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If the owner is out of state, are sitters stuck dealing with aggressive dogs with no alternative?

asked 2016-04-14 14:46:38 -0500

I was watching a dog doing overnight visits for 5 days in an apartment complex.

My husband and I both went over for a Meet & Greet, and the dog was fine, playful, happy to get attention, etc. We got all the information for the stay and left. Three days later we showed up for the first night, and the owners had left and were out of the state on vacation (had flown out that morning). The dog was aggressive, growled at us from the moment we came inside, barked and growled when we went anywhere near her, wouldn't be calmed down with treats, or with us ignoring her, or talking to her, or leaving the room, nothing.

We were in an apartment complex, so it was further complicated because for her to go out and do her business, we had to get a leash on her and walk her downstairs, but she was very aggressive and growling, snapping at us if we came close.

We ended up feeling totally blindsided by the owners for giving us no warning at all. We were also not feeling like we got a lot of help from Rover because when I called customer support they suggested things I'd already tried and then were basically like "try the emergency contact" (except that was just the couple's second phone number). Eventually (and I mean after 2 full days) the dog relaxed.

But does anyone have suggestions for when you are in a situation like this? It makes me nervous now because I didn't feel very safe, but Rover didn't offer any real suggestions about what to do if we didn't want to continue to watch this dog.

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answered 2016-04-16 12:40:32 -0500

I had the unfortunate chance that a similar overnight in a clients home (also an apartment) happened this past Christmas.

I had a meet and greet prior to the stay with her two dogs, they were fun, interactive, polite, listened well, etc. We made arrangements for me to arrive for the stay prior to her leaving, so that the dogs would not be surprised at someone entering the home without the owner. However, she ended up having to leave earlier than planned, and called to tell me from the airport. I was not concerned, as the dogs had met and interacted with me just the day before and there had been no complications.

Needless to say, I arrived at the apartment and the two dogs were going crazy on the other side of the door, barking, growling, snapping, and not allowing me to enter the home. I ended up sitting on their stoop for about 2 hours talking to the dogs and trying to calm them before they finally let me enter the home. Once inside they were very skittish of me still for about 45 mins to an hour before they would allow me to leash them and take them outside.

After that we were great friends and whenever I would enter the home they would be waiting to great me (very much as friends) at the door.

I definitely suggest setting up at client home stays in a way that the exchange is overlapping. I have had the most success in that way. Otherwise, you run the risk of the dog defending it's home (which I would whole heartedly expect).

I also require the Emergency Contact to be someone that is not traveling with them, so the second owner is not good enough. I require both owners numbers for the stay and another Emergency Contact, I have had a few stays where the owners were unreachable, and the second owner's number is no good if they are in the same location as the first.

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answered 2016-04-27 08:22:50 -0500

Whenever I will be entering a pupster's home to walk them, I assume their behavior during the meet 'n greet will go totally out the window when I arrive to "their territory" with no other "human pack member present." Excluding one older dog, who was accustomed to sitters walking him, they always have behaved exactly as described above, even a fully socialized Labrador retriever puppy that I've raised with his mommy ( a year old at that point) wouldn't let his walker in his house, when they moved to Baltimore.

I ALWAYS require at least 2 more visits before the owners leave to ensure the pup will comfortably let me into his home. The first time I ask the owner be in the living room and leave the door unlocked to reassure their pup it is okay, while I let myself in. That rarely goes without growles unless it is a well socialized dog, fully accustomed to various walkers entering his territory, as I said, I've only met one. So, after more reassurance from the owner they generally calm down and I take them for a quick walk around the block, positive connection making. The second time I ask the owner be upstairs or further from the door (assuming I wasn't maulled the first time) to see how the pup reacts to letting me in without their "pack member" reassuring them as I enter. If a third time is necessary, I return so as to ensure everything will go smoothly when I leave.

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Wow - I have not found this to be the case at all! In over 20 stays, I've never had another dog be aggressive towards us except this one time, even with just one meet & greet with owners present.

Jana D.'s profile image Jana D.  ( 2016-05-23 11:23:54 -0500 ) edit
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answered 2016-05-08 02:32:10 -0500

To reiterate some of the answers above, I always schedule a meet & greet with the owner prior to any dog walking or in-home services. This is followed by dry runs where I enter the home without the owner(s) there. Once everyone is on board, we book. I don't usually accept payment for these lead ups as I consider them a part of the meet & greet process, but I have the means to do so, even when some people have offered to pay me for the time. Clients appreciate it and often leave bigger tips than what I would have charged them for the time.

My worst case was last Thanksgiving where all of the above had gone well, but the dog was very displeased at the site of me once her family was gone. Barking, growling, snapping at me, etc. I spoke to the human who indicated that it happens sometimes (she had a very rough life before her current home) and to just do the best I could. I still visited the dog as scheduled, checking her water and food, and cleaning up any messes she made since she was in an apartment building. Her anxiety was such that she wasn't eating or drinking much at all.

What ultimately ended up working was buying her love with treats. I would leave a trail of treats that led towards me and I would look away/ignore the dog as she reached the final treat in my hand and took a treat from my open palm as I sat on the ground. We would do this each time until she realized I wasn't going to hurt her and wouldn't run away immediately. Finally she would let me sit on the couch with her, resulting in more treats. Sometimes we would just sit there and watch TV or listen to music, not touching each other. More treats, finally she let me pet her. More treats, I got the leash on her, and we were gold. I still give her a treat everytime before I put the leash on her so she is occupied enjoying her treat while the leash goes on. I like to give treats after a walk, as well.

