We’ve been house and pet sitting full time since 2018, meaning we’ve had hundreds of conversations with pet owners about their individual requirements for a pet sitter. Something we hear time and time again from pet owners is that they struggle to find a suitable person, or people, they feel they can trust and rely on to carry out their day to day pet care duties. Whether it’s caring for an anxious dog or reassuring an anxious owner, we pride ourselves in going out of our way to ensure owners feel confident and relaxed in our abilities to care for the pets and home as if they were our own! After so many years listening to owners’ needs and helping them understand more about the services provided by house sitters, we’ve put together this post containing helpful tips for finding your perfect pet sitter, no matter your situation!

Where to look for sitters

There are many websites that you can use to find a pet sitter, and it’s worth taking the time to learn more about each one so you can find the site that caters to your needs. We mainly use our own website to book house sitting gigs these days, though in the past we used third party websites to match our services with pet owners. Back then, it was frustrating to receive a message on a house sitting website from somebody looking for services that we don’t provide – such as a weekly dog walker – especially when they live hundreds of miles away from the location on our profile. As a pet owner, you can save yourself a lot of time when looking for a pet sitter if you take time to research the services each website provides! We’ve previously written a blog post about all the sites we’ve used to find pet sitting gigs over the years, but here’s a quick rundown of the top ones:

  • Rover. For pet sitting, boarding, drop-in visits and dog walking. Pet sitters create a profile detailing the services they provide, as well as photos and information about themselves. Pet owners browse the site for pet sitters in a desired radius from their location. As an owner, you’ll see the pet sitters’ rates for their services, reviews given by previous clients, and how many repeat clients they’ve had through the website. Rover is good for finding local pet care providers, and browsing around to find a cost that works for you. Click here to check out Rover, and use our code SUZES72456 when you book your sitter for £15 off! You can also read our detailed Rover review here.
  • Trusted Housesitters. For pet sitting only. Like Rover, sitters create a profile for owners to browse. Owners create a listing showing their pets and home, with written information outlining the responsibilities they expect to be carried out by sitters. Unlike Rover, it’s the owners who list dates for sitters to find, though you can search for a sitter too. No money changes hands – though there is an annual fee to join Trusted Housesitters – and it’s a mutually beneficial exchange whereby owners find someone to care for their pets and home, while sitters enjoy travelling to a new place and spending time with animals. Click here to check out Trusted Housesitters, and use our code RAF537727 to receive 25% off your membership fee!
  • Google. A quick search on Google for ‘Pet sitter [your location]’ will undoubtedly bring up the pet sitting websites above, but you may also find local pet sitters who have their own business outside of these websites. You can even search Google Maps to find pet sitters close-by, just by searching ‘Pet sitter’, and you’ll be able to see exactly how far they are from your location.
  • Facebook. On rare occasions we have found pet sitting, dog walking or boarding gigs through local Facebook groups (when we lived in one location, prior to beginning our nomadic pet sitting journey!). If you’re in a Facebook group for your town or village, it’s worth searching the group to find threads about local sitters, or asking the group to recommend someone to you. We’re always pleased to see previous clients referring us through word of mouth this way!

Vetting your sitter

Even if you find a sitter through a pet sitting website, who has dozens of positive reviews, lots of photos and years of experience, it is still 100% your responsibility to vet your sitter and make sure you’re comfortable with them carrying out home duties and pet care in your absence. Pet sitting websites will always have a section on a sitter’s profile for reviews from previous clients where you can read what previous pet owners have said about the sitter, but at the end of the day it’s up to you to make the choice as to whether the sitter is right for your needs. Sometimes all it takes is a little common sense – if you’re looking for a dog sitter but all the photos on a sitter’s profile show them with cats, you know they’re not going to be the best choice for you.

Once you’ve found a sitter you like the look of, we find the best way to get started is to send a message with some information about your situation, and then arrange a video call. Whether owners find us through a pet sitting website or our own business, having a face-to-face call lets the owners see that we are who our website says we are, and they can ask us any questions about our process. If you’re an owner that hasn’t previously used a pet sitter, you may find it useful to write a list of questions to ask the sitter prior to the video call so you can make sure you have all the information you need about the sitter and their service. As sitters, we have our own set of questions we ask owners too, so it’s a good way for us all to make sure we’re comfortable with the arrangement and responsibilities.

If you believe you’re in a challenging situation such as owning a reactive dog, or if you’d just like to go one step further in vetting your sitter, you can arrange to meet in person. A dog that takes time to warm up to new people may benefit from meeting a new sitter beforehand, or if you own a complicated smallholding it’s best to show the sitter around before they commit to taking on the job. Bear in mind though, as the popularity of pet sitting rises so does the number of pet sitters doing so nomadically – like us! This means it’s not always possible for us to meet pet owners in person prior to arranging a house sit, as our pet sitting business takes us all over the UK. On occasion, owners have sent videos explain how to carry out some of the more complicated duties at the house, or covered the cost of us travelling to meet them from a far away location. While it may not be necessary to reimburse travel costs in your case, be prepared to do so as a sign of goodwill.

