Posts Tagged ‘dog boarding’

My latest boarder is a goldendoodle named Rosie. She’s at least twice as big as my own dog, a mystery breed named Sugar.  They got into a spat within 60 seconds of Rosie coming into the house.

Her owner and I had introduced the two in neutral territory, a park. We walked them for 20 minutes or so, close enough to see each other but not interact beyond a bit of sniffing. When Rosie arrived at my house a few days later, I put her in the back yard. Sugar already was there. It’s big, so dogs have plenty of room to avoid each other if they want.

All this went well, but I knew that Sugar’s possessiveness over the house, me and the cat could trigger trouble. Anxiety from owners and caretakers can aggravate these situations. So I waited until Rosie’s owners drove off, took a couple of deep breaths and then let the two dogs inside.

Rosie immediately found a tennis ball I hadn’t seen under a piece of furniture. She let me take it from her, but as I was putting it up out of reach, she and Sugar turned into a snarling, grappling, teeth-bared bundle of canine chaos right at my feet.

Standing over them and yelling would likely have no effect or just get them even more worked up. So I walked out of the room. Within seconds, they broke off to run after me, probably wondering the same thing: Where is she going? What is she doing?

They got into it again the next morning, when both crowded up to the door I was coming through after running errands. Again, I walked away. They broke it up.

They didn’t hurt each other, but they seriously unnerved me. Their fights were mostly for show, a way of communicating with each other and letting off some steam. But I didn’t want it to ratchet up into a fight.

Sugar and rosie

Sugar (left) and Rosie

Internet research on how to stop a dog fight reveals advice ranging from impractical to dangerous. Slide or drop a piece of plywood between them. Grab one dog by the hind legs and “wheelbarrow” her away from the other. In really serious fights, jam a hammer handle into a dog’s mouth to break its hold on the other (try not to break any teeth), or loop a leash around its neck and twist to cut off its breathing until it lets go.

The best advice was to know what might trigger conflict and arrange to avoid those situations. So I keep all toys and food bowls out of reach. They’re fed in separate rooms. At night, Sugar is kept behind the shut bedroom door with me, while Rosie can roam the house. During the day, I remain calm but watchful around them. Quickly removing myself, my attention and my anxiousness might have kept their spats from escalating into serious fights.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that will work with other dogs, or even work another time with these two. When it comes to dog behavior, there are no guarantees at all.

Within an hour of that first spat, Sugar invited Rosie to play. Rosie didn’t respond then, but the next day she invited Sugar to play. When they start play tussling, I watch for signs they might be getting too worked up. If the play growling gets too loud or the nipping too vigorous, I  interrupt them with an invitation to go out, or call from another room to come get a treat. They have to sit calmly first.

Then I take another few deep breaths, take them for a walk and visualize them flopped out afterwards, peacefully snoozing.









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TeddySamson, the dog in the picture, seemed to have the qualities I wanted in a dog. When his kennel attendant brought him to a visiting room to meet me, all he wanted was to climb into her lap and smother her face with sloppy dog kisses. He was calm, friendly, submissive and affectionate. He’d done well with other dogs in play groups.

That was critical, because I board dogs for my pet-sitting customers in my home, cage-free. They have the run of the house and the back yard. I book dogs from only one customer at a time, which generally means only one dog, although one customer does board two dogs here.

I was set to bring Samson home. I’d even picked out a new name for him, since the name Samson didn’t fit his smallish size and eager-to-please demeanor. He would be called Teddy because, like a teddy bear, he was a cuddler. But the night before, I did some research on pit bulls, and was sorry I did.

Many of the websites about them are rife with hysteria and fear. Having known half a dozen pit bulls belonging to friends, neighbors and customers, I knew they were not the demon dogs they’d been made out to be.

But even the reliable sources of information issued a caution about leaving a pit bull unsupervised with another dog. A friendly pit bull might not start a fight, but that wouldn’t matter. Once started, the pit bull would not back down or stop.

There was no way to justify taking even a remotely small risk with my customers’ pets. Reluctantly, I had to pass on Samson or any other pit bull.

Samson is a terrific dog who’s been at the Humane Society Calumet in Munster, Indiana since June 2015. He arrived as a skinny stray. Now he’s a neutered male, 2 years old, about 35 pounds. Someone will be very lucky to get him.




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One of the hardest things to do as a pet sitter is turn down business. Until recently, I had never said no to a potential customer unless he or she told me their dog had bitten someone.

That’s an obvious, easy call. No second-guessing there. But this month there’ve been three occasions when alarm bells went off, once with a dog and twice with owners.

My boarding service is a little different. It’s in my home. No cages are used, and I take dogs from only one customer at a time. The customer’s dog (or in one case, pig!) stays with me, my dog and my cat as if he lives here. That means the run of the house and backyard, getting up on the furniture if the owner allows that at home and an extra dog rushing to the front door when someone arrives.

On that basis, my pets and I have hosted dogs of all sizes and age without any problem – until we met Jube.

She’s a female shepherd mix with issues regarding other dogs. She hadn’t bitten, so her owner brought her to the house for the meet-and-greet with me and my dog, Brownie, that every new customer does before any boarding is scheduled.

The first five minutes went fine. Then Jube’s owner bent down to pat Brownie. Jube erupted in a fit of jealousy and attacked Brownie. After a long and scary 10 seconds, we managed to get the snarling animals away from each other before anybody got hurt. No boarding for Jube!

The next situation involved a woman who called and said she had lost her apartment (through circumstances that sounded odd and vague), was living with her boyfriend’s mother, that her dog was kept in the garage and she needed a place for him until she could get settled elsewhere.

This sounded like a situation where I might end up with a dog dumped on me after the owner failed to come back for it. Her life wasn’t stable right then and her explanations raised more questions than reassurance.

I’m pretty booked up, I told her. It will be a long while (never) before there’s an opening.

Then a man called wanting a one-week stay for his 95-pound dog. That’s more than twice Brownie’s size. I didn’t consider it a problem until I asked him whether his dog got along with other dogs.

She’s very dominant, he said, but she’s never actually bitten another dog. The alarm bells started to go off.

Has she gotten into fights with any dogs, I asked. “Nothing terribly violent,” he answered.

That did it. I pictured myself explaining to Brownie’s vet that the dog who injured her hadn’t been terribly violent. It didn’t sound good.

So we passed on that job, too. The customer understood.

It might have cost us much-needed income, but the peace of mind is priceless.

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