Create Your Own Dog Care Binder with Instructions for Pet Sitters
by Lynn Stacy-Smith
Several years ago when I was updating my annual dog care instructions for our pet sitter I noticed a spare binder on my desk. I added a cover photo, got out the three-hole punch, and the dog care binder was born.
I won’t lie, I’ve taken some loving teasing about the dog care binder, or the “manual” as some in my family and inner circle have called it. My husband joked that we never left so many instructions to care for the kids as we do for the dogs. When it comes down to it, though, the human kids can talk; the dogs cannot, at least not in a way that someone new would understand right away like I do through our daily life together.
As I mentioned in my other Professional Pet Sitter Week blogs, you never know when you might get called away at the last-minute. Emergencies come up and you might find yourself booking a flight for that same day and hopping on a plane, leaving your home and dogs in the hands of someone else while you go to be with a sick family member or an emergency work meeting. Creating a dog care binder with details on everything someone needs to know to care for your dogs as well as your home will give you incredible peace of mind. Trust me on this, I have walked the walk.
As my free gift to you, I have created a PDF with fields that you can fill in on your computer and then print to easily make your own dog care binder: Love Laugh Woof Dog Binder Template with Fill In Fields. You can also print it and hand-write the information if you prefer. I like to use a three-hole punch to add holes in order to keep mine in a small half-inch binder like this Avery version with a spot for a front cover.
Here is the information you can include in each field:
Front Page: Dog(s) names. This will also fill in the area on the top of all of the pet care pages.
Food: Use this section to include the brand and formula of food that you feed, the amount, frequency of meals a day, the time of day that your dogs typically eat, and any additional notes like food allergies, a backup brand, where the pet sitter can get more food if they run out and other information.
Outdoor Activity/Walks: Do you want the pet sitter to walk your dog on leash walks or keep them in the yard for play and potty time? Where are their leashes kept? Do you use harnesses or attach to their regular collars? Is there a particular walking route or any quirks of your dog that you want to share? Where are the poop bags located? How do they react to other dogs? Do you require that they heel or walk a certain way?
Treats: Use this spot to share the brands/formulas of treats that you permit, as well as how often and when the dogs receive treats. For example “Jackson and Tinkerbell receive treats when they come inside, when they go into their kennels and at bedtime.” Also indicate if you have any snacks like carrots or bananas that they can have and where to purchase additional treats if you run out.
Play/Toys: Include information on whether or not you want toys to be left with the dogs when unattended, what games the dogs like to play, any rules involved when playing. For example, “Jax and Tink may not play one hour before or after eating to prevent bloat. Jax likes to play tug-o-war and Tink loves to play fetch. Please do not leave any toys in their kennels when they are gone. Tink may try to eat any fleece toys so please watch her with those. Fleece toys are kept on the shelf in the kitchen when they are not actively playing with them.”
Kennels/Crates: Use this space to share instructions on whether or not your dogs go in kennels or crates when not attended. For example “Jax and Tink know the word ‘kennel up’ to go into their kennels when we are leaving the house. They will run right into their specific kennel and wait for a treat. Please secure the top and bottom latch.”
Front Door Procedures: Does your dog go to a certain spot when the door rings? Are they a flight risk who might run out the door to see a stranger or to follow a scent? Use this spot to explain how you would like this handled in your absence. For example, “Please do not open the door if you are not expecting anyone and use the viewer in the door. Both dogs are to sit and wait on the carpet away from the door. They know the phrase, ‘Go to your spot’ and must sit and wait until you release them. You can also put them in their crates for a few minutes if you have someone coming over or a pizza or food delivery to err on the side of caution.”
Grooming: Use this spot to share any grooming requirements while you are out-of-town.
Training Commands & Recall Words: This is important since dog owners often use different words for commands. For example, Jax and Tink know both wait and stay interchangeably. They know “off” instead of “leave it” and we use it in many ways, whether it is to leave something alone that has fallen on the floor or to get their attention off of something like another dog while we are walking.
