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September 05, 2017

Tips for finding a petsitter that’s right for you and your furry friend

Feeling anxious about leaving your pet in someone else’s care? You’re not alone.

Just ask Annyah Hasler, 63 of Fairmount, who has been caring for animals for four decades. She turned what have been a hobby into a way to make a few bucks after she joining petcare app Rover in 2015 and beginning work as a petsitter other people's furry family members. Now at any given time, Hasler and her husband Roger, are caring for six pets at once.

Petsitters Annyah and Roger Hasler

Rover, and other apps like it including Wag! and Task Rabbit, have joined in the rise of the sharing economy to connect thousands across the country to pet sitting, boarding, walking and similar services.

Annyah and Roger Hasler are two of Rover’s more than 85,000 sitters. They have more than 120 five-star reviews on the app to boost.

For anyone feeling that bit of dread that comes with temporarily handing over the care of your cat or dog to another, Annyah Hasler’s got some advice.

From divulging all the medical information there is about your pet to organizing a meet-and-greet, Annyah has the tips to make sure the process goes smoothly for pet sitters, owners and the pets themselves.

PHILLYVOICE: What’s the best advice that you have for someone trying to find a petsitter or dogwalker for the very first time?

ANNYAH HASLER: You definitely want to make sure that you feel comfortable and definitely have a meet-and-greet. There should be some experience there. You want to make sure that the person is reacting naturally with the animal, but the animal will let you know, always.

When they come into the environment, pay attention to your pet. A sitter should be able to provide you with a wealth of information with how they will take care of your pet. Check around and make sure that water is provided, that they're not going to be crated unnecessarily and specify in particular how you want your pet to be treated and what they're used to at home.

PV: So comfort is key when determining the right pet sitter or dog walker?

AH: That's what I would be looking for. For instance, when animals come into our home, we direct everyone to take them "off lead.”

When they're "on lead," they feel like they have a job to do, and they're protective first of all of their owner, and, there's a territoriality. You take them "off lead" and they have nothing to do other than to investigate and feel comfortable.

PV:What are the top things a pet owner should communicate to a petsitter before leaving their animal in his or her care?

AH: First thing, medical issues, if they need medications that would include injections, pills. If they have any feeding issues. Those are the things we would like to know. Do they have separation anxiety? Is it severe, is it just minor? And what their prior experiences are with boarding. We want to know if the animals have issues with other dogs or cats.

PV: Do you find that all animals have some level of anxiety or does it all depends upon on the animal?

AH: It's dependent on how often the pet is left at home. It's also dependent on the animal and also depends on who they're left with.

If a new petsitter is dealing with (a rescue) situation, they need to know right away: How recent is this rescue? How have you been dealing with this anxiety?

Sitters also need to be able to instruct the owner on if they're unaware of how to deal with leaving the animal. Petsitters need to let the owner know to step out of the house for five to 10 minutes, come back in later so the animal will understand that you're coming back. Extend that time period. Raise it to 15 minutes, 20, so they gradually understand that someone is always coming back.

PV: How do you build trust and experience with a pet owner as a new petsitter?

AH: Go and spend some time with someone who does have that experience. You will get the same instruction from that person that they give to the pet owners.

They should observe a meet-and-greet, they can observe how the animals pack and interact. If you are truly an animal lover, you are going to do this. To my way of thinking, you shouldn't be a petsitter or boarder unless you love them. They can tell.

(NOTE: The transcript of this interview was condensed and edited for clarity.)