Dog and house sitting, how does it work?
April 2, 2021 12:23 PM   Subscribe

Now that we are vaxxed, Herr Duck and I are planning a 3-week trip this summer. Ordinarily we bring our Good Girl Luce to the dogsitter if we are not bringing her along on the trip, but she's getting older and we think she'd rather stay in her own home. The dogsitter has a new puppy and I think that Luce would be better off without constant puppy energy around. As luck would have it, my 20-year-old niece will be off college for the summer.

My niece (Jade) is a generally responsible and respectful kid, but her summer plans are rather nebulous at the moment (her plans are to "sell stuff at the farmers market" and "stay with my friends"). I'd like to broach the topic of having her house-and-dogsit while we're on the trip. I think that we could both be doing each other favors here: she gets a place to stay (other than a college crash pad), and we get a dogsitter and house sitter. Help me come up with a fair deal for her and us.

Jade's job would be to move into my house and take care of the dog for three weeks. We'd close off one room of the house (for the stuff we don't want her to mess with, responsible as she is) but otherwise she'd have the run of the place. Eat our food, use our wifi, watch our tv, etc.

She would be responsible for care of the dog, who is a 65-lb lab/shepherd mix. She can take the dog for walks if she likes but honestly, Luce would be just fine going out into the fenced yard a few times a day. Jade does not have a car of her own but is fine with Ubering around. Our neighborhood is pretty walkable for most things except a large grocery store (plenty of bodega style/ethnic markets to choose from, though).

My sister (who is immunocompromised and stays in, mostly) would be on call for talk-me-through-it emergencies, and the next door neighbor is a nice lady who works from home that can be on call for I-need-a-helpful-adult-right-now emergencies.

If Luce were going to the dogsitter, we'd pay ~$25/night. For past trips we've made arrangements for our neighbor to keep an eye on our house (water my plants, shovel if there's a snowfall, call the police if someone starts messing with stuff) and we've just paid her with a nice present from wherever we have gone. We also watch her house with the same shovel/water tasks when she is out of town.

We would be giving Jade a thorough walk-through of the house with explanations on how to care for the dog, water the plants as needed, work the washing machine/dishwasher/shower/wifi/etc. We will be out of cell service for about a week on the trip but not until the second half of it. much would be fair to offer to my niece, considering all of these factors?

Also: we will be leaving our car behind. Is it reasonable to ask her to use it only in an emergency? She takes after her Auntie in that she doesn't have a very good driving record. We could add in an additional "Uber/delivery fund" amount to help her out.

And also: we'd be very clear about no parties/smoking etc. Jade does have a long-term boyfriend who will also be in town staying with his folks for the summer, so we expect that he'll be over but we figure that's within reason.

And also also: we would still be getting our neighbor a nice gift for being the responsible adult on call in case of an emergency.

And also also also: is there anything we are forgetting to consider?

posted by Gray Duck to Work & Money (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Unless this very young adult is a named person on your car insurance, she does not get to drive the call at all period under any circumstance. You will refund uber costs in the unlikely case she needs to take your dog to the vet.

I also think she should take the dog on one nice long walk a day, minimum, at a(n approximate, reasonable) time you specify. It'll be good for the dog, it'll be good for the directionless young person to have a set schedule, and gosh even for me who's had a dog for years walking my dog is a good reminder that, oh yeah, I have a whole living creature who depends solely on me for all of its needs. Which could be useful for someone who's not in the habit of caring for another living creature.

I have no opinion on compensation or anything else, I just feel very strongly about these two things.
posted by phunniemee at 12:44 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Hi! The "yard only is okay" qualification is only if she is not comfortable walking Luce. Luce is a good girl but can be a bit of a puller on a leash, and Jade is on the small side and has never had a dog before. Ideally she would take Luce out once a day for a walk around the nearby park. We'll give Luce a walk together before we leave so that Jade can see what she's in for if she decides that she's up for walking my poorly leash trained (all my fault, I admit!) dog.
posted by Gray Duck at 12:49 PM on April 2

We pay professional house and dog sitters (from Rover or a family friend) about $50/night in our high cost of living area. Looks like boarding on Rover averages about $30-45/night here. Given she is a) your niece b) couch surfing otherwise and c) not an experienced dog sitter (or even dog owner), I don't think you need to offer her top dollar. She may view the dog sitting as a fair trade for having stable housing for 3 weeks and not expect to be paid anything. So, I guess I would offer somewhere between $0 and maybe $30/night tops? If you're at the upper end of that range, I would not feel obligated to provide Uber money, except for emergencies. If she's doing it for free or a token amount, I would definitely stock the house with her favorite food and leave some slush fund cash.
posted by natabat at 1:14 PM on April 2

When I have done similar (given a college aged friend living with her folks free run of my apartment in exchange for caring for my pets) I’ve usually:

-had her make me a grocery list of everything she wanted, then stocked the fridge/pantry with those things.
-paid her ~ 15/hour based on the actual amount of pet care involved. My basis for this is that my “drop in” pet sitter would charge me $15/hour long visit, and on shorter trips away I’d have her come 2x/day. This usually equaled out to $30/day for my college aged friend.
-paid her this money up front before I left so she was also set with spending money for the duration of her stay.

This wasn’t hard and fast; if it was only three days I’d still pay her at least $100. This friend was a wildly responsible 20 year old, but depending on the maturity level of your niece setting some house rules is probably a good idea.

For what it’s worth, my friend was shocked I was also going to pay her for what in her mind was kind of “omg, I get a free grown up house to stay in AND there are animals to play with!”.
posted by nancynickerson at 1:21 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]

I would offer her the $25 a night that you would normally pay your dog sitter. She’s a less experienced dog sitter, but you’ll have someone in the house for the whole time you’re gone and etc. that’s what you would normally have budgeted, it makes sense to offer it to her.

About the car insurance, my car insurance company's official policy is “if they’re in your car then they are insured on your car.“ just give your car insurance company a call, this is a question they answer about 1 billion times a day.
posted by joycehealy at 1:35 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]

has never had a dog before

Would you be able to have her stay over for a day or longer sometimes before you leave so you can show her the ropes and make sure she feels comfortable with everything dog-related? (Also, does your dog know your niece and feel comfortable with her?)

You should leave her or any dogsitter a list of trusted repair people and so on to call if things come up.
posted by trig at 1:40 PM on April 2 [7 favorites]

The young adult daughter of a friend has stayed in our house and kept our dog multiple times over the last three or four years. We always pay her $50 a night, which I believe is on the high side of what's expected. But we value having someone we know stay in our home, and we want to pay her enough so that she will accept eagerly the next time we ask.
posted by MelissaSimon at 1:56 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]

I've been petsitting through a website called Trusted Housesitters for several years as a way to escape a small apartment and to travel to other cities/countries. The site's pretty popular and the people who use it *pay* for membership. The exchange is housing for petsitting with no pay. I honestly don't think it's unreasonable at all (although I do usually take care of cats, and they're a little lower maintenance than dogs, and a lot of the houses I've stayed in could be described as mansions).
posted by pinochiette at 2:36 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]

We pay $20-25 a night and provide groceries and snacks I know our sitter likes. I do not expect our sitter to walk the dog a lot because he’s difficult on a leash. But I think she walks him occasionally and I know she runs around the yard and plays with him quite a bit. Our dog loves her. I think it would be nice if you explicitly tell her the boyfriend can visit, I think that’s much more likely to make it enjoyable for her and she won’t need to wonder if it’s ok.
posted by areaperson at 3:00 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]

As the parent of a 20 year old: they aren't going to care that they can stay free in a nice, non-college-style crash pad if they're isolated and bored. That aspect might be fun for a weekend, but for 3 whole weeks might not be much of a bargaining chip, in my experience with this age group. Offering to let her do it with a responsible friend would potentially make it more appealing.
posted by nantucket at 3:18 PM on April 2 [10 favorites]

>Jade is on the small side and has never had a dog before...
...and Good Girl Luce sounds like she's pretty big and fairly strong. I think it's important to make sure Jade is actually comfortable around Luce and vice versa.

I think it's also important to go over the fundamentals of dog ownership if Jade has no experience in this area -- things dogs shouldn't eat, how to clean up after a dog while on a walk, how to prevent Luce from getting loose and what to do if it happens, what to do when other people or their kids/pets want to interact with Luce, how to be sensitive to other people who might want to avoid Luce, etc.
posted by theory at 3:37 PM on April 2 [6 favorites]

Similar to nantucket, my gut response is you are overestimating the perks of what you're offering her. Many 20 year-olds would prefer a college crash pad with friends. How far is your house from where her friends live? Is it farther or closer to this farmer's market vs. her friends' place?

I'd first broach the subject just to see if she's interested. I definitely would not let her use your car if she has a less than stellar driving record.

Finally, even responsible 20 year-olds are often not quite as clean as people in their parents' generation. If you have any pet peeves related to cleanliness/home upkeep, I'd stress those.
posted by coffeecat at 3:46 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]

Nthing others who say this might not be all that attractive for Jade especially if you lowball her. Be prepared for her to decline (and make sure she doesn't feel pressured because she's family).
posted by turkeyphant at 4:32 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]

I think it is a reasonable plan that she may or may not want. If she can go out on her own and do things with her bf or some one else, she might well take it. Depends on Covid restrictions too. The college kids I know have all had Covid and are willing to go out either masked or not. You could get a camera or two and tell her they are in there.

