Give your dog the best life when you go on a holiday – in home pet boarding is so easy! Following is a guide to how a sitter will take care of all of your dog’s needs, and how you can make this happen in time for your next travel trip.
In home pet boarding – what is it?
Cooper and I are currently on a ‘slow travel’ trip around the UK and Europe. We started house and dog sitting in London. Those city sits were short sits, and now we’re on a journey of a series of long sits that started in Northampton, have taken us to Ireland and soon France and Malta. You’ll see from our content that we are big dog people. The same goes for most of those signed up to a reputable in home pet boarding service like TrustedHousesitters.
In home pet boarding means that your pets can stay in their own environment while you’re away. Research shows this is far better for their wellbeing and state of mind. And, there’s no shortage of ‘animal people’ who are happy to visit your place, stay and take care of the fur babies.
It’s cheaper than you might think too. Most sites charge a fee per year which allows for background checks on home owners and sitters, and for the running of a site that helps us find good matches.
Special needs? No worries
Over the past few months we’ve learnt a LOT about different dogs and their needs. We’ll admit, we have been a bit surprised by the range of personalities we’ve met.
It’s been such a great experience to meet home owners and facilitate in home pet boarding for gorgeous dogs. We’ve got some insights to share, to show how seriously pet sitters take our jobs.
The range of needs taken care of by us as house and pet sit includes:
Many poor little dogs have anxiety. This may present through persistent barking (no, they’re not necessarily just being naughty!), fearful behaviours like retreating or tail between the legs.
We’ve experienced a range of dog anxiety, and it’s important that pet owners and sitters communicate any known needs or concerns. As our experience grows, we understand it’s really important to nurture dogs like kids. Reward them for good behaviour, and don’t write off defensive behaviour (like barking at another dog) automatically as a dog misbehaving. Sometimes it’s a protection mechanism. We take treats on walks with us and do whatever we can to ensure our dogs feel loved and safe.
Cooper and I understand it’s very important to respect the requests of pet owners, especially when it comes to their diet. Many pups are on a diet for their own health reasons. This may mean eating certain foods at a particular time of the day. We always abide by this, for the wellbeing of our fur babies.
Again, communication is critical. As a pet owner, write instructions down but discuss face to face if possible.
Another really important one. A fave pup of ours in the Cotswolds has been through a hip operation and has a heart murmur. He’s on specific medication three times a day. His mum was very helpful and thorough, sorting his medication into pill containers and also leaving us instructions and talking us through it.
As a sitter, we should be prepared to administer medication. We are experienced with dogs including our own, and know the drill, so we get on with it. You should be able to rely on your sitter to take good care of your pets, even if medication is required. We have a duty of care to them. (and it’s all totally fine by us)
Age (and associated abilities or health care requirements)
Cooper and I have had one instance where we looked after an old gentleman who suffered severe separation anxiety. This is normal for older dogs, although it was distressing to see him so upset.
Our strategy involved giving him ample time to himself, making sure he was eating and sleeping, and taking him out for walks when he got used to us. We did actually call the TrustedHousesitters advice line to ensure we were doing all the right things, which we were. Sometimes there’s no way around a dog being apprehensive. But, we know to give him/her space and still be around so they’re not alone. Of course, if sickness, trembling, no sleep or no eating kicks in, it’s time to contact the vet or emergency details left by the home owner.
In this instance, our little man’s parents were aware of his anxiety and had already taken him to the vet about it. They had also warned us he might struggle. We stayed in constant contact with them to keep them updated, and after a few days he did settle with us.
As far as other age-related issues go, always discuss how far a dog can or wants to walk each day, and what their overall abilities are like – how is their hearing or sight, for example?
Exercise and rehab
The same little man we took care of who needs his meds three times a day also needs rehab for his hip. This was a really rewarding experience for Cooper and I. The doggie’s mum went through five sets of exercises we needed to do with him, including a circuit in his back yard, leg lifts (like shaking his paw), and balancing activities.
This dog was so good and so diligent and we happily obliged.
They say routine is just as important for dogs as it is kids, and we’d agree (especially Cooper, a teacher by trade). Leave thorough instructions for your sitter as to what your pet’s routine is. If possible, chat through in person. Usually the dogs tell us when it’s time for their walk or dinner! But, it’s good to know what their usual day looks like, so it can be continued while their family is away.
