Pet Boarding Problems
What can I expect when the Pet Owner first leaves?
If you are pet sitting in your own home sometimes you may find that the pet takes a while to settle into the new environment. It is best to plan to be with the pet for at least the first few hours. It is always a good idea to take a dog for a walk as soon as possible so that it decides you’re a great person to be with and also gets to know the neighbourhood. That way, if it manages to escape, it is more likely to find its way back to your home.
If a dog is suffering from separation anxiety it may display behaviours such as whining, pacing, salivation, barking, howling, hyperactivity, scratching, chewing, digging, urinating or defecating and, if left alone, destruction of personal items or household objects. Dogs with separation anxiety often exhibit more than one of these behaviours. If you are minding a dog that is exhibiting this behaviour keep it inside with you until it settles down as, if it is out in the yard on its own, it may develop superdog skills and manage to find a way out and can do this in very quick time.
What can I do if a pet is not settling?
Sometimes, you may find that, once the Pet Owner leaves, their dog starts to behave differently. This can happen if the dog is anxious that their human has left. Always ask the Pet Owner to use their usual departure words when leaving their dog e.g. “Going out. Back soon.” so that the dog knows they will be returning.
Try to work out the cause. Are they still anxious or perhaps they are bored or perhaps they are just a young, very active dog?
Plan to be with a visiting dog for at least the first few hours so that you can help them to settle in. Keep them inside with you so that they can’t possibly escape. Medium sized dogs are the best fence jumpers as they are more likely to have the muscle power to leap fences. If you don’t have fences over 1.5 metres it is best to not even consider dogs of these breeds who are of an active age. Small dogs are more likely to find a gap in or under your fence and ‘work it’. A dog of any size can dig under a fence.
Most dogs settle within a few minutes however some will take longer, possibly even a full day. Usually, once they have eaten and spent a night in your home they will settle down.
- Offer them a treat, preferably one left by the Pet Owner
- Play games with them
- Take them for walks
- Offer them toys to play with
Basically, you need to get their attention and get their mind off whatever is causing the unsettled behaviour. Some items that you could either have on hand or ask the Pet Owner to provide are:
Thundershirts – Thundershirts are available for both dogs and cats and they work by applying a gentle all over pressure which has a dramatic calming effect. Google “thundershirts” to see more information and to buy them online.
Pheromone collars for dogs– Pheromone collars have been shown to help dogs cope in kennels, during rehoming and in a range of other stressful situations such as during fireworks exposure and car travel. A common brand is Adaptil.
Pheromone diffusers for cats – Pheromone diffusers can help to alleviate signs associated with fear and stress in cats, including urine marking, vertical scratching and loss of appetite caused by traumatic events like separation. A common brand is Adaptil.
Herbal Remedies – there are a number of herbal remedies available that can assist with calming pets though you would need to discuss these with the Pet Owner before administering them.
Veterinary Advice – if you can’t calm the pet it would be worth discussing with the emergency contact or owner regarding seeking veterinary advice.
Can a dog’s behaviour be different than during the Meet & Greet?
Absolutely. When they visit with their owners they feel safe. One of the most important factors of a Meet & Greet is that it does prepare most dogs for a stay with you as, when they return to stay, there is some familiarity about you and your environment.
Some dogs could attempt to escape so keep them close to you until they accept their new environment.
It is important for you to be familiar with the breed so do some research before considering a dog if you haven’t had any experience with that breed before.
What can cause separation anxiety in pets?
Some of the things that can trigger separation anxiety in pets are:
- Being in a strange environment
- Being separated from their owner
- Being left alone
- A change in routine
- Strange noises that they aren’t used to
Ensuring that you are with the pet for the first few hours does help them to settle in to your environment and, of course, having them come along for a Meet & Greet beforehand means that they have been to your place before so will settle faster.
Some dogs respond well to being taken for a walk as they then see you as a great human. Make sure that you keep them on a lead at all times. Treats can also work well but only ever feed them treats that their owner has provided so that there is less chance of an upset tummy.
How do I know if the dog I am minding is unsettled?
Some dogs settle in straight away but others take longer. Signs to watch out for are:
- Howling or whining
- Scratching at doors
- Standing at the gate
- Attempting to jump the fence, dig under it or squeeze through gaps
If you notice any of these signs you need to stay with the dog and calm them. Keep them indoors with you and either sit with them or, if they don’t seem to want that, just stay nearby. Speak calmly to them. Offer treats provided by their owner. Try to get them involved in a game.
What if there are toileting accidents (they do happen)?
