One of the most important moments of any job I take on as a pet sitter is the initial interview.
This meeting is critical for several reasons, not the least of which is that it gives your pet an opportunity to meet me in your comforting presence.
During the interview, there is interaction with your pets but also a Q&A session for us both.
You have the opportunity to get some of my background and references and a sense of who I am, while I’m looking to get a picture of your pet’s personality and all their needs, which includes whether your pet has aggression issues.
Yet when I ask if aggression is an issue, I often get funny looks or outright hostility from people.
Please believe me, everyone: Your pet sitter isn’t trying to offend you or indirectly insult whichever breed of dog you have — we ask this of every prospective client.
Avoiding the Topic of Aggression
Many times, people desperately need a sitter and gloss over or simply omit their pet’s problems with aggression.
In the short run, this nets them a sitter for their pet. In the long run, it can cost the client and the pet big time. However, for many pet sitters, aggression is not necessarily grounds for refusing a job.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), aggression is one of the most common challenges people face with their pets, so it stands to reason that any pet sitter worth their salt has dealt with it.
Types of Aggression
First, let’s touch on what aggression is. Some people may not realize that their dog’s behavior in certain areas is even classified as aggression.
There are different types of aggression, and some have very specific triggers:
- People aggression
- Food aggression
- Animal aggression
- Woman/man aggression
- Territory/item aggression
- Fear aggression
As an example: Your dog may not be aggressive normally but reacts aggressively toward anyone who approaches their food bowl. That’s food aggression.
A dog who interacts happily with people but snarls at other dogs has animal aggression. Many of these behaviors can be lessened or eliminated with proper training.
Honesty Is the Best Policy
In an interview with a potential pet sitter, please mention any aggression issues.
Unfortunately, the opposite happens fairly often: Someone needs a sitter (usually at the last minute), and so Pippie is sold as a peaceful, loving dog.
And so Pippie is — until it’s time to go for a walk and she tries to attack every other dog who passes. If a pet sitter is unprepared for this behavior, the consequences could be dire.
A pet sitter may refuse to take the job if they aren’t comfortable dealing with your dog’s aggression. That’s their right — their safety that may be on the table.
You also want that pet sitter to be honest with you. If you have a dog who has aggression, you want someone who’s prepared to handle it professionally.
This will only make it a better and safer experience for your pet while you’re away.
Not all pet sitters will refuse to take a job with a dog with a particular type of aggression. Many of us have dealt with various forms before.
I’ve handled dogs who have aggression revolving around food, territory, toys, strangers, other animals as well as men.
- Your dog may bite the pet sitter, requiring medical attention and the pet sitter’s refusal to complete the job.
- Your dog may bite another dog or another person, resulting in visits from the local police department and possibly even the euthanizing of your pet.
- If your dog attacks another animal or a person, you may be liable and subject to a civil suit. A quick Google search will show you just how many law sites offer quick advice to people injured by dogs — and how many lawyers are willing to take on this claim.
The best-case scenario is that your pet sitter will complete the job with your pet — and most do, if they possibly can — but they will never sit for you again.
If this happens often, word will get around, and even pet sitters who’ve never worked with your dog will start refusing you.
Learn more about dog aggression in this video:
What to Do
Plan ahead for any trips, if possible, but even before you need a pet sitter, start doing interviews, allow them to meet your pet and spend some time with them so that they become accustomed to one another.
This helps tremendously if you have an emergency and need to leave home on short notice.
When it comes to dogs with aggression, training is critical. Do not just accept aggressive behaviors as “part of their personality” without attempting to train the behaviors out. There are many techniques and tools available for training.
If you aren’t comfortable training or short on time, find a local dog trainer to help you out.
Most important of all, be honest.
Great pet sitters are more than willing to help you by not only sitting for your pet but also continuing training you have set in place.