Sight or hearing loss
Ok, so some pups have ‘selective’ hearing loss, we know that well! But others, particularly ageing dogs, start to lose some of their sight and hearing. This can lead to anxiety, or fright if they don’t know we’re around.
We have learnt to make sure we make noise or vibrations on the floor so as not to startle a pooch whose hearing is going. Similarly, we will ensure they see us properly. It can be hard enough with their parents gone – we make every effort to help them through and accommodate any special needs.
‘Personality differences’ between dogs
This is a classic that you’re likely to see on the street. Some dogs, like people, just don’t get along. Always make sure that any personality quirks are discussed between sitters and pet owners. One of our pup’s parent’s gave us a heads-up that their cute dog wouldn’t be behind the door at getting into a bit of an argument with others. They were right 😂 But we knew, and managed it. Again, communication and being up front about your dog’s personality is key, for their own wellbeing and bespoke care a sitter can offer.
As a home owner or pet sitter, do you have questions or tips to add? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
We’ve just come back to England after our house sitting Ireland assignment through TrustedHousesitters – what an experience! So far on this house sitting and pet sitting adventure we’ve met the loveliest people. From London to Northampton and then Balbriggan just outside of Dublin. It’s been refreshing, rediscovering the best in humanity.
Not to mention, we’re learning so much about places we’d never have even known to go to. Funnily enough, Northampton is known for its shoe industry. We then went to Balbriggan to house sit in Ireland, and this town’s famous for making hosiery! So famous, in fact, that this gorg seaside spot used to serve all the royals in Europe, including the Empress of Austria, the Czarina of Russia and Queen Victoria herself. A little on the history here.
Out and about: house sitting Ireland
In Ireland we house sat for Harley the Tibetan terrier, and his parents. We crossed with Harley’s humans right before they went on a two week trip to France (the reason we were house sitting in Ireland) and for a night when they came back. We had such a great time with them, leaving as friends. When they came back, we had gone to some effort to ensure the house was sparkling clean and that we had a meal ready for them. Part of showing gratitude.
Find out more about those tips:
Harley himself was a super quirky, cool, unique dog. We’re discovering a whole new world of personalities doing this.
Our love of dogs and experience with different breeds has been coming in handy, we apply it to a new situation everywhere we land. New things we’re discovering, especially with older dogs, is separation anxiety and also a stubbornness when they’re independently minded. Me and them get along famously 😂 [jokes]
Get yourself to Ireland
Ireland is famous the world over for being beautiful and the people are well-known for being funny, hospitable and kind. We can absolutely vouch for all of this.
It’s pretty easy to get started – sign up for a site like TrustedHousesitters. Get your profile and reference checks sorted, and then the fun begins.
If you’re looking for house sitting Ireland opportunities, set up alerts for the country, and keep an eye out for new listings every day. We’ve found that the sites can be competitive, so you want to be within the first few people to apply.
House sitting Ireland: top tips
Ireland is not a huge country, so it’s possible to be able to plan seeing a bit of it around your house sitting assignments. There’s internal flights to main cities, and trains too. But once you get into the heart of Ireland you’ll probably need a car.
That said, we’ve not hired one yet. In Dublin the transport is quite good and you can walk a lot of places. We caught local buses to our pet sit/ house sit in Balbriggan which is an hour outside of Dublin. Our sit home owners got all the details on this to us prior to us confirming the sit – important, to make sure you’re right to commit. We needed to make sure we wouldn’t be so remote so as not to be able to get groceries and living essentials.
Leave time to explore
There’s so many beautiful places to go in Ireland. We’ve been lucky enough to explore Dublin, and further south around Killarney. Have a read of our guides (linked) and watch our videos for more information.
Ireland is brimming with experiences though. You can drive along the coast and discover all the little towns and ports, and go inland to meet more of the country’s characters. It’s possible to do it within two or three weeks. But we love spending time somewhere if we’ve got it.
It’s important to check the dates you’re due to arrive (does your house sit need you a day earlier than advertised?). And what’s your plan on the other side? How will you get to your next destination? Do you need an extra night’s accommodation?
We’ve found home owners to be so lovely and helpful, which we really appreciate. At the moment we’re travelling and transport-less. Keep the lines of communication open and make your plans ahead of time.
Enjoy house sitting in Ireland!
Let us know in the comments if you have any other tips or questions. We’ve also got a whole series of videos on YouTube with advice on house and pet sitting. Subscribe and find them here.
