Owners using on-demand expect you to provide exceptional care for their dogs, just as they would booking any other type of stay on Rover. The tricky part with on-demand walking, however, is that more frequently than not, you don’t meet the owner or dog before providing the service. This can cause a dog to exhibit more fearful or defensive behavior than normal when you walk through the door.
Imagine you’re in the dog’s shoes (er, paws?): A stranger approaches your door, unlocks it, and welcomes themselves in. You’re used to finding your absolute favorite people on the other side of that door, but this time, it’s someone you don’t recognize. They smell a little different, look a little different, and are approaching you. To many dogs, a calm, friendly voice is plenty to entertain the excitement of a walk and will lead them to you to be leashed up without any issue. To many dogs, though, it may take a couple minutes before they develop a sense of trust and comfort.
Let’s address some common behaviors in dogs that may help you understand your furry clients better!
Dogs bark! You knew that – but sometimes, a dog’s bark can come off as aggressive. They’ll hear you approaching their home, or turning the key in their doorknob, and begin to bark. This bark, sometimes referred to as “alert” or “alarm barking,” is simply a dog’s way to address the arrival of a stranger or some other stimuli they weren’t expecting. A dog’s body language is often much more valuable to pay attention to than their voice. Dogs pick up on a human’s body language as well, so remain relaxed and composed and chances are, as soon as the dog understands that you’re not a threat to them, they’ll calm down and begin feeling more confident with you in their home. Treats often do the trick, too! Ask your clients whether their dog has any allergies and if they’re okay with you offering treats. Usually, the answer is “go ahead!” More often than not, a little barking is nothing to be worried about!
A Growling or Shy Dog
When bark turns to growl or into hiding under the bed, tail between their legs, you may need to give the dog a bit more space. Certain behaviors that you, as the walker, exhibit can induce defensive or fearful behavior from a dog. If a dog’s lips are pulled back and they’re showing their teeth, or they run from you in fear, there are a few things to avoid and a few things to try!
- Move towards them nice and slowly. Fast movements make dogs more nervous.
- Approach them from the side as opposed to head-on.
- Speak with a calm, soothing voice.
- Ease yourself down onto your knees at the dog’s side and give them a nice pet, avoiding their head until they’re visibly comfortable.
- If given permission, offer the dog a treat and some praise. “Good boy!” and “Good girl!” help the dog understand they’re not being punished. You’re their friend, not their enemy!
- Contact the owner for further suggestions! They know their dog best.
- Loom or bend over the dog
- Approach them with hesitance or a stiff body
- Reach for their head or try to grab them
- Scold them
As an on-demand walker, if at any point you find yourself in a situation where you’re uncomfortable and feel unsafe because of a dog’s behavior, contact our support team at 206-207-8863 and we’ll be there to help you with the next steps!
Want to know more about common dog behaviors and the body language associated with them? Here are some awesome resources: