Home > Cupcake, Daisy, Dog Behavior, Jasper, Pet Ponderings, Pet Sitting > Trusting someone to care for your fearful dog. What do you do?

Trusting someone to care for your fearful dog. What do you do?

IMG_6838One thing that can be difficult about having a fearful dog is finding someone to watch them who understands their unique needs. Not everyone who works in the pet industry is experienced with or understands how to work with a shy dog. As a dog owner, my biggest fear is that they will somehow damage my dog’s progress without knowing it or somehow lose them because they did not understand their high flight risk.

It’s one of the reasons that most of my vacations these days are “stay-cations” and not big trips to exotic and exciting places. It’s the reason I don’t go to blogging conferences or go to visit some of my blogging friends. I can’t just leave my dogs at a boarding facility or with any pet sitter I hire for those few events when I need to be away. I can’t just trust that someone will keep them safe or that they will know to be gentle and quiet and kind around Daisy. I have to be very cautious about who I trust with my dogs because the progress they have made could easily be damaged with one bad interaction. And in Cupcake’s case, one bad decision could lead to her becoming lost again. I just can’t risk it.

But, last week I found myself in a bit of a conundrum. I had committed to helping out at the sheep herding trials (something I very much wanted to do) without understanding the extended time commitment involved. I would need to be at the trial (almost an hour away from home) from 7 AM to 5 PM. That was a problem. How could I leave the dogs for that long? Who could I trust to let my dogs out if I decided to go? Who could I trust not to “accidentally” let them out of the yard or the front door? Who would understand that Daisy is sensitive to movement and sound and that Cupcake is not trusting of many people? Who could I trust to let them out and not put them in harms way?

In the past, I’ve relied on family or just committed to a half day so I could still get home to let my dogs out or just chosen not to go at all. But, this was one time I didn’t want to opt out. This was something I had been looking forward to doing for several weeks. So the question was… Who could I trust?

I started with a friend who is active in the Lost Dog community because I knew she would be extra cautious about keeping gates closed and ensuring she came into the house in a way that would prevent a dog escaping, but I quickly realized that my dogs might be scared by her presence, having only met her a few times.

Various 2008 018Luckily, I have a friend that not only knows my dogs, but understands some of the issues my dogs have when it comes to strangers. She is also someone who helped in Cupcake’s search, so I knew I could trust her to keep the dogs safe too. And, as it turns out, Kellie was the perfect choice. Yes, Cupcake barked at her the whole time (unless she was petting her). Yes, Jasper tried to hump her (something he never does), and yes, Daisy was a little difficult to get inside the house (she has problems with entrances and exits), but in the end it all worked out. Kellie was able to safely care for my dogs, and I felt better knowing she was the one doing it. I was (am) so grateful she was available to help me out.

But, going through this experience made me realize how limited I am in my ability to do certain things. It also made me realize that having a fearful or shy dog should not limit one’s ability to enjoy some time without them. I can’t always forgo events just because I have fearful dogs. I need to find an alternative that work for both them and me. What if I was hurt or unable to come home? Who would care for them then? What would I do if that happened?

Clearly, I need a plan for handling future events like these. I would love to hear what other owners of fearful dogs do when they want to go on vacation or need to spend the day or weekend away. What do you do? How do make sure your dogs are safe while you are away?

  1. Becky
    October 8, 2013 at 8:14 AM

    I find myself in a similar situation with our dog Tempo – we rescued him a year ago, and was told he is fearful. Much to my surprise he has shown me at just how fearful I am, and how this is not such a good combination! My other half is great with Tempo as he has the confidence to help Tempo through most situations. Whilst Tempo and I are working on this, we also found a great kennels in Cambridge (UK) who was willing to work with Tempo and his fearful behaviour (most so with dogs than humans) and helped to socialise him. The end result was Tempo had an absolutely fab time at kennels, got on with the other dogs and came back to us a little more confident!

    We’ve recently moved to Sheffield (UK) and found that most of the kennels lack the time or experience to help, so we’ve found a home border to help us – saying that, a few of the smaller kennels have the time and patience, and also some have rescues dog experience handling them.

    I am not a bit more picky about where I leave Tempo as I know that in the wrong environment he is going to be unhappy, and not only that I know I will worry and not enjoy time away from him!

  2. October 8, 2013 at 8:36 AM

    I have experience on both sides of this coin as I am a professional pet sitter AND I have my own fearful dog. As a pet sitter, I insist on a meet and greet before I take evey job because I want to make sure the dogs have met me at least once. When I enter a home with a fearful dog, I never, NEVER approach the dog first! I usually sit on the floor and I ask the pet parent what does your dog love — treats, balls, toys, etc. and I bring with me. I let the dog come to me on his/her time.

    I have a wonderful place that I take my dogs when we are out of town — heck I want to go stay there as a vacation! The owner takes personal care of my girls and Bailey, my shy and fearful dog loves her. The key to this was knowing what Bailey was all about and that was the tennis ball. She will fetch as long as someone will throw. She has grown to be able to be involved with other dogs she doesn’t know because of ball.

    You’ve got to find their happy place!

