Having spent the past month living at home with Suze’s parents, after all of our November housesits were cancelled due to a second UK lockdown, we couldn’t be more grateful for the existence of Borrow My Doggy to satiate our cravings for fluffy cuddles! We were fortunate enough to spend the first UK lockdown with a surrogate family in Norfolk, after arriving at a workaway just one week before the new restrictions went into effect. This time around, we knew that we were heading back to our hometown of Sevenoaks, in Kent, and were thankful to spend the November lockdown hunkered down in familiar surroundings. However, something that was very plainly missing from our day-to-day life was the presence of four-legged friends! As this is our third year of housesitting and petsitting our way around the UK and beyond, we always find it strange to be without pets for an extended period of time.

We’ve already written a review of Borrow My Doggy, after we chose to re-join the site earlier this year. On that post you’ll find an overview of our experience as dog borrowers and some advice for getting started on the site. For this post, we’re going into more detail about how Borrow My Doggy works and addressing some of the frequently asked questions we receive about the process – from finding dogs to borrow, to meeting owners and arranging walkies with new doggo pals. We’ll also give our tips for dog owners too – what to include on your profile, and our advice for messaging dog borrowers.

So let’s dive into our FAQs!

What is Borrow My Doggy and how do I join?

Borrow My Doggy is a service that lets you… Well… borrow a doggy! The site allows people who want to take a dog for walkies, but don’t own one themselves, to connect with people who need a bit of extra help looking after their pups. 

You can create a free ‘Basic’ account by signing up on their website and filling in a few questions. It only takes a few moments and then you can look through all the listings of cute dogs in your area!

Why should you join Borrow My Doggy? Is it worth it?

Borrow My Doggy has been invaluable to us as dog lovers! We’ve cared for more than 70 dogs over our three years of full time housesitting adventures, so being in lockdown we really noticed a dog-shaped gap in our days. Over the past few weeks we’ve connected with new dog owners in our hometown and cared for their pooches. It’s the perfect arrangement for dog owners and borrowers alike – the owners are able to find a walker / carer to look after their dogs for free, perhaps while they’re busy working from home, and in exchange borrowers gain pet care experience and find new doggy friends to go for walkies with! 

As petsitters with Trusted Housesitters, we find that a lot of the perks of housesitting cross over into being borrowers with Borrow My Doggy. Think about all the good parts of looking after a dog – cuddles, play time, going for long walks – and Borrow My Doggy allows you to do that without any of the cost of vet bills or food bills. Owners are expected to provide any items that may be needed during your time borrowing their dog, such as food, toys, poo bags and leads, so you can simply enjoy your time caring for their dog.

One day we’d like to have dogs of our own and, depending on where you live, there may be dozens of different breeds for you to borrow and find out whether they’re the kind of breed you get along with! It’s also a great excuse to get outside more and find new paths to explore with a new four-legged friend by your side. We feel that it’s definitely been worth it to sign up to Borrow My Doggy – one of our first experiences with the site back in 2017 was so positive that we’ve become regular housesitters for the owner!

Are there dogs in my area?

Probably! Sign up for a free Basic account and you’ll be able to see all the local dogs in your area. You won’t be able to message anyone until you have Premium membership, but you should be able to gauge how many dogs there are nearby that need some extra love and walkies! If there aren’t too many dogs near you, you can always expand your search to further afield.

Is Borrow My Doggy legit? 

Yes! We know it sounds too good to be true, but we’ve taken many dogs for walkies or cared for them at home and have had no problems at all. Borrow My Doggy just acts as the middleman and connects dog owners and people who want to borrow a dog. After that you can chat with the owner/borrower and discuss how best to proceed. If at any point you don’t feel comfortable, you can end the conversation and move on.

Do you get paid for walking someone’s dog?

No – no money changes hands between owners and borrowers. Members pay an annual fee to join Borrow My Doggy which covers the costs of the website, and includes insurance for every Premium member. Some people find it hard to wrap their heads around, after being so used to paying for this kind of service, but oftentimes there is more to life than money – and we borrow dogs because we want to spend time more time with animals. For this reason we definitely think that the annual fee for Borrow My Doggy is worth it!

How much is membership for Borrow My Doggy? What’s the difference between Basic and Premium membership?

It’s completely FREE to get started with Borrow My Doggy and obtain Basic membership. This allows you to fill in your profile and search your area for local dog owners / borrowers. We think it’s fantastic that you can scout out how many dogs or borrowers there are in your vicinity before having to pay a penny – this way you can determine whether the site will be worth it for you.