I would make the offer, add in whatever restrictions you think you want and offer her money and a nice house with a good girl doggie. Stock the fridge and freezer and give her a gift card to the grocery. Or, give her access to your Uber account. That way you can track her if you want to know how wild and crazy she is being. I personally would not want to track her or look in via video, but you seem to be a cautious type with your stuff.

As I see it, everything I have in my house is just stuff that is replaceable with insurance or cash. Having said that of my nephews and nieces, there are a few I would not want to stay in my house alone.
posted by AugustWest at 6:28 PM on April 2

I did roughly this arrangement for a family friend when I was in college and I think (not totally sure) they paid me about $10-15 a day, but that was 15 years ago, so inflate as you wish. Also college students' plans change quickly, so I'd still have a backup idea in case she backs out late.
posted by nakedmolerats at 6:37 PM on April 2

I also have housesat through Trusted Housesitters for several years. If things with your niece don't work out for some reason, I would strongly recommend that site. You will be able to find someone experienced and you won't have to pay them.
posted by rednikki at 8:20 PM on April 2

Have you met the boyfriend? He may be fine, but I wouldn't want a complete stranger sleeping over at my house.
posted by praemunire at 11:59 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]

Three weeks is a *really* long time to be stuck at someone else's home, especially if you consider that you can't keep milk in the fridge that long. (I know you mentioned bodegas and there's grocery delivery, but she's 20yo and that may not be the respite your niece looking for - especially if she's never been around dogs and isn't familiar with your community.)

Mini dancinglamb (mdl) is 18 and has had dogs all her life; she has had a dog sitting business for the past few years (although it took a huge hit with Covid) and has done the house/dog sitting option more than once. She is very well versed in 'dog' and dog needs, including special care like meds, grooming, boisterous and large dopey dogs that are difficult to walk. Mdl can competently handle animal first aid and knows what to do on walks if she encounters other animals or people that are less sure of large dogs. Payment is usually a minimum $35/night (depending on how many pets and what they require) and it is not uncommon that she also receive a tip to effectively round off whatever she was paid.

Clients will usually have her over a few days ahead of time to walk her through the house, meet the animal(s) if she doesn't already know them, talk through any specifics and find out if there's anything specific she'd like to have stocked in the house. Wifi passwords, a list of emergency contacts (including the vet!), the alarm information, rules about people food and snackies for the pets, which plants to water and when, extra poo bags, feeding instructions in written form are left for her. Unless instructed otherwise, the dog will usually get three of four walks a day and two feeds.

Some nights mdl would order in, otherwise, she would come home for dinner and then go back. Personally, *I* wasn't OK with her having friends over, even if the owner said it was cool. Maybe a trusted friend that the owner already knew, but that was it. I'd definitely not be down with mdl's boyfriend sleeping there, but that's me.

The garbage went out every night, as usual, and was taken to the curb with recycling on whatever day was normal. Mail brought in daily. The house was always left neat, the bathroom clean, sheets washed and the bed remade unless the owners specified otherwise.
posted by dancinglamb at 3:07 AM on April 3

Correction: Mdl just woke up. The starts at $50/night and highly, highly recommends that you find a sitter that has more experience with dogs - especially given that your girl is larger and is a little bit older.
posted by dancinglamb at 3:23 AM on April 3

Having been Jade back in my late teens/early twenties, and having become a person who frequently uses a petsitter, here are some thoughts.

1. This will be much more appealing if she can do the job with a friend as someone mentioned above.

2. The boyfriend will be over a lot, so hopefully you are comfortable with that.

3. You should ask for the dog to be walked once a day. Perhaps you can work with your dog ahead of time to get her better behaved. You can use a harness or a gentle leader to help you train your dog. If you start now, you can probably get your dog walking nicely by summer so that Jade would not need to use the gentle leader. Definitely have Jade come over before you leave so you can go over good dog walking practice. Things like not approaching other dogs or people, not letting the dog pull ahead, not letting the dog run up to fenced dogs and bark at them etc.

4. This one is the most important! Place a time limit on how long the dog can be left alone, no more than 6 hours, or whatever you are expecting, but make sure you lay that expectation out clearly.

5. Lock up anything you don't want seen/snooped into. And I do mean lock.

6.Pay the going rate in your area for a petsitter's services. In my area it would be about $60 a day. Stock the fridge with some drinks and snacks as a courtesy, but don't worry about feeding Jade, she'll get her own food (even if you do leave food for her).
posted by WalkerWestridge at 6:03 AM on April 3

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