If your client is ammenable, I also suggest keeping in touch with an in-home or walking dog even if they may not need your services again immediately. This helps you and the dog to maintain the relationship you worked hard to build. This was actually suggested to me by a client who had previously had a tough experience with sitters. I usually visit him every 2-3 weeks even without another trip scheduled. Sometimes I am able to stop by when I am in the area (working nearby, another client in the building, etc) and do not charge for this (especially when I got to meet the new puppy!!), but they are happy to pay me to take him for one of our relationship maintaining ... (more)

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answered 2016-04-14 15:22:06 -0500

Fortunately, I haven't had this stressful situation. The only solution I can offer is for providing traveling sitter services, I build a relationship with the dog by doing dog walks/visits at its home before the dates of the stay. I've successfully convinced clients of this... it is good for the dog, the sitter, and also reassures the parent of the care&communication they can expect from the sitter and frees up their schedule for however many dog walks are agreed upon.

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I just had that situation . I was supposed to watch to Great Danes , did the meet an great and I also offered to walk the dog before and they just barked and growled . The owners were surprised so I offered to come again a day later same thing . If I don't feel 100% confident I am not doing it

Susanne M.'s profile image Susanne M.  ( 2016-04-30 20:18:45 -0500 ) edit

That's exactly what I'd do too - decline future bookings. That's the huge benefit of walking the dogs first, before committing to an extended period of time.

Deb A.'s profile image Deb A.  ( 2016-04-30 21:46:13 -0500 ) edit
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answered 2016-04-17 14:16:52 -0500

I don't do travelling sitting - I sit in my home, however the first 24 hours are always totally stressful for any new dog, so I can relate to these dogs seeing you as "stranger danger" (I've had dogs that were extremely shut down and/or bitey the first day...thankfully they decided I wasn't the devil). And to be fair, the owner may never have saw it coming...typically people don't just walk into a home when the owner isn't there.

This may have been a one off incident, but if you're uncomfortable maybe start scheduling a walk in visit before the actual sit, when the owner is at work or something...that way you can make sure you can safely get in the home without worries. (And you can check to make sure the duplicate key works, if the lock is sticks or is hard to open, etc...always better to find out beforehand, right?)

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good idea.

Neal S.'s profile image Neal S.  ( 2016-04-19 14:43:51 -0500 ) edit
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answered 2019-12-30 18:02:20 -0500

Honestly, I'm currently dealing with something similar. I should add I've dealt with all kinds of animals.

First meet and greet the owners were home, sure there were some barking and what not but nothing terrible. Second meet and greet we did with just me walking into the house, while the owner was NOT inside, not terrible, lots of barking, but they let me come upstairs to their room and give them treats.

Now that the owners are out of town.....I can barely walk into the house. No matter how many treats I give them. Last night one of them growled, showed her teeth, and basically chased me away (Really thought I was going to get bitten). Neither of them wanted to go outside (they go out into the backyard). I slept on the couch with all the lights on, just in case they needed to be let out, and so they knew I was still there. This morning, same thing, they chased me down the hall way into one of the rooms. I left the home because I had a few other dogs to walk this morning, and I went back to the house to check on the pups, I've been talking to the owner all night and all morning. She finally told me that they have anxiety meds that the vet gives them. So I was able to get them to eat those with some cheese.

One of the pups finally went into the backyard to do her business and I was about to clean up whatever accidents there was. I'm still waiting for the other pup to warm up to me, but the last time I walked in there wasn't as much barking coming out of him. Hopefully when I go back there later today (I work full time, but get to leave on lunch) things will be much better.

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answered 2019-11-30 05:58:44 -0500

I am currently doing drop ins for 2 dogs. One is skittish, the other is really aggressive...growling, charging, and snapping. (by its body language it is fear). I am actually using an umbrella as a shield. It has bitten the umbrella. I almost contacted the owner today to tell them I quit. Fortunately, I can just let them out in the backyard and I have to use the umbrella to shoo the dog outside. The dog was aggressive when I did the meet and greet but I was assured she wouldn't be that way with the family gone...that she "protects" them. I had a bad feeling and didn't want to watch these dogs but took the job because I desperately need the money. I feel if we fear our safety, it is OK to contact the owner and say you are done. There's a point where their aggressive dog is no longer a sitter's problem, but theirs. Even if they have to fly home. Getting attacked for bitten is not worth it. And I feel we should always trust our gut instinct. I wish Rover had something where sitters could review customers for other sitters to see!

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answered 2019-09-30 03:20:51 -0500

I was bitten by Rover dog. When I did meet & greet there were 3 barking snapping Shepherds, when one puppy was only registered. They calmed with time and owner presence First of 2 drop ins was fine - 2nd drop in the youngster dog wouldn’t cage and snaked around my collar hold to bite my wrist No skin broken but bruising just starting to fade. I told owner about it and I won’t sit again. Wish I could alert other Rover sitters - is there a way?

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answered 2022-04-04 09:42:01 -0500

For this reason I only board at my home. This immediately takes away the protective behavior. However, I recently have sat 2 dogs from different families who were aggressive here and even bit my hand. I am not afraid of dogs, I try to work with their fears. However, in both of these cases the owners were NOT transparent at all about this, only after I mentioned it I found out they bit others even their owner!?? I would never leave my dog with someone without letting them know of this behavior.....I really wish I could report the current one I'm sitting to warn other sitters, he will end up hurting a person or animal very bad or worse.......the owner is completely apathetic to it which is the scary part!

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answered 2019-12-24 15:16:31 -0500

Currently house sitting two dogs who use to be street figs in the Ukraine. The female has been growling at us none stop and barking. The owners said the dogs normally calm down once they leave. We've been hear an hour and the dogs haven't really calmed down. They won't even eat.

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