Before Cooper and I set off on this house and pet sitting adventure, our intention was to be surrounded by dogs. Humbled by our experiences along the way, we have learnt eye-opening facts on how to properly rehome a dog. Our biggest lessons came in Malta, and we want to share with you here.
A family of rehomed dogs
In Malta we cared for nine dogs on our house sit. Geoff and Theresa initiated us into their family as Cooper and I each took hold of our own set of pooches. We got to understand their routines and personalities, and a highlight of each day was, of course, walk time!
Each morning in a flurry of excitement, fur babies of all shapes and sizes danced around the kitchen. Collars and leads were attached, although I can’t say patience is a strength of these cheeky dogs.
I took 12 year old Smudge – food lover, Dalmatian cross, big personality. In my other hand I had little Spike, the dog with nine lives, and old soul Eliza, mum to the fox terriers Cooper was handling, Christa and Giselle.
Geoff and Theresa showed us the ropes before they went away. Fearful giant Zula went with Geoff. We likened her to the lion who had lost courage. He also had ‘the Queen’, Amy, a type of woolly Sicilian sheep dog.
Our ‘dog whisperer’ Theresa, would wait behind and bring her two special rescued dogs. Rusty is just a pup, simply terrified; and Percy, a Dachshund mix, won’t look at anyone but Theresa.
We’d need to get to understand their characters before tackling these walks on our own. I’m pleased to say we did master it.
Navigating ‘Cat Alley’
Geoff and Theresa led the charge on the first few days we were all together. Determined to learn, we followed their instructions. Each day our dogs would go to the field behind their home, to play together and with other rehomed dogs.
Getting to the field meant navigating Cat Alley. Now that’s an adventure.
We’d all leave the house, one set of pups at a time, keeping an eye out for cars coming past the front door on the narrow road outside.
Spike doesn’t like motorbikes – he tries to attack them.
I had to learn quickly:
That a dog on a lead chasing motorbikes means all dogs I am holding onto will get tangled up!
If you’ve got a strong pup you need to be careful they don’t get away and run in front of a car. Use your good arm 👍
I also learned the hard way that my finger kept slipping on the ‘release’ button on the lead. This meant my leads would extend at exactly the time I didn’t want my dogs running away from me! Rookie errors.
Out the door: under 20 seconds ’til we’d turn the corner.
The Malta sun blazed upon us, even at this early hour. I’d see Cooper and Geoff ahead, core strength at work as they held onto their sets for dear life.
Welcome to Cat Alley, where the dogs go crazy. Christa and Giselle especially, their little frames finding tiger-like strength each day, as they dragged forth, onward towards their nemesis.
Cats on car tops glaring down, or scaling trees, scoffing at our spectacle. Then we’d spot them on the road ahead, taunting the dogs! Cat Alley. A dog’s worst nightmare? Or dog owner’s?
The strategy for getting through here was to be quick and strong. As a team, we’d managing our yelping, excited pack, quietly hoping a lead wouldn’t snap, and doing our utmost to prevent the dogs from tangling and running into each other.
Old Smudge would always stop at the most inconvenient time to do his business here too. Honestly if he wasn’t so damn cute… !
Field of dreams
After undoubtedly the most active four minutes of the day, our double-gate entry to the field is in sight!
There’s two gates here for a special reason. Many of the dogs are anxious or hyper-sensitive. So, we bring them into a holding area and shut the outside gate so no-one disappears down Cat Alley and onto the street. Second gate opens, and our group flies into their freedom field.
Theresa, Geoff, Cooper and I put down our leads, fill up water bowls and lead the dogs around the field to play.
A friend of the field, Caroline, gave us a tip:
Always keep walking, don’t let a group of dogs congregate while owners chat and gossip – it can lead to ‘too much excitement’ (or a brawl).
The field, rented by Theresa and Geoff, is an important space that helps dogs socialise and get into a happier frame of mind.
Sicily is about two hours’ ferry ride from Malta, and there’s a terrible homeless dog problem there.
Rescue dogs and their families
Cooper and I have met many beautiful rescue pups over the past year. Their families shared with us meticulous details on any anxiety or behaviour to care for in their rehomed dogs. It’s a privilege to have been able to get to know so many beautiful personalities. In Malta, we were followed around, up and down stairs; The dogs snuggled with us in the lounge at TV time, demanded cheese at meal time, and lapped up love at bedtime. We love them!
