Jane and her husband Michael are avid travellers and adventure seekers who crave the companionship of a pooch. Dog sitting, around Australia and overseas, has given them the best of both worlds.


I began our pet-sitting journey by accident. My husband and I love animals and would’ve loved to have our own pets, but our lifestyle as travel writers and photographers didn’t allow for that. So instead, we spent 20 years pet-sitting.

After our first experience helping out friends by looking after their dog Tilly, our pet sitting spread by word of mouth.


Meet Tilly!


Soon, between pet sitting work and our own travel itinerary, our year was completely booked out. We found that looking after pets in their own homes kept them very chilled.

The most common question we received was, ‘What if you don’t have a pet to sit and a house to go to?’. Strangely, the gaps between pet sitting dates often fitted in perfectly. If not, we’d take our caravan somewhere for a few days.

The next most common question was, ‘How do you cope without all your personal stuff?’. We learned to live minimally. The houses we stayed in had everything we needed, so we tried to travel light. On longer house sits, we tended to bring in a few different items of our own.

All we really needed was a good place to walk and an enthusiastic pooch to go with. Let me introduce you to some of the dogs that still live in our hearts and the adventures we had with them.

Read more: 10 Ways to Adventure With Your Dog

1. Tilly

Hesitant to commit to our own pets, it was lucky for us that our hiking mates bought their Golden Retriever, Tilly, and we became her ‘Godparents’. Every time her parents went away, Michael and I would be called on to look after her at her place because that’s where she was most at home.

Tilly was our hiking companion, along with her parents of course. All five of us would go walking on dog-friendly trails. Helen and I’d be out in front while the husbands, Michael and Chris, would drag their feet. Tilly would trot up and back between the pairs, trying to keep her flock together.


The happy hike leader ensuring we don’t sit down for toooo long


Tilly had a sixth sense as to where water was and whether it was swimmable or not. Her off-white long hair would get black with mud, but as she dried, it’d just drop off, leaving her coat pristine.

On our first Bibbulmun Track end-to-end, Tilly and her parents met us in Dwellingup. After 11 days on the track without a shower, we didn’t smell too good. We walked closer to Tilly, and she seemed confused – she felt she knew us, but we just didn’t smell right.

Read more: Overnight Hiking With My Dog on the Hume & Hovell Track

2. Jordie

We looked after Jordie, a Border Collie down south in Torbay near Albany, Western Australia. His home on a small farm came with a herd of Boer goats, some cows, plus a horse. Jordie, being a herding dog by nature, would come into the goat paddock with us and round up the goats to head in the right direction.


Gone herdin’


Within the herd were four kids who were rejected by their mothers, so we had to hand-feed them with bottles. While the owners were away, our job was to wean them off their bottles of milk. Jordie seemed to understand and helped move the baby goats away when their limited milk was finished.

Walking Jordie was fun because the farm was right on a dog-friendly part of the Bibbulmun Track, so we could walk him to the Torbay Hut and relive our Bibbulmun experience.

Read more: 10 Dog Friendly Walks in Perth 2024

3. Dozer

Dozer (short for bulldozer) was a Rottweiler with a gorgeous temperament. On our daily walks, fellow dog owners would pick up their pups and cross the road rather than come face-to-face with Dozer. The silly thing is she was the gentlest natured dog we ever looked after.

On one occasion, with the owner’s permission, we took Dozer camping with some friends to a gorgeous campsite at Christmas Creek in Dwellingup. We were there with two other couples who had their own dogs – two Boxers and two Red Setters.

On arrival, the other dogs were straight in the river for a swim. Meanwhile, Dozer stood by on the bank, not touching the water. Dozer was a young dog, so we soon realised she may not have been swimming before. The Boxers swam up and back, while Dozer watched intently.


Oh, we’re getting IN the water? Cool cool cool


They seemed to be enticing Dozer to suck it up and take the plunge. Dozer crept in a little further until eventually she was swimming happily alongside the other dogs. It’s amazing how quickly they can learn a new skill by watching other dogs at play.

We realised that if Dozer hadn’t swum before, maybe she hadn’t camped either. Luckily for us, she slept on the doggy bed in our tent all night without moving or waking up.