  3. October 8, 2013 at 11:04 AM

    Lucky for us, we have a few sets of close friends who all went through dog training about the same time we did, so we have a good network of people who know our dogs and know how to handle dogs. When we go away, we split Moses and Alma into different homes so they’re not a massive burden on one house, and we’re lucky to have a few to choose from. Of course, it’s a two-way street, and means we get to do our fair share of dog-sitting too.

    But we also don’t have fearfulness to deal with. Alma has a bit of anxiety, and Moses has health-related concerns, but both are trustworthy with other people and most other dogs. I definitely prefer to have them stay with friends, but Alma has also stayed at a boarding company owned by friends and it worked out very well too (except for the cost, that is. Those places aren’t cheap.).

  4. October 8, 2013 at 12:11 PM

    We have been luck and found great people to look after our pets when we are away

    Stop on by for a visit

  5. October 8, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    I have not left my dogs with anyone in years. I just don’t trust anyone enough not to spoke Lacy or felt they were able to handle Max, who will not obey anyone but Dave or myself. We just find places we can bring the dogs with on vacation.
    I would love to be able to take one without them someday.

  6. Louise
    October 8, 2013 at 3:07 PM

    As an in-home boarder for dogs for 2 years, I have dealt with my fair share of fearful dogs and have educated myself on how to best care for them, because, that is part of my job.
    When looking for a sitter or I highly recommend in-home boarders, ensure they are experienced enught to care for all types of dogs!
    If an owners informs me that her dog is fearful or not properly socialized I always explain that I will ensure that the dogs specific needs will be met and stress to the owners how important it is that they are completely honest with me about all fears!
    I have found that many owners seem to be a bit embarrassed about having a fearful dog and sometimes don’t disclose everything I need to know, so a meet-and-greet is sometimes vital to gather all info. need. Sometimes more than one is needed and that’s, of course, fine!
    If not possible, I ask many questions on the phone.
    I always stress that a fearful dog is nothing to be ashamed of and I can only help if I know everything.
    Of course each dog is different, but basically, what works for me is, I always allow the dog to take the time he/she needs to adjust to being in my environment and wait for the dog to come to me. I take at least a day to simply observe the dog and allow the dog space.
    I have two dogs of my own and my 8 yr. old lab. Butch, who knows intuitively to leave fearful dogs alone, while my 1 and a half year old Pitl/lab. mix Cesar is still very much a puppy.
    I, of course, work with him every time to ensure he understands to leave the timid dogs alone, by correcting and/or removing him if he gets a bit to rowdy and always allowing the dogs who stay with me to “put him in his place”. This means, if they growl at him and/or show teeth, I allow that. The reason is that Cesar needs to learn and other dogs are the best teachers! This way I also establish trust with the dogs that stay with me, because they know I have their back.
    Trust is fundamental! The dog and the owners need to trust you and I send updates and pictures to the owners during the length of the dogs stay, even if it’s only a few days. I want the owners to feel as comfortable as I want the dog staying to me to feel.
    Finally, many times the dogs act very differently when the owners leave. A fearful/clingy dog always relaxes once owners leave and I have established that I will protect them and begin to establish trust. I believe in the way Cesar Milan teaches how to interact with dogs, so exercise, discipline and then affection. Thus, I always go on a walk right away, gently correct the dog and I am then affectionate when the dog is receptive and stay calm and assertive throughout. Walking establishes trust, naturally integrates the new dog in my pack and relaxes the dog to open it up to affection.
    Hope I’ve helped, best of luck!

    • October 8, 2013 at 10:31 PM

      Where where where are you located??

      • Mel
        October 8, 2013 at 10:40 PM

        Minnesota. it’s not that I don’t trust pet sitters. I was one once. But, it has to be a special one who is experienced in fearful dogs.

      • Louise
        October 11, 2013 at 6:28 PM

        I appologize Natasha, I just saw your question!
        I am located in 45 min. outside Chicago IL
        If you live in IL, the company I work for have boarders in more cities ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. October 8, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    When we had two dogs we used to take the dogs with us on vacation. Now, we can’t trust Brut with anyone. The other five would probably be OK with someone they know. We can leave them for a 8 hours, but anything more than that would be too much. Blaze and Chance, my fearful dogs would freak out if we were gone longer than that.

    So we stay home for vacations and holidays and we are actually OK with that.

  8. October 8, 2013 at 6:11 PM

    We have always had a dog walker – even though I work from home and don’t really ‘need’ one as I can walk them perfectly well. But it answers that question of who will watch the dogs. I never felt comfortable boarding our dogs or leaving them with a stranger and now with Maggie, she’s like Daisy and I just couldn’t. So our dog walker comes a couple of times a week, just enough so that both Jack and Maggie know her and are happy to see her. Karen = treats + walk – how great! Then if we both have to be out of town, Karen is our perfect house sitter. Yes, it’s an added expense, but its worth it for my piece of mind when we are away as I know how good she is to the dogs, I know they love her and I know Maggie in particular will not backslide.