Parents of all of the rescue dogs we’ve met care deeply about their fur family, and have been matched with their furever pups. But there are heartbreaking stories of terribly high ‘return’ rates to shelters that we have heard of too.
How to rehome a dog – things we can learn
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a dog person and/or you are looking to rehome a dog too. All dogs, like people, have unique personalities. To effectively place a dog in its furever home, a proper match needs to be made.
Theresa and Geoff explained more about this to us when we spent time with them, and in the video above ☝
The dogs they’ve rescued have been through TRAUMA: neglect, serious abuse, abandonment.
It’s why some of our babies on the house sit were reticent to be too near to us.
Theresa and Geoff have a really low ‘return’ rate. They put in the time to match families and dogs though, as you’ll see in the video above.
Adoption and rehoming tips
Details we garnered to help you find your perfect pooch:
See what you can find out about the dog’s personality and background. Does he/she need to run around, are they best with a family, or a couple/single?
Will the breed/personality be right for your circumstances – do you have young kids?
How active is your dog going to need to be, and can you cater for this?
Have you considered an older dog, not just a puppy? There are so many benefits to rehoming older dogs who have just been down on their luck. Puppies are NOT right for everyone.
Are you willing to socialise your dog – take them to a dog park and to learn to play with others?
A dog deserves love for life, and you should be able to pay for vet bills if required.
Theresa and Geoff are always on the lookout for good homes for dogs they rescue. Show your support and get in contact via their Facebook page, Adopt a Sicilian Stray.
In response to readers’ questions we’ve produced a house sitting Australia guide. While Cooper and I have our sitting experience in the UK and Europe (so far), we are Australian, and happy to offer insight into an incredible destination.
If you dream of spending time Down Under, house sitting in Australia is a great option. Here we’ll share with you options on what sites to use, and where to go in Australia as a house sitter.
What is house sitting?
House sitting is where you take care of someone else’s house – and often, pets – in exchange for free accommodation. Some people do get paid to house sit, but many do not. You can house and pet sit anywhere in the world, and it’s a great way to see new places and supplement accommodation costs.
House sitting Australia wide gives you a real chance to see our beautiful country. If you’ve ever tried to plan a trip to Aus, you’ll quickly have discovered how vast the country is. Also, for most people Australia is a long way to go – so you want to have a bit of time to stay and travel, if possible. With all that travel as an expense, house and pet sitting in Australia can save you money on accommodation. An added bonus is that you might end up discovering an amazing place that you wouldn’t have if you’d not been assigned a house sit there.
We find it’s a good idea to not get too attached to a particular outcome when applying for house sits. Don’t just aim for Sydney, for example. Search for what’s on offer in the State of New South Wales, and then you can travel to Sydney around your house sit.
Similarly, see what’s available in some of our other gorgeous big cities like Brisbane (such a GREAT place these days), and the Gold Coast in Queensland.
Travel visas to Australia can be granted for up to a year, and house sitting in Australia allows you to ‘go slow’ – take your time in a place, immerse yourself in the Aussie lifestyle. There’s no better travel experience than this, and house sitting gives you an economical way to do it.
If you want to travel this way in Australia, a few important things you should consider:
As mentioned, Australia is huge. Our cities can be spread out, and the space between towns and cities can be vast. How do you plan to get around when travelling in Australia? Will you be taking the bus or train long or short distances? Will you hire a car, or buy a cheap one? Access to your own transport options will determine where you go. It’s very hot here, sometimes you simply can’t hike for hours to get from one place to another. Plan your travel – and your house sitting commitments in Australia – accordingly.
How much money do you want to spend while travelling in Australia? There are very expensive destination here, like Sydney. But if you head to lesser known towns or cities, you’ll find cheaper cost of living and travel options. Determine how long you’ll be here, where you want to go, and consider ways you can save or spend money.
When you’re on the ground in Australia, there are plenty of tour operators who advise those with a lower budget on bus or train deals for getting around. Smaller towns or cities like Cairns also offer visitors on a budget more deals for entertainment and excursions that won’t break the bank. Get on Aussie forums or ask questions of other Australians for advice and local tips before you travel.