It’s worth noting whether there are enough members with Premium membership in your area before you commit to paying for Premium membership yourself – this is made clear by a gold crown on their profile. This is important as only Premium members are able to send and receive messages from other members, and Basic members have not yet completed Borrow My Doggy’s safety and identity checks. If there are only a handful of borrowers in your area, and none of them have Premium membership, you can always reach out in the hope they’ll upgrade to Premium or you can simply expand your search to a wider location range! Borrow My Doggy also has a filter for you to search for ‘Premium Members Only’.

We’ve previously used the site while living in Brighton, and now in Sevenoaks, so we have never been short of available dogs to borrow! We’ve found paying for Premium membership has definitely been worth it – at £12.99 for a year’s borrowing membership, that’s just over £1 a month and equates to LOTS of lovely doggo cuddles!! Premium membership for owners is higher at £44.99 / year, but think of all the money you’ll save if you find a regular walker for your dog through the site, for just a one time payment! Both borrowers and owners also have access to unlimited messaging, third party insurance and a 24 hour vet line as well as being required to complete full safety checks, so you know your money has been put to good use ensuring the safety of your doggo at all times.

How to create a pawsome borrower profile on Borrow My Doggy

Before you get too excited about all the cute pups you could look after, you need to sort out your profile so that dog owners can gauge whether you’ll be a good match. For starters, you’ll need to pay for Premium membership. Not only is this a requirement to send and receive messages, but it reassures the owner that you’re serious and have been through the required identity checks.

Next you’ll want to add some photos of yourself, preferably with dogs too! Profiles with pictures are FIFTEEN TIMES more likely to receive a message, and it also helps to build trust if an owner can see who they are talking to! We recommend choosing a variety of photos that show the range of your experience – if you’ve looked after a particular breed or size of dog this could help sway an owner into deciding that you are suitable to care for their pooch. Check out our guide on how to take pawfect dog photos!

Make sure that you have filled in the About section with information about who you are, why you want to borrow other peoples dogs and what experience you already have. Try and find the right balance between providing enough information without overloading owners with rambling paragraphs that they won’t bother to read!

How to create a pawsome owner profile on Borrow My Doggy

As a borrower, we’ve seen a lot of owner profiles when searching for dogs to borrow so we like to think we know what makes a good profile! When we are searching for dogs to borrow, the first thing we look at is the photos. If there are no photos we will skip over the listing. The first photo you add will be the one that shows up in the search, so make this a good one! You can upload a maximum of five photos, and we think it’s best to use these to show off your dogs personality in different ways. It’s a good idea to use up to date photos as, although puppy pictures are cute, it’s misleading to use a puppy photo for your three year old dog! You want to know that whoever has agreed to care for your pooch will be able to handle them at the age / size they currently are.

In the About Your Dog section, we find it SO useful to know what you expect from a borrower and what your dog is like. So if you only need a borrower to look after your dog at home, or if you want them to take your dog for a long walk, write that in this section! It’s also great to know how your dog is with other dogs, and whether their recall is good when walking off lead.

Our tips for contacting other members

Borrow My Doggy provides owners and borrowers with a guide to messaging other members on the site, but here are our top tips as members ourselves:

Personalise your message to every borrower or owner you contact. This lets them know that you’ve read all the information on their profile, are happy with it, and are serious about making that connection. We rarely ignore messages from homeowners on Trusted Housesitters but on the occasions that we do, it’s because they’ve chucked dates our way and sent a one line ‘invitation’. At the bare minimum, include one detail from a borrower’s profile that stood out to you, or if you’ve had experience caring for a similar breed of dog, tell the owner that!

Keep an open mind and message more than one person, especially if you’re a borrower. Sometimes we’ve had our hearts set on borrowing a cute pup, only to never receive a response from the owner – in 99% of these cases they won’t have even read our message. In these topsy-turvy times, with many people spending more time at home than usual, owners may not need any extra help with their pooch. So we recommend messaging at least two owners, and giving them a few days to respond before moving on. It’s also just common courtesy to respond to every message you receive, as a borrower or an owner, even if only to let them know that you’re not available.

Keep your initial message short. Send a friendly, personalised introduction explaining why you’re messaging, but refrain from overloading them with information. Your profile should do most of the talking for you and you can always get to know each other better once you’ve agreed to meet.

