Giving constructive feedback on sit experiences

Hi. I have done 14 sits in the last five months and want to use the next days to finally write some honest feedbacks. When I read feedbacks of other sitters, usually, everything is always positive, all sweet and rosy - but in truth, we are often met with unexpected challenges… However, the home owners were super-friendly, gave me a clean, freshly made bed, offered food and adhered to all the rules, which makes them deserving of a good feedback. I just wonder how I can pack unpleasant impressions into a positive feedback, so other sitters get a glimpse of what is really expecting them there?

Admin Notice: Post moderated for privacy purposes.


THS needs to find better ways to communicate problems during house sits. This applies to reviews for home owners as well as reviews for house sitters. THS has known for ages that this is necessary, but so far has done nothing that I’m aware of.

While we’re waiting for THS to fix this major flaw, here are a couple of ideas.

  1. Go back to the listings where you had issues and re-read the previous reviews sitters left for those owners. In retrospect, can you see any hints about the problems? Learn from this experience when you apply to future house sits, and use the same hints when you leave your reviews.

  2. A single issue is usually not enough to completely derail a sit, but sometimes needs to be mentioned. When you write your review, make sure you do not over-emphasize the problem.

  3. Be creative in the way you describe the issue, e.g.:
    a) I really enjoyed walking the dogs, and I think they were happy to be taken outside more often than usual to relieve themselves!
    b) We enjoyed walks with the rambunctious puppy and were glad to gradually observe improvements during our walks.
    c) Since the 3 dogs are inside quite a lot, there’s quite a bit of hair around, which is easy enough to clean because the vacuum cleaner is kept close by.

Say it in a way that makes it clear you’re not being combative or exacting retribution, but stating unrefutable facts that are important for future sitters to know.

You do not need to mentione everything that went wrong. Mentioning just one issue effectively will be a warning to future sitters.

Remember to be nice.

Good luck!


Not sure why you feel the need to ‘warn’ others! Your perspective may not be the same as others. In the same way some people are pleased with events and others find them objectionable. My feeling is if you have nothing nice to say then say nothing!


Its tricky to be really truthful without offending, and ofcourse different sitters may have different perspectives. What is OK for one may not be for another. It sounds like you do have positive things to say about each host/sit so start with positive and try to find a creative way to mention/include negatives. Good advice from @Ruckusfan You can also give just 4👍 (or less) instead of 5👍. If you cannot wholeheartedldy recommend the sit then that is one way to show it. Many sitters write ‘highly recommended sit’ or ‘we’d loved to be invited back’ etc. Definitely do NOT write anything like that unless you absolutely mean it! No recommendation is also a subtle signal. Unfortunately THS does not have a breakdown of categories to rate hosts the way hosts can rate sitters. Hosts can drop a * in one or more categories and still give overall 5* but sitters can’t do that for hosts. We did a sit last year which turned into a disaster- the hosts had been very misleading. Its a long story and I’ll get ‘moderated’ for mentioning give away details (!!) but- short version was we agreed on no reviews either way- to protect our profile. On later analysis of previous sitter feedback we noticed 3 out of 5 who gave feedback only gave 4👍, 2 wrote no feedback, and no one mentioned the house at all and little about the hosts… If I’d noticed those details before they would have been red flags! And lately I saw 2 more sitters have done that sit and no reviews/feedback were given either way. Sitters are afraid to write negative stuff for fear of a retaliatory review so its always a good idea to get your review first and then you are more free to be honest- in as kind a way as possible.
I’d love to warn future sitters about that bad sit but I cannot risk our reputation being tarnished by them. But it pains me to see others have followed in our footsteps (and this sit is long) and probably had bad experiences too. THS knows about our experience but did not take it further.
If in doubt write nothing at all. That in itself is a signal to future sitters.


@Ken Are you a sitter, or just a home owner? Your perspective will be different if you are just a HO. We have tried to explain it before in numerous posts: moving into someone else’s home and taking care of their pets are not as easy as HO’s might assume. When we, as sitters, leave ‘feedback’, it’s less for the HO’s benefit and more for other sitters, as it’s tremendously important to be aware of issues such as aggressive dogs, hoarding, non-stop barking, peeing in the house, terrible smells, dirty houses and the list goes on and on. Imagine hitting several bad sits in a row. You would be mentally drowning.