The Northampton train station serves London in just over an hour and Birmingham in just under. This is a town most people will have passed through at some point.
We were in Northampton for our first long stay house/pet sit, with Luna the beautiful Shepherd 🐶 The closest we’d been previously (and on the same train line) is Rugby, birthplace of the game of the same name.
There is so much to see and do in this cute market town. Next time you’re on the west coast mainline get off at Northampton train station and see for yourself.
Northampton train station and destination guide
As the county town of Northamptonshire, Northampton is steeped in history, with archaeological evidence dating back as far as the bronze age.
It wasn’t until thousands of years later that the town grew in national importance, following the building of Northampton Castle in 1084.
It went on to become one of the most famous Norman castles in England, an occasional royal residence and regular host of parliament.
Unfortunately, there’s not much left to see. Charles II ordered the destruction of the town walls and most of the castle in 1662 after the town supported the roundheads in the English Civil War.
The rest of the castle was flattened to make way for the train line. The Poster Gate only remains visible today. It was dismantled from its original position and rebuilt into the walls of Northampton railway station.
The town was hit by more destruction in 1675 with the Great Fire of Northampton. This fire destroyed an estimated 600 buildings. Although, Welsh House on Market Square and Hazelrigg House both survived. They are now Grade II listed buildings worth a visit.
Where to visit in Northampton
Abington Park was just up the road from where we were staying on our house sit, and it’s beautiful!
The park was built on the site of a medieval manor house and mill which was mentioned in the Domesday Book. It’s Northampton’s oldest and most popular park. Some of the ruins are really interesting, reminiscent of what you can find in York.
The park features two lakes, a model boating lake and the church of St Peter and St Paul. It’s home to Abington Park Museum, which is housed in Abington Park Manor House.
It won’t come as any surprise to hear that the town is home to a museum of Leathercraft, also based in the house.
What’s with all the shoes?
Northampton has long been a major centre for footwear and leather manufacturing. By the end of the 18th century, a third of all adult males in the town were making shoes. It also supplied the British army with more than 23 million pairs of boots for World War I.
Barkers, Churches and Trickers are three of the most famous names to come out of the town. Although Churches, which was founded in 1873, is no longer a family run business after it was bought by Prada in 1999.
Trickers might be the least known name on the list, despite having a royal warrant. That’s because 80% of their sales come from overseas.
All three brands still have factories and factory shops in the town today.
This area was also famously the location for 2005’s Kinky Bootswhich was later turned into a popular Broadway production.
From shoes to shopping (for more shoes?)
Shopping is another reason to visit the market town. There are three shopping centres, including the Grosvenor Centre, Weston Favell and Market Walk shopping centre, which are home to all the high street favourites.
We also discovered some excellent vintage and second hand stores. A highlight is Vintage Guru spread across two floors and boasting many locally handmade gifts.
This is all as well as the widely acclaimed market, which has taken place in its present location since 1235!
So, if it’s history, some bargain leather or a sporting event, with both Northampton Town football club and Northampton Saints Rugby based just outside the town centre, there are plenty of reasons to visit.
Onwards on our house sitting journey: we went from here, a town all about shoes, to house sitting in an Irish town that’s all about hosiery. Find out more
There’s four main types of house sitting jobs in the UK that might be suitable for you, depending on whether you want to travel, stay locally and take care of animals or not.
House sitting jobs UK
No matter where you live in the UK, there are house sits nearby. We were based in London when we first decided to sign up to TrustedHousesitters, with a view to using the service for long-term travel. The site makes use of reviews, which help home and pet owners make a decision on who sits for them.
Being new users, we applied for local house sits in London. This gave us experience and the chance to build our reviews.
Plus, sitting locally offers a change of scenery and makes it possible to explore new neighbourhoods. Win/win!
If you’re on TrustedHousesitters, you can set up an alert with your availability and preferred location, and apply as new sits are published. Often home owners prefer someone who lives locally, believing them to be more reliable than someone who may be travelling through.
There’s plenty of short term house and pet sitting opportunities available in the UK. This is especially true if you’re around during key holiday times, like Easter, summer (August/September) and Christmas. By short term, we mean about two weeks.
Applying for a short term house sit in the UK means you can take a trip to a different part of the country and not have to worry about accommodation. This is a cost-effective way to travel.
Keep an eye out for daily alerts from TrustedHousesitters and apply for dates and locations that appeal to you as soon as you spot them.
