I’ve been pet sitting in Austin, TX for almost 10 years. Every so often I get “the call” that every pet sitter hates; both because of the difficulty in helping the owner, and in the possible outcome. Do you think your pet is aggressive? Wondering if anything can be done to make your furry friend a more social companion?
Today, I want to talk about a telephone call from an owner about pet sitting for an aggressive dog in Austin. We will also look at some other stories of owners who misunderstood their furkids around pet sitting professionals.
Pet Sitting 101: We are not magicians…well, not always
Remember, a pet sitter isn’t a magician, but a loving temporary caregiver of your furkid.
Before I get to the pet sitting conversation, let me ask one question to keep in mind:
Do you have a furkid that you know ‘might’ be territorial, but you chalk it up to simple bad behavior, or even a single simple outburst that will, most likely, never happen again?
This might be a territorial animal, or it could be something else – I’ll explain more on this later.
Ok, my phone call
I received a phone call from an owner of an aggressive dog. He started out the conversation by telling me that his dog was aggressive. However, there are occasional issues with pet moms and dads thinking that their furkid is friendly, and will be once you get to know him or her.
Likewise, this gentleman figured I am a pet sitter and all I had to do was enter his home with a handful of treats, and I would magically be safe.
The truth about pet sitting and this stigma:
Maybe this works on TV, but it does not work in real life.
An aggressive dog, a territorial dog, a protective dog, a fearful dog will not differentiate between a welcomed pet sitter or dog walker, and an unwelcome criminal. Asking a pet sitter to enter your home with an aggressive dog puts the pet sitter and your dog at risk.
It is not a good idea.
Pet sitting history: A friend, a story and a ball
This phone call stuck out, and it brought to mind a conversation I had had with a pet sitter friend. She told me the story of an owner with an aggressive, ball-driven dog. The owner assured her that if she entered the house and immediately tossed the ball, the dog would run for the ball and let her into the house.
But, the dog did not chase the ball.
Instead, he bit her arm and drew blood.
This situation was a lose-lose for everyone involved. And, it could’ve been avoided simply by the owner and pet sitter, alike, identifying the nature of the dog; it’s behavior needed to be modified.
The situation wasn’t made good simply with the pet sitter throwing a ball as her entrance fee for entering its territory.
Pet sitting history 2: A pet sitter, tossed food & doggie dangers
I am reminded of the story told to me by another pet sitter friend. An aggressive, territorial dog would not let her in the house no matter how many times they met with the owner present. Sit downs, social time, petting, socializing in it’s environment; nothing helped.
When the owner went on vacation, the owner had to leave the dog outside in the fenced yard, and the pet sitter tossed food over the fence.
I cannot imagine this is safe for the dog.
Ace Pet Care history: Austin pet sitting, canine behaviorist & hope
When I first started Ace Pet Care, I had a client who was a canine behaviorist in Austin. We discussed the various methods to work with an aggressive and fearful dog. All of them take a lot of time, repetitive visits, watching the dog’s body language and analyzing its behaviors.
And the real truth is this:
Nothing is guaranteed to work.
Mostly, the methods involve visiting the dog with the owner present in the home, and in the room, over a long span of time. This created a situation where the animal wasn’t in a fight or flight mood. And over time, accepted the pet sitter into his or her territory.
During initial visits the dog is to be ignored entirely even if it approached and sniffed. Once the dog grows used to the pet sitter’s presence, the pet sitter could attempt to pet the dog on the side of the chest or under the chin. This came with a clear warning: be careful to not pet the dog on top of its head, nor reach over its head to pet it. Petting was to be done in a kneeling position while looking down and away from the dog.
Once this was successful, the owner could move to a different room and allow further interaction between the pet sitter and the dog. During this time, it was important to make sure not to force attention on the dog from the pet sitter. Remember, a new presence is in the dog’s territory; exist with, not confront.
It was also suggested for the owner and the pet sitter to walk the dog together on a daily basis. After a few of these episodes, the pet sitter was to walk the dog alone. It was also suggested that the pet sitter feed the dog over a period of time with the owner present.
Finally, before the trip it was suggested that the pet sitter begin practicing entering the home and caring for the pet with the owner outside the home. And then, with the owner away from the home, the pet sitter would do the same.
And this solves the pet sitting and aggressive dog behavior?
While all of this practicing is happening, the dog and owner need to be working with a professional veterinary behaviorist in order to put an end to these aggressive behaviors.
Clearly this is something that cannot be done immediately before leaving on vacation. This is also not something remedied over the course of one or two visits.
As a pet sitter, it could be costly without compensation as well.
The best options for the care of an aggressive pet while you are away is a dog boarding and training facility if you choose to not become involved in this type of long-term relationship. This means specifically for facilities that will take aggressive dogs and work on behavior modification with them while you are away.
The next best choice would be a family member who the dog knows, trusts and with whom the dog is non-aggressive.
With all of this said, one thing to remember is that not all aggressive pooches are simply problems and lost causes. Most simply don’t have the social understanding, nor presence, that dogs require for pet sitters, dog sitters and dog walkers to be a part of their lives.
As a responsible pet owner, this means you can start to modify the dog’s behavior, as well as get professional dog training starting today.
Otherwise, tomorrow might create a story like one of the tales I’ve shared with you above.
A little understanding from owners for Austin pet sitters
At Ace Pet Care, you will find a caring, warm and experienced “in your home” Austin pet sitter. However, no amount of experience can transform a dog that you may or may not obviously know has issues with aggressive behavior, fears or other physical or psychological needs overnight.
While we would love to welcome you and your furkid into our family at Ace Pet Care, a consultation is required first. We want to be your first choice in pet sitting, dog walking and dog care needs. However, our relationship with you also is mutual: we would love your business, but to keep your furkid safe, we need to be as well.