International Dogsitting: What It’s Like to Dogsit Abroad in Exchange for Free Accommodations
I’ve had the privilege to live and travel overseas for the past six years. While my life abroad is exciting, I miss having a dog. But at the same time, I can’t imagine giving up my globe-trotting adventures. About two years ago, I was researching ways to save money on travel, when I came across the perfect solution: international dogsitting.
International dogsitting — the basics
The general idea is that I care for a person’s dog(s), in exchange for a free home in an exciting foreign destination. It’s the ideal opportunity to combine my passion for travel with my love of man’s best friend. Plus, it saves me a whole lot of money on accommodation costs.
I got started by registering with a petsitting website and was soon contacted by an English woman living in Turkey who invited me to care for her dogs for a couple of weeks. After an unbelievable stay in her mountain village home and taking countless hikes with the three amazing pooches, I was hooked.
Favorite experiences with international dogsitting
So far, I’ve had the pleasure of petsitting dogs in three European countries. I’m currently enjoying 7 weeks rent free in a quaint Italian hamlet in the heart of Tuscany. It’s all thanks to Ivy the German Shepherd Dog, who is currently dozing at my feet. The two of us spend our mornings roaming the local vineyards and enjoying the Tuscan scenery.
My favorite dogsitting experiences have been in sunny southern Turkey. All of the dogs I’ve cared for there are rescues, many of them with sad backstories. While they now live amazing lives and are spoiled rotten, some of them have behavior issues. It can take time and patience to bond with them, but when I do it’s very rewarding.
What I’ve learned from dogsitting abroad
International petsitting has become my preferred type of travel. It has taken me to places I didn’t even know existed and connected me with amazing people — and dogs. I constantly feel like I’m simultaneously at home and exploring the world.
After a long day of sightseeing, I get to come home and be greeted by animals who are very happy to see me. It’s the perfect balance of adventure and comfort.
At first, I didn’t realize that dogsitting can be a lot of work. It’s important to consider how much time it takes to care for the dogs each day. Some dogs have strict schedules with frequent walks and feedings, while others may require medications or special creams.
It may seem like a lot sometimes, but remember that, because of you, a dog gets to stay in his or her familiar home and enjoy human company.
Full disclosure: You will end up falling in love with these dogs, and saying goodbye can be tough. However, it’s usually only a temporary separation, as the pet parents nearly always invite you back.
How to get started as an international dogsitter
Petsitting can take you anywhere from a beachside bungalow in Thailand with a pair of Labs to a central apartment in downtown London with an energetic mutt. But before you buy your plane ticket, you have to find these opportunities.
There are three major petsitting websites:
Each site charges an annual membership fee, but it’s a fraction of the cost of what you’d spend on hotels wherever you go on vacation. Thanks to these sites, I’ve saved tens of thousands of dollars on living expenses over the past two years.
Pro tips for international dogsitters
- Get references from people you’ve petsat for. Even if it was just letting your neighbor’s dog out to pee when she had to work late, a vote of confidence from a petowner will help build your credibility.
- And get external references from employers or landlords. People are taking a big leap of faith in you, so do your best to show them that you’re responsible.
- Add photos of you with dogs. Whether they’re your pets or a friend’s, this is visual proof for the owner that you’re an animal lover.
- When you write your bio, don’t forget to mention how much you love dogs. Sometimes people carry on about their love of travel and neglect to say that they love canine company in equal measure.
- Whenever you message a homeowner, include their dog’s name. This shows them that you’ve actually read their listing.
Thumbnail: Photography courtesy Laurel Steele.
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