Mistakes you made during first sits?

asked 2015-07-18 21:27:43 -0500

I'm curious to learn about the common mistakes other Rover sitters have made. I just made my first mistake with a my first stay-the woman had me meet her a bunch of times because she wasn't organized which cost me time and money running back and forth all over town. However, I didn't realize we could add services or extend periods of time-so I was grumpy that I was hired to sleep there 4 nights, but I was going to have to take care of him for half a day. I just realized I could of added a "visit/walk" fee while we were messaging or afterwards. Now I know!

What about you?

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11 Answers

answered 2015-07-18 21:36:49 -0500

I dogsit in my home, so my issues may be different than yours.


It's ok to say no. I'm an easy going person and tend to think everything will always work out, but I have learned that it's ok to decline dogs that don't fit my criteria.

I insist on a Meet and Greet. After one time saying yes based on a client profile, and my dogs did NOT like the guest, I insist.

I ordered two dog tags that say "Help! I'm lost! Please call my dogsitter at ......" that guest dogs always wear. I put a piece of tape on the back that has the from/to dates.

Also, I now make an inventory of every item a client brings into my home so I can be sure to return everything at the end.

If a vet is not listed on the itinerary I try to pin one down before people leave. It's good to be able to call someone who knows my client in case of emergency.

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That is smart to do an inventory! I also learned to bring treats and my own supplies of pick up bags and a slip leash because a lot of people don't have those because they let them loose in a yard or something.

Emilie F.'s profile imageEmilie F. ( 2015-07-18 21:41:14 -0500 )edit

I love your ideas about the inventory and creating a special tag for your guest dogs to wear!

Kimberly M.'s profile imageKimberly M. ( 2015-07-24 07:14:24 -0500 )edit

Great ideas!! Love the dog tag one... Definitely going to do that!!

Brady B.'s profile imageBrady B. ( 2015-08-09 17:48:57 -0500 )edit
answered 2015-07-20 21:50:29 -0500

Like many others have said, I wouldn't say "mistakes" so much as lessons:

  • Like Deb said, toilet as soon as possible after drop off.
  • I also second the Meet and Greet. I used to be ambivalent about it, but I've come to realize it's really helpful. I've also started being more intentional with the questions I ask during that time. Knowing what the dog is used to at home (i.e. how often they toilet, where they sleep, where they stay when owners are at work, etc.) only allows you to be even more prepared. If I know the dog has been crate trained in the past, but has slept in the owner's bed for the last year and a half, then I won't be as surprised or frustrated when she puts up a bit of a fight about sleeping in the crate at my home.
  • I've also very recently started keeping more notes about each dog. After a while, they all start to run together, and I can't remember who needs what level of supervision, who cannot keep himself from spending mealtimes under the table, or who runs to check the backyard gate every time I let him out.
  • The crate is your friend! Don't be afraid to use it, both to keep the dogs and house safe, and to give yourself a break. Boarding is work.
  • Total management is an even bigger friend! I like to keep my dogs where I can see them. Praise God, this general rule has helped spare our home (and our boarders) from any serious damage or emergencies for the past 11+ years. As I get to know the dog, I relax my level of supervision, but I never, never, never let them have complete access to the entire house. Ugh. Makes me shudder just thinking about it.
  • Walk with double protection. I had a dog nearly slip his harness on a busy street several years ago. That experience, and a touch of paranoia, influences the way I walk my boarders. The vast majority of them are walked with two different means of...contact. For example: my current guys, two little rat terrier crosses, came with harnesses. I clip the leash to the ring on the front of the harness AND to their collar. That way they would have to slip out of their harness and their collar to get out of my control.
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Very smart idea about the double protection!

Brady B.'s profile imageBrady B. ( 2015-08-09 18:02:13 -0500 )edit
answered 2015-07-19 14:46:10 -0500

I board in my home, and I've learned a lot going along.

1) Always do a M&G - the first couple guests I accepted I skipped this step, and both turned out to be very loud dogs. Very sweet, and they got along well with my dogs, but holy crap. One whine-howl-screamed with excitement whenever you got ready to go outside, the other barked at every sight and sound... all night long. I lived in an apartment building. No good!