Even if a dog it totally toilet-trained at home they can have accidents in new locations. When a dog arrives at your home either for a Meet & Greet or to stay try to take them directly to your back yard via a side gate as they will most likely want to wee.
After they have had time to wee at least once, and perhaps done even more than that, you can then bring them inside.
A puppy who is fully toilet-trained at home is almost certainly going to take some time to get used to where to go at your home so be prepared to take a pup outside at least every two hours and to confine them somewhere at night where they can’t randomly pee or poop around your home. Crate trained pups are great as they feel safe in their crate and can’t wander out to have accidents around the house.
Some older dogs, particularly males, may mark territory in your home so be prepared to watch them closely at first so that you can catch them in the act and growl at them to let them know it is not acceptable behaviour. After cleaning up, spray the area with white vinegar to remove the smell that will encourage further peeing from either this little darling or any future guests. Small dogs are more likely to have “accidents” as their owners are often not as rigorous in their training as cleaning up a small dog’s pee is a lot easier than cleaning up a large dog’s pee!
What should I do if a pet damages my property?
While you can be very careful and keep items out of reach sometimes other family members forget or you have a pet in your care who is an expert at reaching items that you think you have placed well out of their reach.
You can approach the Pet Owner and ask them if they would consider reimbursing you for the damage. It is important to do the following:
- take photos that clearly show the damage
- get at least two quotes to fix the damage or take copies of receipts if it is something that you can fix yourself
- use the Chat function to upload the photos and the quotes for repair to the Pet Owner and explain to them how it happened. Be polite and respectful in all correspondence.
Most Pet Owners will be mortified and immediately offer to reimburse you. Others will not see it as their problem.
We strongly suggest that, if you mind dogs in your home, you train all family members to always put shoes away as these are a delicacy for some dogs and can be a very expensive loss for you.
How do dogs warn us they are about to bite?
Many of the warning signs that a dog is about to bite can be subtle and even appear to be friendly. Signs to watch out for are:
- yawning, licking their lips or avoiding eye contact – these behaviors do not necessarily mean a bite will happen however they are indicative that a dog is anxious and unsettled. If the dog is not able to find a way to remove themselves from the situation, it could escalate to a biting.
- growling, snapping or baring their teeth – dogs demonstrate this behavior when they are very uncomfortable with something that is happening around them. If you notice a dog is growling, snapping, or showing their teeth, quickly try to identify what is happening to make them feel threatened. If it is safe to do so, try and remove the threat so the dog feels more comfortable.
- wagging their tail stiffly – this is one of the most confusing signs of an upcoming bite. While a wagging tail is often a sign of happiness, it can also be an indicator that a dog is feeling on edge. When a dog is happy they wag their whole body along with their tail. When a dog is about to bite their tail is raised high and wagging slowly while their body stays perfectly still. This type of tail wag is only done when a dog is uncomfortable with the situation they are in.
- rigid body – this is another telltale sign a bite may be coming. When a dog is happy, every part of their body is relaxed and wiggly. However, if a dog is on edge, every muscle in their body goes stiff and they will be standing square, with ears perked and their tail raised, almost as if they are frozen.
- raised fur – another sign that a dog is on the verge of biting is raised fur. When a dog feels threatened, the fur on their back or neck may stand up.
- seeing the whites of their eyes – when a dog is content the whites of their eyes will be completely hidden. When you can see the whites of a dog’s eyes it is a warning sign that they feel threatened. In this instance they will not take their eyes off the threat, maintaining intense and direct eye contact. This means that no matter how they move their head their eyes will stay locked on the threat, resulting in the whites of their eyes showing as they move their head.
What can cause a dog to bite?
If you have children in your home, or have any visiting when you are caring for a dog, it is important that you watch out for the following events that could provoke a dog to bite a child.
- The dog is protecting a possession – food, water, sleeping place, a toy or a favourite human.
- The child has done something to provoke or frighten the dog e.g. hugging the dog, moving into the dog’s space, leaning or stepping over the dog, trying to take something from the dog.
- The dog is old and grumpy and having a bad day and has no patience for the actions of a child.
- The dog is injured or sick.
- The child has hurt or startled it by stepping on it, poking it or pulling its fur, tail or ears.
- The dog has not learned bite inhibition and bites hard by accident when the child offers food or a toy to the dog.
- The child and dog are engaging in rough play and the dog gets overly excited.
- The dog views the child as a prey item because the child is running and/or screaming near the dog or riding a bicycle or otherwise moving past the dog.
- The dog is of a herding breed and nips while trying to “herd” the children.
How do I prepare children for visiting dogs?