Don’t treat the site as a way to find regular, free dog walkers, and don’t be demanding or inflexible about when you’d like to borrow a dog! The arrangement needs to work for all three parties – owners, borrowers, and of course, the dogs! If you’re just looking to find someone to lend you a Pug puppy for cute Instagram photos, then Borrow My Doggy is not for you. Equally, you can’t expect borrowers to take your dog at the drop of a hat – so refrain from sending a one line ‘I need someone to look after my dog every Monday, take a look at my profile’ kind of message.

What to do if you don’t get many / any responses

As we’ve mentioned, sometimes we don’t hear back from an owner or they never even read our message. While there is an option to hide your profile from search when you’re not in need of a borrower, sometimes people just plain forget to do this and this results in a lot of messages going unread – the same goes for borrowers too.

If you find you’re not receiving any responses at all, however, it may be worth taking a look at your approach. As an owner, are you sending short messages to borrowers along the lines of ‘Hi, I need someone to walk my dog this Saturday, are you free?’ – these messages are so jarring as we haven’t built up a relationship with the person or the dog, and demanding free pet care at short notice is a sure fire way to hear crickets in your inbox.

As a borrower, are you keeping an open mind? It might be tempting to only message owners of adorable puppies, but these dogs might be popular on the site and the owners may not need any more help. Expand your expectations, without promising something you’re not confident with, such as caring for a larger dog. Try messaging a few different owners, or increase your search area to further afield and see what cute doggies are in need of some extra love.

For any member we recommend keeping your profile up to date as much as possible, uploading as many varied photos as you can and updating your availability. Not only does this invite more connections, it also increases your activity on Borrow My Doggy’s Activity Monitor, which shows whether you’re an active member or not – if your profile shows that you’re inactive, owners might take this as a sign that you won’t reply to them and not bother messaging in the first place.

Can you register any dog on Borrow My Doggy?

Dogs must be at least twelve weeks old before you can register them on the website, and cannot be a breed that is registered on the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 or Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976. Otherwise a dog of any breed or age can be registered – it is best to give borrowers all the details about any nuances up front – honesty is the best policy!

Borrow My Doggy also suggests that if your dog is unwell or has a severe illness that you are probably better off keeping them at home until they have recovered and can fully enjoy walkies again.

Owners and borrowers need to be at least eighteen years old to register on the website.

Is it safe to use Borrow My Doggy?

Yes, in our opinion, Borrow My Doggy is safe. Though it should go without saying that, as the website is just the middleman, you should always make sure that you feel comfortable with the person you are borrowing from or lending to. Borrow My Doggy does its own verifications and identity checks to ensure that all users are real people, but we do think it’s a good idea to make sure that you feel you can trust the other person in the arrangement. This may involve speaking on the phone, meeting up in person (see below for arranging what Borrow My Doggy describe as a ‘Welcome Woof’) or asking for references. It’s totally up to you how you proceed – you don’t have to hand over your dog to anyone that messages you if you get a bad vibe from them.

Borrow My Doggy recommends that anyone making a new connection on the site arranges a ‘Welcome Woof’, which is their term for the initial meeting. We’ve been more than happy to take part in these and it’s a great way of getting to know the dog, the owners and getting a good understanding of what will be required from us. All the dogs we’ve looked after on Borrow My Doggy have been as their profile described, and we find the owners we’ve met have all been very kind people who just have their dog’s best interests at heart! 

In addition, if both owner and borrower are Premium members they are covered by Borrow My Doggy’s insurance policy in case anything did go wrong – thankfully we’ve never had to use this. This also includes access to 24/7 vet care for emergencies.

Overall we recommend only taking part in what you feel comfortable with. If this means that you go for a walk together first (this also helps the dog get to know you), or even just meeting up in a public place with the owners, do what you feel is best for everyone.

Our top tips for taking part in a ‘Welcome Woof’

Borrow My Doggy recommends that you should arrange an initial meet and greet with the owner / borrower, which is a fantastic way to make sure that everyone feels comfortable with the arrangement. It also give the dog a chance to get to know the borrower, and the owner gets to know the person who might be borrowing their dog. As borrowers, we always leave our Welcome Woofs with a better understanding of what the owners are looking for in borrowers.

As a borrower, make sure you ask lots of questions; what is the dog like with other dogs, are they allowed treats, are there any training commands that we should use, how long do they normally walk for. Your aim is to get all the information you need before agreeing to borrow their dog. Do make sure you have a good time on the walk – engage with the dog and chat to the owners, being honest and friendly at all times. They should leave the Welcome Woof satisfied that you’re going to take good care of their pooch!

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