Staying in a new, unfamiliar place can be unsettling for dogs, despite how kind their sitter may be or how welcoming the surroundings are. An anxious dog can quickly become destructive, barking, crying, urinating, refusing to eat and trying to escape. To avoid this, there are steps for both owners and sitters to take prior to the pet stay.
Before the stay
Before the stay begins, there’s plenty to be done in the lead up to avoid furry guests becoming unsettled when the booking finally begins. Both owners and sitters can take measures to reduce anxiety.
Meet & Greet
Having a meet and greet will allow the pet to start bonding with their sitter. When the furry guest is dropped off at a later date, they’ll already recognise their sitter. For a Pet Hosting booking, holding the meet & greet at the sitter’s home will allow the pooch to get used to the sights and smells of their temporary home and avoid them being overwhelmed when their stay starts.
A Practice Run
For longer bookings and particularly in the case of a pet who is known to be anxious, a practice stay could really help. The more time the pet spends at their sitter’s home, the better. A few hours here and there in the lead up to the booking could make a big difference!
Pack it up!
Packing the right bag for a four legged guest is crucial. The more familiar items and smells they have, the less anxious they will feel. A blanket from home or an owner’s item of clothing can be a great comfort whilst they get used to their new environment.
Prepare the space
Sitters can also get prepared for an anxious guest. Making sure their new roommate has a quiet, calm area to retreat to could help during the settling in period. Some pets need time to adjust and somewhere they can escape to away from noise or fussing!
During The Stay
So the pet has been dropped off and is showing signs of being anxious and just can’t settle. What do you, the sitter, do?
Working off excess energy can go a long way to calming a dog who is worked up. Taking him or her out for a walk, allowing them to interact with other dogs and burn off their nervous energy could be all they need to settle. As an additional bonus, walking is an incredible way to bond with a dog, making them feel more comfortable around their sitter.
How do a lot of humans cope with stress? We do something to take our minds off it! The same thing works for dogs. Play with them or, if they’re not comfortable enough to interact with you, give them a treat puzzle to solve or something to chew on. It’s amazing how easily some guests settle
Try to understand that the dog does not know what’s happening and might not immediately understand they they are safe. Talking to them in a normal tone can help them to calm down as they can read your tone and are reassured that there’s nothing to panic about.
Ignore bad behaviour
Just as with puppies who you are teaching right from wrong – try to ignore unwanted behaviours. If you start ‘rewarding’ negative anxious behaviours with attention (even if it’s to tell them to stop) the dog may learn to repeat it. Instead, reward good behaviours like being calm and interacting with you.
Never shout at a dog for peeing or pooping in the house as they will not understand what they’ve done wrong – no matter how guilty they may look – and you will only feed their anxiety and show them that they were right to be frightened. What may look like a guilty dog to us is actually just a scared dog who doesn’t understand why they’re in trouble.
Some dogs settle very quickly into their new environment and almost all will settle after a few hours or the first night. If you continue having problems with a dog who won’t settle and have tried the advice above, you can always reach out to the Mad Paws Team for extra support.