“Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day…”
– John Grogan, author of Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog
When we opened Surf Sitters Pet Care and Dog Walking LLC in 2015, we followed pet sitting industry standards by offering multiple visits daily, what’s referred to as “drop-in pet sitting.” We wanted this service to help good-hearted pet parents keep their pups home rather than subject them to the stresses of boarding while they’re out of town.
For the first 4 years we ran our business, we tucked dogs in between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., and rose early to get them out for potty and breakfast ASAP in the morning, then stopped back by in the afternoon. It worked. The pets were always waiting at the door for us, ready to get out and go, tails wagging and grateful for their breakfast and walks. Sure, there were occasional accidents and signs of stress – a little mess to clean from time to time, but no major illness or trauma. We, us and the pets, made the best of our time together, counting down the days ‘til the folks came home.
At the time, we thought we were softies because we hated leaving pets alone at night. After all, thousands of other pet businesses offered drop-in pet sitting— it was better than boarding, and even the best pet parent on the planet has to leave from time to time, so this just had to be done.
Restless Nights and Lonely Pets
The trouble was, we’d go home at night, and 2 hours later we’d start thinking about those precious pups just sitting there by themselves. We’d lie awake thinking it seemed ages since we’d been there, and we couldn’t return until the morning. A sad spot grew in our hearts, even though we knew we were offering the best service possible. We told ourselves we were being ridiculous, and that they were probably just sleeping. But we didn’t like it.
To make it up to the animals in our care, we always did our best to make each 30-minute visit amazing, loving, and energetic in hopes that our canine buddies would sleep through each time period alone, and we know we’ve always given our best to each dog in our care. We hoped this would help them not feel quite as alone for most of the day.
We can understand why most companies offer drop-in pet sitting. It allows pet sitters to make multiple visits each morning and night in order to make a profit. And drop-in sitting is less stressful than boarding for most dogs. Most animals also “do well” with it and get used to the routine. But in the most important ways, drop-in pet sitting is not an ideal care solution.
The Pet Sitting Reality of “Doing Well”
“Doing well” in pet sitter language means that the pets are not stressed to the point of harming themselves or the home, and, sadly, we have had some that were stressed to that level. “Doing well” does not mean that the dog is thriving in his new-found independence and has decided that having human roommates is for the birds! Dogs are pack animals and crave company. Being left alone for long periods of time is a very sad thing for a dog.
To add to the loneliness, after the pups wait all night for their 30 minutes of companionship in the morning, the pet sitter leaves, and the cycle of waiting starts again. With drop-in pet sitting, pets receive an average of 1.5 hours of companionship, exercise, and basic care per day. That’s a visit in the morning, the afternoon, and at nighttime. The other 22.5 hours the dog is just waiting or, hopefully, sleeping.
We know that dogs get used to time at home alone since most pet parents work every day. The problem is that with drop-in pet sitting, the evening companionship and care they usually look forward to with their parents is lost. Just think of your dogs’ nightly agenda. While they may spend much of their time on the couch, there will most likely be trips to the door to ask for a relief break or just to explore some interesting sounds coming from outside.
And while you might consider your evening activities boring, to your dog, there are multiple opportunities for micro-fun: the occasional morsel of food off your dinner plate, or the random ball-toss and game of tug, and the love they receive each time you gaze at them or give them an ear scratch in passing. Anything is possible when you are home, presenting your pups with endless hope and enthusiasm. And, if your pups are anything like ours, bedtime is not just a sleep period – it’s when the whole pack comes together for bonding and several hours of closeness.
A Change for the Better
As we gained experience and the confidence that comes with successfully running a business for years, we began to re-evaluate our services. The creation of our mission statement was a powerful tool that enabled us to look beyond what was expected of pet sitting businesses and strive for something better.
“Our mission is to provide exemplary dog walking and pet sitting services that will enhance your pets’ natural inclination towards joy and delight and minimize disruptions to his or her routine. For the people attached to the pets, we want you to thrive, too. Our mission is to provide you with freedom from worry and guilt as you take the steps you need to enjoy a great quality of life and to do the work you were made to do.”
Overnight Pet Sitting – Better Value for Better Care
To meet our own standards, we opened ourselves up to a different approach and began considering what it would be like offer overnight pet sitting as our recommended option for the canines in our care. We thought that overnight pet sitting wouldn’t be affordable for our clients, but when we did the math, we realized the overnight pet sitting provides much more for the money spent and costs much less per hour than drop-in sitting.
When shopping around for pet sitting options, it is tempting to look at the price of 3 daily drop in visits versus overnight services and decide that drop-ins are the better value. But let’s break that down into numbers that give you a better idea of which option gives you the most for your money.
The Math: How Overnight Pet Sitting Adds Up to a Better Deal
The standard 30-minute visit 3 times daily (breakfast, mid-day, and night) will average $20 per visit in the Topsail area. Your pets will be covered for the day for around $60 daily, not including extra pet fees (average $5 per additional pet). To contrast, our Tail Wagger overnight package is $93 (a 12-hour overnight stay and 30-minute mid-day visit).
While it may seem a no-brainer to select the $60 option, let’s break down what you and your precious pups are getting for those hard-earned dollars.
Drop-in Pet Sitting Average Rate Per Hour
3 30-minute visits per day equals 1.5 hours of quality time your pet sitter will provide your pets with each day. Your rate breaks down to $40 per hour.
