Dog Sitting Diaries

This Thanksgiving holiday, we have the pleasure of dog sitting a four-year-old Labrador retriever. He’s really sweet, but different from our older and now-mellow, Hershey. Which makes me grateful for the opportunity for my husband to see what life was like for me some years back. (By the time he met Hershey, he was already trained and chill.)

Jeff and I are having a blast, while Hershey’s likely wondering when Jake will vacate the premises. And though this wasn’t my first dog sitting rodeo, it was my first one with Jeff and I wanted to share a few tidbits we experienced together. Whether you love dogs and want to take in a new puppy, or foster a dog, or just help out friends for a weekend, check it out:

  1. Being the alpha isn’t optional.
    It’s important to have an established alpha to protect you (& your pup, if you have one) and the new or visiting pup. If the dogs are confused at all about who’s the boss, they will try to take the top spot!
  2. When there’s more than one dog, you should establish “top dog.”
    Dogs will attempt to bypass the hierarchy. If the ‘host’ dog is older, reinforce it for the younger one. Research ways to consistently incorporate the rules into their care. As the elder dog, I typically let Hershey eat first and allow him move around off leash as a way to distinguish him from the younger one.
  3. Allow your dog to maintain their own space.
    Sometimes younger dogs will want to be close to a dog who may not be thrilled about sharing their space, toys, or their people. Allow your dog to maintain his or her own personal space, but don’t let them hide or cower. (You’ll know the difference.) Be sure they sleep in their own bed, for example, rather than letting the guest ‘reclaim’ all your dog’s comfort places.
  4. Keep the discipline, but not too much!
    Remember, the dog who’s visiting would much rather be at home. They don’t have a way to verbalize how much they miss home and may inadvertently act out. And your pup may want to send the visitor packing. So keep the discipline for safety purposes, but also be sure to give both pets some extra love and extra fun.
  5. Watch, learn and have a good time.
    Animals can teach us a lot about themselves if we pay attention. They’re also very animated and good teachers of life, love, and other people. I love watching how dogs talk to each other, and how they try to communicate with us. Let loose and laugh a little; they love to see you smile.

Spending time with animals is a privilege, not a burden. (Okay, so picking up poop maybe a bit burdensome.) Irrespective of the poop, I am thankful for having the honor of spending my years up close and personal with pooches. I hope these lessons are helpful to you!

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