  9. October 8, 2013 at 10:30 PM

    We have just had Stoli for a year but we have no idea how or when we are going to be able to go away. My first plan was to take her to a doggie daycare that really helped a customer’s shy dog, but they wanted us to work with a trainer before they felt she was safe to accept, and I can’t get her into a car anyway. And Mel, you may recall that the trainer they suggested was very negative. One day a week there I thought would make a huge difference. We are starting with a consultant soon so we have more steps to take before we can go away for a trip.

  10. October 10, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    I have been lucky enough to have a best friend who has known my dogs for years. She is a dog caregiver and focuses on exercising dogs for their owners off leash. I also care for dogs off leash in a variety of settings so the dogs in my care get to socialize and explore new sights and smells. No same old same old. So I know my dogs can continue on with their regular routine and meet up with dogs they know because we meet up with her group on a regular basis. With my new puppy I am searching more for dog friendly activities and accommodations. A big focus with her is to get her socialized and used to being in all kinds of situations so nothing will phase her in the future. (I hope, you never know) So, we take her on lots of day trips and overnights with us while the other two stay home with Aunty Rebecca.

  11. October 11, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    I don’t trust anyone but my friends told me that dogs should be socialize well so that they’ll not be too fearful and ignorant if they meet others outside or inside home. Do not fear or pity the dog. Let the dog feel your strength, which shows it there is nothing to worry about, you will now care for them. Humanely communicate to the dog your displeasure of any unwanted behavior and praise their good behavior. It is very easy for a dog to move on and change for the better.

  12. October 13, 2013 at 1:02 AM

    We’re lucky that Felix the Fussbudget LOVES his Nana so much and happily stays with her while I’m away (including while I go to work) and the Daddy has already asked if he can take the boys when I go out of town for work next month. Honestly? If I didn’t have them, I have no idea what I would do. Felix can’t even be left with my Mom or my sister (who he loves as long as I’m around) without having a meltdown. *sigh* We have a lot of work to do!

  13. October 16, 2013 at 6:38 PM

    This is a big problem for us as well. So far, we don’t trust anyone to care for our dogs. They both have anxiety and fear issues, but not only that… they are Dachshunds, one of whom has IVDD and has already been through one surgery for a herniated disc. Thankfully, she recovered fully and runs around today like nothing ever happened… BUT… recurrence can happen at any time and we have to be super diligent about protecting her back. No jumping, no stairs, knowing how to lift and carry her properly, not letting other dogs jump on her (while playing), etc.
    We barely leave them alone at the house, much less leave them with anyone else for an extended period. Would we like to? Yes, absolutely. I love them more than life itself, but it would be wonderful to even have one full day of freedom without them. But I’m just too afraid to trust people. Travel? Vacation? Those sound like foreign words to me. I quit working outside the home just to be at home with them. Some call this crazy, but it’s our life and we’ll live it how we see fit… which is devoted to our dogs (and any more we have in the future).
    There is a doggy daycare close to us that we have been CONSIDERING. There are quite a few in our city, but this is the only one we would even consider using because it is ran by a retired vet and they specialize in special needs pets. Just short visits at first… an hour… then two hours… then three… and so on… just to see how it goes. But overnight? I don’t know. Even if could trust the people there, I’m honestly afraid our dogs would have a stroke if we left them overnight, and that’s not really a joke.
    We are considering renting an RV soon for a vacation… just so we can take the dogs with us. Just go sightseeing, you know. We can stop at restaurants, but bring the food back to the RV and eat it. Stay at dog-friendly RV resorts/parks. I have friends in other states that we would love to visit on our own, but I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to go anywhere without our dogs. Hubs and I have even discussed taking separate vacations just so one of us is home with the dogs… but geez… we wish it just wasn’t an issue. Sigh.

    • Louise
      October 16, 2013 at 9:06 PM

      I’m sorry to hear about your difficult situation!
      I have taken care of dogs with medical issues an an in-home boarder.
      What that mean is that the dogs I care for stay in my house, with my dogs and are treated as if they are my dogs as well ๐Ÿ™‚ Many people have not heard of in-home boarding and I highly recommend that you see if it’s available where you live.
      The reason it’s usually, most likely better than doggy day care, is that your dog is cared for in someones home, so your dogs are never kenneled, under constant supervision, day and night, because even though I have 2 dogs, my focus is on the dogs I board and ensuring their comfort. My dogs are used to having dogs stay in our house and how to act when other dogs stay with us.
      I take all the time needed for owners to feel comfortable with me and my dogs, meet-and greets, talks on the phone, whatever the oweners need, because I’m caring for their baby(babies) and they need to know that their dogs are my priority while they are with me.
      I thus also make sure to send pictures and updates every day, via Facebook or e-mail and encourage owners to call if they want.
      I cared for 2 weiner dogs last year, they were the most adorable dogs, and the owners were concerned because my dogs are a pit mix and a lab, so much bigger ๐Ÿ™‚
      However after spending the time needed together, the owners were comfortable and I slept on the couch with the Weiners, because that is what helped them feel comfortable and we had a great week together ๐Ÿ™‚
      Best of luck to you whatever you choose to do! Renting an RV sound like a good plan, just make sure you know where to find a local vet., in advance, on route, and in the places you visit.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: