When you have to Dogsit a whole Human
How to Dog‐Sit when You Have a Small Pet
Dog-sitting is a common favor to provide for friends, neighbors, relatives, or co-workers. Although the duration of dog-sitting can range from a couple of days to multiple months, the basic responsibilities are much the same. However, if you already have a small pet at home—such as a small breed of dog or a puppy, a cat, or a caged animal like a bird, rabbit, or hamster—you’ll need to make sure that the dog you’re pet-sitting doesn’t behave aggressively towards your pet or try to attack it.
Dog Sitting When you Have a Small Dog
Introduce the two dogs.If you’re going to be pet-sitting a friend’s or neighbor’s dog, first you’ll need to make sure that the dogs get along, especially if your small dog is dwarfed by the animal you’re pet sitting. Hold your dog on a leash, and have the other dog’s owner hold theirs as well. Let the two dogs approach and sniff each other in a neutral location that is not either of their homes. Walk the two dogs side-by-side, about five feet apart, before letting them meet face to face.
- Check with the dog’s owner ahead of time, to make sure that their dog is friendly towards other dogs. Specify that your dog is small, and make sure that the other dog does not have behavioral issues towards small dogs.
- Sometimes large dogs will behave amiably towards other dogs their own size, but will treat small dogs with hostility.
Watch the animals’ body language.Even in small dogs, specific behaviors can indicate hostility or fear. If either dog has a tense, strained body, bares its teeth, or growls and snarls, pull the dogs apart from one another. On the other hand, if the dogs start pawing at or playing with one another, they may get along well.
- If you’re introducing a small puppy to a larger adult dog, follow this same procedure. Be careful that the larger dog doesn’t bully or pursue the puppy, even if it’s only an attempt to play. Supervise the dogs when they’re interacting together, and intervene if the larger dog doesn’t respond to your puppy’s signals to stop.
Walk the dogs together.Dogs are social animals, and walks provide an important form of exercise and socialization. Unless either dog has an overriding health concern, walk the dogs together daily.This will allow the dogs to fall into a “pack” mentality, which will prevent later acts of aggression.
- If the dog you’re pet-sitting is larger than your own, it may assume the role of the alpha. This is fine—it’s natural for dogs to assume these social roles, and it’s a sign that the dogs are getting along well.
- Before walking the new dog with your small dog, ascertain from the dog’s owner how frequently, and for how long, it’s usually walked. You may need to find a compromise between the dog’s typical walk schedule, and your own small dog’s schedule.
Keep the visiting dog comfortable and happy.The dog that you’re pet sitting will be more calm and in a better mood, and consequently less likely to bother or antagonize your own small dog, if it’s kept comfortable. You can keep the dog in a good mood by spending time with it; pet the dog and play catch (or another game) daily.
- Make sure to put out multiple food and water bowls, as well as beds and toys, for both your small dog and the dog you’re pet-sitting. This way, both dogs can make themselves comfortable without feeling like they must compete with the other dog for resources or a place to sleep.
- Also check with the dog’s owner—they may be able to drop off the dog’s favorite toy, bed, or blanket, or give you a recommendation as to what food or type of treats the dog most enjoys eating.
Dog Sitting When You Have a Cat
Familiarize the animals with each other’s scent.Before releasing the dog into the house with your cat, you should give the animals time to acclimate to each other’s smells. This will make them calmer and more tolerant when they finally meet. Bring some of your cat’s bedding out into the house and let the dog smell the blankets or bed.Then, bring one of the dog’s blankets to the cat, and let the cat smell the dog’s scent.
- If you plan ahead, you and the dog’s owner can even switch the pets’ bedding, so they have more time to acclimate to one another’s scents. Give the dog owner your cat’s bedding, and take the dog’s bed from them.
Introduce the animals.Once the animals have become used to smelling one another, you can slowly introduce them face-to-face. Keep the dog on a leash, and bring it into the room where the cat is. Let the animals smell and walk around one another—but if the dog becomes hostile or the cat fearful, separate the animals.
- Protecting your cat is the priority here. If the dog barks or lunges at your cat, or begins to play with it too roughly, remove the cat.In this scenario, you may need to desensitize the dog before you bring the animals together again.
