Aggressive Dogs?

asked 2015-06-08 17:25:19 -0600

On more than one occasion, I've had dog owners assure me that their pet gets along with others only to find out that this was false information. When pet owners are not 100% honest about their pet's behavior, it increases the risk of an emergency occurring and puts both my life and the life of other dogs in danger.

I have specific questions outlined on my profile which I request clients to answer when initially messaging me. And because I usually do book more than one dog at a time, the first question I ask is, "Does your dog get along well with others?". I will not watch any dogs who may cause conflict with others.

Other than only booking one dog at a time, how can I avoid this? Admitting your dog is aggressive or violent will obviously make your search for a sitter quite difficult, but this is essential information to be honest about.

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answered 2015-07-08 10:32:12 -0600

As a general practice, I will not accept two new dogs. I have to know one of them and their temperament before bringing another dog into the mix. I hold all my M&Gs in my home, primarily because my own dog can exhibit leash aggression toward other dogs outside.

I won't repeat any of the excellent suggestions already provided by others here, but you may want to rethink the dogs and methods of acceptance. I noticed that you will take dogs of all sizes. If, for example, you've accepted a medium-large dog, you may not want to accept another of any size so that you can concentrate on that one. Medium-large dogs cannot be effectively separated via baby gates, as can be done with smaller dogs.

Most owners are not intentionally withholding vital information or attempting to mislead you. Dogs do act differently away from their owners and home turf. I don't think you are ever going to get an honest answer to a question about a dog's aggressive past behavior when worded in that way. Soften it a bit by using some of the alternatives provided here, but do ask in writing if a dog has ever bitten anyone.

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answered 2015-06-08 18:40:40 -0600

I'm sure there are some owners who aren't 100% honest about their dog's behavior, but in many cases the dog is probably behaving much differently in your home or around your dogs than they would in their own home. Like Kristina said, separation anxiety can cause a dog to act out of character and even result in fear-aggressive behavior.

It's hard to predict exactly how a dog will act in your home around new dogs, even for their owners. If you're sitting dogs from different families simultaneously, I would make sure you have baby gates, activity pens, or an extra room where you can separate them if necessary. Also a proper introduction can go a long way- things like meeting on neutral territory (even if its on the street in front of your house) and taking new dogs for a walk together can really go a long way. After that, putting up gates/separating your dogs and new dogs with pens so they can sniff each other out for a while will help.

In terms of encouraging honesty from the owner, I would just asking more positive, specific questions. When asked "is your dog aggressive" most owners will say no. Maybe ask things like: "how much time has your dog spent in others' homes or around new dogs," "do they have trouble sharing toys/food?" or "do they tend to bark a lot at other dogs."

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answered 2015-06-08 21:26:14 -0600

Hi Lindsey. I, like you, take dogs from different families. However, I will not take them unless I know them. For example, this week I have a new dog who has never stayed with me. Another customer asked me to watch their dog the same week and I had to decline just because I knew it was not going to be a good match. Their dog likes to invade other dogs space, other dogs find him annoying, he is always up in dogs face and most dogs don't like that so I will not risk putting those 2 dogs together. Then I have another client who comes for daycare who does not like any dogs that are not mine. I have to put baby gates up and have her with my dogs and have the guest dogs in a different area of the house. It can be really difficult at times but that's the price we pay for accepting multiple dogs. I guess my best advice would be not to mix multiple dogs unless you know their temperament. If you do not have any dogs of your own, maybe have a friend or neighbor with a dog come over when you have a meet and greet to see how the new dog reacts with others and you can assess the interaction.

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answered 2015-07-07 23:47:55 -0600

Lindsey, this is the risk we are willing to accept when we decide to host new dogs from different families at the same time. Since you have no dogs of your own, and you can't really do meet&greet, there is no way of telling if the dog will be aggressive or not.

Dog might show you behavior that owners have never seen before due to new environment and stress. Some owners never socialize their dog, and do not lie to you when say that their dog never bitten anyone.

As a safe practice, keep new dogs separated until they become absolutely familiar with each other. Take them on long, stringent walks, to a complete exhaustion. Tired dog never fights, walking together builds pack spirit, returning after a really long walk resets home as a "neutral" territory.

I generally try to avoid having two new dogs from different families at the same time. Only after I had hosted each one of them before, and know that they are a good fit, I book them together. Otherwise you will have an injured pet, and unhappy parents.

Best way yet, rescue a dog and take him to meet&greets. Having your own dog makes sitting so much more easier and enjoyable.

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answered 2015-07-08 08:56:48 -0600

A couple of thoughts:

Just because a dog is good with some dogs doesn't mean he's good with all dogs. Maybe the client's dog is actually selective with his friends, but the owner hasn't picked up on those signals?

Have you considered Doggy Meet and Greets prior to double booking? I don't do a whole lot of double booking, but when I do, I require a successful Doggy Meet and Greet between the overlapping dogs before officially booking the second dog. I offer the originally booked client a $5 discount for making an extra trip out to the house for the M&G. I'd also recommend making sure the dogs end up in your house during the Meet and Greet. I've had dogs that are comfortable outside together, but lost it when we went inside. I start mine on the driveway, then move to the backyard, then into the house.

I like the idea of changing your aggression question. I ask, "Does your dog visit dog parks or doggy day care?" Of course, a "yes" certainly doesn't guarantee a perfectly social dog, but a "no" could be a red flag--people with hyper aggressive dogs won't do dog parks or day care.
Dr. Ian Dunbar has a great strategy for getting information out of owners: 1) "how many fights has your dog been in?", 2) "how many bites has your dog inflicted that required medical attention?" If the dog has been in a lot of "fights", but without any trips to the vet, the dog is more likely to be argumentative but safe. If they dog has been in several fights and has sent dogs to the vet every time, you've got a real problem. These questions are pretty direct though, so I might save them as follow up if a client indicates some aggression issues.

Definitely invest in some baby gates! I use them even if I the dogs get along fine.

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answered 2015-06-08 17:46:43 -0600

Most of the time what I do when dogs don't get along with others is avoid other dogs when walking. It might seem weird, but when I see dogs ahead of me I usually cross the street to avoid paths, make sure the leash is super close to me, and talk the dogs through the walk( might seem weird, I know), but it all seems to work. The dogs enjoy the walk and you have peace of mind. Also, tell the owner that you have experienced said situation for their future reference sometimes they are unaware. Also, if the dog is having anxiety from missing their parents they tend to act out more on other dogs. Keep these things in mind. I hope this helped!

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