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Monday, 27 April 2009

Care when you're not there

We are going on holiday in a couple of months and usually take our two Cairn Terriers along with us, but this time it is not possible. Does anyone have experience of using kennels or petsitters? How would I go about finding a reputable organisation?
Jean Wilson

We would always recommend most strongly that anyone needing a petsitter should choose one who has been registered, vetted, visited and insured, as is the case of all members of The National Association of Registered Petsitters. NARP is the Trade Association for the petsitting industry and is the largest petcare organisation in the UK. NARP has registered more than 10,000 experienced petsitters throughout the country. The Association is not an agency and does not get involved with bookings or any other arrangements.
Many members of NARP are agencies that have been approved and there are also thousands of individual members (many who work with their spouses/partners) to provide the most kind, caring and reliable petcare services which range from boarding dogs/pets while the owners go on holiday, walking dogs while the owners are at work, similarly caring for all other pets from cats to rats to rabbits to birds.
NARP is non profit making and part of the funding of the Association comes from subscriptions to the National Register of Petsitters. However, for readers of Dogs Today NARP offers a FREE subscription to anybody who needs a petsitter.
To find a registered petsitter in your area simply visit and follow the links to 'need a Petsitter?' Click the button 'Subscribe' then simply fill in the form, making sure to include your postcode (on which the search will be based). To get your free subscription enter 'dogstoday' into the Promotional Code box at the bottom of the form. You will then see a list of current registered petsitters starting with those closest to you by postcode. The Key will show you which services each member offers. You can then make direct contact with any of the members who offer the service you require and negotiate with them regarding any bookings and payments.
Robin Taylor, Chairman, The National Association of Registered Petsitters (NARP)

A quick search through the internet will bring up a host of kennels and pet sitting orgaisations. It is then a matter of contacting them to see what they can offer and which one gives you the most confidence. Bearing in mind the dogs are valued members of your family, you have to be completely happy with the arrangements made for their care. Do not be afraid to ask questions.
Always visit kennels to make sure they're clean and the that the dogs have some attention and exercise. Be aware that most kennels are not set to give the dogs one-to-one compnay in the same way pet sitters can.
You need to be sure that your pet sitter has back up in case they were unable to undertake the booking for whatever reason, so it is best to use an organisation rather than a single person. Check the back up system, insurance and expenses. It is good to know what percentage the sitter is earning from the total fee and what extras there are. My own opinion is that dogs are much happier in their own homes with a petsitter so that their routine will alter as little as possible. If anything they have more attention than the owner normally has time to give.
Gillie McNicol, Director, Animal Aunts

If you would like to leave her dog with a pet sitter, it is vital you ask whether the pet sitter has valid insurance (public liability
insurance) and whether she has a home boarding licence which is granted by the local authority.
It is a legal requirement for anyone offering a pet boarding service to have a valid licence (which should be displayed in the property). Most local authorities also arrange for a vet to officially inspect the property for suitability.
Unfortunately, too many pet sitters are offering a home boarding service without insurance and an appropriate licence which is compromising the entire pet care profession.
Police disclosure/check certificates and references from customers are also valuable things to look out for. As is membership to a professional body such as Pet Sitters International.
Victoria Reinthal, Managing Director, Paw Pals (UK) Ltd

It’s very sensible to be looking at suitable arrangements for your Cairn Terriers well before your holiday.
When you go away, your dogs will miss you – their human pack. If you remove them from their territory and their human pack, they may suffer significant separation stress. So the kindest and best arrangement you can make is to leave them at home in their familiar environment following their normal routines – ie have a petsitter.
The things I would recommend looking for when selecting a suitable organisation are:
- a company that takes a very full brief from you on the dogs, including feeding and exercise routines, health, medication, temperament, behaviour on encountering other dogs, where they like to sleep (important if they will expect to sleep on the sitter’s bed!), etc
- a company that thoroughly vets its sitters, interviews them in person, investigates their pet experience and recruits
candidates with genuine warmth towards animals. And gets feedback from clients after every assignment to check that the pets were well cared for
- a company that arranges for you to meet your petsitter well before you go away to make sure that you and the dogs like them
- a company that provides full backup ie i) a real live person (not a telephone answering machine) available 24 hrs per day should the sitter require advice and ii) a suitably qualified replacement sitter immediately available should your sitter be
taken ill
- a company with longevity. If an organisation has been around for a good number of years, they must be doing something right and they will have a good reservoir of knowledge and experience in looking after dogs.
Adele Barclay, Managing Director, Homesitters Ltd

Our view is that your dog is always happier in their own home or that of another family where they will receive lots of love, attention and exercise that they would normally get at home.
The clients are happier when they have met the carer and seen the environment where their dog will be staying. If used regularly the dog becomes used to the carer and the new environment and looks forward to their holiday when their owners go away.
Tracey Eden, Franchise Support Manager, Petpals (UK) Ltd


  1. I offer pet sitting where I come into peoples homes so that the dogs still feel safe in their own environment.

    I have references available and am fully insured. Feel free to look at my website and contact me if you are interested.

    The best way of finding a dog sitter is to meet people before you book them. Most sitters will happily pop over for an introductory meet, often at no additional charge.

  2. Most petsitters will have a website, so have a look through in your local area - if you don't have a pc try the library. There are a few pet sitting organisations who will have a member's list they can send you, or that you can look up.

    Most important is that they love dogs, then comes insurance which is essential, the CRB check if you want someone in your own home, plus ask if they have customers you can ring for a reference. Try to get them to visit you in the middle of a busy working day, so you can see if they are pristine clean or covered in mud and hair and obviously not worried about mucking in with the dogs. Hands and face should be clean though!

    I believe many kennels charge extra for really good walks and playtime, if you pay the set fee your dogs might just get a quick walk when their kennel is cleaned, so do check what exactly is included in the price.

    If you decide to chose someone who will look after your dogs in their home, make sure they have a licence, as otherwise they won't be covered by insurance (even if they have insurance it's unlikely to cover boarding without a licence). Also check they aren't going to flip out if housetraining has some hiccups, or if the dogs decide to bark at 5am every morning.

  3. Assuming your vet is a caring person, why don't you ask him or her where they leave their dog while they are on holiday?
    (If your vet hasn't a dog, I'm sure he or she will have a very good idea about which are the good kennels in the area).
    My dog went only three times in his life to a boarding kennel and it was the one my vet uses.
    I thought, if it's good for his dog, it's good enough for mine.
    He is a very good vet and the boarding kennels, as I had expected, were excellent, run by a husband and wife who don't take more than about 15 dogs at a time. All the dogs had three walks a day and I was most impressed because my spaniel had mud on him when they handed him over. At least he'd enjoyed himself and been allowed to indulge in one of his favourite activities - rolling on his back in the grass.
    Once he was feeling a bit bored so the wife went into his pen and spent some time playing with him.
    I was really worried the first time I left him because he had never stayed away from us and slept on our bed.
    But he was perfectly happy!
    I always try to go for a personal recommendation from someone I trust. It also saves having to plough through various lists.
    I was allowed to put my dog into his run, which was spotlessly clean), having placed his own bedding and toys in it.
    The advice I've heard is to avoid those places that don't let you see where the dogs are to sleep or spend the day and those that bath your dog before they give him back to you.
    Julia Lewis
    PS: I can say which boarding kennel this was but probably am not meant to.