In answer to your question, I’m both. However I very much stick with what I said earlier. Your perspective regarding someone’s home and animals could well be completely different to another’s; and probably is. It is all very subjective. If you have had experiences you are not happy with then simply and obviously, you won’t be doing the same sit again. I still believe that posting, which could, arguably, be insulting and derogatory comments about someone’s home isn’t something that should be done. If, as you claim, these sort of things exist then eventually they won’t get sitters will they? If you think a house you have looked after smells and is dirty or the animal is savage then tell the owner!!!


Just telling the owners about bad experiences does not necessarily lead to them changing anything nor does it prevent the next sitter from having a poor experience. That is where feedback is helpful. The feedback sitters give hosts is more for the benefit of future sitters than for the hosts. Sitters often respond directly to the hosts review-on their own profile- to express their gratitude. Same goes for hosts- sitter reviews help them choose the right sitters.


I understand your point completely. However you haven’t taken any regard to mine and that is what you think is good or bad is subjective and could be construed as insulting and offensive. I really don’t think it is for you or anyone to put on a public forum that someone home is smells or is dirty. Being grateful and having a nice experience is one thing and is nice to post, being offensive is another!!


Admin Notice:

Hi everyone, the forum is a public space which all members have access to with that in mind when discussing personal experiences may we please remind members to be respectful at all times, no matter how justified one believes going into detail might be.

Thank you.

The Admin Team

Thanks a lot, Ruckusfan, that’s great advice, just what I was looking for!


I’m with Ruchusfan and Ken on this subject.

A review is very subjective. What one sitter finds intolerable another will shrug off. I have only ever walked into a home and had to clean the spaces we would be using once and I have already detailed the reason why it was in that state somewhere else on this forum. It was understandable and as a compassionate person I dealt with it.
We are dealing with animals who must find the whole process of temporary guardians terrifying, confusing, bewildering and might act differently than they normally do. Hence, peeing in the house, aggressive behaviour and, the one I find very difficult to cope with, not eating. A good sitter knows when to comfort and when to ignore until the dog comes to terms with the people in their space. This is one of the many reasons I’m disappointed when journalists write articles hailing our life style as a cheap way to holiday. But that’s a different subject all together and I’m not going to go on one of my rants here.
There are ways to be constructive in our criticism and there are a few very good examples in this thread. Remember, pet parents have feelings as well. Like us some are very new at this and need gentle prodding in the right direction. Be nice to each other. And if nice doesn’t work be firm.


I am a newish to THS HO (5 sits in the past six months) and a long-time in-home Airbnb host. It’s been interesting to observe differences & similarities in hosting from each perspective. Airbnb uses a “double blind” system where you can’t see the other’s review until both have been left. Also, with Airbnb, both the host and the guest leave reviews that include categories such as cleanliness and location.

I want useful feedback, and also want prospective sitters & Airbnb guests to have a realistic, accurate view of what to expect.

Early on in my Airbnb career, I described my home as “quiet” - I live on a quiet street, I live alone, don’t usually listen to music at home, don’t have a TV, etc. In a review, a guest warned prospective guests that they should know that my house is loud. After a moment of righteous indignation, I realized that I live around the corner from a firehouse, and also that I have creaky old stairs that I go up and down many times a day and a loud coffee grinder that I use every morning. As a result of that review, I removed the word “quiet” from my description and bought a white noise machine for the guest room.

I think that Americans tend to leave 5 star reviews more often than not - anything less than five stars is seen as terrible. So there’s often no basis for comparison when ALL listings (and guests and sitters) are rated 5 stars.

And most of us think we are very good hosts, have great homes, and also that we are excellent guests (and sitters, I would think.) But just as I was not aware of my home’s noisiness, a lot of us aren’t aware of our own HO/guest/sitter peculiarities. So, balancing flexibility, generosity of spirit, and also honesty helps everyone.

Another example: I find my cat super easy to pill, and described that as such in my THS listing. And then, I had a sitter who found it very difficult. I hadn’t been dishonest when I said she was very easy to pill, I just didn’t know yet that it wouldn’t be easy for everyone. I am glad to know this, now, and glad that the sitter mentioned it in feedback - both for my benefit and for that of perspective sitters.


@Ken, both as a sitter and HO your perspective comment is spot on.


@GardenCat this is an excellent post as you have covered info that is beneficial to both a sitter and a pet parent/homeowner. Your perspective is spot on as each of us has our own interpretation of what we consider acceptable or normal by our standards so we take all this into account when applying for a sit or accepting a sitter.


I think the key here is the original writer is asking how to do this in a constructive and positive way, but to alert other sitters to what very well could be issues for them too. Absolutely every sitter, and every homeowner, has subjective standards about cleanliness, dog behavior, etc., but as a prospective sitter, I would like to be alerted to such issues and not just have a rubber stamp 5 stars on every review. For example, if there is an aggressive dog, I think other sitters absolutely need to be made aware of that, and it can be done in a diplomatic way. For example, “I had trouble bonding with Fido for the first few days and was a bit nervous to be around him, but he did eventually warm up and was fun to be around.” Similarly, if the animals are going potty in the house regularly that is important for other sitters to know. “Fido seemed nervous during the duration of my stay and that manifested in him relieving himself in the house despite numerous walks every day.”

There are ways to alert sitters without being derogatory and that’s exactly what the writer was asking for and I applaud sitters for doing so. I also agree that these are things I would personally discuss with the homeowner as well to make sure they are aware of it and if they respond in a positive way, I would also include that in my review. “ I discussed the issue with the hosts who were lovely and responsive, so would hope these issues don’t come up for future sitters.” Or as others have said, I think, leaving no review at all often is a red flag to sitters. If I see a sit that has several sitters who did not leave a review I usually move right on.


Very well put @Freebird. A lot has been said about the review/feedback system and It definitely needs improvement.
Currently there is a lot of reading between the lines of feedback to understand how the sit went. Also as much importance needs to be put on what is not said as to what is said when reading feedback. It really shouldn’t be that complicated to be able to make an informed choice.
As others have said a lack of reviews and feedback would be a red flag to me.


I strongly believe that feedback is best given right after an issue or not long after. Also, some feedback is best given through a personal message and doesn’t need to be public. I would be taken by surprise is someone wrote me negative feedback months later after a stay and never said anything earlier.
If it’s something that was really an issue and you believe it can’t be changed, and others should know, then public feedback may be the way to go. But again, it should be done earlier. It doesn’t give homeowners a chance to change anything if they don’t know until months later.


I try to give feedback within a few days while the experience is still fresh in my mind. I know that I carefully read other feedback while considering a sit and totally look for the little clues. I really appreciate hints of what to expect so I can decide if I want to apply. For example, I just wrote feedback that mentioned the one dog is big and gets excited by other dogs but there is plenty of room on the path to move away. I would think this means if you don’t want to deal with a big dog lunging at other dogs while you are walking him this is not a good sit for you. Sometimes I am more direct and mention that this sit is really just a good fit for someone comfortable giving cat insulin. The pet parents appreciated that as they do not want the poor cat traumatized either. I would say, please, if there is something that might make the sit a bit difficult, mention it is a kind manner. I read feedback one time that mentioned that the cats were very friendly but still working on litter box training. What a nice way to say they go in the house. I skipped that sit. If there is no feedback I am not sure if the sitter was just too busy to write something or if there was a problem.


I think it would be great if there was a way for prospective sitters to contact prior sitters. This way any problems might be mentioned instead of the prior sitter afraid of a bad review.


I think a lot of sitters post reviews that you have to read between the lines. No one wants to leave negative feedback, or receive it for that matter. If a pet sit is less than great, I leave a short but sweet review and only mention the positives. So when I see reviews like that which mention very little, I take that a sign that they were less than stellar. Another thing I’ve started doing is I will offer the pet owner direct feedback, but only if they’re interested. I offer to set up a call and give them pointers on using the app, marketing their listing, and areas of improvement, such as cleanliness. I find this method much easier than leaving a negative public review, and it really helps out the pet owner.