By Mel Lee-Smith
Published: 11/11/2020, edited: 10/26/2022
Dog sitters are truly superheroes in the eyes of protective pet parents. But things can go wrong no matter who’s in charge. Unexpected illnesses, injuries, and ingestion of non-foods can turn a slumber “pawty” into a nightmare.
Unfortunately, some dog sitting nightmares are unavoidable. But you aren't entirely powerless. We have a few helpful tips to avoid accidents on your sitter's watch.
It's no secret that dogs love snacking. But sometimes, an inquisitive sniffer can lead dogs to ingest things they shouldn't. Vigilant sitters can minimize destruction and non-food eating, but even the most dedicated sitters have to leave dogs unattended at some point to tend to their own needs.
Portable baby monitors can help your sitter keep an eye on a naughty Newfie while in the bathroom or preparing food. The next step is to make tempting non-food items inaccessible to pooches. Lock away any toxic chemicals or other dangerous household items using child-proof safety locks. Store other attractive chewables (like shoes and TV remotes) up high. Stowing your furniture and rugs away isn't exactly feasible, but you may be able to gate off those areas.
Trip hazards can turn an uneventful dog sitting experience into a nightmare for sitters and pups. While a fall is a mere road bump for a pup, it may debilitate senior dogs with lower bone density. One simple solution is to clip your dog's nails and trim back fur on the paw pads to prevent skidding and poor traction. Adhesive traction pads and nail covers can also decrease the likelihood of a fall.
Objects in the walkway is another contributing factor for human and canine falls. Pick up any odds and ends on the floor. Though you might be used to walking around ottomans and blanket baskets, your sitter probably isn't — this is especially important for new sitters who aren't accustomed to your home's layout. If you have hardwoods or vinyl flooring, refrain from slippery cleaning products before your sitter's arrival. A runner or area rug can also prevent falls in those areas.
A missing dog is the ultimate dog sitting nightmare, but it happens more often than you'd think. Escapes happen quickly, and dogs can be creative. Chewing through or climbing over fences, opening doors, and slipping out of collars are just a few ways pooches get loose.
Thankfully, there are preventive measures to thwart daring escape attempts. First, access your fence and mend any holes you see. If your dog is an expert knob turner, install slide-style locks at the top of your doors. We also recommend that sitters use harnesses rather than neck collars because they’re tougher to remove.
Sometimes, no matter what precautions you take, dogs still manage to get free. Making sure your dog is identifiable is your best bet for getting them back. Have your dog microchipped and keep detailed, updated contact information on their ID tags. These will not only help good samaritans get your pup back to you, but it also lets animal control services know that your dog isn't a stray.
Medication errors are a simple mistake that can have severe or deadly consequences. Forgotten meds may be just as risky as under or overmedicating, especially for dogs with severe health conditions. Fortunately, you can avoid this dog sitting nightmare with a little forethought.
Always leave detailed instructions about your dog's feeding and medication schedules with your sitter and tell them whether or not meds should be given on an empty stomach or with meals. Don't forget to mention any emergency medications your pet may need in the event of a seizure, anaphylaxis, or high blood sugar.
Put your pet's medication in labeled compartments in a medication box. If you don't have one, dole out your pet's meds ahead of time in individually labeled bags, with the date and time the meds should be given. Set your home's virtual assistant device to remind your sitter when your dog's meds are due, or have your sitter set a series of repeating alarms on their phone.
Offering the wrong dog food is an easy mistake to make in a multi-mutt household. If you're a pet parent blessed enough to have more than one pooch, tell your sitter what food is for which dog. It's helpful to write each dog's name on their respective food packaging if your dogs have different diets. Feeding the wrong food can cause a host of problems for dogs with allergies or other tummy troubles. Dogs may exhibit symptoms like bloating, vomiting, diarrhea, itching, anorexia, or even allergic shock.
Sitters sharing their human food can open another can of worms. Many dogs grow up eating dog-safe table scraps and never have a problem, but this can cause digestive issues in dogs unaccustomed to human food. Either tell your sitter not to give Fido human food at all, or make a list of human foods they can have, like carrot sticks, boiled chicken, and lamb.
Specify any medical conditions your dog has that may affect the care they receive. Serious conditions like allergies, diabetes, and epilepsy are especially important to mention. The last thing you want is a well-meaning sitter giving your grain-allergic pup regular dog treats. Or like one horror story we read online, where an unwitting sitter gave pizza to a diabetic dog, resulting in panic and a sky-high vet bill. Tell your sitter if your dog has a photosensitive form of epilepsy so they can avoid exposing your dog to movies or lights with strobing effects.
Dog sitting nightmares don't always involve dogs — sitters can have accidents too. Household hazards, food poisoning, and faulty electrical work are just some of the dangers that may lurk in your home.
Tell your sitter about any hazards in the home, like doors that slam shut and catch fingers in the doorway. Identify any faulty steps and outlets that you meant to fix. Tidy up high-traffic areas of the home to minimize trip hazards.
Create a map of your home and point out all the location of light switches and appliances they may need to use. If you're giving the sitter fridge access, remove any expired food that may make them sick. It's a good idea to make a spare key for your sitter, this will prevent them from locking themselves out (or Fido in).
Some dog sitting nightmares have absolutely nothing to do with the dog. Dog sitters may experience illness or family emergencies during their stay, leaving your pooch out of luck and a caregiver while you're away.
Your tried-and-true Newfie nanny may be as trustworthy as they come, but you never know when something will come up. Keep a list of vetted backup sitters to call on in case an issue arises. Hopefully, you won't need to refer to that list, but it's an invaluable resource to have if you do.
No one wants a sketchy sitter caring for their pet. We're sure you've heard horror stories about pet parents paying a sitter to watch for their pup and the "sitter" never even stopping by. A knowledgeable and reliable sitter won't eliminate accidents, but you'll know neglect or carelessness won't be an attributing factor. Background and resource checks are your best defense.
At $20 to $40 a pop, background checks can be expensive, especially for multiple candidates. Luckily, there's a service out there doing all the investigative work for you. Wag! requires background checks for every care provider on the network. If Wag! matches you with a walker, sitter, or boarder in your area, you can rest easy knowing that they've passed our stringent tests.
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