Acceptable questions to ask HOs about dogs?

My partner and I have been thinking of what questions to ask so that we get an honest idea of dog behaviour on sits. For us, none of these questions would rule a house-sit out (especially if it’s just one dog). It’s just about getting a full picture of what we’re signing up to and making sure we can provide all of the animals at the sit the care and attention they need.

Now that we’ve written them down, I’m worried HOs might be offended by some of these questions and not offer us the sit.

HOs, how would you feel about a sitter asking these questions during interview?

Sitters, any other suggestions?

  1. Is your dog house-trained yet, or should we expect messes indoors? How will they let us know they if they want to go outside?
  2. Does the dog have good recall? Will it come back inside from the garden? Will it come back if it’s chasing a squirrel?
  3. If the dog’s recall isn’t perfect, are you happy that we will be walking it on the lead? Is the dog used to walking on the lead?
  4. Does the dog ever fixate on certain objects in the house? Do you have a way to calm them down if they are fixating?
  5. Has your dog ever bitten anyone? What happened?
  6. Does your dog tend to jump up at people? Will they respond to a ‘down’ command if they are jumping up?
  7. Does your dog sleep through the night?
  8. How does your dog react to delivery people and your cleaners? Do you have any tricks to help calm them down if necessary?
  9. Will your dog sit and wait for it’s food, or will they want to get it from our hands?
  10. What sort of strokes does your dog like? Are they any types of cuddles or strokes that they don’t like?
  11. Has the dog ever run away? What happened?
  12. (If relevant) Will the dog try and get hold/hunt of your cats? How vigilant do we need to be at keeping them separate?
  13. Have your dogs ever fought with each other (or other dogs) to the extent one of them was hurt? What happened?
  14. Are there any types of dogs that your dog is reactive to or scared of?
  15. Are the dogs/cats safe to be left alone in a room together? How long could you leave them alone for without worrying?
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Just a sitter’s opinion here @second_star; I only bother with 1 and 7 whilst at video call stage. Maybe 5 if I have concerns with the breed or type.
If you mean after being selected, then it’s good to get as much info that you feel you need of course.

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One I always ask - is the dog spayed/neutered. If they come in to season it can make for a very interesting sit!

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We had a dog come into her first season one day into the sit! It was interesting indeed…luckily she was so gorgeous that we quickly got over it.

We try to ask open ended questions instead of yes/nos.
Stuff like: What is your dog’s routine?
What types of exercise do they get?
Where might they hide or how much they react if they are feeling anxious?
What activities do they enjoy?
What commands have they mastered? Which ones are they still working on?

These questions tend to give home owners a better avenue to disclose different details that they feel are relevant and can make them feel more comfortable. It also opens a dialogue that does allow us to ask follow up questions like Are there situations that might make them reactive? Have they had to go the vet for any reason in the past year? and other y/n questions.

We always ask if they are spayed/neutered if it hasn’t been included in the listing.

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All good observations. I like the response from @CoolCatAunt. But also, for us, sleeping is very important. So we would ask if the dogs sleep in their own beds? Do they wake up or have to be let out during the night? What time do they wake up?

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Oh yeah, we always ask What does their sleeping routine look like? if they don’t include that in the regular routine. We’ll follow up with questions like, Where do they sleep? What time do they wake up to go potty? And stuff like that.

Good question - that info wasn’t volunteered on a sit I did and we found out very quickly so definitely a question to ask!

@second_star as a new HO to the community I think those are great questions. Honestly, we wouldn’t be put off or offended by any question that would make your sit experience better. I find asking questions about pets, training, routines etc. Shows you want to make the sit situation as smooth as possible for you and the pets.

Everyone will have different questions and different things that are important to them for a sit. As the HO will have different questions for the sitter. I think if either side of put off by any of the questions then that’s a sign that maybe it’s not a good fit.

Having not even had someone sit for us yet I would think that if both sides are comfortable with each other’s questions - no matter how big or how small - that’s a good start to a successful sitter/HO experience all around.

Just my 2 cents!