Tip: if a sit already has over ten applicants, feel free to put your hand up for it. But, why not take it as a sign and apply for somewhere else instead? Go with the flow and be open to new experiences and destinations.
We consider long term to be over two weeks. There are house and pet sits in the UK (and beyond, of course – house sitting Ireland is on our itinerary) that range anywhere from two weeks to a month, two months and even six months. Over the next few months, Cooper and I plan to ‘slow travel’ and explore the digital nomad lifestyle. We want to take our time in destinations. With that in mind, we specifically applied for longer term sits.
For us, long term sits are an excellent opportunity to ‘live’ somewhere new, and we can get into a routine for working and setting up our digital business. It’s also more cost-effective for us to stay in one place for two to four weeks.
There’s a wide range of sits in the UK, from country to city house sits, some that require a car, and others where you’re fine to walk everywhere (our preference). Our first long stay UK sit was in Northampton, which was ideal for our needs.
Before you commit to a long term sit, make sure you’re comfortable that all the facilities at the sit fit your needs, along with transport being appropriate for you, and that you have supermarkets or other preferred amenities around. You should also be certain that you will happily stay there for that long. Outside of an actual family emergency like a death in the family, you should never back out of a sit you’ve committed to because that majorly upsets the plans of the people you’ve agreed to sit for.
With animals or without
The best part of TrustedHousesitters for us is the opportunity to travel and take care of dogs. We LOVE dogs and are happy to spend all our time with our little charges, ensuring they’re as happy with us as they are with their own family.
If you’re using TrustedHousesitters, or any similar sites, you can filter searches by animal, to look for cat sits, horse sits, reptile sits… the list is endless. You can also opt to sit without any animals.
Only ever commit to a sit that you have experience for or that you’re willing to give a loving go to, especially if animals are involved.
Our experience so far has been that anyone using a service like TrustedHousesitters has the same attitude as us: they’re loving animal people, kind and open to meeting new friends from all walks of life.
Hopefully this has inspired you to get out and travel, whether it’s in your own backyard, or further afield. Comments and questions always appreciated – drop us a line below.
Cooper and I have signed up to TrustedHousesitters – click the link if you’d like to know more or join the service too.
As I write, I’m house sitting in London. I’m in the loveliest of places we could never afford in the north of the city. A few minutes up the road is Alexandra Palace!
I’m gazing upon the prettiest of gardens that you’d not imagine to be in central London. Rain is coming down hard outside, and all is quiet. Well, except for Alexa pumping out choice House tunes, perfect for a Friday after lunch.
There’s a sleeping dog next to me. His name is Blue, and he’s a short-haired lurcher. Blue’s family are on the other side of the country for a special wedding, and chose us for their London house and dog sit this weekend.
House sitting London: how did we get here?
Let’s rewind to the beginning of the year for a bit of context. Cooper and I decided to pursue a different direction which you’ll be reading a lot about from August 2019. Some hints were given on the blog when we started posting about digital nomad tips and tricks.
In fact, we are taking off on an epic nomad, dog-loving adventure – house and pet sitting across the UK and Europe while we work on this blog and other freelance projects.
We joined TrustedHousesitters, which requires its users to have reviews based on things like reliability and trustworthiness. (We’ll share more about these house sitting services in future posts.)
In order to increase our reviews before we travel long-term, we chose to apply for house sitting London gigs.
House sitting in London (that is, locally to where we live), meant we could:
improve our rating on the house sitting service for London and beyond, and increase our chances of being chosen for sits
gain more house sitting experience that we can take on the road
spend time with dogs (most importantly!) 💛
In March our house sitting London journey began. I meant to write more about it because it’s not so much the places we stay that’s appealing, but the dogs we meet. Time has escaped me up until now. Still, better late than never 🐕
Dog sitting: the best part about house sitting!
We chose to embark upon this new style of travel, starting with our house sitting London experience, because it is certainly a cost-effective way of securing accommodation.
But the bonus for us – if not the driving motivator – is the fact we get to spend time with dogs 💕 I say to people that we’re turning from ‘crazy dog people’ into ‘craziER dog people’. We’re totally going to own it.
For dog-lovers, this lifestyle is the ultimate, especially if you’re not in a position to have a dog yourself, and you’re keen to travel as we are.
House and dog sitting has given us the chance to experience different types of dogs and their personalities.