2) Secure everything - I have a treat cupboard. My dogs have never once tried to open it. Other dogs are not my dogs. :P

3) Not really a mistake, but a good lesson - there's a huge difference between being a dog lover and loving sharing your home with other people's dogs. You can like every single dog you meet on the street, but it's a big jump from that to enjoying hosting them. Every dog has different quirks, good habits, and bad habits. People tend to mold their dogs, even unconsciously, into behaving in a way that they like and in a way that fits in with their home/lifestyle. That same dog, who is an excellent dog for their own people/environment, may not fit in so well somewhere else. I've watched some very good dogs who just did not fit in that well with my home/lifestyle, which makes the stay harder (not unsuccessful - the dog has fun and is happy, but the stay just requires a lot more effort on my part). I'm getting better at sorting that out, and I've built a good client base of dogs who do fit in really well.

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Love that last point, Laura!

Leighann H.'s profile imageLeighann H. ( 2015-07-20 07:31:09 -0500 )edit

Great advice Leighann. Especially #3 - dog lover is not synonymous with dog host(ess). It helps to know your strengths and deal breakers so the stay is a win-win for everybody.

Andrea K.'s profile imageAndrea K. ( 2015-07-30 15:32:18 -0500 )edit
answered 2015-07-19 14:30:50 -0500

In addition to the already posted lessons learned, when a dog enters my home, Always take outside asap for at least a short walk - even if the owner insists that the dog just peed and doesn't have accidents inside, etc.

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Haha, ditto! I have to do this with my own dogs, too, when I take them to someone else's house. They pee/poop RIGHT before going inside, and then go back out shortly after. I have an excita-pooper who just gets so overcome with happiness when she goes to her best friend's house that it comes right out her backside.

Laura R.'s profile imageLaura R. ( 2015-07-19 16:16:38 -0500 )edit

This is very true. I just expect the dogs to have an accident within the first 5 minutes of being inside now, so I try and set their schedule immediately. Excitement and dog smells brings it out quick lol.

Ashley Z.'s profile imageAshley Z. ( 2015-07-19 18:54:28 -0500 )edit
answered 2015-07-19 16:09:04 -0500

My biggest mistake was not having a back up plan for unexpected issues. Here's several lessons I learned:

  • I have cats. 99% of the dogs I host (most whom have never actually met a cat before) are fine with my cats. I had one dog who, as he got more comfortable, began going after my cats (not in a fun, chase way...in a "you are prey" way). I ended up crating him when I wasn't directly supervising (and keeping him on a long leash when I was). I had to break it to the owners gently, but they were fine with it (and embarrassed). I now have a variety of crates just in case.

  • I now have a recipe for dogs who do not eat. I've never had a dog refuse it. I do make sure it's okay with the owner first, and send the recipe home with the owners when they leave.

  • Lots of dogs do not come with tags or wear collars (especially little dogs). If they don't have contact information on their collar, I have a few collars and tags with my name, home and cell phone. I never let them out in the back yard without supervision, but I figure it's a secondary layer of protection just in case.

  • At first, I was hesitant about asking for reviews. Now I always do!

  • Careful with rawhides as treats...some dogs get a bit weird with them. Better off, avoid them all together.

  • Have extra leashes, beds, bowls, food and toys. I also have an assortment of pee pads and belly bands for pups that like to mark up your house.

  • And, what everyone else said....M&G. The only squirrelly person I ever had to deal with didn't want to do a M&G - and then didn't pay or show up.

And the biggest thing for me...I now trust my gut. If something seems "off", I politely suggest that I may not be the best fit for them or their dog. That's why the M&G (and the dialogue via Rover mail) is crucial. I'm also happy to tell people at the M&G, "If you don't like me or my home, and are too polite to say so, you can just not accept my booking...I promise I won't be upset!" I have yet for someone to do that (but yeah, my feelings would be hurt).

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What is the recipe?

Kathryn L.'s profile imageKathryn L. ( 2015-07-21 16:45:36 -0500 )edit

One 4-5 lb chicken, 3-4 cups of uncooked rice, 3-4 cups of frozen veggies (green beans, or peas and carrots usually), and 4 cups of water. Cook chicken in a slow cooker on high for around 4 hours (you can also use the organs in the "goodie bag" they leave inside the bird - just toss the neck). Pull out the chicken, leave the drippings. Add the water, veggies and the rice. The chicken should be falling off the bone. And this is where I always burn myself because I never let it cool. Pull all the chicken and skin off in bite sized pieces. QUADRUPLE check that there are no little bones left in the chicken. Throw the chicken back in the slow cooker. Give it a quick stir, and let it cook for an additional 2-3 hours on high. You can also double the cooking times on low if...(more)

Cheryl W.'s profile imageCheryl W. ( 2015-07-23 17:37:36 -0500 )edit
answered 2015-07-19 10:25:06 -0500

Make sure to have contact info for the owners while they are away. If you are to dispense meds of any kind, get detailed instructions - what the pill looks like, how to dispense, when, etc. If you are visiting their home, find out where the food is kept and write it down. I had to call the owner once because I forgot (almost a month between M&G and actual visit).

