A day in the life of a dog-sitter
I grew up in a family of animals. We have one cat who was rescued from a flood and who enjoys staring at the wall for two hours at a time, unblinking and totally zen with the world. We have another cat named Gordon Ramsey because, just like his celebrity chef namesake, he likes to yell all day long. “Let me inside, let me outside, it’s food time, look at me, love me, leave me alone.” He hasn’t stopped talking since we brought him home. We also have a dog who is afraid of storms, allergic to grass, and one time tried to get into a street fight with a horse even though he’s roughly the size of a loaf of bread.
I’ve never considered myself a purely “dog person” or “cat person.” I like all animals. And at the beginning of my house sitting adventure, I was eager to get started so I cast a very wide net. My first house sit ended up being in a lovely small town about two hours outside London with two very large German Shepards. Being a small dog owner my whole life, this was a huge shock to my system, but I absolutely adored my stint as an adopted German Shepard mom.
In my first year of house sitting, I cared for eight dogs in four different homes. I learned that dog sits come with their own set of responsibilities and joys. While they tend to be a bit more work than cat sits, there is a lot to love about house sits with canine friends!
A typical day in the life of a dog-sitter
Every dog sit is different based on the needs of your dog, but you can expect a pretty consistent daily schedule.
On my first dog sit with the German Shepards, I woke up early to take let the dogs out for a bathroom break and breakfast. I enjoyed my cup of coffee in the backyard while the pups explored and sniffed the same ten spots again and again. After the coffee hit my system, the three of us ventured out for our first walk of the day.
Now, one German Shepard is strong. Two German Shepards are ridiculously powerful creatures. And one of them had an affinity for chasing cats. So I quickly learned that the morning walk was much better for everyone if it was a morning run. I put on my running shoes and the three of us went for a light jog/walk for about thirty to forty-five minutes.
After our morning outing, I went about my day at the house with two loyal friends in tow. I let them out a few times a day in the backyard but mostly they just hung out with me while I went about my day. They did enjoy barking at the mailman but once I learned his schedule I coordinated our backyard time with his mail route to avoid their top volume “friendly greeting.”
The dogs were alright on their own for a few hours, so I was able to run errands or explore local sites in the mornings. When I was home, I enjoyed cooking, working on my blog, and getting caught up on episodes of the Great British Baking Show.
Around four in the afternoon, we geared up for our second longer walk of the day. For this walk/jog, we went for about an hour, sometimes longer if the weather was nice. The dogs loved it and I enjoyed exploring the neighborhoods and surrounding green spaces. There were some lovely walks and parks very near the house and we had a great time in the fresh air. It was just so nice to get out in nature and out of the house. I felt like I got to experience the area so much more than I would have on my own.
In the evening, the dogs got dinner around the time I did. I let them out one last time at bedtime and they slept in the kitchen so they wouldn’t get into any ruckus during the night. In the morning we did it all over again.
The responsibilities of a dog-sitter
While each sit will be different depending on the needs of your dogs, you can expect to have these general responsibilities
Morning Bathroom Break - You’ll need to get up early to let the dogs out for a bathroom break. This one is pretty self-explanatory.
Daily walks - Every dog has different needs. Some pups only need a short walk or two per day, and some need a few hours outdoors. This is something to ask the pet owner before booking a sit. I happened to love the longer outings with my pups on this sit.
Regular Bathroom Breaks - Dogs need to be let out to go to the bathroom several times throughout the day. Plan to let your furry friends have toilet breaks every few hours throughout the day and right before bed.
Cleaning up after the dogs on walks - Remember to always carry doggy bags when you’re out with your dogs so you can pick up any messes they make. It’s just good dog etiquette to clean up after your pet on a walk or even in the backyard if the homeowner requests.
Feeding/medicine - Like with any pet you are responsible for, you need to follow the dogs feeding and medicine schedule as specified by the home owner.
What I loved about being a dog-sitter
One of the best parts about being a dog-sitter is the companionship. Once they warm up to you, dogs are extremely loyal and friendly companions to your travels. They love to cuddle and are excited to see you each and every day. Dogs have so much to teach us about love and happiness.
I also enjoyed how much I was getting outside when I was dog-sitting. I was getting lots of exercise with my furry friends and our walks gave me time to explore local green spaces. This was one of the best parts of my day. I didn’t realize how badly I needed a break from the computer until I was spending time outdoors every day. I didn’t have an excuse not to exercise since the dogs depended on me. I felt great, physically and mentally!
As a solo traveler, I also loved the security of a dog house sit. Statistically speaking, homes with dogs are far less likely to be broken into. When I went for walks, I knew that having dogs with me added a level of safety as well. I’ve never felt unsafe on a house sit. In my opinion, house sitting is one of the safest ways to travel. But at the end of the day, let’s just say I slept very well knowing that I had two massive, loyal, German Shepards looking out for me just in case.
Tips for aspiring dog-sitters
Consider dog-sitting with a partner. If you’re intimidated by lots of walking or you know you’ll need to spend time away from the house, do dog house sits with a partner. That way you can divide walking and bathroom duties. This is also helpful if you have more than one dog, especially if they are bigger, strong dogs.
Ask lots of questions to the homeowners before you commit to a dog sit. Make sure you understand exactly how much walking is required and how long you’re able to be away from the house. Make sure the dogs needs match your needs as a house sitter. Unsure what to ask? Read 30 questions to ask before you house sit here.
Always carry doggy bags, even if you think you won’t need it. Nothing more embarrassing than trying to assure people that you’re coming back later to pick up a poorly timed doggy mess. Just stuff your pockets with dog bags before leaving and save yourself the headache.
Remember that dogs need bathroom breaks throughout the day. Cats can independently take care of bathroom needs, but if you’re caring for dogs, make sure you come home every few hours to let your dog friends out. This means you shouldn’t plan full days away from the house without some kind of plan in place for your dogs to use the toilet.
Use your judgment and trust your gut. Occasionally dog owners have told me that, if I was comfortable with it, I can let the dogs off the leash at the park or on trails. There have been times when I felt comfortable doing this and times when I didn’t. At the end of the day, do what feels right. If you’re worried about your dog bolting or being too close to traffic, save the off leash activities for when the owner gets home.
Make sure to respect the rules of the house. If dogs aren’t allowed on furniture with their owners, don’t start letting them do it while you’re there. If they aren’t allowed to have people food, don’t start giving them table scraps. These bad habits will be hard for your homeowner to unteach their dog and could make them sick.
Be ready to love and cuddle your new friends. Dogs are very social and want to love on you. This is one of the most fun parts of the house sit, so enjoy it. Get dirty, run and play, cuddle and make a new best furry friend.
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