For the love of dogs
Our first dog sit
Our ‘first’ were Polly and Darcy, two cheeky Westies. Darcy is an old soul and a gentleman of 11 years young. Polly is two years old, and the ring-leader in all things barking and chasing. Gosh we loved them. We’re heading back for a second sit for these little pooches soon which is pawesome.
This pair have such funny characteristics – one being the race out to the backyard every couple of hours to ‘check for a fox’ (that was there once). Polly will rouse Darcy from slumber to pursue this task, and next thing their little paws are racing along the wooden floor boards and the dance at the back door begins until Cooper or I let them outside.
They were great off the lead at the parklands up the road, and showed me that most dogs are happy to come back even if they’re not yours!
During TV time, we were surprised to learn the lengths of their affection, as Darcy jumped up onto the sofa and then up again onto the back of it, to sit leaning into our shoulders. Polly would make herself comfortable between Cooper and I on the couch. One big happy (temporary) family. 😂
But then came George and Milly. Yes, we fell in love with these two as well, but for different reasons. George is an old soul who certainly still loves adventures but his back legs have had enough and so Cooper learnt to walk George on a harness. We’d take he and his younger adopted mate, Milly, over to beautiful Hampstead Heath for a walk around the path that they’re familiar with. People would stop to make way for George, and the dog-lovers would give us a smile as if to say, ‘how lovely, bless his little cottons socks’.
Milly had a tough time when she was a baby, being mistreated by her original owners. Don’t get us started. She won the lottery with the mums she ended up with though, two inspiring women who it was an absolute privilege to meet!
This sit helped us grow as dog carers. When Milly and George’s parents left for their travels, there was an hour or two where we needed to get acquainted. Usually we’d take a dog on a walk to help them settle with us as new humans in their space. I was on my own for the first few hours of this sit and couldn’t walk George. It was Milly, George and me, sussing each other out. Milly seemed a little anxious without her mums, and I was a bit anxious worrying that the dogs seemed worried.
Cooper arrived though, we went on an adventure to the park, had some food and everyone settled. By the end of this weekend sit, we got an understanding of George’s barks and sounds telling us what he wanted. Milly would demand to be massaged on her head by pawing our legs and insisting we ‘continue’. How amazing to communicate with dogs like this.
Anxiety, walks and weather
Now I’m with Blue, waiting for Cooper to get in from his day at work. Blue was super happy to welcome me into his home. However, about an hour into the sit, he disappeared. I thought I’d lost him! He was hiding in the laundry room in the dark.
Fortunately I figured out it wasn’t due to me, but rather, his mum had said he is fearful of storms. There was one overhead, so we waited it out together. Blue isn’t fond of rain, or the heat, but I discovered Blue likes hugs and treats, which will do us until things are better outside and we can find adventure together.
He also likes sleeping. And he’s been doing just that while I write this piece.
Five dogs in, and I’m in love with each one – all with their different sizes, quirks, personalities, sounds, interests, affectionate traits and backgrounds.
House sitting – what’s next?
In mid-August we’re heading off on our own adventure, and we’re going to share it with you here! We’ve been asked by so many people how we got into house sitting – it seems like something you’d only see in a movie. We’re going to test it out though, and share everything with you, so you can do it too.
This lifestyle is ideal for us right now because we:
Want to travel and see new places and don’t really mind where we end up
Intend to work on our digital business so we just need to be somewhere there’s good WiFi
Enjoy meeting new people, learning new stories and cultures, and this seems like a perfect opportunity to do all that!
We hope you’ll join us for more stories as the months go by. If you’re interested to find out more about how to travel the world house-sitting, drop us a line in the comments.
As mentioned, Cooper and I have signed up to TrustedHousesitters – click the link if you’d like to know more or join the service too!
Welcome to Travel Live learn, where we are passionate about living a life full of great adventures. We are Sarah + Cooper: we know life's short, and we're here to encourage you to make the most of it! We have worked in media, communication and creative roles for many years, and have spent over 10 years living and working abroad. Our hottest content topics here are pet friendly travel, house + pet sitting, and designing a life as expats or digital nomads wherever in the world you want to be. Join our community of over 11,000 like-minded adventurers - find out more by signing up for the mailing list and our Facebook Group. Find us on YouTube too. NEW podcast now live: search 'Freedom and Four Paws' on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google podcasts or your fave podcast service provider.