Sleeping Arrangements: Where do your dogs sleep at night if the pet sitter is staying at your home? Where do they sleep if nobody is staying overnight at your home? If you have multiple dogs, do they each have a preferred sleeping spot? Do they try to “call wolf” by waking you up earlier? For example, I can tell by my ADT alerts that my dogs wake my dog sitter at 4 am when she is here so I have to remind her that unless Jax is holding his tail up at the base or they stand by the bedroom door (signs that they do need to go out versus wanting to get up and eat) that they can wait until 6 am.
In Case of Lost Dog: Do you have people in your neighborhood that could post to a Facebook group if the dog(s) escape from the house or yard. Is there a reliable recall word or process you want the pet sitter to take in the event of this emergency? Is there a spot the dogs frequently go to, like my childhood Lab Snoop used to visit our neighbors for a dip in their pool.
Heartworm Preventative: Use this space to share the brand of heartworm preventative, the date that your dog receives their pill each month, any information on how to administer the pill and any additional information. This is where you can write something like, “Their pills are chewables but I put a glob of peanut butter on each one to ensure that they eat it. Please use caution and make sure each dog gets their pill and only their pill.”
Additional Medications: Use this space to list any additional medications that your dog either takes on a daily or regular basis, along with how to give this medicine to them. Also include any medications that you have on hand in the event that something happens. For example, “We have Panalog in the cabinet in case Tinkerbell’s ear gets red again.”
Veterinary Information & Emergency 24 hour Clinic Information: Use this page to list your regular veterinarian, their phone and address, any existing conditions that your dog has, how you would like emergencies handled, and the information for the closest 24 hour or emergency clinic.
This is a blank page for any additional information for your specific dog(s) not already mentioned.
Page 7: Household Information
Heating/Cooling: Do you have a specific temperature at which you keep your home in the winter or summer, particularly to keep your dog safe if your pet sitter is coming and going rather than staying in your home. Is your thermostat on a schedule? Can they adjust it as necessary if they are staying in your home? Who is your preferred emergency repair service for your heating and cooling system. Do you allow windows to be left open if you are not home?
In Case of Fire: If there is a fire while the pet sitter is home, are the dogs trained in a particular way? Is there a particular outdoor location where you want them to take the dogs? For example, “To the extent possible, please take the dogs to my neighbor at this address.”
Other Emergency: Use this space if other emergency situations apply. For example, “If a tornado watch is released, please harness both dogs and take them to the basement. Tink will run right down and Jax needs some encouragement. There is an emergency dog bag in the basement with antlers and treats to occupy them. They have been trained to run to me anytime the tornado siren goes off.”
Emergency Contacts: Use this space for the names and phone numbers of neighbors, friends or family who the pet sitter can contact if there is an emergency that they can’t handle, if there is an emergency and they cannot contact you, or even if they have an emergency and they need to leave town for a sick relative or something beyond their control.
In the Event of the Pet Owner(s) Death: Yes, this seems morbid, but in the event of an accident or unexpected death, who should the pet sitter or anyone reading the dog binder and caring for the dogs in that situation to contact? For example, we provide the name and contact information for our breeder and we have told our families and friends in no uncertain terms that our dogs are to go back to her no matter who offers to take them. This is not a topic we want to think about, but it is necessary to provide for our beloved dogs.
Security System: Use this area to include any instructions like “Please ensure that the security system is set to Armed Away anytime you are away from the house and Armed Stay if you are sleeping. There are cameras in these locations outside…”
Mail: Is the mail on hold or should the pet sitter bring it inside daily? Should they check for packages on a regular basis anywhere other than the mailbox?
Page 9: This is a freeform area for any additional instructions for the household, like “Since we are away for Halloween we have bought candy that you can give out. If you are not home or are not up to doing it, just turn off the front light and you can eat any candy left over. We will be watching calories when we get home so don’t worry about leaving any!”
Additional Documentation: In addition to these pages, I also include the following documents:
- Our travel itinerary including flight information and hotel/resort or family contact information if visiting family
- A letter to the vet authorizing the pet sitter to bring our pets in for care
- Printouts of each dog’s microchip information
- Copies of their most recent vaccination records
- Pet insurance information