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answered 2015-07-30 19:53:46 -0500

Love the idea of tags with my name and number. Thanks. Where did u buy the tags? MEET and greets are of primary importance. Never accept a job without one. I have met dogs I liked but thought less of the owner. Won't accept those jobs either. I rarely refuse a dog. Did so once. Listen carefully to what the owner says about the dog. Sometimes the bad things don't always show up during the meet and greet.

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Completely off topic here, but I noticed your name and had to say hi. I have a new little niece named Freyja (silent j) and I had never seen the name before.

I have tags with my name and info that I got at Wal-mart at one of those little self-serve machines and then I bought clips that are easy to snap on their collar.

Meralee C.'s profile imageMeralee C. ( 2015-08-06 16:47:47 -0500 )edit

Rover provides those tags for free.

Elizabeth F.'s profile imageElizabeth F. ( 2016-10-05 17:26:25 -0500 )edit
answered 2015-07-22 23:04:18 -0500

The biggest thing for me is if the owner has a rule I'm not comfortable with, I insist on a middle ground. I just did a meet and greet last night where the owner does not use a collar except when the dog is on leash. If that works at her house, that's fine, but when he's here, I want him to have on identification. I agreed to taking the collar off when he's in the crate, and she agreed that when he's loose in the house or if we are in the yard, he will have his collar on.

The biggest mistake I've made was thinking the owner was coming home on Tuesday, but she really returned on Monday and I was helping my cousin try to buy a car! Talk about cutting off a sales man fast! (It was tempting to use that excuse the next week when a salesman wouldn't let us leave. LOL)

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answered 2015-07-20 18:04:11 -0500

I am still suffering from my mistakes. This is more about customer service though. I was way to flexible and accommodating to a couple of parents that now I feel as though they take advantage of me and it is too late to really stand my ground. For instance, I feel that once you offer to pick up or drop off a dog (whether it is because their house was on my way and it makes sense, or because they were in a bind, or because I wanted the dog gone before another came, etc.) they then EXPECT it every time. I had to actually put in my profile that I did not do drop off and pick ups, but it was too late and my regulars weren't really reading my profile any more. I declined a couple of times and they got spiffy with me, mainly because I had done it a couple of times before and it was just expected I would cave. Mind you, they knew what they were doing - they would book with the impression that they were picking him up then always last minute ask that I drop them off. I made it very clear that it was hard for me (Boston winter/parking bans and loosing spots), but often they would have no intention of picking them up in the first place (they would ultimately lie about their plans). It got very very frustrating and put me in a bad position to tell people no. And no one wants to say/hear No, especially when you have had a great rapport otherwise.

Moral of the story - people will take advantage of you so be careful how flexible you become. You are not people's personal assistants!

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I'm sorry you have had this situation happen, Trisha. If it were me, I would not accept these clients any more. The fact they got upset with you tells me a lot. Telling a potential or existing client no is hard, but you have to stand up for yourself and do what is right for you and your business.

Cari C.'s profile imageCari C. ( 2015-07-21 08:35:53 -0500 )edit

I agree^^^. I set boundaries and say no now. I decline requests if they're not respectful and tell them I am already booked for their requested days.

Emma Y.'s profile imageEmma Y. ( 2015-08-07 01:33:11 -0500 )edit

can you add a extra charge to pick up the dogs, customers love service and that's what you did went the extra step ( I like the Idea ,with a pick up and drop off Fee) . Rude customers ,who needs them, Just my comment

John D.'s profile imageJohn D. ( 2017-08-22 07:39:59 -0500 )edit
answered 2015-07-21 22:43:54 -0500

I think I'd hafta agree with the 'saying no' bit... if you are not sure about a dog, it's totally okay to politely decline the booking request. If a dog is staying in my home, with my family (of people and animals), I should be completely comfortable with him/her.

Currently in this situation now, when I wanted to say 'no' but for some reason felt obligated to say 'yes' :P

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