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Pet and House Sitting Exchange

Web site allows members to trade pet and house sitting for free lodging.
By JoAnna Lou, June 2017, Updated November 2022

You can’t always take your pups with you on vacation. So, what can you do when you miss having a dog to cuddle with? Try a pet sitting exchange. Fueled by a multitude of websites and apps, travelers with dogs or those keen to find a pup at their destination are enthusiastically embracing alternatives to hotels, motels and inns. Among these alternative are house swaps, house-sitting and short-term rentals.

In addition to the low cost of home swapping, private homes offer distinct advantages for those with dogs. Many have fenced yards and are located in residential areas well suited for walking. Plus, a house can be a more comfortable environment for dogs unaccustomed to the circumscribed environment of a hotel.

Most home-exchange services charge a membership fee, and the exchange itself can be simultaneous, non-simultaneous or even hosted (with residents on the premises during a stay). Some include resident pets in the deal. “Even from the very beginning, we always had in the application if pet care was required, right up front,” says Ed Kushins, who is the founder of HomeExchange.com. He says around 20 percent of the site’s listings specify some sort of pet care, and many are dog-friendly.

On the other hand, not everyone has a home to swap, and for years, frugal adventurers have long known how to parlay house-sitting into a way to see the world on a shoestring. Today, many websites connect homeowners, house-sitters, and pet sitters, among them, HouseSittersAmerica.com, HouseCarers.com, and TrustedHousesitters.com. There are also short-term private home rentals, they can’t compete with free, but they do offer a way to cut costs (cooking at home, no-fee parking, and so forth), plus a break from cookie-cutter hotel chains if you’re looking for a dog-friendly spot.

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To be as safe as possible, most websites do some sort of checks and verifications, such as doing a criminal background check and user reviews. To pet sit at the more desirable homes, it’s known that members must have a series of good ratings, which can be achieved by doing a few local pet sitting stints first. Amazing opportunities have included oceanfront lodging in Australia, a central London flat, and a private villa in the Spanish countryside. There are also long-term listings in case you want to relocate or test out a new city.

Pet sitting exchanges might be a cheap way to travel and stay in nice houses while ensuring your pets are cared for by fellow animal lovers in the comfort of their own home. It’s also a great way to keep your pets on their normal schedule as much as possible. Advocates of sitting, swapping, or renting often mention that staying in someone’s home takes them outside the tourist bubble and helps them forge a deeper connection to a community and place. Include dogs in the mix and the experience deepens even more.

 

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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