When we gave up our jobs and our flat in Brighton at the end of 2017 to pursue full time travel and pet sitting, we had completed a grand total of zero pet sits. We’d spent the year dog walking and providing pet care at our home, but we had no experience of living in someone else’s home, following their routine as they would, and it was a real leap of faith for us both. We’re very grateful to those first homeowners in the early days who took our year of pet care from home as enough experience, and booked us as their house sitters! Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and now we have over 100 house sits under our belts our experience and knowledge has grown, and our whole process has changed. Now we’re five years in to full time house and pet sitting, we sometimes cringe when we think back to things we said or did in the early days – here’s just three mistakes we made when we began pet sitting:

1. Bringing too much stuff

When we arrived at our first ever house sit, we had an embarrassing amount of STUFF crammed into our car. This was a combination of taking absolutely everything we thought we could possibly need, and thinking that we couldn’t touch anything belonging to the homeowner – even if it was something like a can of baked beans that could easily be replaced from a supermarket. For that first house sit, and for several subsequent house sits, we really had no idea what we would need to bring. Having worked 9-5 jobs prior to house sitting, we didn’t know how we would spend our days (aside from dog-walking!) so we naively prepared for every eventuality…

Nowadays we’ve definitely honed in on how we spend our time, whether it’s reading (so bringing a book or Kindle to every house sit), hiking (boots, rain coats, water bottles), or playing games (cards and small travel games). We also know better about how to pack – we invested in packing cubes for our clothes, and only pack clothes that can be worn in multiple ways or for various situations. It’s a good rule to consider whether you’ll actually have time to use some of the items you’re packing. At our Essex house sit caring for 18 dogs, for example, we didn’t have much time for reading!

2. Not knowing what questions to ask

Again, this one comes with experience and we have to say those experiences are usually challenging ones. On our last night at a house sit in Marlborough, the water tank in the attic burst and leaked through into our bedroom, down into the kitchen, and onto a lot of our belongings (R.I.P. Suze’s laptop). Because of this, we now think to ask where a water stopcock is in a house…!

Aside from niche issues, we know what kind of questions to ask having completed house sits covering such a wide variety of situations. For example if we’re dog sitting in Winter, we ask where we can wash a dog’s muddy paws after walkies, and where dog towels are located in the house. We also have a set of questions that we ask every homeowner in order to help us stay organised and have the best experience – questions like where the homeowner is going (so will there be a time difference if we need to contact them), what time a homeowner will arrive home on the final day of a sit, if a dog knows commands, what the feeding time and routine is for pets, where the dogs sleep or where pets are allowed in the house. We find that having our list of questions to ask means there are fewer surprises for us now than when we first began house sitting!

3. Learning the value of a house sit

This one is more personal, and will differ from sitter to sitter. In the early days, when we had completed less than 10 house sits, we were always on the lookout for a sit with a unique situation we hadn’t come across yet. This meant that we’d zigzag across the U.K. because we just HAD to care for those five sausage dogs for two days, or we wanted to spend a 24 hour sit walking a Collie along a sunny beach at Eastbourne. It was a lot of travelling for not a lot of time but we saw the value in these experiences, either because of the sweet pets or the chance to travel to a picturesque location. Whether we’d repeat these experiences now is where the question of value lies – since those sits we’ve spent a lot of time dog walking on beaches, so a 24 hour sit that will take a few hours to travel to isn’t necessarily of high value to us now. Though we have to say, that five dachshund house sit is still up there as one of our all time cutest house sits!

The more house sits we completed, the more we learnt to weigh up whether there’s enough value in a sit to make it worth our time or travel. If the value is only helping out a homeowner that has been let down last minute, even though the house isn’t in a great location – that’s fine! We just make sure that we can find a way to be excited about it, so we don’t resent the travel / time spent / days at a house sit.

We very rarely get ourselves into situations where we can’t find value, because we now know to politely decline a request that isn’t for us instead of just saying yes. We quite often find homeowners tell us they want us as their sitters because it’s the best option for them – whether that’s because there’s two of us, or because they want someone who is familiar with the area, but we still have to weigh up if it’s best for us so that we can enjoy it too. If the sit is in your hometown, does it suit you to be somewhere familiar? Or did you, like us, begin house sitting in the first place in order to get out there and have an adventure in location you’ve never visited? Consider what your priorities are, and you’ll never find yourself at a house sit you don’t enjoy.

If you found this post helpful, please support our blog by donating as little as £1 to our running costs! Thank-you!

If you like this post you might also like…

All Posts