Last updated on September 12th, 2018 at 06:03 pm
When we house sit we always look after dogs. We’ve owned dogs for most of our lives and have to say they’re our favorite kind of pet. One of the benefits for us with house sitting is getting to care for all different kinds of dogs. Having so much experience we thought we'd put together our top dog training tips for house sitters!
We’ve looked after big and small, and a whole bunch of different breeds. We’ve also dealt with a variety of dog behaviors; some good and some not so good (for us or the dog). The behaviors we as house sitters care about the most are those that could put the dog or ourselves at risk.
Some of the most common issues like the dog not listening when off leash, aggressive behavior, or not establishing boundaries the dog can understand can make a house sit a nightmare for us and the dog.
In this post, I’ll outline quick and easy things house sitters can do to deal with a variety of behaviors and ways to build trust and establish harmony with the dog and the homeowner fast. These tips can work for both long-term sits and for house sitting assignments as short as a week.
Guidelines for Dog Training While House Sitting
First I want to say it is not a housesitters job to train a pet (unless you're a professional dog trainer the homeowner hired you to train their dog). The tips outlined in this post are aimed at making your job as a house sitter more fun and effective when caring for a dog.
People choose to have a house sitter come and care for their dogs in their own home to make their absence less stressful for their pet. Also, the dog's safety is paramount while they’re away. These tips have helped us accomplish both of those things. We start by learning and setting a few guidelines before the homeowner leaves for their trip.
First We Learn The Challenges the Homeowners Deals With Their Dog
We make learning the things the homeowner is most concerned about when it comes to their dog part of the interview process.
This is for two reasons:
- To learn whether we are capable of dealing with the concerning behaviors.
- And, second, whether we even want to.
We know when we should say no to a house sitting sitting job and asking certain questions helps us determine which assignments are for us and which ones aren't.
Here is what we ask to determine these things when it comes to dog behavior:
- What are your dog's peccadillos (unique behaviors that are part of his or her personality)?
- What concerns do you have for your pet? What are the things we should watch for concerning health and behavior issues?
- What are your house rules (is the dog allowed on furniture, where do they sleep, where are they are allowed to go in the house)?
- What are the rules for walks (is it off or on a leash, has the dog had any leash training, what training tools do you (or have you) used for walks?
Knowing these things helps us learn how the homeowner lives with their dog and how they deal with behavior issues if there are any.
It also opens the door to discuss any experience we've had with dogs that displayed the same or similar behavior.
Next, We Share What We Know About Dealing With Dogs and Behavior Issues
We know how much sharing any experience you may have with dogs and certain behavior issues can put a homeowners mind at ease. Here is how we share any knowledge we have to make homeowners comfortable with our abilities as dog sitters.
- We ask what training tools they use to deal with any issues (a special collar or lead, treats, types of discipline).
- We share our experience with any of the tools they are using with their dog.
- We suggest any additional training tools we've used that we think might be helpful.
- We assure the homeowner we'll be respectful of their training methods and use our expertise to keep their dog safe while they're away.
After we establish a bit about the dog's behavior we try to learn about the human behavior behind it.
Understanding Dog Behavior in Relation to Human Behavior
Dogs are pack animals and behave in different ways depending on where they think they fit in a pack. They understand that packs are made up of leaders and followers. The leader decides what is and isn't a threat to the pack and will always take the initiative to defend the pack from anything they perceive as dangerous. Some of the more aggressive behaviors in dogs usually develop because they think they're the leader of the family pack. There are things dog owners can and should do to take their place as the leader of the pack. Understanding dog pack hierarchy is the first step in resolving behavioral issues in dogs.
We know if we take certain steps to establish ourselves as leaders with the dogs we care for, behaviors that may be an issue for a homeowner may not be an issue for us. Below are a few of the things we always do.
- We don't project nervous or emotional energy.
- We enforce the homeowner's boundaries and establish some of our own when it comes to our belongings.
- We feed dogs at set times, after taking for walks.
- We are mindful, calm, and consistent with our behaviors.
Quick and Easy Dog Training Tips That Get Results Fast
Here are our top tips to correct common problem behaviors in dogs. The steps we take to lead and maintain harmony in the pack dynamic while homeowners are away.
- We walk dogs according to the homeowners routine (but, our minimum is two times daily to coincide with feeding).
- We use a training lead if the homeowner has one or keep leashes short to encourage the dog to focus on our signals as we walk.
- On or off leash we use the sound "ch" to get the dogs attention just before an issue arises. This technique was made famous by Ceasar Millan but we first saw it in action with a homeowner that had 5 big rescue dogs. She used "ch" every time she needed her packs attention. It worked like a charm and we've used it ever since.
- We follow homeowners instructions and heed warnings about where to walk and things to watch for the dog's safety.
- When we want the dog or dogs to come to one of us we use small treats as rewards for listening. We do this intentionally and mindfully and never when a dog is all wound up. We remain calm and wait for the dog to be focused on us before giving the treat for listening.
- When feeding, walking on or off leash, or whenever we want to avoid a bad situation we use the "ch" sound to refocus the dog on one of us.
- We check a dogs body language to adjust our behavior accordingly to help them focus better.
- We don't humanize dogs, we communicate with dogs in accordance with their natural instincts and pack mentality.
For Maintaining Consistency and Harmony Around the House
- We abide by whatever house rules the homeowner has laid out (re kenneling, sitting on furniture, and feeding). But, we also set up boundaries that assert our leadership and maintain harmony.
- We never feed a dog from the table, never.
- Where we haven't dealt with every type of behavioral issue, this article outlines a lot a variety of common and not so common situations and effective tips to deal with them. We've used many of the techniques listed. More specifically, ones to deal aggression on walks and behaviors related to feeding.
The Bottom Line On Dog Training Tips for House Sitters
People who plan to travel enlist house sitters to make their absence less stressful for their dog. As house sitters, we feel our top priorities are to keep the dogs we care for safe and to maintain routines and boundaries homeowners have set for their pets.
We don't feel our job is to train the dogs we look after but we will happily use the training skills we have to make our time house sitting more harmonious for all involved.
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