All employees that work at Park Cities Pet Sitter receive training on dog and cat behavior. Regardless of whether they are part time, full-time or even if they work in the office and don’t see client pets in person regularly. Being the best Dallas dog walkers and pet sitters means we also have to remember that each dog is different, comes from a different background, and unfortunately does not speak English very well. Or not all. Which means our Dallas dog walkers, and the administrative staff that support them have to learn to speak, or more accurately, “read” D-O-G.
Arden Moore, America’s Health & Safety Coach™, is an expert at reading “D-O-G”, and gave our team of Dallas dog walkers some tips to always keep in mind so that we can stay safe, and so that the wonderful dogs in our care can feel as calm and relaxed as possible while we care for them. These tips are great for our amazing staff, but also are important for anyone that comes in regular contact with dogs to keep in mind:
1. Since most dog aggression is actually due to fear or anxiety, it’s essential for professional pet sitters to recognize the signs of fear and anxiety. The more blatant signs of fear are that the dog backs away from you, cowers, or puts its tail between its legs. But dogs exhibit more subtle signs too, such as averting their gaze, yawning, licking their lips, moving in slow motion or acting sleepy when they should be wide awake, and displaying dilated or red eyes. Also be on alert for a slight lifting of the lip or a sudden tense, frozen posture, or uncontrollable shaking, holding their breath, and even drooling in some circumstances. When a dog exhibiting these warning signs is pressured, it can result in a bite. So instead of proceeding with whatever you were doing prior to seeing these warning signs, STOP. Take a deep breath and think through how you are approaching the dog, and figure out a different way of proceeding that might accomplish what you need to do, but doesn’t result in the dog exhibiting these signs of fear and anxiety.
2. Set up a safe, comfortable environment. Many dogs are afraid of unfamiliar dogs and people, and are uncomfortable in new environments. As a result it’s essential to make any new environment as calm and comfortable as possible for such dogs. For instance, veterinary hospital waiting rooms should have enough space or room dividers so that dogs aren’t face-to-face with people or other dogs they may fear. Once a dog’s fear and arousal levels rise, they’ll be more likely to act aggressively if pushed—so finding ways to keep anxiety low from the beginning is the best strategy vs trying to find ways to get a dog that is already stressed to the max to somehow calm down.
3. Make a good first impression by approaching the dog correctly. A head-on (shoulders square to the dog) approach and an outstretched arm, especially combined with a high pitched, excited voice, can force a fearful dog to feel like it has to defend itself. A more appropriate approach is to stand or crouch sideways, avert your gaze, and let the dog approach you to make first contact. Speaking in a happy level voice, when in this position, and tossing multiple small treats can also change the dog’s perception of what you’re up to. Never pet an unfamiliar dog on the head. A more appropriate and polite greeting should be petting the dog under the chin.
4. Avoid hugging or placing your face into the face of an unfamiliar dog. While some dogs may tolerate being hugged, few dogs actually enjoy it. Even a friendly dog may bite when an unfamiliar person invades its personal space in this frightening manner.
5. When possible, avoid holding animals down for handling procedures they dislike. Instead, take the time to train the pet to enjoy it. Forcibly restraining dogs for things like giving them pill should be avoided. Dogs can be trained to enjoy regular handling procedures such as pilling, grooming, toenail trims and often in a very short amount of time — such as a short 5 minute session. The more skilled the handler’s technique at pairing positive experiences with the previously unsavory handling, and the fewer bad experiences the dog has had, the quicker the good behavior can be trained.
6. When restraining or repositioning a dog, make sure you’re supporting the dog well so he feels secure. If you’re placing pressure in the wrong areas or the dog does not feel secure, your handling can actually cause him to struggle and get frustrated, which can escalate to aggression.
While these are just some of the scenarios our Dallas dog walkers receive training on as part of their jobs as pet professionals, they are also great tips for every dog owner and dog lover to keep in mind. If you need an experienced pet sitter near you, give us a call—and tell your friends!