We’ve completed over 100 house sits to date and we’ve only ever had a handful of face-to-face meetings, when it’s been absolutely necessary. For example, when meeting the owner of two very large Bull Mastiffs – it was necessary for both us and the owner to know we’d be able to handle such big dogs. On another occasion, the nervous owner of a young puppy who had never booked pet sitters before just wanted to meet us in person when we were in the area, to put her mind at ease that everything would go smoothly during the sit. We never take offence if an owner would like to meet us in person – it just gives us more time to talk through our responsibilities for the sit and see if we’ll all be a good fit for each other! If you wouldn’t be prepared to book a sitter you hadn’t met in person first, you may have to consider that a pet sitter who is local to you is your only option.

Knowing what you expect from your sitter

Before you book in a pet sitter, take the time to get clear on what duties you’d like them to carry out while you’re away. Depending on the length of the sit, there may be more house duties that need taking care of, and being specific about these requirements will help you find a sitter to suit your needs. Think about whether you’d like the sitter to walk your dogs on lead only, if you have house plants that will need watering, if your dog needs over an hour of exercise every day and your local walks have challenging terrain – the more you can hone in on what you need your sitter to do while you’re away, the quicker you’ll find your perfect match. You might think it’s going overboard, but trust us when we say these things will affect your search. Our first ever pet sit was a month in the Lake District caring for a young Border Collie, Bob. His owner told us upfront that Bob was used to walking for four or more hours every day, as she took him out over the mountains for their daily walks, and that we’d be expected to do so during our stay. She had learnt to give this information upfront when her previous sitter arrived at her house, only to find that he had recently had knee surgery and could barely walk…

Because we were prepared for this responsibility before agreeing to the sit we knew what to expect, though we’ve experienced our fair share of unwelcome surprises. Which brings us to our next point – be honest! Whether it’s a mutually-beneficial pet sitting exchange or money is changing hands, it’s not fair on your sitter or your pets to omit information pertaining to the pet sit or to downplay how involved some duties are in order to secure your sitter. We’ve been thrown in at the deep end more than once at smallholding sits, when owners don’t realise the magnitude of the responsibilities as they’re used to the routine, and as a result rush through instructions or forget duties entirely. Write a list of responsibilities that you expect your sitter to carry out while you’re away so you can clearly explain what needs to be done – this way you can avoid surprises and your sitter being unprepared. Luckily for us, as we always pet sit as a couple we’ve always been able to handle whatever comes our way. If you own a smallholding or have a challenging pet care situation, a couple may find this easier to take on than a single sitter. Be reasonable with your requests and accept that you may have to limit your search to couples or pairs of pet sitters only. This might take you longer to find someone suitable, but it’ll be worth it overall when everything goes smoothly!

Once you’ve found your sitter

A few helpful tips from us to help your sitter enjoy their experience, and make sure they’ll return as your regular pet care provider!

  • Write everything down! If your pets get fed at a certain time – write it down. If a pet’s medication is complicated – write it down. If you have a code for your front gate – write it down! Any responsibilities with the home and pets; where to find dog poo bags and coats in the house, how much food the pets are given, Wi-Fi code, what day the cleaners come, emergency phone numbers, which house plants need watering… Anything you expect your sitter to do, any information they need to know to carry out their duties, for your sake and for your sitter – write it all down! Some owners don’t feel comfortable emailing information such as security codes, and that’s absolutely understandable – but a written guide in the house when we arrive is always very helpful. As sitters, it’s hard not to feel like we’re bothering a pet owner by asking simple questions when they’re away, especially if we know they’re travelling for an event such as a wedding or anniversary trip. It can be stressful for sitters to feel like they have to know everything, and while we always err on the side of caution and ask, some sitters may not feel confident enough to do so. Give the sitter all the information they’ll need, everything will feel more relaxed and your sitter will have a better experience!
  • Be accommodating. We understand as sitters that sometimes the bedroom we’re given is a spare room that hardly gets used. However, we always find it thoughtful when owners take the time to clear out some space for us – even if it’s only a drawer or two in a dresser! This shows the sitter that you care about their experience and as a result, they’ll feel more at home. 
  • Give them a lovely welcome! We always appreciate when owners take the time to thank us, or write a little card or note if we don’t see them to handover at the beginning of a sit. Consider small things like putting a pint of milk in the fridge, or a loaf of bread or a small packet of biscuits even! These little touches can go a long way in making your sitter feel welcome, and that you appreciate them providing their services.
  • Stay in touch. Unless you’ve specifically agreed that you’d prefer not to be contacted while you’re away, or if you’ve provided an emergency contact number to call instead, always make sure your sitter is able to reach you during the sit if needed. Our worst case of this was standing in a sheep field at a smallholding sit, in a blizzard, freezing cold and panicking as a sheep gave birth to twins – while the owner ignored our phone calls. We were awake well into the night and only frantic Google searches came to our rescue – thankfully the mother and two lambs settled into the barn together, all happy and healthy. The next morning the owner applauded our efforts, but safe to say this stressful experience, along with a few other surprises at that sit, mean we would never return. When you’ve taken the time to find your perfect pet sitter, it’s worth it to you to make sure your sitter feels happy and comfortable returning each time you need a sitter!

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