dog-sitting 101: tips on watching friends’ dogs


I don’t have any pets currently, but I adore pretty much every dog that crosses my path. Chances are that if there’s a dog within my sight, I’ve already forgotten who I’m talking to and am wondering if it’s going to get close enough for me to pet! Since I don’t have a dog of my own, I often watch my friends’ dogs when they’re out of town. It’s nice company for me, gets me moving more regularly with their walks (and runs!), and gives my friends a sense of security that their sidekicks are well cared for when they’re away.

Since I’ve been doing this for a few years, I’ve come up with a list of questions and a checklist of things to make dog-sitting easier on the owner and myself. Click to see my tips!–Rebecca F.

Questions to ask dog owners:
1. Does your dog have all its shots and a veterinarian of record?
2. How does your canine react around other dogs? Children?
3. What is your routine for feeding, walking, and relieving?
4. How long can they walk/run for?
5. If they’re small dogs, do they have jackets or boots for extended outdoor adventures?
6. Do you allow them at dog parks, and do you have a license? (In Chicago, your dog must be registered to visit dog parks!)
7. Where do they sleep?
8. How do they react to noise?
9. Are they taking any medications or have any allergies?
10. What’s normal behavior for them? Do they hide? Shake? Cry? (i.e. My friend’s dog sometimes gets sick when he’s nervous. That’s normal for him!)
11. Do they mind being in a car? Where do they sit?

When owners drop off their pet, did they:
__ Provide vet information and let the vet know I have permission to allow treatment
__ Provide an alternate contact in case of emergency
__ Bring enough food and treats for the entire length of visit
__ Provide a leash (or two) and collar with tags
__ Bring some toys the pet enjoys
__ Bring their bed/crate if they seek comfort in it
__ Bring extra bags for visits outside
__ Let me know when they’re coming back

Do you have any other suggestions on how to make dog-sitting easier?
In this photo: Lyla Jo Whiter and Mickey Pinto

From our partners

Since I’m currently assisting w/ pet-sitting for a neighbor, my two first questions were: how do I get in touch w/ you (cell #, email and or any other way of communicating) and who’s your emergency contact, in case I can’t reach you? (Again, name and numbers, including emergency number.)

These are probably givens for most of us, but I’ve actually had friends who forgot to leave those basics, so I thought I’d just remind everyone!


I’d also have them run through some basic commands with their dogs, with you handling the dogs. It wouldn’t do you much good to tell a dog “Off” if the command for the behavior you were seeking was “Stop.” It will also let the dogs know that you are someone in charge.


That’s a cute Minpin! :)


Hmmm… I think that’s actually a Manchester Terrier. Very cute!

More importantly, these are some great tips! I have a similar list of do’s & don’ts along with contact info that I print out for anyone watching our dogs and it helps make it a good time for us, the dogs and our sitter.

fido’s having a sleepover!

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