Dog host carers | Give dog holidays in your home legally & ethically

I want to look after dogs. What do I need to know?

Lisa Suswain, Wagging Tails
Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Interested in becoming a dog carer or host? Find out all you need to know in order to welcome dogs into your home for a happy holiday legally and ethically.

Let's face it, who wouldn't want to look after dogs? They are a source of love and comfort, a listening ear and are great at getting us out and about exercising. And that's before we've even got on to the numerous health benefits that dogs can bring into our lives! 

For many people the full time commitment of dog ownership may not be feasible so the opportunity to become a "dog carer" or "host" is a welcome way of enjoying that companionship without the year round commitment or cost. But what do you need to know before signing up to board dogs? 

Expect to be vetted

If you are looking to join an existing organisation you should expect to be vetted in person. If this is not part of the procedure it should raise a question mark straight away. At Wagging Tails its not just us doing the vetting but our dogs too! We need to be sure that not only are you going to be a good addition to our team and a "dog person" but that your home and garden are a suitable environment for guest dogs. Our dogs help to "sniff out" your home and they soon let us know if they would like to have a holiday with you! 

Ted enjoying a walk with Wagging Tails dog carer Jenny

Wagging Tails Carer Jenny out walking with her holiday guest Ted

Obtain a licence to board dogs in your home

In order to board dogs in your home it is a legal requirement to obtain a licence from your local council. At Wagging Tails we guide new carers through this process, but don't rely on the organisation you are joining obtaining this for you, or even providing much assistance with this, as not all of them are willing to help or fully understand this requirement. Please be wary of any organisation who claims that because they already have a licence you don't need one. This is not true - the licence is specific to you and your home so it is YOU who will require this to board dogs in your home. If you receive payment for looking after dogs in your home as a "Carer" or "Host" without a licence you will be operating illegally and placing yourself (NOT the organisation or individual you are working with) at risk of prosecution. At Wagging Tails we work with over 200 councils across the UK and know the licensing departments well. In some areas we receive preferential rates due to the level of support we provide to them. 

"I would like to say how impressed I was, and still am, with Hilary's professionalism, support and speed in getting things done. She came prepared with all the paperwork, explained all I needed to know about becoming a boarder and arranged for the Council to do an inspection for the week after. Her relationship with the Council resulted in a much reduced licence fee and a licence granted during the Council's first visit, as Hilary had already done the groundwork."

Caroline, Wagging Tails Dog Carer

Make sure you have relevant insurance

You must be insured to board dogs. If you are joining a responsible organisation they will assist you with this. At Wagging Tails we arrange this for you and ensure that you have a copy of it along with a copy of your licence should an owner or the council wish to see it. 

Meet all the dogs you are going to board

There are some organisations and individuals who meet the dog on your behalf and then drop the dog off to you and others who simply allow dogs and their owners to turn up at your home without any prior meeting. We would advise against either scenario and recommend that as part of the process you should meet all of the dogs you are going to look after in your home before a board takes place. At Wagging Tails we insist on this and call it a "Sniffing Out Meeting©". This meeting gives you, the carer, an opportunity to make sure that you are happy with the dogs that will be coming to stay with you and a chance to ask the owners any questions they may have about their dogs. It sounds obvious but dogs will behave a bit differently when they come to stay with you, especially to start off with when they are settling in, so this gives you a chance to see how the dog behaves in your home. If you have a dog of your own it also allows you to see how your dog welcomes a guest into his home and ensure that they have been socialised prior to the holiday. 

This meeting obviously also gives owners peace of mind as they are able to see their dog have a good old sniff around and familiarise themselves with you and their holiday home. We've found dogs tend to settle more quickly on their holiday due to this opportunity. 

Make sure you have support

The organisation or individual you sign up with should be there with you to offer guidance and support at all times right from when you first join them and have you licence inspection through to meeting the dogs and having them to stay with you. At Wagging Tails we build supportive and friendly relationships with our carers and meet ups are a common occurrence.

"Roz helped me every step of the way including with the local council and was with me for the inspection... It has given my husband and myself a new lease of life and we have made lots of new friends on our many walks, the dogs we have cared for have all been wonderful and have fitted into our home perfectly."

Janet, Wagging Tails Dog Carer


In Summary

There are many individuals and organisations operating dog care services to a varying degree of standards and some with very questionable ethics. A large number operate in complete ignorance of the law. Taking care of someone elses dog is a huge responsibility and something that should be done correctly and for the right reasons. Before you sign up to have a dog to stay or list yourself on an online directory please make sure that you know what is legally required of you in order to provide this service and consider the support you'll need to ensure that all dogs staying with you enjoy a stress free, happy home from home holiday! 

Find out more about becoming a Wagging Tails dog carer. 


Wagging Tails Franchisor Lisa Suswain walking her dogsOwner of beloved Cocker Spaniel, Bailey and Golden Retriever, Lottie, Lisa Suswain is the Founder and Managing Director of home dog boarding franchise Wagging Tails and a Kennel Club Assured Breeder