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I think your questions show genuine desire to know as much as possible in order to do the best job you can! I am a sitter but if I was a host I would appreciate such attention to detail- you sound very committed. If a host takes offence to your questions I’d be suspicious they have something to hide! Everything should be transparent- we don’t want any unpleasant surprises- but we still have them occasionally anyway!
An important question we always ask is where do the dogs sleep? Some hosts have the dogs sleep in their bedroom- if the dogs have their own beds that is sometimes OK for us- if the dogs are small, or calm and don’t try to jump up on our bed. But dogs that need to sleep ON the bed are a no go for us and especially if they sleep IN the bed under the covers!!!:woozy_face: We turn down sits where we are required to keep to a sleeping routine we’re not comfortable with. One recent sit we did the dog slept IN the bed with the host (eek!) but the host were absolutely fine with us closing our door to keep the dog out. And the dog was really OK with that- it did not seem in any way distressed by the change and we were there a week.
So do what makes you feel comfortable, ask all the questions and don’t undersell yourself. If the host rejects you because of questions who cares! You are offering a valuable service and if something is not right - from either side- its better not to proceed (I speak from experience!!:woozy_face:) The next great sit is just around the corner!

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Excellent response and we have a note on our profile that we do not accept sits where the pets sleep in the bedroom.
We have had one occasion where a small dog slept in her bed on the landing outside the bedroom door which was left open so she could see us and that was fine. On another occasion a dog slept in his bed in the bedroom but kept padding about in the night on the wooden floors which wasn’t great for a good night’s sleep.
Some sitters are happy with pets in the bedroom and some homeowners expect it but as long as we continue to communicate our preferences hopefully all will go well.

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As a HO, I’d be thrilled if a sitter asked me all of those questions. It would show a deep level of interest and understanding and it would give me confidence in their abilities.

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Also important are:

scoping the benchtops/tables for food or items and resource guarding (becoming overly aggressive over and item/food if you try to take it off them)
Separation anxiety

Find out who their playdate/friends are (if they have any) and arrange to have a couple of playdates at the dog park or yard/s to alleviate any boredom/anxiety etc…

Bloat is really important to understand too with deep chested dogs/large dogs, make sure you rest them half an hour before and half an hour -an hour after food, not too much water at once after a big run around (though that goes for most dogs anyway).
Depending on the country, parasites, ticks etc… keep on top of those.

The older the dog, the more on your guard you need to be.
Hope this helps.

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This a very long and old thread, exactly a year ago that has great points of interest in things about pets in general one may need to know and ask better questions.

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I’m a HO with 3 dogs and it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest what you asked me about them…… our reviews pretty much show what our dogs are like with other sitters anyway :blush:

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It may appear very long as if you were a little scared by the responsability
Sum up, may be, asking 5 ou 6 questions

  • Behaviour ( with cats, other dogs, people, strangers, sitters, barks, likes to stay alone how long maximum, etc)
  • Routine (walks, meals, sleep where)
    -health (under medication ? Vet clinic near by? Owner’s avcount)

It’s an idea, you could keep your questions during a chat.
And careful not to ask an owner questions which are already answered in his listing…

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Love this thread @second_star ! Thanks for jumping on the prompt.

I came to dogs somewhat late in life, and I’ve had a lot of experience with them now, but this list will be really helpful with some of my blind spots going forward. Cheers!

Ugh. An un-neutered dog is an absolute deal breaker.

I’d ask about barking and whining, when someone is there and when not at home. Also – very important --if the dog “pulls” (especially, obviously, if a larger dog). I’ve sat some dogs that were lovely ‘at home’ but where I risked injury walking them.

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As another HO, I agree with those who have said they would welcome any of these questions! It shows me that you really know a lot about dogs and are making sure that my particular dogs are a good fit for you.

It also gives me an opportunity to address anything that might be a concern for you that doesn’t need to be. Maybe the dogs’ routine can be changed a bit while we’re away, or I could set up something differently in the house, or I could work on changing a particular behavior that would bother you, etc.

So yes, please ask anything and everything!

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