The ONLY national non-profit organization for professional pet sitters.

Pet Sitter Safety at Meet and Greets

Pet sitting can be fun and rewarding, but any job working with animals entails a certain amount of risk, as well. For any pet sitter of any experience level, your safety must come first!
Below are some important things to consider when meeting a prospective client for the first time:
● Before you meet the client, it can be helpful to make sure they understand that there is no guarantee of service until the paperwork is signed. That way, they know that the client consultation does not mean that you will definitely be sitting for their pets, and they should have a backup plan. This makes it easier for you to walk away if need be, as there was no promise of service to the prospective client. What do you say if you aren’t comfortable? “It looks like we may not be a good fit for your needs,” is a polite and assertive way of turning down the prospect without ruffling feathers. No further explanation is needed.
● Trust your gut. If something feels “off”, if you feel your stomach tighten, if you just don’t feel comfortable with the pets, or the house, or the prospective client, pay attention to those signs. Your brain is trying to tell you something.
● Pet sitters enter many homes, and of course not every home will be spotless and pristine. However, if the level of mess makes you uncomfortable, that’s a red flag. Signs may include strong smells (or sights) of urine or feces, or indication of rodent or insect infestation. Also, potentially unsafe conditions such as cluttered floors that can be a tripping hazard, or gates, doors and fences that are not well-secured, can make a pet sitter’s job much harder.
● Consider adding questions to your paperwork such as:
“Has your pet ever bitten or attacked another person or animal, even mildly or in play? If so, please detail what happened, when it happened, and what the circumstances were. Your honesty helps keep us safe.”
● Pay attention to the words potential clients use at a meeting. “My dog nips,” may really mean “My dog bites.”
● Ask if the prospective client has ever had a pet sitter before, and if so, what the circumstances were regarding their departure.
● Step near the animal and see if they act like they will bite, bites, attacks your clothing or shoes, (never think this is cute) or jumps on you.  Is this curable, but not with other signs of aggression.
● See if the animal slinks into the corner.  This signals a shy dog or cat.
● Put down a handful of treats, and approach the animal slowly as he’s eating to gauge his response.
● You can also stand right next to the dog to see if they allow you to stand by them, and lean over the dog.  If the dog does not allow you to stand over them by either backing away or swinging the hind end away, this may be a sign of aggression or dominance.
● If the dog lies down and allows you to pet its belly, you have a wonderful temperament in the dog. 
● See if you can open their mouth, look inside their mouth, run your hands over their body, and see if they will let you touch their feet.  A lot of times dogs and cats need their nails trimmed.   A detailed Snout to Tail Assessment will be featured during the NAPPS Virtual Conference (March 6-8, 2014). 

NAPPS Members: Keep an eye out for the Fall issue of the Professional Pet Sitter magazine
which will provide more important information.