Top Tips On Helping Pet Sitters With Difficult Dogs

Any pet sitter will have had a dog that proves more difficult than usual to manage. If you are in the business of pet sitting, successfully handling difficult dogs comes with the job.

The following tips and suggestions may help you when pet sitting an anxious dog.

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While gathering all that you can from those tips and suggestions, also remember that Protectivity is here to help provide you with the security and reassurance of Pet Sitting Insurance. Safeguards against your public liability, care, custody and control cover, and protection for the equipment you use will give you every confidence in the protection of your pet sitter business.

Managing and handling difficult dogs

Understanding the behaviour of the dogs you sit is a key to their effective and stress-free handling and management. With that in mind, remember that a difficult dog is likely to be an anxious dog – so there are several strategies for reducing their anxiety.

Meeting the owner

Pre Dog Walking AssessmentFirstly, talk to the owner about the dog’s history – are there certain things he or she is fearful of? Maybe other dogs or certain situations? Some (such as rescue dogs) may be fearful if they see someone carrying a broom, for example.

Understanding the things that makes an individual dog fearful will help you gradually build trust with him or her.

Dogs may become anxious because they are unfamiliar with places and the people around them. Don’t rush the process of familiarisation but take it step by step – meeting the owner outside during walks, for example, or making a point to visit when the owner is at home.

Calm anxiety

You can make that experience more appealing for a nervous dog by spraying your legs beforehand with a dog pheromone calming spray – there are a number available online.

Alternatively, reassure an anxious dog by introducing the company of another dog you know to be friendly, sociable, and well-behaved when you go out for a walk together. (As long as you know that the dog you are sitting is comfortable around others).

Look less threatening

When you are introduced to a new dog, be sure to kneel or stoop down to their level. Don’t make direct eye contact but look slightly downwards and away from the animal. Reach out a fist so they can smell you and build their confidence. (Using a relaxed fist saves your fingers getting accidentally nibbled).

Then, if all goes well, reach under their chin, the shoulder, or the side of their chest to start petting. Never reach for their head to stroke it – this can make them fearful.

Use treats

Dog TreatsThe way to an anxious pet’s heart is through their stomach of course – treats such as small morsels of food will always win friends. But choose small pieces – the smellier the better, like tuna or chicken breast – and throw the morsels away from you rather than expecting the dog to have to come towards you to collect them.

You might end up sitting on the floor surrounded by the treats you are offering but that’s fine. Just let the dog find its own way around without you touching or petting it while it eats – leave him or her to enjoy the treats in peace, without feeling trapped by you.

Let the dog know he or she is in control

If a dog is especially nervous or anxious simply sit on the settee and read a book or magazine while you completely ignore the pet even if it approaches you – after a while and at its own pace, the dog will grow accustomed to your presence and feel bolder and more comfortable with you.

Never chase after a dog in its own home – always let it make the first move. Let him or her know that they are in control, and you are not a threat.


When you are running a dog sitting business, you are likely to encounter your fair share of difficult dogs – especially ones that may have originally been rescue dogs.

Knowing how to sit difficult pets is all part of your role and requires some basic understanding of animal behaviour – not least the fact that many dogs will feel anxious when faced with unfamiliar people in a strange setting or environment.

The tips and suggestions we have outlined may help you to break down some of those inevitable barriers and enable you to handle and manage even the most anxious dogs.

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