The first time I was asked to do in-house puppy-sitting, I didn’t hesitate to say, "Yes! I love puppies."
Well that was a rookie move, and one day in, I realized it wasn’t going to be like hanging out with Beethoven or Lassie.
I thought it would be just babysitting, except the baby is furry, barks and has to go outside to go potty. I soon learned that with the perks of having a big, family-sized, grown-up house also comes the responsibility of looking after a fully fledged member of that family.
Now with a few years of experience, these are my six nuggets of knowledge and survival tips for keeping your four-legged friend happy, entertained and healthy.
1. Food routines matter.
Unlike you in college, trained puppies can’t just eat whatever whenever. No, not even if it’s off your plate and no one is watching. I used to think that a fed pup is a happy pup who won’t bother me, but that's so not true.
One owner handed me the puppy’s dietary schedule, and I started wishing I was that well taken care of. One of my wards, Pearl, was so well trained that she would come find me at feeding time and lead me back to her bowl. She’d listen when it was treat time, and know that once she was fed she wasn’t to pester me otherwise she’d suffer the consequences.
2. They work out, you work out.
If you’re the lazy, sit-on-the-couch-all-day kind of person, then you’ll be in for it with a puppy. They need to run around all the time. It’s as if stillness makes them want to explode. It’s not just about them being entertained, they need to strengthen their young leg muscles. You have to be there for it all.
Playing fetch isn’t about throwing the chew toy and waiting for it to be returned to you. The reality is, you’ll spend half the time running after the puppy and wrestling for the toy repeatedly. If swimming is involved, you’ll be better off not wearing white because you’re guaranteed a shower with each shake off.
3. Home is home
You might be the human in the equation, but they trump you because it’s their home. With the exception of all the places you’ve been told the puppy can’t go, you have no say in whether your bedroom is their favorite place to be. This will teach you a thing or two about sharing space.
4. Puppy sense works.
Some people will say, "it’s just a dog," but the truth is, they’re able to sense you no matter what age they are. How you treat them comes right back to you in the way they behave toward you. The more you love, the more love you’ll get back in return. Remember, they’re still discovering the world each and every single day, so a little patience will go a long way.
5. They’ll grow on you.
A puppy’s love is strangely addictive, treasure it and feed it. You start noticing when they're not panting at your feet while you sit in the garden or while you are watching TV. At some point, you'll be talking about to your friends like they are people. You can go in with all your defenses, but it’s scientifically proven that dogs generally make people happy; you’ll lose.
6. Their parents love them.
I went in for a personality check with Pearl before I landed the gig of staying with her. To most families with pets, they are members of the family, and they get all the benefits of being loved. If you’re looking to go into dog-sitting as a business, the more the dog likes you the more their parents will like and trust you.
Their parents will do anything for them so you also need to make sure you know everything before you take on the role of a surrogate parent for a while.
A pet is also a great gateway to building human relationships so rather than seeing puppy owners as silly and mushy, see that little creature as a beloved extension.
Whether you’re in it for friendship, money or trying to impress someone with your care taking skills, I promise puppy-sitting is an experience you’ll never get over.
When you start seeing their different personalities shine through, and you hunt through the house for their favorite toy you’ll know you’re hooked on puppy love.