Calm dog reacted negatively during recent sit

I wondered if anyone else has ever experienced something like this.

Our dog is a rescue who has been professionally trained and socialized. She is generally quite calm, friendly and only interested in finding food or pigeons while we walk. However, in the past when we first got her, she was negatively reactive to certain situations due to her past life as a stray on the streets of Kigali. We make this very clear in both our description, pet info, and during online meets with potential sitters.

There are known residual triggers such as skateboarders, kids on scooters, loud/rambunctious groups of kids, fast-moving people in florescent clothing (like runners or cyclists if they pass very close) and some uniformed people like mail people or construction workers. We’re not sure why wheeled objects are such a trigger, but with kids it’s because they used to hit her with sticks and rocks back in Kigali. She was also hit by police who would round up street dogs to kill them.

If you give these situations a wide berth - just by walking a few feet away or crossing the road or standing aside with a shortened leash to let them pass - you don’t even have to worry about the potential of a negative reaction, such as jumping up, growling or anything else. It’s become second nature to us but we always make sure to communicate this clearly when we interview because not all sitters are used to walking a dog in an assertive way.

In June we had our 9th pet sit. Before we left I took the sitter on a walk with our dog, which I always do to make sure they understand things to watch out for - our dog will chase cats, eat garbage & dead animals, etc. so we like to show people how to be aware as well as demonstrate the commands we use.

We were away for a little over 1 week. When we returned we got an email from the sitter letting us know that while she was sitting for us our dog lunged at 3 people at different times. Two were joggers, one a kid on a scooter. She suggested we get a muzzle for our dog, which we did with consultation from our vet who directed us to the Baskerville type.

I’m not sure what to think, because our 8 previous sitters either never had an issue, or possibly never reported any issues back to us. We also have two dog walkers who we use who have never told us about any negative interactions.

I fully take to heart that it’s my responsibility as a pet owner to keep control over my dog and ensure a safe walking environment. But I’m struggling to understand if we just got someone who was very passive and inattentive while walking, or if we should ask future sitters to use a muzzle on our dog (who, in the 2 months since this experience, hasn’t had a single negative reaction while being walked either by me, my husband, or the dog walkers).

I’m afraid that if I mention using a muzzle, sitters may wrongly believe that we have an aggressive or dangerous dog. I’m also afraid of the stigma this might cause while walking. What would you do?


Your dog looks so sweet!

You say yourself that your dog can react to joggers and scooters, so I am not surprised that a Sitter had a similar experience while walking your dog. While walking on a path or sidewalk, often joggers, cyclists, and kids on scooters come up behind me and pass me. There is not much I can do to avoid them, in fact, they scare me sometimes.

The muzzle is your choice, and really would be to protect others. You could simply explain that your dog might lunge at joggers, etc, and it might be a good idea to use the muzzle during walks. It is your decision whether to make it optional or mandatory for your Sitter. I think Sitters would understand if you explained everything as you have done here.


I’m on a sit now where the owner was very clear that the dog was a rescue that was reactive to other dogs and she had a muzzle available. She was also up front and told me some one had bailed on her halfway through a sit because the dog was so reactive to others, Because I had all of the information and the strategies for dealing with it, it has not been a problem. Annoying and a bit frustrating sometimes but I know how to handle it and there have been no surprises and I haven’t had to use the muzzle.


[quote=“stebra, post:1, topic:39574”]
I’m afraid that if I mention using a muzzle, sitters may wrongly believe that we have an aggressive or dangerous dog.[/quote]

If it does turn someone away, that’s a good thing because that means the people it doesn’t turn away are going to be capable of handling your dog’s needs.

I’m also afraid of the stigma this might cause while walking.

I learned an interesting quote:

What other people think of me is none of my business. I suppose it also extends to what other people think of the dog I’m walking is none of my business either.


Your dog is a cutie and I would not hesitate to accept that sit!


@stebra , you’re dog looks so sweet! It’s perfectly OK to state in your listing that the dog is sweet and docile one on one, but you would like him to wear a muzzle on walks as he’s reactive to joggers, scooters and runners. I had a lovely sit with reactive dog who wore a muzzle on walks. Two other dogs I cared for were mad scavengers and wore muzzles on walks to keep them from eating things that were harmful. I agree with @MissChef :


I wish there weren’t such a stigma around muzzles! Though it does encourage other walkers to give your dog the space they prefer :slight_smile:

Baskervilles are one of the most popular basket muzzles, but I just want to throw in a word of caution if you’re planning on taking your dog on long outings while wearing one. They have some heft to them and they have very thin ridges on the inside, which I found caused tenderness on my dog’s snout, behind her nose, where the muzzle rested. You can see what I mean in the attached picture, which is kind of the dog’s view of the muzzle just before putting it on. The background squares are 1" x 1" for scale.

There are other off-brands that don’t have that ridge and aren’t so heavy. They’re lighter because they’re a lot less rigid than Baskervilles, so a dog could pooossibly nip a tiny bit through the muzzle if they were really pushed up against something. That’s a tradeoff I am personally fine with, because I would never let my dog run freely and unsupervised while in the muzzle, and it helps that other walkers do give you more space when they see the muzzle.

It does sound like your June sitter may not have been used to the constant situational awareness you need while walking a reactive dog. I don’t think you’ll have any problems at all if you mention your dog’s reactivity in your listing to start filtering for sitters with reactivity experience. You can peep my listing for an example: my dog is reactive too and I am very up front about that in the introduction section of my listing, again in the Responsibilities section, and always discuss it in the video calls. I don’t have any issues finding great sitters! I even think some would see it as a good thing that you’re aware of your dog’s triggers and have put real effort into keeping everyone safe with muzzling. My sitters have been appreciative of the upfront info, and it has helped us keep our perfect track record for safe walks for both sitter and dog!


I returned once to have a sitter ask me why I didn’t tell her that my dog chased cars. He never has with me before or since - in over ten years! I don’t know the circumstances, or why he was put in a situation where that was a possibility. But I now just ask sitters not to walk him along busy roads, there are other options available. Are you able to suggest a route or time of day that is quieter?

If you do decide that a muzzle is the best option, take time to get her used to it and associate it with good times - not a punishment. Her reactiveness could be a response to stress and a muzzle would add to the stress if it is not carefully introduced.

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True, a muzzle must be introduced gradually. You can find a lot of information on how to do this online

We sat for an ex rescue back in Istanbul who had to have a muzzle later on in her care as she changed behaviour and the owners were worried. White dogs were her nemesis even when tiny. Turks can also be mean to street dogs and sometimes kick and throw stones at them. Layla was a gentle soul, part flat coat, part spaniel and part Heinz 57. She was totally fine with the muzzle and was 6 when it was introduced. I think try it and see and as others said, offer it to sitters as an option. Also, maybe only take sitters who’ve sat for rescues or strays if possible. Best of luck :+1:t3:


How extremely distressing that the sitter did not contact you after the first time this happened, so you could figure out a solution together during the sit (and hopefully avoid the 2nd and 3rd events).

Did you receive this email as you were returning home? Or did you only learn this happened after you’d left a review?

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So speaking as the guardian of a fellow reactive dog…

For context:
My dog is one of the best trained dogs I have ever met. He knows around 60 unique words and phrases…this dog can close doors and climb into roof tents. he can maintain a settle at a restaurant for 1.5-2 hours. He actually also has a solid recall, leave it and you can walk loose lead completely hands free about 90% of the time because he understands heel position and leash pressure. He can walk through construction sites, travels regularly on public transportation and is more patient thrift shopping with me than my human partner.

My dog is also fear-based dog reactive and is triggered by some odd stuff. like window wipers, door bells, PDA and people picking up people…

My two cents:

He has never responded negatively to a person who didn’t antagonise him or me (drunk men being beliigerent and people barking aggressively at him, for example), and I STILL require most sitters to keep him on lead or line, with a harness and collar and muzzle because I’m not there and I don’t care what anyone thinks.

Does he need the muzzle? Probably not, but I have no qualms about having him wear one, especially if it’s going to make someone else feel more confident handling him and make other people think twice before taking up our space and also to remove any doubt that if something were to have grey area, he’s not the one at fault (Breed-specific legislation is a serious thing where we used to live so a dog like mine already is going to be discriminated against because of how he looks).

