behavior problem

asked 2014-12-28 22:43:43 -0600

How do you deal with issues that the owner neglected to inform you of (or flat-out lied to you about) during a stay? I am currently sitting for a dog that is not at all housebroken - she will not go outside no matter how long I walk her. She will only go on potty pads and the owner did not bring any pads (he said she was housebroken) and I only had two on me and it is now 11pm so I can't buy any until tomorrow. The dog has also been incessantly whining the entire time she has been here so far (about 18 hours) and I have to work tomorrow. What do I do? She is here three more days. This is not the first time that an owner has lied to me about behavior problems; at least 1/4 of my sitting requests seem to happen this way with dogs that act horribly (aggressive, destructive, etc.) while on a stay. I always do meet and greets and these problems are not always apparent. What do I do?

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answered 2014-12-28 23:18:01 -0600

It's possible that the owner didn't so much lie as assume. Many dogs behave very differently in their own home with their own family than they do with strangers in a new location. When I adopted my older dog, the shelter workers told me she was shy. I have never seen this dog be shy. She crawls into the lap of anyone who will let her. However, other people have told me that when I'm not there she will not approach strangers, and may even avoid contact with people she knows well. But if I hadn't left her with others, I'd never know. So this dog, who is calm and well behaved at home may be showing a completely different side of herself than her owners ever see, and if they haven't boarded her much, they may have no idea.

Additionally, dogs don't generalize skills very well. So she may be flawlessly house trained... at home. Just like you have to train your dog to 'sit' in many locations before they learn that sit means sit, always and everywhere, in order for a dog to be truly house trained, they must have the opportunity to practice the skill in a variety of locations (and with a variety of floor types!). Some dogs generalize faster than others, but if this dog hasn't stayed in many new locations (especially without the owners) they may truly believe her to be house trained. If they have wood floors and you have carpet/rugs, she may not recognize that fuzzy terrain isn't an acceptable place to go, or vice versa. Go back to potty training 101, and keep her confined or tethered to you whenever you're home, and quickly take her outside whenever she looks like she needs to go. Reward handsomely for going in the right place, and clean all mistakes immediately and thoroughly with an enzymatic cleaner so she can't smell it.

It sounds like your guest may be exhibiting a combination of poor generalization and anxiety. Dogs will often hold their bowels and bladder when stressed. Giving her plenty of physical exercise and mental exercises, like working on training or puzzle toys with delicious treats can help her calm down, but sometimes the only cure is time. In my experience, most anxiety-related behaviors resolve in 1-2 days on an initial visit. For the potty problem, you can remove her access to water a while before bed time so she doesn't have to get up at night to go, and confine her to a smaller, safe location. If she's kennel trained, great. If not, the bathroom with a potty pad and some bedding will work. The smaller the space, the less likely she is to potty inside. If you can, put a radio or something in there to make some noise - she may be hyper-vigilant to new sights, sounds, and smells in your house which can fuel her anxiety, and ... (more)

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answered 2014-12-29 11:18:01 -0600

I would be different if the owner had told me this and brought some puppy pads - I have cared for disabled dogs before that were literally not capable of going potty outside and I do take these dogs on a case by case basis. But he just said she would be fine so I was left all night with only 2 puppy pads that I had on hand and a crying dog. I had to sit up all night with her because the second I stopped playing/petting her she would cry VERY loudly. I tried all manner of play to wear her out, chew bones, kongs (all provided by me by the way; the owner brought nothing in the way of chew things or toys) and took her for walks lasting over an hour each to try to wear her out and make her potty outside. she would hold it while we were outside and pee/poop on the floor as soon as we came back in the house. The owner also did not provide a crate or bed for her. I sent several messages to the owner and he is ignoring all of them. I have this dog for two more nights and I will probably not be sleeping either of those nights either - I work a full time 9-5 job and so does my husband so no sleep is an issue. It is unfortunate, but I think this may be the last straw with me as a rover sitter. I have met some wonderful doggies and owners, but the irresponsible owners have just become too frequent. I have literally had dogs in the past destroy my entire house and bite me and/or my own dog, and when I told this to pet parents upon their return, they admitted that their dogs had these issues in the past and they just neglected to tell me at the meet and greet. As a dog owner myself of a dog who had a past history (we did lots of training and she is much better now) of minor leash reactivity, I have ALWAYS been up-front with anyone watching my dog about any issues she might have...both out of respect for the sitter and concern for the comfort and safety of my animal. If your dog has severe behavior issues, there is no way you don't have any inkling of that. And to hide these issues from your sitter is not only incredibly inconsiderate, but it also puts your pet at risk. This seems to be happening to me more often than I would like, and now the benefits of being an in-home sitter no longer outweigh the negatives. It makes me sad - I've been sitting for two years and have a 100% 5-star rating from my clients. I'm one of the top rated sitters in my city. I'm hoping to still pick up some travelling sitting jobs here and there and have applied for ... (more)

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That's really unfortunate. I'm sorry you've dealt with such irresponsible clients. I can't imagine wanting to hide any critical information from a sitter. One of my dogs can be bratty with hyper/young dogs, and the other has a bite history with humans (something the rescue I adopted her from neglected to tell me until after she bit me). They are both wonderful dogs, but they're not suited to every environment. I understand the desire to sugarcoat our dogs' flaws, but not at the expense of their well-being. Even if you don't care one bit about the person you've hired to watch them, who would want to put their dog in a position where they felt so stressed they couldn't sleep or were driven to bite?