We’ve got everything in Australia, from the city to beach, Outback, rainforest and desert. What would you like to see? Do your research and aim for house sits in destinations where your wanderlust can be quenched.
Remember – Australia is huge – so you’re best to place yourself in an area that’s in your heart to see. That said, there’s something to be said for being open to new experiences and surprises. I’ll leave that one with you.
There are six states in Australia:
New South Wales
and two territories:
Australian Capital Territory
At a glance
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is where our national capital, Canberra, is located, and it is the centre of government. New South Wales (NSW) is Australia’s most populated state, and our oldest. This is where Australia was originally settled by the British, as a penal colony on the shores of Port Jackson where Sydney now thrives as the country’s largest city. Our home state, Queensland (QLD) is Australia’s second-largest (in size). Here you’ll find the world-famous Great Barrier Reef, unique rainforests and extraordinary islands. You’ll love Queensland – and our capital Brisbane – if you enjoy warm weather, outdoor and water activities.
On the other side of the country from Queensland is Western Australia (WA), Australia’s largest state. Here you can explore vast deserts and secluded, sublime coastlines – miles and miles of untouched serenity. The state’s capital is Perth, a popular destination for travellers from all over the world.
Victoria (VIC) is the smallest of the mainland states in size but is home to Australia’s second most populated (but arguably coolest) city, Melbourne. Fashion, art, coffee and culture – Melbourne has it all, and all visitors love it! This lovely state is full of beautiful coastal and country scenery too.
Wine lovers, head to South Australia (SA) in the southern central part of the country. Adelaide, the capital city, is a foodie paradise, and a great base for exploring surrounding wineries, the Flinders Ranges and wilderness hotspot Kangaroo Island.
At the top of Australia, you’ll find the Northern Territory (NT). Darwin, on the northern coast and Alice Springs further inland, are the most well-known destinations up here. You will have heard of the famous rock, Uluru too – it’s here, at almost Australia’s geographical centre.
From the top to the bottom of Australia – discover beautiful Tasmania (TAS) which is separated from the mainland by the Bass Strait. Tasmania’s capital, Hobart, was founded in 1804 as a penal colony, and is Australia’s second oldest capital city after Sydney.
Our advice on what to look for in house sitting sites:
We have been house and pet sitting for about six months now, and plan to do more. But we did our research for at least a year before deciding to sign up for a service. In my experience, here’s how I recommend you assess a site before planning your dream trip (to make sure it IS a dream trip).
Professional look and brand feel:
This might be stating the obvious, but there’s no excuse for a lazy website these days. Look for professional design and easy user experience. I believe it shows care and that there’s likely to be a team of professionals behind the brand. I’d also be looking to see how easy it is to find basics like FAQs, details on how your details and security is managed.
Website videos, testimonials and social media:
If you’re ready to take the next step and commit to a house sitting site, whether you want to travel to Australia or elsewhere, delve deeper to see what you can find. Are there videos the brand has produced to show what they do and how far they reach?
Another simple tip is to take a look at how they present on social media – are there recent posts, reviews, a presence, even? This all goes a long way to show the legitimacy of the brand, its offering, and the people using its service.
You get what you pay for:
I come across a lot of ‘forum’ looking sites, or ‘shout outs’ on Facebook. If you’re going to negotiate with a stranger online for a free deal, good luck to you. A lot of people have mentioned to us that they were considering putting a call out on Facebook, for example, or applying for jobs they’d seen on there or a free site.
All because they don’t want to pay a subscription fee. In my opinion this is highly risky – you could end up anywhere!
Look at reviews on sitters and house sits:
If you go down the route of paying for a service, which I highly recommend for your own security, take the opportunity to look at reviews. Just like you would on Airbnb or Tripadvisor, you can gain a lot of insight be looking at what people have written about a house sit, or a sitter. If there are gaps, that may be a sign you should take too.
And please don’t forget the old rule: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is!
Subscribe to the service’s e-news:
If you’re interested in house sitting Australia or internationally, and you’ve identified a service to use, sign up for their e-news. This call to action should be easy to find on their website, and their newsletters will give you more insight into how active the brand and its users are!
