As a sitter, you’ve endured slobbery kisses, surprise accidents, and made dog hair a fashion statement. But what do you do when you’re faced with a more challenging dog client—one who acts out when they miss their owner or growls when they see another dog? Never fear—we want to share some tips that’ll help you tackle everything from separation anxiety to leash pulling.
It’s normal for a dog to experience some separation anxiety when their owner is away, but some may not want you to leave either. If a dog in your care is upset, you can use the following techniques to make your entrances and departures easy for everyone:
- Make sure that your comings and goings are handled quietly. The bigger deal you make of leaving, the more the dog will think it’s a dramatic event.
- Throw them a treat every time you leave so that they associate you going with good things.
- If the dog connects you getting your keys or coat with being left alone, grab those things throughout the day and move them around the house so the dog doesn’t fixate on these actions. The calmer you are, the more relaxed the dog will become.
It’s upsetting when you enter a home and a previously friendly dog greets you with a growl. Growling is the dog giving you a warning, but it can seem a bit scary. Here are some tips on how to handle a dog that growls when you come in the house:
- If the dog growls when you enter the home, bring an exercise pen with which you can encircle the door. From this new protected space, you can let the dog get used to your presence, and even toss them treats.
- If a dog is guarding a specific item, do not try to take it from them. If it’s necessary for you to take the item, like a shoe or your child’s toy, trade for it with a very high-value treat. Always offer the treat before taking the object.
- Never punish a dog for growling: They’re trying to tell you they’re uncomfortable, and want to encourage them to express their feelings before it escalates.
- Bottom line: Your safety is important. If you have a feeling that something isn’t right, listen to your instincts. If you feel unsafe, remove yourself from the situation and call our Trust & Safety team at 888-727-1140. We’ll help you through it.
Everyone loves walks, but sometimes dogs are just a little too ready to go outside. Here’s how to slow down dogs that pull on walks:
- Ask the dog to sit and stay at intervals, or follow you on some quick turns.
- Change speeds, walk at a snail’s pace, or speed up and stop abruptly.
- Keep the walks interesting and unpredictable. Soon your Rover dog will look to you for guidance instead of dragging you along the sidewalk.
If you’re dealing with dogs that aren’t getting along, you can take some measures to make sure their interactions are safe and pleasant:
- Make sure they’re never alone together—supervised play ensures that everyone stays safe.
- Dogs fights most commonly occur over food or attention– so separate the dogs when feeding and make sure that no one gets too possessive over toys.
- Pay attention to body language. Dogs always give warnings before a fight begins. If you see stiff bodies and intense eye contact, it’s time to separate.
If your Rover dog is barking excessively, don’t just cover your ears. Here are some tips on keeping a dog quiet.
- Don’t yell, the dog will think you’re barking too! Instead, close the curtains or place the dog in a separate room.
- If the dog is barking for attention, don’t give it to them, ignore them until they stop and then give them a reward.
- Keeping a dog busy and distracted with a game, food puzzles or vigorous exercise, can help keep them calm, happy, and quiet.
Your love of dogs is probably a big part of why you decided to become a dog sitter, and learning how to turn problem behaviors into no-problem situations will help you enjoy dog sitting to the fullest. Our recommendation: Keep treats on hand and keep positive reinforcement in mind, and your clients—both human and dog—will thank you.