To avoid problems it is best to prepare your children on how to act around dogs:
- Avoid approaching unfamiliar dogs. Even if the dog has been with you for a day or two children should still respect that the dog may not be ready for interaction with them every time the child wants to play with the dog.
- Never scream at or run from a dog as this may cause the dog to become anxious or overexcited.
- Never play with a dog without adult supervision. A dog is much less likely to bite a child if an adult is present.
- Do not disturb a dog that is eating or sleeping.
- Always let a dog sniff them before patting or touching it.
What are signs that a dog is unhappy with a child?
There are always warning signs before a bite occurs, but these can be very subtle and may be missed by many people. Signs that may indicate that the dog is not comfortable with the child’s actions may include:
- The dog gets up and moves away from the child.
- The dog turns his head away from the child.
- The dog’s ears are pinned back and the fur along their back is standing up.
- The dog looks at you with a pleading expression.
- You can see the whites of the dog’s eyes.
- The dog licks his lips while the child approaches or is interacting with him.
- The dog suddenly starts scratching, biting or licking himself.
- The dog is baring his teeth.
- The dog yawns while the child approaches or is interacting with him. Along with the other signals this can mean that the dog is showing off its teeth as a warning.
What if a dog becomes aggressive?
Firstly, to eliminate any risk of injury to yourself, the visiting dog or other pets, separate and secure the aggressive dog somewhere safe.
You can reduce tension, and potentially stay safer by removing pressure. To do this pause, slightly turn your head, lower your gaze and relax your body while remaining still. As your goal is staying out of danger, communicating to the dog that you’re not a threat is a much better way to prevent a full-blown attack than adding more aggression to an unstable situation. Never turn your back, run, scream or make sudden movements—all of which can further incite a dog and also place you in a more vulnerable position.
Once you’ve gained composure, find something of interest to the dog (a treat or a toy) and, as slowly as possible, move the item far away to entice the dog into an area where they can be confined and then confine them immediately.
Then you should advise the dog’s owner as they may be able to give you some advice. You may discuss getting a trainer in if it becomes a dangerous situation. Another option is to discuss with the owner moving their dog to a boarding kennel.
What can I do to prevent a dog escaping from my home?
It is better to do all you can to prevent an escape rather than have to deal with the trauma of a missing dog. Here are some things that you can do before minding any dog so that it is as safe as possible:
- Always ensure that your fences are in good condition with no gaps. It is essential to check underneath to be sure there is no easily dug soft soil as well as in the corners where fences meet.
- Make sure you don’t park anything close to your fence that a dog could use as a stepping stone to vault over the top.
- Buy padlocks for your side gates so that nobody can open them and let the dogs out.
- When the dog arrives, attach a tag with your phone number during the handover time so that, should the dog find a way out straight after delivery, at least it has your number attached. Leave the tag on until the owners arrive to collect their dog. Also, remove any tags that have the owner’s number as it isn’t good if a finder is calling their number if they are uncontactable. (Don’t forget to re-attach these shortly before the owner arrives to collect their dog.)
- As the owner is leaving get them to say the words that they normally say to their dog when they are going out. It may help the dog to understand that they are only being left temporarily and, therefore, they may settle down more easily.
- Do not accept delivery of a dog and then go out and leave it. Try to make sure that you are home for the first few hours after it arrives. It may feel insecure in its new environment and cause damage to your property, bark incessantly or attempt to escape.
- If possible, take the dog for a walk around the neighbourhood soon after it arrives so that it can becomes familiar with it and also bond with you.
- Always lock your front door. It is too easy for a dog to dart out if someone comes to your door and walks straight in.
- When opening the front door ensure that the dog is either on a lead or temporarily, safely enclosed in another room. Dogs can dart through a very small gap and can move a lot more quickly than you think.
- Another important way to minimise the risk of an escape is to ensure that you have a Meet & Greet for all new dogs so that they are familiar with your environment and with you when they arrive to stay with you.
What should I consider when minding pets who are used to a lot of company?
If a pet is used to lots of company and you are usually away from home quite a lot it would be best, for both the pet’s sake and yours, to not accept the booking. It can be stressful for the pet to be in a strange environment and to suddenly also have very little human company. It can be stressful for you to arrive home to damaged items and neighbours complaining.
Who’s the boss?
It is important when minding a dog that you establish yourself as the pack leader from the very beginning. Dogs instinctually need exercise, discipline and affection in that order so let them know that you are the boss as they feel safer and behave better when they have a pack leader.
You need to earn the dog’s trust, loyalty, and respect before they will look to you as their leader and you do this by giving them rules, boundaries and limitations.
Should I feed dogs separately?
If you have more than one dog in your home always feed them separately as some dogs can be possessive about their food and food bowls.