How to Take Care of a Friend's Dog
When a friend asks you to take care of their dog, it is just as important as taking care of your own pet. Your friend is trusting you to take good care of their beloved pet, so make sure you feel prepared to do so before the owner leaves. By doing a little prep beforehand and following the owner’s instructions closely, your pet sitting experience is bound to be a good one.
Learning About the Dog
1. Make sure you have the time and space to care for a dog. If a friend asks you to watch their dog, only agree to do so if you have the time and space in your life. If you live in a tiny apartment and already have two dogs, adding a third might be stressful and overwhelming. If you work a 60 hour week and barely have any spare time, you might not be the best dog sitting candidate for your friend.
- Consider the dog’s activity level. Is it a dog that is very energetic that needs lots of time outside to run around each day? Or, is it a dog that is more mellow and relaxed? Make sure your lifestyle matches the dog you’re being asked to watch so that you feel more comfortable
Caring For a Friend’s Dog in Your Home
1. Let the dog meet your pets, if you have any. If the dog will be staying at your home and you have pets in the house, make time to introduce the dog to your pets prior to the dog’s stay with you. Introduce your friend’s dog to your dog somewhere neutral first, like a park. Then, you can bring the dog to your home after they’ve been acquainted. Make sure they get along with any other pets in the house, like cats. If there are any issues, you’ll have time to sort them out before the owner leaves.
- Consider keeping the dog separate from your pets when you are not home. Since they are still new to one another, there might be a chance for one to become territorial over toys or aggressive when you aren’t there to intervene.
2. Use baby gates to keep the dog in one area of the house. Even if the dog sleeps in a crate at night, or stays in one while home alone, you really shouldn’t keep the dog in its crate just as a means of keeping it in one place. It’s a good idea to put up baby gates to confine the dog to a “safe” area of the house, or even to keep the dog separate from your pets while you aren’t around.
- If you plan to confine the dog to a certain part of your home, make sure that the dog still has access to water.
3. Set up an area for the dog to sleep. Ask the owner how the dog usually sleeps at night in its own home. Does the dog sleep in bed with the owner? Does the dog sleep in a crate? Does the dog have its own bed? However the dog sleeps, set up a similar sleeping situation for it in your home. If the dog has its own bed, for example, bring that bed over to your house so it will have a familiar place to lie down and rest at night. If he sleeps in a crate, bring the crate to your house.
- Having something from the dog’s own home can be helpful. The item will smell like home, and it might act as a comfort for the dog. So, even if the dog sleeps in a crate, make sure to bring a blanket or pillow from its home to put in the crate with him.
- If the dog usually sleeps in bed with its owner, but you aren’t comfortable with the dog sleeping in your bed, find some middle ground. For example, you could set up the dog’s own bed right beside yours on the floor.
4. Put bowls down for food and water. If you can, just use the dog’s regular bowls from its home. Make sure you know whether or not to leave food down all day for the dog, and make sure your own pets won’t eat the dog’s food. Make sure the dog always has access to fresh water. Change the water in the water bowl a few times a day to make sure it stays clean and fresh.
- To deter your own pets from eating the dog’s food, try feeding them in separate rooms, or keeping them separated when you aren’t around if the dog needs food down all the time.
- Consider putting down a mat or towel under the bowls. This will keep water from sloshing onto the floor, and help keep the dog’s food bowl in place while he eats.
5. Make your house safe for the dog. To ensure the safety of the dog, make sure to put all fragile and/or toxic or harmful items out of reach. Put up loose cords, remove items from the coffee table, put away the trash can or make sure the lid is securely shut, keep all food put away and out of reach, and keep toilet lids shut. This will help keep the dog out of trouble, as it might be a little more curious than usual being in a new environment.
- Ask the owner if the dog has any chewing habits. If so, make sure to put shoes away in the closet and shut the door securely.
Caring For a Friend’s Dog in Their Home
1. Decide if you will stay at your friend’s home. Depending on the length of time you’ll be caring for the dog, you might consider simply staying at your friend’s home for your own convenience. Or, if you will just be caring for the dog a short time, simply checking in a few times a day might suffice. Either way, you will want to discuss this with your friend beforehand.
- How often you check in might depend on the dog’s needs and activity level. For example, an older, more mellow dog might only need one or two short walks a day, while a younger, more active dog might require more frequent attention and checking on.
2. Follow the normal house rules. Ask the owner what the normal routine is for the dog. Is the dog allowed on the furniture? Does the dog get one or two walks per day? Is the dog allowed in the backyard without a leash? Should you leave the dog’s food down all day? Whatever the normal rules and routines of the house are, try to stick to them as best you can. That way, the dog will feel more relaxed and won’t develop any bad habits while the owner is away.
- If the dog is usually left alone during certain hours of the day, it might be a good idea to let him be during that time. Since it’s part of his routine, it will be easier for him to get back to normal when his owner returns.
- If the dog has a certain walk routine—like walks at certain times of the day—try sticking to that schedule. This will help keep the dog in its usual routine, even while its owner is away.
3. Meet the neighbors. If you’ll be going in and out of a friend’s home while they are out of town, make sure the neighbors know you’re allowed to be doing so. You don’t want to end up with police knocking on the door because a neighbor saw a strange person! Before the owner leaves, be sure to have them introduce you to the neighbors and let the neighbors know that you’ll be dogsitting.
- The neighbors might also be able to pop in and let the dog out if you have an emergency, so ask the owner to leave a key with a neighbor they trust, and get that neighbor’s contact information.
4. Greet the dog with a treat when you enter the home. Once the owner leaves, the dog might be surprised to see someone unfamiliar entering the home. Keep a little bag of treats in your car or bag, and offer the dog one when you enter the door. Make sure you use a type of treat that the dog usually gets—try grabbing a handful of the treats their owner already has. This will help the dog relax and trust you when you first enter.
- You might not have to do this every time you enter. Just do it the first few times until the dog is used to you coming in, instead of its owner.
- Don't accept the job if you're not ready or feel unprepared.
- Different dogs need different things, so be sure to listen to their owner’s instructions to give them what they require to be healthy and happy.
- Have the number to the closest after-hours emergency vet handy in case you need it.