Tips for Hiring the Right Deaf Dog Pet Sitter, Part 1
Hiring a pet sitter for any dog can be a stressful process, but hiring a pet sitter for your deaf dog, is even more anxiety-inducing. The unique differences and challenges of caring for a deaf dog makes choosing the right deaf dog pet sitter even more important. The deaf dog pet sitter you hire has to be responsible and willing to learn some basic hand signs. Ideally, your pet sitter will already know some hand signs and will have experience caring for and communicating with deaf dogs. Here are some tips to help you choose the right pet sitter for your deaf dog.
Occasionally, my husband and I like to get out of town, away from work and mix up our routines. Sometimes these are quick getaways to a crowded theme park or deserted Florida cay that we’ve never explored, a long weekend during which we can refresh, recharge and create some fun memories together.
Or perhaps we want to roam further, adventure longer and really get out of Dodge for a week of two in Paris, the city of my soul!
I take my responsibility to keep our dogs safe seriously. Having two deaf dogs, I need to have complete confidence that our pet sitter will keep our deaf dogs healthy, happy and alive. I’m a glass haIf-full of arsenic person and If I can conceive of something going wrong with my dogs, I convince myself it will happen.
I mean, why be calm when we can panic?
Before we adopted our deaf dogs, Edison and Foster, we tried several different pet sitters and I learned a few things along the way. Once we adopted deaf dogs, however, the process of choosing the right pet sitter took on special importance and I had to up my game. These tips are written specifically for people with deaf dogs, but I think they apply equally to hearing dogs, with a few adjustments.
Choose a Reputable Professional Pet Sitter:
A professional pet sitter is usually a member of a pet sitter organization, with the most common being Pet Sitters International (PSI) and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS). These organizations have standards and requirements for membership and offer the ability to search for qualified pet sitters in your area.
When you are entrusting the safety and well-being of your deaf dog to someone else, please choose a professional who is involved in his or her professional community, has knowledge of industry best practices, ethics, pet CPR, medication administration and anything else that is important to you and your deaf dog. I also suggest choosing someone who is bonded and insured. You probably won’t need it, but better safe than sorry.
I strongly recommend hiring someone who either knows ASL (if you use ASL or modified ASL to communicate with your deaf dog) or has experience caring for deaf dogs, or better yet, both. For me, deaf dog knowledge or experience and the ability to communicate with hand signs was non-negotiable and I very strongly suggest the same for you. We really hit the jackpot with Kevin from House Paws Sitter. Kevin is deaf, knows ASL and had experience with deaf dogs. He had an immediate rapport with our boys and he left the house cleaner than he found it. What more could you ask for?
A professional pet sitter is a small business owner. Sure, their business is caring for your pet, but they are a business. As such, I suggest choosing someone serious enough to invest in a business website. I also recommend using the services of Care.com or Angie’s List during your search. Both of these services allow you to search for sitters with the experience and skills you require and both offer candidate screening options.
I have constant low-grade anxiety when someone else is caring for our boys, especially the deaf ones. One way that I’ve found to minimize my stress is taking my time in selecting a professional with a proven and verifiable track record.I think there is value in recommendations or referrals from trusted friends, family or neighbors, but ultimately, for me at least, that was not enough. No one in our social circle lives with a deaf dog, so their needs and expectations are different than ours.Choose someone who can provide professional references and check them. And if any of those references are from people with deaf dogs, really listen to those clients.
Meet And Greet:
A professional pet sitter will most likely schedule a meet and greet with you and your pets prior to accepting the job. If your candidate doesn’t require this, ask for one yourself. This is a great opportunity to ask the candidate more questions and assess their knowledge and experience with deaf dogs as well as their ability to successfully communicate with your deaf dog.A professional pet sitter will refer to the profile you filled out during this face-to-face meeting. It helps guide them and prompts them to ask for more information if needed. A good candidate will ask lots of questions during the meet and greet and will take as many notes. Kevin took all his notes on his iPhone, synced to his iPad and MacBook (yes, he’s a bit of an i-Head!). I loved this because I knew he would always have the information with him, whether on our couch or on a walk.
Audition Your Pet Sitter Before You Travel:
If at all possible, hire your candidate for a day to see how things go. Even if its just a regular work day for you, you can gleam a lot of important information. If this isn’t possible, ask if you can hire him or her for several dog walking sessions. This will give you an opportunity to see if he or she is reliable and able to handle your deaf dogs. It will also give your candidate a chance to interact with your deaf dogs without you present to make sure he or she is comfortable and capable. A professional pet sitter will recognize their limits and refuse a job that is beyond their comfort zone or capabilities. Finally, it allows your deaf dogs to get to know your pet sitter. This will make the transition easier for them when you actually say, Au revoir!
Social Media and Technology
If you’re a social media person, I recommend a pet sitter who regularly uses social media and technology. For me, the photos and videos that Kevin shared on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram along with the daily text message or email updates really put me at ease and allowed me to enjoy our trip. I could see my boys were safe, happy and going about their normal day in their own home. This can be very reassuring. If social media or technology updates are important to you, make sure you choose a sitter who utilizes at least some of these communication platforms but make sure you connect with your sitter on social media or messaging apps before you get on that plane.
Listen To Your Gut:
In the end, after doing research about your candidate, talking to him or her, watching them interact with your deaf dogs and assessing their ability to communicate with their hands, checking their references and auditioning them, you need to go with your gut. If you feel good about all you’ve learned and your gut says yes, then hire them. However, if you are uncomfortable with anything you learned or observe, if your instinct is to run, then do just that! There are many other professional pet sitters out there and one will be your perfect match.You know your deaf dogs better than anyone, so trust yourself. Know what you need and don’t settle for less. Too much is at stake.
However, once you do hire a sitter, trust her. Let her do her job, enjoy your trip and and bring lots of souvenirs home for those magic dogs you love so much.