4. Floyd

We looked after Floyd, a Boston Bulldog, in Kingscliff, Northern NSW. It was a great opportunity for us to travel to a place we’d never been to before, on the other side of the country. We walked Floyd along beaches we’d never before stepped foot on. We chose a new location every few days, so we could get to know the area well, thanks to Floyd. We also explored the coffee options around town with pup in tow.

Read more: 12 Best Dog Friendly Camping Sites In NSW


An overjoyed Floyd at the beach


As we were in a different state, we used the opportunity to add on a few days extra and take on an overnight hike. We decided on the Border Track which runs between O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in the Lamington National Park to Binna Burra Lodge, and is part of the longer Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk.

We walked 21.4km through the lush Gondwanna rainforest. The trail passed through warm and cool subtropical and temperate rainforests, into lush gullies and valleys, over clear mountain streams, and past waterfalls. We walked into O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat where we stayed the night.


Sorry Floyd, can’t come on this one! But thanks for showing us


In the morning, we walked back the same way, this time in less pleasant weather as it drizzled most of the day. We stayed at Binna Burra Lodge and enjoyed the ambiance of group dining with fellow hiking enthusiasts. If it wasn’t for our time with Floyd, we may not have discovered one of our all-time favourite hikes.

Read more: 7 Dog Friendly Walks on The Gold Coast

5. Nala

With lots of pet sitting experience under our belt, we ventured overseas. Without word of mouth at our disposal, we used one of the many pet sitting websites to find pooches to take care of around the United Kingdom.

Nala, the golden Labrador, lived in a small village out of Chester. We’d walk her along the river in the backyard, under bridges, and over styes. Nala introduced us to trails in the Peak District. Her family allowed us to take her to their holiday home on the Welsh Coast. What a privilege that was! As well as eyes over a rocky, misty coastline, the home had views towards the distant imposing peaks of Eryri (Snowdonia) National Park.

Unlike in Australia, dogs are allowed in UK national parks, so naturally we headed out to explore those famous Welsh peaks. We picked a 5km hiking trail (Cwm Idwal) and took Nala for a long stroll. The three of us gleefully hiked along ridges with dramatic mountain vistas and sidled around alpine lakes where Nala took the odd chilly dip.


She was much braver than us when it came to cold swims


She was the perfect hiking buddy, always keeping close by. I’m always surprised how quickly dogs understand that you’re now looking after them and don’t run away looking for their owners.

One of the great things we discovered about hiking in the UK is being able to find a pub at the end of the trail where dogs are welcomed. With Nala leading the way, we experienced Welsh hospitality at its best, as well as some wonderful walks.

Read more: The Best Gear Picks For Adventure Dogs

6. Bella

Bella, a Golden Retriever, lived in a tiny village called Ashburton in Devon. Unlike Nala, Bella didn’t like going in the car for long distances. Luckily for us, Dartmoor National Park was right at the back of the town, so we hiked through the atmospheric moors.


Easy to coerce the humans to go for a walk with views like this


One day, in the distance we spotted horses. These turned out to be Dartmoor ponies, a famous and much-loved heritage breed, the numbers of which have decreased from around 30,000 to 1,500 today. Michael took photos of them from a distance, slowly getting closer and closer, until we were close enough to pat them. Turns out the ponies aren’t afraid of people, and they were fascinated by Bella. In the end, the pony and Bella were sniffing each other.


‘Hmmm. That dog is really big’


Back ‘home’ in Ashburton, we walked around the outskirts of town following paths in the green misty valleys. The UK system of public paths allowed us to follow many routes, being careful that Bella was well-behaved. Access to paths is on the proviso that the dogs leave the sheep and cows alone.

One delightful aspect of pet sitting is invariably, our doggie owners would inform neighbours of our impending arrival. Immediately, we are treated like locals, especially in small towns. Advice on local attractions was happily offered, which opened us to further adventures not found in tourist brochures.

We love animals, especially dogs, but owning one certainly would curtail our travel lifestyle. By pet sitting, we get the best of both worlds. The pleasure and companionship that comes with looking after somebody’s dog is a beautiful thing. The big bonus for us is the dog can also act as our guide into new places and adventures that may not have necessarily come our way.

Read more: How to Plan a Road Trip With a Dog

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