but doesn’t like to get wet. He doesn’t mind company, but prefers to have none. He’s tolerable of a select few four-legged creatures, but they have to look like him and be extra calm. He’s an anxious dog, and doesn’t like loud noises, storms, being left alone at night or crates. He expresses fear anxiety and reacts aggressively towards dogs that come too close with too much energy. So finding the right dog sitter was a challenge, but here is how I did it.

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My quest for a dog sitter or boarding facility

In my quest for a dog sitter or boarding facility, I want a caretaker that’s a dog trainer. I want someone with rescue dog experience. If they’ve fostered dogs before, even better. Do they understand dog behavior? Do they have the calming, soothing, gentle touch that Pete requires? Are they loud? Can they keep him in line?

They must be able to walk him. They must feed him. They must pet him a lot. This trainer/dog sitter/sweet-toned/kind-hearted/somewhat-authoritarian person has to know what to do when Pete reacts to another dog with aggression. This dog whisperer has to make sure they’re there at night when Pete sleeps. This stretch-of-a-find cannot keep Pete in a crate. See, I’m asking a lot.

Here is where I started my search

I started my research for a dog sitter or boarding facility by heading directly to It’s like Facebook for your neighborhood. People love to give their recommendations on the site, and it’s usually my first stop for home contractor, pet services or landscaping company reviews. I found a thread for dog sitters, and pulled a list of local people and boarding facilities. I also looked into, which rates and reviews pet sitters in your area.

Here is what happened

I emailed a couple of boarding facilities recommended on nextdoor, and I also scoured the site for appropriate dog sitters, emailing them, too, with a detailed description of Pete’s behavior and history. The boarding facilities never got back to me.

Lisa, who I found on, is an experienced pet sitter with some training background. She has a big back yard and a pool, but also has two dogs of her own. Lisa responds quickly saying that she didn’t think she was a good fit because of her dogs. The next candidate is Shelley. Shelley has several years’ experience pet sitting, lives nearby in a quiet neighborhood, has no dogs of her own, but enjoys walking and talking with all kinds of animals. I send Shelley an email, and again, rejected. Shelley is all booked up for the weekend. I go back to square one—nextdoor, and I find a recommendation for Tammy at I call her up.

The right dog sitter for Pete

Tammy at Paw Tenders is a trainer; she has a boarding facility; she has rescue dogs of her own; she has experience in dealing with all types of behaviors, and she seems genuinely happy to help. But there are some steps we had to take before we could board Pete.

First, there is a meet and greet, where Tammy comes to our house to interact with Pete. Then, there’s a half-day of doggie daycare to get Pete familiar with his surroundings. The last step is the actual boarding. Pete passed the meet and greet. He made friends with Tucker and the other dogs during his half day of doggie daycare, and he was a “very good boy” during his overnight weekend stay. Knowing how kind and natural Tammy was with Pete, I felt very comfortable leaving my dog in her hands. It’s her experience, responsiveness and professionalism that made her our perfect dog sitter.

Leaving your dog behind during your travels is always a little tough, so it’s nice to know that they’re being well taken care of while you’re away. The best way to find the right dog sitter is through research. Start with your local or recommendations, and call people, make sure your dog is acclimated to their new surroundings before you take off and keep the lines of communication open. You’ll rest well knowing they’re resting well!

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