Paid vs free
I’ve found a few sites that are either totally free or that charge sitters but not home owners. This doesn’t sit so well with me. House sitters should have the same protection as home owners, and in my opinion I think if both parties are willing to pay for a service then that for the most part legitimises those services.
Paid services usually mean more security checks too, on home owners and house sitters. Nothing’s ever perfect, but you can set yourself up for the best chance at an awesome experience. Invest the time and a little money into this – we believe it’s worth it.
If you have other views or questions, do let us know in the comments. Or better yet, join our dedicated house sitting group on Facebook – join here ☺
It’s been over six months since we set off on our house sitting UK adventure. We’ve explored terrific destinations in the UK through house sitting, including London, Northampton, the Cotswolds, Bedfordshire and soon Devon and the Sussex coast.
We’ve loved house sitting in the UK, and we’ve also been to Malta, France and Ireland.
House sitting UK: 6 lessons learnt
Leave the toilet seat down!
You hear stories about dogs drinking out of the toilet, right? One night we were sound asleep but awoken at 1am.
“Can you hear a noise, is that an intruder?” I asked panicked (but still tucked into bed)
“I’m not sure… do you think I should check?” asks Cooper, as we hear again… what is that?
“Slurp, slurp, slurp…” 😆
Our beautiful shepherd, Luna, couldn’t be bothered going downstairs to her bowl. Our lesson? Close the toilet lid! It’s true – dogs DO drink from the toilet.
Never forget poo bags
We find poo bags in all or pockets now. It’s pretty funny. The bags always come in handy, of course. But what about the one occasion you forget to take them?
In Northampton we had simply popped out to the corner store. When I was inside gathering supplies, Cooper was walking Luna (pictured above) around the block and having a little play with her. You guessed it – she chose this very time to do her business.
And it was no small matter!
Cooper scrounged around to find cardboard and resources to clean up after Luna, but it wasn’t pretty, oh no.
Hence, poo bags in every pocket since that time.
Watch what your dog eats
I’m sorry, this seems to have turned into a post about toilets and dogs’ business. You see, we took care of another gorgeous pup, Teal. A Springer Spaniel – about the best behaved and most affectionate creature you’d ever meet. But Teal has a secret.
Teal eats poo. In the depths of fields around the Cotswolds, this innocent pooch will grab a ‘snack’ the second you turn away. At first I thought Cooper was exaggerating because he spotted this, er, behaviour first. I didn’t believe him. Not our lovely Teal.
However, when I turned around after being engaged in conversation with a fellow dog walker, I saw it. Oh Teal. Perhaps he needed some nutrients that are in there?
Whatever the case, we were reminded that dogs are like kids. Keep an eye on them at all times 🐶
We took care of a precious little old man called Monty. He was such a beautiful old soul. A 15 year old Jack Russell, for the most part he was super easy to look after. Except he suffered major senior separation anxiety.
When we arrived he seemed ok, but once his parents left he wouldn’t leave his bed or hid under theirs. It broke our hearts. We kept an eye on him over the 12 hours to come, and we even called TrustedHousesitters pet line for guidance to make sure we were doing all the right things, which we were.
For anxiety, we’ve discovered we need to give dogs in this scenario their space. It’s beneficial for them to be in their own home. If they are not sleeping or eating, then you should contact a vet. One thing we had going for us was that Monty liked his food. We used this to try and coax him to love us 💖 We even got him downstairs by laying out a cheese trail – his favourite treat.
After a while though, we realised we were using treats in the wrong way – we were reinforcing his behaviour to stay in his bed or hide from us. We’d give him treats for it! Instead, we switched it around – gave him treats for coming to us and we got him outside on walks which cheered him right up. Our lesson: consider what kind of behaviour you’re rewarding with treats, or are you giving them to make you feel better?
House sitting in the UK brought many lessons our way. When we took care of Blue, a senior Lurcher doggie in London, we’d been told where in the house he could go. It was pretty much everywhere except the bedrooms. What we didn’t realise is that’s exactly where he’d try to go. Some of the door handles weren’t shut properly and we discovered this after he went missing twice. Blue managed to break into the rooms, have a nap on his siblings’ beds but then got locked in, bless him!
Our Luna in Northampton was known to break into the fridge and eat all the meat, so we had to lock the door to the kitchen if we went out. Luna’s also actually unlocked the front door to go in search of her family 💕 So, we needed to deadbolt it for her own safety from the busy street outside.