Overnight Pet Sitting Average Rate Per Hour
With an overnight sit, your pup will receive 12.5 hours of companionship and care. At a fee of $93, this breaks down to $7.44 per hour. We charge $5 extra per additional pet. If you have two dogs, your rate per hour is $7.84 per hour.
Yes, some of the time will presumably be snooze time, so just for fun, let’s factor out the sleep time and see what the value per hour is. Let’s imagine that your dogs love to get their 8 hours of beauty rest, and your sitter gives up on the ball game and snuggles down with them. That leaves 4.5 hours of active play and companionship. The cost per hour is still a great deal less, coming in at $20.66 per hour, almost 1⁄2 the fee per hour of drop-in visits.
Overnight Pet Sitting Offers a Better Value for the Entire Pet Family
With the extra pet fees most services charge, those drop-in visits are not such a great value at all. In fact, if you have more than 2 pets, you may end up paying $75 or more for only an hour and a half of time spent with your dogs each day.
Hidden Bonuses of Overnight Sitting
Consider also the theft deterrent value of having someone stay overnight in your home, along with incalculable value of keeping your best buddies safe and happy, and you’ll realize the overnight pet sitting is a much better option for your animals. Your plants will be much happier, too, since there will be someone there to make sure they are watered.
Your Pets’ Wellbeing is Priceless
I had a dream in which I owned two extremely valuable cars. In the dream, a man walked up to me and told me to take care of those vehicles. He said they were worth much more than I was renting them out for. When I woke, I knew the dream was about our overnight packages, the Tail Wagger and the Dog Gone Great Staycation, and that the message was that our overnight services were just as priceless as your pups.
Why Dogs Need Overnight Pet Sitting
As pack animals, dogs desire and require company and attention. They thrive in their own familiar environment, complete with the sounds, smells, and sights they are used to. In addition, most dogs get the majority of their human bonding time at night when the folks are home. Dogs are safest and happiest with night time companionship. Our Premium Pet Sitting Packages are the option your special canine friends deserve.
Other animals, like cats and rabbits, prefer the stability of their home life, too. Having a pet sitter stay in your home is the best option to provide your pet with the comfort and security he needs to thrive while you’re away.
Our premium pet sitting services are designed to keep your pet’s routine as close to normal as possible while providing all the fun and excitement of having a house guest to keep them entertained. You need to put your pets “on hold” until you get home. And we know you’ll sleep much better each night you’re away, knowing your pets are resting comfortably and safely with someone who makes them feel special and loved.
Overnight Pet Sitting Alternatives
If overnight pet sitting is not in your budget, we recommend trading pet care with a good friend or family member – preferably someone who really loves your pets and is responsible with their own animals.
Trading can be a good option because it lessens the likelihood that you are imposing on someone’s good nature (a surefire way to get backed out on, or even worse, have your dog mistreated or neglected because the person is fed up or didn’t really want to pet sit for you). If you have that relationship, count yourself among the lucky, and be sure to offer your own services in return to that special friend.
If you don’t have that friend or relative and are considering asking a neighbor or even posting to find a hobby sitter, keep in mind that pet sitting is not as easy as it may seem, and that clarifying details is very important.
Here are some questions you can ask to make sure it’s a good pet sitting fit:
- Has the sitter ever cared for anyone’s pets besides his/her own? This is important because so many things can go wrong – dogs running enthusiastically out the front door into the street, resource guarding food and toys, slipping out of collars or harnesses, refusing to swallow medications, etc.
- What time each night will the sitter arrive?
- What time will the sitter leave in the morning?
- When will the sitter arrive each day to take the pups out for a mid-day walk or playtime? How long will the sitter be able to stay mid-day?
- Is the sitter willing to update you on how your pets are doing? How often and when can youexpect updates?
- Is the sitter willing to keep your home and the pets/pet supplies clean?
- What backup plan does the sitter have in case he or she has a personal emergency? Does the sitter have anyone who could come if the unexpected happens (ex: car breaking down, family emergency)?
- What experience does the sitter have with medication administration (if applicable)?
- What would the sitter do if one of the pets had a medical emergency? Does the sitter knowwhere the closest veterinary ER is? Is the sitter Pet CPR/First Aid Certified?
- Who will be responsible for any damage to the home or accidental injury to the pets? Does the sitter have liability insurance, or are you as the pet parent and homeowner comfortableaccepting the financial risk?
- If the sitter has an accident in your home, does he or she have a policy to cover their medical expenses, or are you willing to accept the risk?
- Can the sitter provide at least 3 pet sitting references?In addition to the questions above, have a backup plan of your own. Make sure you have an emergency contact who knows your pets, has a key to your home, and who agrees to take over your pets’ care if anything goes wrong with your sitter.
Final Thoughts About Choosing the Best Pet Sitting Option for your Dogs
Next time you’re planning an out-of-town trip, consider the true value of overnight pet sitting. Try picturing your pup or your cat sitting alone in a dark house, waiting for its next drop-in. Then imagine your dog curled up, sleeping soundly, waiting for the sun to rise and the cheerful voice of his pet sitter reminding him that he’s a good boy. Imagine his tail wagging while his sitter prepares his breakfast and gives him a loving head pat. Which scenario gives you more peace of mind? Which do you believe is a better value?
We hope this information is helpful. We strive to provide the best care possible for you and your amazing animals. We can be of service whether you need daily dog walks, vacation pet sitting, or just need someone to ask a question about your pet’s care. Please feel free to contact us – we love to talk about all things dog and cat! And, if you have any questions about our overnight pet sitting services, please check out our FAQ’s or reach out and call us at: