Newbie - Advice on screening questions

Hi All

This is my first time using the Trusted Housesitters site. We used another site last year and had a disastrous experience – damage to property, fruit fly infestation upon our arrival back, but worse an unreported major incident with our youngest dog that now requires us to get in a behavioural specialist to work on his fear aggression. (we learned of this incident from a neighbour 7 months after the fact)

In hindsight we were probably not thorough enough in assessing this last sitter – she talked a good game and sounded like she had extensive experience and repeat clients but the stories we have now heard from multiple neighbours has us shaking our heads.

Am lining up screening calls this week and would appreciate your feedback suggestions on questions. A few I have come up with are:

  1. Could you talk me through some of your house/ pet sitting experience? What was the worst experience and why? (try to determine if they are real animal lovers or not)

  2. Have you every dealt with a dog who barks at other dogs while on a lead? How do you deal with them?

  3. Have you ever been with a dog who was in a fight? What did you do in that situation?

  4. Tell me about a time that you had to break bad news to someone. How did you handle this? What would you have done differently?

Any thoughts or suggestions? I want to make sure I screen out anyone who is not going to look after our boys properly and also as we now have a reactive dog make sure that they are able to handle that and not just shout at him or smack him.

Thanks in advance!

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All good questions for the 1st three but… What’s the answer you are going for with bad news one?

Hello @kbyportmelb and welcome. There are loads of threads on here (too many for me to copy but have chosen a good one for you to start you off)

And then use the spyglass at the top of the page to find more plus HO members will add comments am sure.

We’re experienced sitters not owners (but do own our own home) - make sure you read the application throughly, specify perhaps that you want certain things in your sitter like experience with behaviour issues etc & a certain number of reviews (as you’ve had a bad experience before) look at their other reviews, do a video call, trust your gut.

As a random aside, are you in Port Melbourne, Vic as have old Barwon Heads friends who lived there for years!

Best of luck :+1:t3:

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Thank you! Yes I am in PM Vic :wave:

I want to see if they face into owning up to any accidents or anything. We know accidents happen but we came back to damage to an exterior wall from the sitter trying to wedge her car down an alley (learned of this from a neighbour) damage to an expensive table from putting hot dishes on it (repairable) as well as other things and nothing was ever said. These were relatively minor to what the learned yesterday which was that our youngest dog was attacked by a much larger dog that left a neighbour so traumatised that he skipped an event that day.

Things happen but I want to make sure I find someone who will be straight and let us know if something happens - and also apologise if they cause damage.

Welcome @kbyportmelb to the forum. I see you have 5 applicants already where THS has automatically paused your listing. If there are any that have not addressed your listing personally, especially in relation to their experience dealing with fear aggression in dogs, then decline them immediately (with a personal message) and unpause your listing for more applicants to apply. Don’t waste your time or the applicant’s time by having a chat if they are not suitable. A video call is really for only one or two applicants who you consider really suitable. Look for what experience they have in their profiles and read their reviews and feedback they give on past owners to get more of an idea about them. You really need experienced sitters and I’m thinking a couple rather than a single person, should both your dogs become involved in an altercation.
All the best from another Victorian.


Thank you! I just updated my listing to include the reactivity point so current applicants have not had a chance to respond to that……

But I like the idea of a couple. That is a really good point! I have not had a situation where both have been in an altercation - just a barking match :rofl: but if ever there were a situation like that it would be much better to have two people.

I’m a sitter. You questions are worded in a very employer-like way. By all means ask the questions just make sure you word it in a non-employer like way. As you need a sitter to feel like they can relax in your home, without feeling like an employee. It’s mutually beneficial, there needs to be a mutual level of respect.

We get to enjoy a change of scenery with some furry cuddles which we miss, and owners in return get 100% free pet sitting, by someone who adores animals, and who is responsible where their property is concerned.

What you don’t expect to happen with THS (but it totally happens, believe me) is you will become incredibly good friends with the sitter you were drawn too, and it happens very fast. Trust your intuition, not your questions or their answers, your gut will tell you who the right person is.


Hi @kbyportmelb - I am sorry to hear you had such a bad experience with your last sitter but that will have been an extremely rare occurrence so it’s important not to let it cloud your judgement on future sitters.

Many trustedhousesitters will come with a long string of reviews from previous hosts making many of your questions not necessary to ask. ( for example, “Try to determine if they are real animal lovers or not” !!!)

This is trusted house sitters so you have to have a level of trust from the very beginning.

As @HappyDeb says, you are not conducting a job interview. The video chat is an opportunity for you and the sitter to have an informal conversation so that you can both decide whether or not you are a good fit for each other.

If a home host spoke to me in the video call as if I were a prospective employee then I would decide that they were not a good fit for me and would withdraw our application

Definitely agree with others, when I read your questions it was like a job interview. What are your strengths and weaknesses garbage they always ask.

I would automatically decline if these questions were put to me during a call, as much as I may understand why. But, if you worded it nicely and included all that information in your ad, you are more likely to get suitable applications. Explain you have had a bad previous experience then tactfully write your concerns rather than put people in an awkward position when you video call. If it is clear from the get go, you “should” only get people applying who can handle your concerns. Don’t put yourself through numerous videos and stress unnecessarily.

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Agreed about how you’ve shaped things like a job interview. I’d automatically pass on such a sit as well.

And FWIW, I knowingly adopted a highly reactive dog that no one else wanted, because I’m very patient with animals.

I agree. @kbyportmelb if I was asked these questions as they’re written I would feel like I was in an interview for a paid job. I would hope my reviews would answer a lot of questions and, of course, people can answer what the owner wants to hear. Important to get a good feel for the prospective sitter, and not put him/her/them on edge as it might just put them off

Thanks. Appreciate that guidance. My style
Is much more conversational than these reflect but I am looking to ensure I don’t put my dogs in a dangerous situation again.

My husband and I both got “charmed” by the last sitter and I want to put some structure in place so that I don’t get “charmed” again and put my dogs at risk.

Thanks. Unfortunately I didn’t include these things in my original version of the ad so now need to address in the initial chats…. (Still a newbie to house sitting so didn’t think to include)

My style is much more conversational than the questions reflect but I’ll be sure to let people know I had a bad experience so want to ask questions around their experience with reactive dogs.

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Thanks Colin. My style is much more relaxed and informal than these questions reflect- they are for my own guidance to make sure I cover off some key points with everyone. I want to make sure that I adequately screen potential sitters as my husband and I didn’t last time and our dog was nearly killed without us even realising that a major incident occurred.

The big issue is l that we can be “charmed” and I want to make sure that I am not putting my pets in a dangerous situation again.

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Thanks. The questions are more for my guidance in the conversation and to make sure I cover them with each potential sitter in a structured way so I evaluate each against each other with some factual basis….

Unfortunately both my husband and I had a “good gut feeling” from the last sitter……and no longer trust our intuition.

I’d suggest removing the bar photo and otherwise considering how to make your listing a bit less Airbnb-like, because you might attract the wrong kinds of applicants — perhaps folks looking for more of a vacation than you ideally want when caretaking of your pets is important.

You don’t need folks who lean more toward Instagram. I just looked at your listing or I would’ve mentioned that earlier.

And FWIW, I love cocktails and have a large bar at home. But that’s not what I prioritize for sits.


Thanks, Maggie. I would not ask these questions as bluntly as I have stated here – this is more for my guidance around “areas to cover.”

As you have stated – patience is what is needed. This is what I want to screen for. (as well as someone who will not be afraid to tell me if something happens) Both my husband and I met the last sitter - thought she was amazing – sounded so empathetic and a real animal lover. We found out she was miserable to neighbours, appeared to be “abusive” or “not kind” to our boys, had other dogs in the house without our permission – and when those dogs barked and neighbours complained said it was my young dog and the council might send a letter, caused damage to our house without saying anything about it – but worst of all I just learned that our youngest dog was savagely attacked which was apparently so traumatic to people who witnessed it (my former neighbour just told me about it 8 months later and said he still vividly remembers it and skipped a social event the day it happened after witnessing it) and she never told us about it – or the fact we might need a dog behaviouralist to work with him.

I know this was a bad scenario but having been “snowed” once I want to make sure I never put my dogs at risk again.

Too bad your neighbor didn’t talk to you about the attack (and obviously that the sitter didn’t tell you at the time). I don’t understand why she wouldn’t tell you. I guess there were no visible injuries?

She sounds very immature, and clearly those extras were her dogs, or dogs she was being paid to care for.

As for the questions, I agree with the others and I would decline the sit as I would find the wording and tone insulting.

If your dog is now barking at other dogs and/or pulling, I certainly would want to know that. You could explain what happened and why you’re cautious–but also this situation could potentially be a dealbreaker for many sitters. So you might consider taking an approach from the sitter’s POV. In other words, inherent in your proposed approach is that the sitters are interested and it’s up to you to screen them/cull the list, vs. it being an equal relationship and mutual screening.

FWIW, the last dog I sat had been attacked during a previous sit, and the PP let me know so I would walk him a bit away from other dogs, and he was totally fine. Only bullied by the :smile_cat:

I agree with earlier responses that I would not continue with the conversation.

As a sitter, my conversations start off with me asking questions , e.g where does the dog sleep at night, are you aware of the Code of Conduct, any cameras, third parties, when will the Welcome Guide be ready for me, what time do you want us to arrive/depart.

It is rare that a HO asks me anything as my profile and reviews covers anything a HO wants.

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