Setting your pet-sitters up for success

Recently we [myself, wifey and our two-year-old daughter]] went on a 16-day vacation. This is the first time we have gone away for more than 1-2 nights and left all of our animals in the same house with a pet sitter for a long time. 


Finding a pet sitter we can trust is something we find challenging. Trust in terms of them doing what they say they will do, prioritising our animals and making good decisions if something goes wrong. We were super fortunate this time around, though –  to have wifey’s sister in law here in NZ [shes’ from the UK] and willing to help out! 


I learned a lot from this experience and wanted to share 3 of my lessons with you!  


  1. Start getting organised now! 


When I thought about everything that I would ideally want a pet sitter to know, this felt overwhelming! For example 


  • getting the dogs harness on, 
  • places to take the dog for a walk [and hazards], 
  • enrichment, 
  • diet, 
  • diet routines, 
  • management within the house, 
  • emergency plans, 
  • toileting [litter trays etc.]
  • Sleeping arrangements
  • And more…


And so, to help with this, I started to create a “manual” [for lack of a better word] months before we left. This involved me just opening up a document [i use the web-based app canva] and just brain dumping everything inside into this doc. So over time, the manual was in a ‘good enough’ state for when we went away.


This allowed me a couple of benefits! First, I didn’t have to think about things in order of what needed to be discussed, as I could refer to the doc and check my items. Second, I could print these individual pages and laminate them [our pet sitter ended up sticking them all on our wall]. Thirdly it gave me the confidence that I had addressed all of the essential areas. 


  1. Use TAG teach principles to help show things like – how to put Fibi-dog’s harness on


If you don’t know what TAG teach is, you can listen to this older ATA podcast episode with the AMAZING Theresa McKeon! >>>


Here’s what me putting on Fibi’s harness looks like >>>


I was pretty nervous about this as we have never had anyone but me continuously and successfully put Fibi’s harness on! And so I reached for my tool kit, and heres’ what we came up with!


  • Use a fake dog for the person to practice on [we borrowed my daughters’ ‘pluto toy’]
  • Back chain everything! Using Pluto, we started at the end and then finished at the beginning. 
  • Prepare with Tag points at the start; however, allow your learner to help create some when working together! They can likely frame things in a way that makes the most sense to them! 
  • Adjust your plan based on your learner!
  • Practice, pracitce, pratice. 
  • Allow your human learner to offer way more reinforcement [in this case, food] than you usually would. 


We practised the actual harnessing many times before we went on Holiday! I was looking for any latency from Fibi to suggest she might be unsure but saw NONE! And… our pet sitter successfully harnessed her every day we were away! One day even, Fibi was not interested in food, and our pet sitter still managed to harness her with no issues at all.


  1. Go away and enjoy your vacation! WOOO HOOOOO. 


As positive reinforcement practitioners, self-care is SO important for our mental health! 


What about you? What have you found helps set you and your pet sitters up for success? I look forward to hearing your tips and practices! 


Best Regards

Ryan Cartlidge Animal Training Academy