Today we’ll talk about your first dog sitting visit. Even though we lived with dogs of our own all our lives and looked after friends’ and family’s animals…that first visit into a stranger’s home felt…well…strange. So let’s take a dry-run before you head out for the first time so you’ll feel more comfortable than we did.
Preparing for Your First Pet Sitting Visit
You’ve been to the client’s home [see the Meet-and-Greet article], so you’ll feel somewhat familiar with it. You’ve met the dog, and hopefully had a little time during the meeting to play and get to know him. And if you’re fortunate, you’ve been booked-in for a daytime visit.
Make sure you have these things with you:
- Your paperwork for the client. You want to have at least one signed service sheet with you even if they are supposed to leave the others you left for signing ready for your arrival. Sometimes they forget. I always ask for a signature on the service sheet to take with me and leave the contract and other forms for them to review before signing.
- The client’s key or entry codes (With no words or numbers on them that could identify the home, client, or pet to anyone but you.)
- Extra leashes, halters, poo pick-up bags, paper towels, and rubber gloves in the car. We use our own leashes and sometime halters as a rule only because they feel comfortable and familiar in our hands.
- We have treats in our pockets. But we give them only to the dogs and cats we know can have them. [See our article on Treats] We’ll bring different kinds for different dogs and cats…because we’re pushovers :). There’s nothing more disheartening than a pup or cat running over to you for a treat and then not liking it. They look up at you and if you can’t surprise them with a perfect alternate choice, you’ll get the “look of despair and disapproval” and you’ll feel horrible. (PS…liver treats work 95% of the time…even when broken into tiny little bits for cats.)
Arriving at the Dog’s Home
Get into a routine:
- If you have a key…keep it on you at all times! This is extremely important. Unlock the door and pocket the key…or keep it on a lanyard. Some doors lock after themselves so even if you walk out the back door for a second, you might find you can’t get back in. I had it happen with a screen door that had a snap that went into place once it was pulled across. Fortunately I was able to go around the front and open that door again.
- We also recommend locking the entry door after yourself if you’ll be going into another area of the house. Or at least until you become familiar with the neighborhood.
- If you’re on a regular schedule, the dogs will be standing at the door waiting for you, but for the first visit you might have to call for them. Do this with your whole body outside and the door open a crack. Even the most pleasant dog from two nights earlier can turn into teeth-baring feral creature if he doesn’t want you in the house. (See the article on Nervous Dogs)
- Usually they’re a little nervous but willing to be hooked up to a leash and brought outdoors. Keep your voice happy but relaxed…not excitable.
- Watch for any signs of reluctance such as a raised lip. Especially listen for warning growls…and stop what you’re doing! Don’t underestimate a small dog. You could be seriously injured if it attacks. Keep your face away from all dogs.
- Most nervousness is just because they don’t know you and they will settle after a few minutes. We’ve often taken ten minutes sitting on the couch (don’t get too near them if they’re not happy) before they come around. I’ve had only one unsuccessful attempt to get a dog out – even after going back a little while later – among hundreds of other dogs.
On first visits some dogs might just want to do a quick pee and go back in. Especially rescues. You don’t know what’s going on in their mind and if you’re going to take them away.
Often we’ll spend the first visits in the yard. If they have a fenced backyard, that’s perfect.
Walks are wonderful and exercise is great, but trust is what you need first. Building trust takes time both ways and that’s done by interacting and not during a walk.
If you do go off the property, make sure you lock the client’s door and have the key and your cell phone with you.
At the End of the Visit
Save a little time at the end of your half hour to get the dog settled again. Give him a treat if you’re allowed to. Never leave until he’s finished it…in case he chokes on any pieces. And write your visit note. We have an article on pet sitting visit notes here.
Lock-up…and give yourself a pat for doing a good job! Well done!
Until next time…have fun out there!
Other articles in this series…
You’ve Arrived! What’s Next, Pet Sitter? Part 1 – Cats
You’ve Arrived…At Your First Small Animal Pet Sit – Part 2
You’ve Arrived…At Your First Vacation Pet Sit – Part 4