I think calling out to handlers that your dog is who they are (which it sounds like you’ve done) is also key. I make sure that I stress I want a confident handler that understands what it means to handle a dog like mine and will ask it SEVERAL times during the vetting process.

Side note, but there are tons of reasons why a dog might wear a muzzle. All this to say, don’t feel bad about or apologise for what your dog might need. Safety should always come first and if someone walks away from your sit because your dog wears a muzzle, they’re not the one.


In your place, I’d suggest being transparent in your listings that X number of sitters had had no issues with your dog, but one had experienced lunging. And that you’d consulted your vet and have a muzzle on hand in case prospective sitters might be more comfortable using one with your dog, or in case they need it. That way, whoever applies would self-select for your dog, which is a benefit to a pet — you don’t want a sitter who turns out to be unprepared if you can help it.

Many people who’ve been around animals for a while know they can react differently in different situations and with different people. And cheers for you rescuing your dog from such conditions. BTW, your dog is adorable!

My dog is a rescue, is highly reactive and has many of the same triggers that yours does, plus others. My husband and I are used to walking him and otherwise helping him to avoid or deal with them.

If I saw a listing that was transparent as I described above, it wouldn’t put me off. I’d apply if the sit were otherwise appealing and — key thing — if I thought I could restrain that size or breed of a dog, if triggering happened.


I have had 3 sits with dogs lunging at other dogs and people. None of them are rescues but they still behaved the same as yours. We’ve been able to handle it as I walk with either my husband or two sons and they are strong and can hold them back while I try to distract the dogs and get them to calm down. A little annoying but we could handle situations like that in the future. I could not have handled those as a solo. I’m average build and don’t think I could have held two strong big dogs back. A listing like yours that explained what we are in for and that we should or optional to use a muzzle would not prevent me from applying.

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Hi @stebra.

Welcome and thanks for posting. Your dog was a stray in Rwanda? That’s incredible. Thank you so much for caring for her.

I know the other posters covered most everything. However, what are your thoughts on further training? I’m reading the book “Atomic Habits,” and it’s interesting to read how systematic our habits (good and bad) are. You might be able to reduce some of the residual triggers (occurrence or severity). Also, during such training, you might be able to document the triggers to show future sitters, including how to de-escalate. You seem to be very responsible pet owners, BTW.

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absolutely this…

weed out the ignorant folks while simultaneously allowing for the passive advocation of space…sounds like a win win to me lol.

My dog’s muzzle is neon orange and I’m totally fine with it making people think twice before approach is with their “don’t worry, my dog’s friendly” dogs or taking liberties to pet my dog without my expressed permission.

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Hi Maggie, this is a great suggestion! I am so glad to hear from others who have dogs who react in certain circumstances and understand that this doesn’t mean they are “bad dogs.” I believe that every animal can react negatively given the right (or wrong) mix of conditions, so it’s better to know up front what those are and be honest about it.

Thanks for the great suggestions.


Thank you so much for your reply. You’re totally right - we should do what’s best for our dog and understand that some people may not get it but that’s ok. I’m happy to hear from so many others who can relate and give advice.


It was upsetting to get the email, but I can also understand why the sitter may not have notified us right away… I think they thought we wouldn’t want to have something worrying us while we were gone. But it’s so true that if the sitter had told us after the first instance we could have at least had a phone call to let them know exactly what they need to do. I am going to make sure from now on that I communicate this with sitters and let them know that we want to be notified right away if someone happens. Thanks for the feedback :slight_smile:


Thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it! That sounds very similar to the street conditions in Kigali for dogs. It’s so interesting how dogs take a dislike to certain things - if only they could talk to us!

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Hi Marj, thanks for taking the time to write. We do give sitters a list of good walking routes and I always take them on a walk before we leave to show our normal route. Our trainer told us that even if it feels boring for us, taking our dog on the same route every day is really good because dogs don’t pull as much, have a lot of sniffy updates to take in, and know what to expect.

We have slowly introduced the muzzle at meal times when we feed her through the muzzle one kibble at a time and she seems very fine with wearing it at home for short periods of time. We are planning to integrate it into short walks first and then longer just to be sure she’s used to it. It could be a while other can of worms if sitters tried to put the muzzle on and our dog reacted badly to it so we really want to be sure our dog relates it only with good things!