A special mention must go to Harley in Dublin who knew how to follow you into the toilet, jump up on the sink and drink water while you wash your hands. His mum said that is entirely his father’s fault for teaching him 🤣
The school holidays are fast approaching and no doubt you’re already planning a trip with the family – but this begs the question: pet hotel, or what else to do with the fur child?
Cooper and I have had dogs most of our lives. We know that they all have different personalities and cope in varying ways outside of our company. Also, we learnt lessons from the years spent as younger, less experienced dog owners, on what is good or not so good for pets when we are absent.
Pet hotel, in home sitting or take them with you? Questions to ask yourself about your pooch:
Does my dog have problems with unfamiliar people or surroundings?
Does my dog get along well with other dogs?
How long is reasonable to leave my dog at home on his/her own for (keeping in mind, they are social creatures)?
How much exercise does my dog need, even if we’re travelling/on holidays?
The answers to these questions take you some way to deciding on what you need to arrange for your four-legged friend(s) when planning your own break away.
Pet hotel and dog-friendly accommodation: can you take your dog with you?
Of course, one option is to take your pooch with you and this requires a lot of planning. The main things to keep in mind are to book dog friendly accommodation and to choose a travel destination that best fits your dog’s breed. It might not be ideal to go hiking with a dachshund, for example. But a hotel that allows dogs (dog hotel) is perfect.
You also have to think about if you will travel by car or plane (and the high costs of the latter). Both in the car and on a plane, the dog should be in a dog crate. It will take time for your dog to get used to staying in a crate over an extended period of time, which means you have to train him/her before you go on a holiday. Travelling can mean a lot of stress for your pooch if it’s not facilitated in the right way.
Not everything that is expensive is the best option. A boarding kennel is one of the most expensive and usually least ideal options to consider (I personally have had both wonderful and terrible experiences, and it truly depends on whether the establishment is run by genuine, caring ‘dog people’ or not).
Your dog is in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar people and won’t get a lot of individual attention, because the sitter-to-dog ratio can be as low as 1:100. The dogs often sleep and stay in small cages. A positive however, is that your dog has a lot of friends to play with when in the running yard (assuming there is one – which there should be).
Friends and family
This might be the best and most trustworthy option (shout out to our family in Cairns – you know who you are). Your dog is already familiar with the people and surroundings, this means less stress when you’re away.
If your dog stays with friends or family, make sure they have their favourite toy and/or dog bed. We’d also leave something that smelled like us (eg. an old t-shirt). It only makes sense that your dog stays there if your friend or family member is at home often enough to take care of the pooch and has fun doing it.
Your dog can also stay at your home and someone comes to feed and walk him/her every day, but keep in mind that dogs can break things, tip over their water bowl, get hurt or very anxious if left alone for extended periods of time.
In-home dog sitting
When your dog feels uncomfortable being in unfamiliar surroundings for a long period of time this is a good option, as long as it’s something you are happy with too.
A dog sitter will come and live in your house for the time you’re on holiday. There are many options advertised in local newspapers and online, but you’ll want to be satisfied with references before leaving someone the keys to your home.
A great alternative for dogs that need that extra level of TLC, and easy to find thanks to the internet. Dog sitters are mostly passionate ‘dog people’ who currently own a dog, or who have had a dog in the past but cannot make the long-term commitment.
As you can meet the minder prior to committing, you’ll have the peace of mind in knowing your dog is in good hands. There’s plenty of services we are aware of, like Borrow My Doggy in the UK, or FindADogMinder.com.au in Australia, where you can even choose the kind of property your prefer for your pooch to hang out at, and all minders are insured and screened too.
Do you have tips, thoughts or suggestions on caring for dogs while you’re on holidays? We’re passionate dog people so would love to hear from you… leave a note in the comments below.
Welcome to Travel Live learn, where we are passionate about living a life full of great adventures. We are Sarah + Cooper, and here we share our advice and stories about expat living in the UK; pet and house sitting around the world; wellness travel and creative living, no matter where on the planet you are. We have worked in media, communication and creative roles for 20 years, and have spent over 10 years living and working abroad. We hope you find value in our content. Please do connect by leaving a comment or find us on social media.