Staying in a strange place can be frightening for dogs. If your pup is a homebody, you may prefer to have a pet sitter come in and care for him if you and your family are traveling without him. To ensure that your dog and the pet sitter get off on the right paw, take steps to introduce them to each other well in advance, especially if your dog tends to be fearful, anxious, or stressed when you’re not around.
A get-acquainted visit or two can ensure that your dog is familiar with his new caretaker. By preparing your dog for visits from the pet sitter, they will both be safe and happy while you are away. Here’s how to introduce them.
- Use your body language to communicate that the pet sitter is a friend and welcome in your home. Take her arm and speak in a light and happy manner as you escort her through the door.
- Don’t force contact. Let your dog decide how quickly their interactions should progress.
- The two of you can discuss the upcoming visits while the sitter uses her body language to appear less threatening. She might choose to sit on the floor and avoid looking at or facing her body toward the dog. Ignore your dog while he keeps his distance and checks her out.
- Have her toss a tasty treat in the dog’s direction while you chat. Gradually toss the treats a little closer so he must move closer to get them.
- If your dog comes closer, the sitter can quietly praise and toss another treat. If he is willing, she might rub his chest so he won’t feel threatened by a hand coming at his face.
- Go for a walk with your dog and the sitter. Begin with you holding the leash and the sitter walking a few feet off to the side. If things go well, gradually hand off the leash to the sitter while you drop back a bit.
- Have your sitter leave something with her scent on it–like a t-shirt or pillowcase–so her scent will be familiar when she makes her first visit.
- Schedule a pet sitting visit while you are still at home, so your dog sees the sitter coming and going.
Things will be different when you are not there, so have realistic expectations. An experienced pet sitter will understand and continue to work with your pet, but may never be able to touch an extremely fearful animal. A dog who is totally panicked may jump a fence or tear up the house. These dogs are safer in a kennel. You can’t cure fear overnight, but the time you invest in the beginning will gradually pay off as your dog comes to accept and welcome his new caregiver.
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.