How to find a dog-sitter online, sorting through the DogVacay, and Yelp options

Gratuitous adorable picture of my beagles, Moxie and Huck, killing Barney

Our dogs come with us on all possible trips. But sometimes it’s impossible to bring them–thanks, mostly, to antiquated and arduous regulations about dogs in airplane cabins. Recently we had to find a dog-sitter so we could introduce our daughter to one of her grandmothers. A ton of new sites promise to find you a local dog sitter. Here’s what I found. = Yuck. Spammy.

Do you want to be spammed by sadly desperate caregivers? has all people who care dogs, old people, kids, whatever. I put in a request to have somebody walk my mom’s two little dogs over one weekend. In two weeks, I got over 60 emails from, 48 from and its dog walkers. Many lived a long distance away. One followed up asking why I hadn’t written back? Had she said something wrong? But I couldn’t write back to any of them, because I didn’t sign up for the $35 a month / $140 a year membership, so their contact info was blanked out. (Obviously, I wouldn’t have bothered with the ad if it had told me that would happen at the start. I went through the whole process and got hit up for the fee at the end.) Another operation,, seems to work about the same way, right down to the range of care-giving help, the come-on for placing an ad and similar pricing, $35/month, $70/year.) If I wanted spam like this, I’d sign up for another online “life insurance quote”. — find pros

Pet Sitters International is the trade group of pet boarders. Obviously, this isn’t the kind robust association that serves as a consumer watchdog or anything. Members get certified through an online course and pay $140 to join. But at least these are people serious enough to do that. And they’re the ones paying, not you, the consumer. — find local pet lovers is the new entrant to the field is like AirBnB (the houseguest service) for dogs. You can find another pet owner in your area and your dog stays in their home. The advantage is your dog will be in a home with a family, not in a kennel or part of a dog-walker’s pack. The sitters have posted photos of themselves and sometimes their homes. The disadvantage is that they’re just regular people. That’s fine if both you and your dog are easy going and don’t require special attention and neither of you suffers from separation anxiety. I have two beagles who can be difficult (Huck is an extreme flight risk) and I’m not so easy myself. I wish I had a better feeling for how much dog sense some of these people have. I found myself drawn to the professional walkers on their site. In Brooklyn a similar service the Dog Walking Network has been pairing up dog people for years. — get raw reviews is where I found my totally wonderful dog-sitter Furry Poppins (Deborah Price), who is sadly moving on from the business. What sets apart from all the other listings are the reviews and the ability of customers to leave pissed off, totally raw diatribes if they are unhappy. Obviously, you avoid the ones with a bunch of terrible comments. Furry Poppins had all rave reviews–and they were from real people, reporting from vastly different dates. You do have to be wary of companies posting their own praises, though Yelp does try to filter those out. Anyway, it was a great tool because it helped me find Deborah, who was both incredibly competent and sweet. And I know the beagles love her because when Huck sees her, he howls in excitement. Yelp is free to both the person looking and the business, so there’s no conflict. And really, I think that makes it better than the specialty dog and cat sitting services.

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