Should homeowners treat dogsitters like guests or clients?
Five must-ask questions before dogsitting someone’s home
Merriam Webster defines a guest as “a person to whom hospitality is extended.” Skip a few pages over to hospitality, and the dictionary defines it as “generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests.”
In hotels, motels and inns, there’s a checklist of things that must be readily available in order to be a guest staying at these company locations. But in a tech-savvy and stranger-friendly world of Airbnbs and dogsitting, homeowners can either pay someone to watch their homes in exchange for watching pets or make a profit on space in their homes while they’re away.
While Airbnbs should certainly make sure they’re presentable for guests to live in, do the same rules apply if a homeowner (or apartment dweller) is paying someone to be in their homes? Or, should the person (such as a dogsitter) be responsible for each item needed during their stay?
Recommended Read: “Mi casa, tu casa, but legally maybe not with Airbnb”
There is no right or wrong answer here. However, if you are a dogsitter who believes the answer to the latter question is “no,” then you should be very careful about which dogsitting assignments you accept. Otherwise, that dogsitting and housesitting assignment is going to feel much longer than it needs to. Here are five questions that dogsitters should always ask their clients before booking a new gig.
Do you have an indoor security camera?
(Note: I am not a lawyer nor am I qualified to give legal advice.) Recording laws vary by state. In Illinois, for example, the state eavesdropping statute formerly required all parties to consent to the recording of any conversation or communication, or potentially face felony charges and/or civil liability. But according to Justia, in 2014, the Illinois Supreme Court declared the law overly broad and unconstitutional. The statute was amended later that year to allow recording in public places, but still requires all parties to consent to recording conversations where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
There appears to be a blurred line about that “privacy” within a person’s home. While a dogsitter may feel (s)he can have a private conversation or walk around without being monitored, this is really a decision that leans more toward the homeowner. This person owns the property; the dogsitter is only there temporarily. If the dogwalker is uncomfortable with being filmed by audio or video recording devices, let the owner know ahead of time. Maybe you two can agree on a timeframe to stop recording, but more than likely that homeowner is going to opt for a dogsitter who is OK with being filmed. Be ready for the “What do you have to hide?” look.
Should I bring towels and/or sheets?
I, personally, would be insulted if someone felt the need to bring clean towels and/or sheets to my home. I am also the daughter of two people who I’m convinced moonlight a hotel. There’s no other way to explain the massive bins of towels and sheets that they have. In turn, I’ve developed this same excessive habit of stocking too many pillows, blankets and towels just in case. While this is often the case for homeowners, especially parents, it’s a toss-up with apartment dwellers — specifically first-timers and singles. I’ve stayed at a bachelor’s pad and a single woman’s dwelling who did not have extra towels. One even asked me to bring a blanket because she decided her dog needed to lay on the one that was on the bed. But most had fresh sheets, comforters and towels readily available. One family even bought me a bouquet of flowers with a “welcome” card. No two families are alike.
Do you have [insert appliance you often use]?
Your own kitchen is personalized for your specific cooking habits. I don’t go a day without using my electric tea kettle. Rarely does a week go by that I don’t use my toaster. Meanwhile I’ve gone weeks without even touching my built-in microwave or blender. If there is an appliance that you swear by, ask ahead of time if the homeowner has one and if it’s OK to use it. If it’s not readily available, make sure to put those small appliances on your packing checklist.
Where do you keep your garbage cans and/or bags?
It is insanely tacky to leave your garbage in a homeowner’s cans after your assignment is complete, especially leftover food that can attract bugs. It’s equally horrendous if a homeowner leaves their own trash in the garbage cans for the dogwalker (or houseguest) to empty. It’s also annoying to have to scramble around going through every single cabinet to find where a basic supply like this is located. But there’s another reason you’ll want to ask about disposal. Every home has its own style of trash sorting. Some do not use plastic garbage bags at all and prefer paper bags. Some sort compost from recycling, and then trash is emptied in a third area. Others dump it all together. Know which kind of homeowner is hiring you, and take a peek through the alley so you know which can(s) to use.
Recommended Read: “Plastic Bag Ban Gone Wild ~ Has the Worldwide Plastic Bag Ban Gone Too Far?”
Should I bring my own seasonings or pots/pans?
This isn’t really the question you’re after, but it’s a good way to get to the real question. Sometimes you will run into an apartment dweller who treats her place like a college dorm: Her name is on everything, especially the food, with notes like “Please do not eat this.” Others follow good old-fashioned hospitality. They’ll tell you that you’re welcome to make yourself at home and eat whatever you like. First off, do not eat everything — even if the homeowner tells you it’s OK. Maybe you can snack on a little here or a little there. But keep in mind that this person is already paying you to be there, so you’ll have your extra grocery funds after the stay is over. Bring as much of your own favorite foods as possible to avoid devouring theirs. And if you do, reimburse them for it.
As time consuming as it may be to pack up your entire kitchen to stay at someone’s home for a few days (or weeks), this’ll also make you reevaluate all the food you don’t want in your own fridge and/or freezer. Get rid of all of that. Or, force yourself to eat all that healthy food you keep ignoring at home. (I have a large bag of baby carrots that I find plenty of excuses not to eat. It was the very first thing I grabbed during a recent dog sitting assignment.)
If you have a bad housing experience, keep in mind that the main attraction is the dog. While dog sitting platforms such as Rover and Wag! give dog owners the opportunity to rate the dog, Rover doesn’t really do much if you have a poor dog sitting experience with the owner but not the dog. Their response is simply to ignore the owner should this person try to rehire you. Wag!, on the other hand, has an option to explain any review under three stars and a filtering option so requests for this dog will never be matched with a walker’s profile again. Either way the hospitality coin flips, always be nice to the main attraction — the dog — because (s)he has nothing to do with how outstanding or terrible the host is.