Pet sitting anxious dogs
If you are due to house or pet sit for a friend or relative, or for a pet owner through a house sitting platform such as TrustedHousesitters, you may discover that a dog you’ll be caring for suffers from anxiety. If this is the case, you may be feeling nervous about this yourself.
Perhaps you don’t know how to deal with this type of behaviour in animals and feel like the experience is going to be quite stressful.
Well, it doesn’t need to be.
Here’s how to pet sit an anxious dog and make the experience easier for you both:
Before the house sit
In the weeks and days leading up to your house sit, it’s a good idea to visit the owner and the dog you’ll be caring for.
Let the dog get used to you and try to spend some time together on your own. Start doing this for a short period of time and then build it up - including taking them on a walk. In certain circumstances it might be possible to even stay over for a night or two to really let the dog get used to you being around for long periods of time.
If the dog's issue is separation anxiety and they are going to struggle being apart from their owner, you’ll show that you are a safe person for them to be left with. This will help them start to feel comfortable around you and see that you’ve been accepted by the owners.
Likewise, it’s a good idea to speak to the dog’s owner about their routine. When do they get into their dog bed and what does their night time routine involve? What time do they eat and what do they eat? Which is their favourite toy? Dogs are creatures of habit and keeping their routine as similar to normal as possible will really help.
Maintaining pet routines is an important aspect of a house sitter’s duties. Changing routines can create anxiety in pets who might not have displayed nervousness ever before. You should always make sure that the pet’s routines come before your own. If you aren’t able to maintain the existing daily pattern, reconsider taking the sit, especially where you know beforehand that anxiety is an issue.
Finally, don’t forget to ask if there is anything that helps when the dog is feeling anxious. Some may wear “thunder jackets” to help calm their mood (have a look at these online here), while others may take medication. The owner could also leave a blanket or item of clothing that smells like them as dogs often find this comforting.
How does a dog display anxiety?
It is important to know the signs to look out for, and the behaviours the animal may display when he or she is feeling anxious. Here are some of the most obvious:
- Continuous barking
- Dribbling urine
- Urinating in the house
- Destructive chewing
- Constant yawning or scratching
5 TIPS TO HELP ANXIOUS DOGS ON A HOUSE SIT
- Take them on a long walk: Anxiety can cause a build up of energy, so a long walk will help with that. Exercise will relieve some of the stress and tire the dog, which will in turn help him/her to relax upon returning to the house. Walking is also a great way for the two of you to bond.
- Don’t make a fuss when leaving or returning: This doesn’t only involve leaving the house, but could be when leaving and returning to the room they are in for most of the day. If you have to pop out for something, or when you put them to bed or get them up in the morning, it’s very tempting to make a fuss and tell them everything is going to be ok. But, they don’t understand and you’ll actually turn their anxiousness into a much bigger issue for them. It’s better to carry out these actions without interacting with them at all.
- Keep them stimulated: If a dog is anxious then the owner will probably have a number of toys that will keep them stimulated. Make sure you use these – it might be a treat filled Kong or a puzzle toy - something that will keep them busy and focused for a while.
- Offer distractions: Besides toys, sounds can help anxious dogs. There is DogTV channel which has specific colours that attract the dog’s attention. On YouTube you’ll find playlists specifically created for anxious dogs. You could also try My Dog’s Favourite Podcast on Spotify which is designed to reassure and soothe dogs. Check with the owners to see if they leave a particular radio station or TV channel on if they do leave the dog on its own. Find out what their procedure is for leaving the house too and stick to the same routine.
- Keep calm and be patient: This most important thing is to have patience with an anxious dog. This includes staying calm and ignoring bad behaviour, while rewarding good behaviour.
Hopefully this has relieved some of your worries and you can look forward to caring for an anxious dog, rather than worrying about it and creating further anxiety for yourself.
This guest article was brought to you by freelance writer LOUISE WOOD, who’s an experienced journalist and blogger with a thirst for knowledge and a passion for writing.
Last updated on May 12th, 2023