Have you ever arrived at a house sit only to find that the dog is not as advertised?  

I have, and it was a surprise. The dog had been taking her frustration out on the edible portions of the kitchen.  She had no off switch, and, like the Energizer Bunny, she kept going and going and going.

After 2 hours we had to decide if we were going to turn to drink or do something about the dog. We chose the latter.

When a homeowner understates the dog’s behavioural issues, or the house sit comes with dogs that are a bit out of control, what’s a sitter to do?

He’s Got Some Pepper in his Step

Dog owners – I’m not picking on you – will say things like “he’s a great dog, really good and we love him so much, but sometimes he bites.  Other than that, he’s great.”

Just yesterday (I’m not making this up) I watched a large German Shepherd running and bouncing in the snow.

His owner, a very nice woman, was calling and calling while he ignored her and ran back and forth across the road.

When he saw me, he came running, tried jumping on me, then got into my car uninvited.  The owner said to me “he’s always so excited to get outside!”

As a house

sitter, I wondered, how would the dog be described in her profile?

Would she write “he’s got a lot of energy and loves to play outside?”

Or, write “the dog weighs 90 pounds, jumps up, bolts out the door, pulls on the leash, uses his teeth and doesn’t return when called.”

If she wrote the first, and you took the sit, what would you do with dog once you’re supposed to be in charge?

The Dog is a Little Out-of-Control

Consider:  A dog who runs out of the house the moment a door is open.  A dog (large or small) that jumps on a child or elderly person.  A dog, when being handed a treat, snaps quickly.

Can we agree that the runner may be hit by a vehicle, the jumper may knock a person down, and the snapper may bite fingers? If we agree that the dog presents issues, what can a sitter do?

You’re Legally Liable

Do you know that in some countries, a dog’s handler is legally responsible for the dog’s actions?  If they bite another dog or person, or jump up and injure someone, you – the dog’s handler – may have legal issues.

If the dog’s behaviour is potentially harmful to itself or others, and if you’re liable for their behaviour, is it alright for a house-sitter to teach the dog to behave differently?

I say yes.

The Pet Sitter’s Role

Dogs behave the way a handler or owner allows them to behave.  There’s no grey area.

They “do” because it’s allowed.  When sitting a dog, I don’t allow behaviour that’s potentially harmful.

I don’t allow a dog to jump up, use their teeth, bolt out the door of the house or car.  I expect them to sit for food and treats.

We don’t adjust to the dog the dog adjusts to us.

The dog will modify his behavior – that is, change the way he interacts with me and other people.

By setting rules and boundaries for the dog’s behavior, I’m reducing the potential for harm.

Some people think of this as re-training and object because it changes the dog.  Some argue the owner won’t be happy with the changes.

I don’t worry about the long-term effects because the dog when the owner returns, will revert to its previous behaviour.  That change can take less than 60 seconds.

As sitters, and I think you’ll agree, we’re responsible for the health and well-being of the dog.

To me, that means modifying the dog’s behaviour when required.

I make no apologies for protecting myself, the dog, and the people or dogs we encounter through our day.

What do You Think?

Dogs aren’t always “as advertised”.  Some dogs have behaviours that are dangerous – to people, to other dogs, and to themselves.

In these cases, I believe that a house-sitter has an absolute right to ask the dog for more predictable, safer behaviour.  But that’s my take.

What would, or do you do, when the dog is not as advertised?


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