Desensitize the dog to your cat.In order to ensure that the dog you’re pet-sitting does not attempt to attack or chase your cat, you can slowly increase the dog’s exposure to the cat, thereby lowering the dog’s novelty and excitement towards the cat. Temporarily shut your cat in a bedroom, using a plastic gate. Then walk the dog up to the gate on a leash, so it can see and smell the cat. Keep the dog there briefly, then walk it back away from the cat. Repeat this process several times—the dog should become less and less excited at seeing the cat with every repetition.
- When the dog is calm when being exposed to the cat, praise the dog and give it a treat. Once the dog can be near the cat without barking or showing much excitement, remove the gate and let the animals meet face-to-face.
- Desensitization is a good introductory method if the dog too much energy—whether friendly or hostile—when first seeing the cat.
Give your cat its own space.Even if the dog and your cat get along—or at least tolerate one another—you’ll still need to provide a space for your cat to retreat to. Dogs often have more playful energy than cats, and your cat will need an area where it can rest, sleep, eat, and receive human attention without being bothered by the dog.
- Move your cat’s food bowl, water bowl, and a couple of favorite toys to a location that the dog cannot access.
Dog Sitting When You Have a Bird or Hamster
Consider the breed of dog.Before you agree to pet sit a dog, ask the owner about its breed and typical behavior. Any sporting breeds of dog, including retrievers and terriers, may perceive your small bird, hamster, or rabbit as a prey animal, and attempt to chase or kill your pet.If the dog displays aggressive behavior, you may need to reconsider your offer to pet sit.
- Also ask the owner about the dog’s training. In instances where the dog is chasing or trying to attack your small pet, you may be able to shout “leave it!” (or a similar command), and scare the dog away from your pet.
Keep the small animal in its cage.For any small, caged animal—such as a bird, hamster, gerbil, or rabbit—this process should be easy, and will provide minimal disruption to the routine of your small pet. Let your small pet remain in its cage, and feed and water the pet as usual. If you’re accustomed to pulling your pet out and playing with it periodically, you may need to shut yourself and a pet in a room to which the dog does not have access.
- Alternately, block the dog from accessing the small pet when you let it out of the cage to play with it.
- During play time, avoid letting the dog see the small bird, hamster, or rabbit running. This could easily trigger the dog’s prey instinct, and send the dog chasing after your pet.
Introduce the dog to your small pet.If your small pet is in a cage that cannot be easily moved—for example, a large bird cage in your living room, or an elaborate hamster cage in a bedroom—you should make sure that the dog is aware of your small pet and will not try to attack or bark at the cage. Keep the dog on a leash, and slowly walk it up to your pet’s cage. Let it smell the cage and the rabbit, hamster, or bird within.
- If the dog acts calmly around the pet in its cage, reward the dog with treats and praise.Once the dog learns that it will be given treats and praise for its calm behavior around the small pet, the dog will be less likely to chase or bark at the pet.
Exercise the dog often.A bored dog which has not received sufficient exercise is more likely to act out, exhibit hyperactive behavior, or try to (aggressively) play with a small pet. Take the dog for a long walk daily in order to keep it in good health and in a calm mood.The more exercise that the dog receives—including playing and running in a backyard or park—the less energy it’ll have to chase or bark at your small pet.
- Check with the owner to see how and when the dog is usually exercised, and stick as closely to this schedule as possible. You may even want to lengthen the duration of typical walks, to tire out the dog and remove any anxiety: if the owner usually takes the dog for two 30-minute walks a day, try extending each of these walks to 45 minutes.
- If the dog you’re pet-sitting is showing an excessive amount of interest in your small pet—even if the interest is friendly—try distracting the dog with a toy or treat. Give the dog a bone or rawhide chew toy, or a large Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter. This will distract the dog and help it get out some of its energy.
- If you have multiple small pets at home, check with the dog’s owner and see which—if any—of these animals the dog has been exposed to before. If the dog has shown aggression to a breed of animal that you own, you may need to reconsider your offer to dog-sit, or plan to keep the animals separate.
Video: Pet Sitting Tips
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