While you are away, your pets will play….
One of the purposes of this blog is for us to share the knowledge we have gained through the years. When you are around pets 365 days a year, many of them from all different backgrounds, you learn a lot. I try to share this during our meetings or any follow-up conversations as they come up but sometimes it is good to have some knowledge beforehand. Since we do a lot of vacation visits where we visit pets in your home or even at times have some stay in our homes, I thought today would be a good day to discuss- what your pets may be like when you are away.
Keep in mind every situation is different and what I am about to say may or may not apply. But let’s get into your pet’s head, specifically your dog (although a lot can apply to cats). You are getting ready for a trip and packing those suitcases in the day or days before you leave. Your pet is watching you and has seen this scenario before. Suitcases mean you are leaving him/her. Or maybe it means they get to go somewhere. They start getting nervous/excited. Some react just to the mere sight of a suitcase and go nuts- I’ve seen it with my own! Then you start packing the car. At some point they realize they are not going on the trip with you. Now depending on how often you travel, your dog may know this drill and be OK. Or you may have the type of dog that no matter how many times you have done it, they will still not like it. Luckily you made a good choice to keep them at home so their anxiety should be lessened because you decided to keep them in a familiar environment. I can tell you from having dogs in my home and having them stay in their homes, I think by far the dogs seem less anxious in their own home. No matter how much we can love and spoil them in our homes, it’s still not THEIR home. But I digress, back to YOUR home and back in your little guy or girls head.
“OK my people left me. With those darn suitcases again. Which means they may be gone forever or at least far too long for my liking. I wonder why they don’t think I am able to be on the beach in Mexico with them? I am such a beach going and drink in my hand type of dog, why don’t they get that yet? My humans have a lot to learn”
And then we show up. Now they really know something is up. They may approach us nervous even if we have been there. Even if they have never shown these signs to YOU. This is a different situation. They may be slightly aggressive if it is the first time and protective of their homes. After all you just gave them all the signs you are going for a long trip and this is their home you have left them in charge to protect, right? I can’t tell you how many consults I have been on where the dogs are totally fine. Friendly and happy and we leave the house thinking, this will be great and we will have an awesome week! Then first visit we show up and that friendly dog has turned into an aggressive and scared version. They are NOT the same dog we met during the consultation. This may be unusual for you to hear but it is not unusual in our business. We see it all the time and know what to do to. One of the strong points we can offer is we work with a trainer and know how to approach a nervous or anxious dog and win them over. It is absolutely one of the most rewarding parts of the job.
Some other things we may often see with your pet while you are away-
- Not eating while you are away
- this generally lasts a few days but then they pick up normal eating habits. We do whatever it takes to make sure they will eat and are in contact with you if it goes beyond the normal time period of no eating. But eventually they all should eat
- Eating or drinking way more than they normally do
- Some of us are stress eaters and then some of us don’t eat when they are stressed. Dogs are no different. I have seen dogs that are not big eaters almost gorge themselves. This was very abnormal regular behavior for the particular dogs but this is not unusual for a dog that may be anxious or stressed
- Having accidents- even 100% trained dogs
- there are a variety of factors that may go into this and while it’s not something we see regularly, we do see it. We have dogs that get confused and refuse to go potty outside but then at some point they relax and get on schedule. Sometimes they potty out of anger or to mark their territories. Or because they are eating too much. This may not be their normal behavior but as we just went through what is in your dogs head, they are not always themselves at first. We offer between 2-4 visits a day and can always increase the visits if we find it’s an issue during our time or adjust times if necessary if this is something we notice. Also keep in mind, if you free feed your pets, we are not going to be able to take them out right as they eat and they may not be able to hold it until the next visit. We recommend a feeding schedule for dogs that are experiencing this. A new blog coming soon on this.
- Getting into stuff
- “But my dog would never do that!” Your normal schedule fur companion may know better. A dog that has experienced change of any magnitude is not your normal dog. If they are getting bored, mad, sad, anxious, etc. then this may be something your sitter arrives to. We recommend if this is your first experience with a sitter or it has been awhile since you have traveled, that you limit them to areas you are OK with them being. Puppies in particular do not need any temptations. If your dog is a chewer but you believe he/she has grown out of that stage, error on the side of caution when you travel. These habits could reappear when left to their own devices
All this being said, let me reassure you that dogs will adjust to their new routine and we do everything in our power to make them comfortable and calm their nerves. Sometimes it ends up that they become attached to us and when we leave, it triggers some of these behaviors. We always give it around 3 days on a longer trip to see if habits go back to normal before contacting you. We don’t want you to worry because the end of the day, everything is OK even if they are a little sad mommy and/or daddy left them. Anything longer, we may have to make adjustments. We have a lot of repeat clients so our pet friends become very familiar with our sitters and this helps immensely. This isn’t to say these things are guaranteed because they absolutely aren’t. A lot of dogs can stay home and have done this before. They are fine with not one sign of stress. But every dog is different and this is stuff we see at times. So I believe it’s important to set people’s expectations. This is no fault of the sitter or yours. This is just the nature of dealing with animals, they can be unpredictable at times and it’s our job to make things more predictable and calm for them while you are away!