Laura R.'s profile image Laura R.  ( 2014-12-29 12:05:57 -0600 ) edit

That's truly a shame that you're going to give up sitting because of the rotten apples in the barrel. Perhaps there are some interim measures you can take before you give it all up. When sitting a new dog, require that the owner provide you with an emergency contact individual who will pick up the dog under those kind of circumstances. Expand your M&G to an hour of alone time with the dog, in which you walk and see his/her interactions. I do think that Rover could improve the level of information provided to sitters. Owners can read reviews about sitters, but sitters cannot see reviews by other sitters. Of course, this would require that sitters be completely honest in reviewing all dogs, but it really is for the betterment of the site. At a minimum, I do hope you present this owner with a bill ... (more)

Karen R.'s profile image Karen R.  ( 2014-12-29 14:43:16 -0600 ) edit

as soon as we returned home. The owners of the dog's siibling live nearby; they've taken him in on occasion and said that this is his standard behavior.

Karen R.'s profile image Karen R.  ( 2014-12-29 14:46:37 -0600 ) edit

I'm starting to feel very fortunate about the dogs I've watched. The worst I've dealt with was a labradoodle who would not stop playing with my dog (dragged her around the room by her harness when she would try to rest) and barked all night, and a whippet who figured out how to break into the treat cupboard, liberating a Costco bag of dental chews for himself and my dogs, then puked them back up. I've never had an issue with owners, just small issues with a dog's bad habits that are more obnoxious than my own dog's bad habits. I wonder how much of that has to do with luck and how much has to do with the areas we live?

Laura R.'s profile image Laura R.  ( 2014-12-29 15:10:56 -0600 ) edit

Hi Bethany. On behalf of Rover, we are sorry for your experience. If you need additional advice or support, feel free to reach out to our customer support team at 888-453-7889.

Jessica M.'s profile image Jessica M.  ( 2014-12-29 15:43:42 -0600 ) edit

So sorry, Bethany! It's unfortunate that you've had so much difficulty. It's sounds like you were doing everything right! I know how hard stays can make you wary of continuing. Maybe you could require an overnight before booking?

Leighann H.'s profile image Leighann H.  ( 2015-01-02 12:39:57 -0600 ) edit
answered 2015-08-14 12:01:15 -0600

I had this problem also with my first dog that I sat for on Rover. The dog was 5 years old and peeing and pooping in the house like an untrained puppy. It also refused to learn the dog door. When I tried to petgate her into the bathroom area with food, bed, toys, pads, etc. she literally chewed the top off of the pet gate with anxiety. After approximately 5 days she mellowed out and went outside to do her job as long as I took her out at least every 4 hours. Initially I was taking her out about every hour and she was still going in my house. It can be very frustrating when the dog behaves differently at your home than they do at their own. But from their viewpoint they've been abandoned and totally freak out. I've come to the conclusion that I can only keep two dogs at a time in addition to my own 2 from now own in order to maintain my sanity. It's also a good safety measure for the dogs in my care. The more dogs, the more chances for fighting, bullying, food aggression, accidents in the house, etc. 2 to 3 is a good number. Especially if you're just doing it part time.

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answered 2014-12-29 00:31:27 -0600


I've had the same type of experience but it wasn't a case of the owner lying about the dog but that the owner had a different definition of "housebroken." The owner considered her dog housebroken because she was trained to go on puppy pads. My profile states I only accept dogs that are housebroken and I do not accept puppies for that very reason. During emails or at the M&G, a red flag will go up if the owner even mentions the words puppy pad. I find that I have to be completely explicit that puppy pads are not used in my home and the dog has to be used to going outside. My dog info sheet asks owners how their dog indicates he/she needs to go out, just as it asks what commands the dog knows. For future M&Gs, you'll need to cover it as one of your interview points.

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Ah, yes. A lot of the tall apartment building dwellers here will puppy pad train because they don't have easy access to the outside. Especially with smaller dogs. Ditto for shift workers. I've known a number of my coworkers to do this because they work 12s and their dog can't hold it that long. I suppose it's not that different from cats and their litter boxes, but still. I'm with you - in my house, house trained does not mean puppy pads!

Laura R.'s profile image Laura R.  ( 2014-12-29 10:45:49 -0600 ) edit

And if the owners meant pad trained rather than house trained, they should have provided all the pads.

Laura R.'s profile image Laura R.  ( 2014-12-29 10:47:41 -0600 ) edit

Thanks for the tip!

Leighann H.'s profile image Leighann H.  ( 2015-01-02 12:34:56 -0600 ) edit
answered 2015-01-01 20:08:25 -0600

Most of my problem dogs are small males. they will mark all the time. We have Male Wraps in all sizes. If it is a dog that we already know has a problem we are going to start charging extra. The pads that go in the male wraps cost money. It is a little harder for a female. Diapers are not so easy to take on and off every time they go out. It is just part of the business.

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