Help and advice appreciated

I am seeking some guidance from experienced house sitters. We are currently minding two dogs and a cat for a 3+ month sit. Both the dogs and the cat are wonderful and are quite happy to sit and cuddle all day if we allowed them too. We have a problem however when walking the dogs. One dog is a large dog and is a stud dog. He is not trained in any way, shape of form, and does not respond to any verbal commands. This has been problematic when we walk him. When we are on the street alone, he is fine, although he does pull a little until he becomes tired. But as soon as he sees another dog or person, he becomes extremely forceful. If we cannot avoid these situations, then when we pass, he appears to become very excited. I do not think he would do any harm, but the people he is passing, and their dogs don’t know that. He pulls like billy-oh and would jump/lunge if we let him.

He wears a harness and a strong lead, which as we approach others I shorten, and I further hold the handle on the harness. Despite this, he still can pull me around and it is difficult to keep him off the other people / dogs.

When we researched the sit there were there had been two previous sitters. One had not left a review (in hindsight this may have a been deliberate as they didn’t want to leave a negative review), the other left a glowing report and how much fun it was to walk him. This review just cannot have been true, and they sat only a few months before us, and the dog would not have changed so much, so quickly.

It has now reached the stage where no matter where we walk him, we can’t avoid these situations, and walking him is now becoming very stressful, and without some help I am unsure if I can continue to walk him daily for another three months. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.


Oh boy, what an unpleasant situation. Maybe you should ask the owners how they handle it? And ask if they’ve ever tried a gentle leader. These work great on some (but not all) dogs. If they approve, you could buy one and the owners could reimburse you.

Do they have a fenced-in yard? Maybe he could run around in there so you wouldn’t have to walk him?


Hi there

First off, sorry about that. A couple of years ago, we discovered some unpleasant aspects of a sit with multiple dogs and knowing we would have to deal with it for 3 months didn’t feel great but we did get through it. Not the same sorts of issues though so can’t share any tips based on that.

This experience was one of the main catalysts for being much more discerning regarding which dog sits we accept, and in all honesty, I would be very reluctant to accept any long terms sits that have dogs since there is a greater chance of problems coming to light that were not anticipated, whether the owner left out important information --not necessarily on purpose–, the animal just acting differently with sitters, etc…

We have dealt with dogs that were difficult to walk on the leash for similar reasons, and it was not anticipated. My husband is really good with dogs, especially bigger dogs, and he did commit to trying to train them himself–nothing extensive mind you, but he was diligent in performing certain actions and handling the dog in certain ways that did improve the experience and made it easier to walk them. The effort paid off.

Researching methods that may help may sound like obvious advice not worth mentioning; but the reason I do so is because as sitters, it is easy to fall into the trap of being upset that things aren’t going the way we want, feeling like the owners did not disclose certain information, etc… and we ‘shouldn’t’ have to be dealing with these problems, so we aren’t as open to doing things that may help because we feel like we shouldn’t even be in that position in the first place. Not suggesting this is your mindset, but just a general idea I wanted to share. It’s not your job to train their dog, but making an effort to do so is for your benefit, even if there is just a small improvement.


Hello @Skeldale - sorry to hear you’re having these issues with the big dog. We had similar with a Saluki in Holland who nearly dislocated shoulders and pulled me flat on my face on the road! (We’re both used to big strong dogs too and have working labs in the family). A few thoughts. Definitely ask the HO for advice and explain what’s happening as they know better than anyone. As he’s a stud dog he will be full of testosterone and “keen” on all dogs as potential new loves through no fault of his own. Does he have anything at home that they use to stimulate him? (Sorry too much detail but breeders have this so they can work off some of that unwanted energy which would help when you then walk outside) if not, discuss with HOs as a potential purchase. Is there a time to walk him when there are no other dogs around as in super early or super late just to avoid the confrontations altogether? Is there a whole new walking route possibly? Can you take snacks with you to distract him if he’s that kind of dog? They’re some of the things that might help, hope it improves. Been there and feel your pain! :flushed:


I feel your pain. We had the same situation in Barcelona. Our solution was to walk the dog at 6am when there is hardly anybody around. And then again around 10pm.
It made for a much more enjoyable walk.


You seemed to have tried different tactics, but here’s a couple more. Choose a time of day to walk him when people aren’t around, and have treats in your pocket (or even his dog food/meal biscuits) and then as soon as you get a glimpse of another dog take a treat and put it in your hand to side-track his brain, and don’t give him it until just after the other dog has passed by, but only when he is calmer.


Nobody else has mentioned this but, did the owners make you aware of this situation? If not, they certainly should have then you may not have applied in the first place.


@Skeldale I had the same thought as @Smiley Did the owners warn you about this reactive behaviour in advance? If not then they have knowingly put you in a challenging and stressful situation which is not fair. And 3 months is a long time to have to deal with this kind of stress.
I would approach the owner directly and explain whats happening. Ask for advice and suggestions how to manage the situation. And maybe some of the other commenters tips can be helpful too- in this sit or for future.
But if the situation becomes really intolerable or unmanageable I would, in your shoes, be inclined to find a way out of the sit. We had to do that once- for different reasons. We managed to cut a 10 week sit down to 6 (stressful!) weeks. We discussed with the owners and THS and gave 3 weeks notice, and even offered to do a handover to other sitters. There are always solutions. Don’t suffer unnecessarily.


urgh! We’ve been there before. 2 big labradors, one absolutely explosive (and BIG) and would hate all other dogs. As soon as a dog would appear, she would literally explode. We only sat them for 2 days and had another sit planned 2 days later (so 5 days total with a gap of 2 days in between). We never regretted so much agreeing to pet sit twice for the same person. We trapped ourselves in the bedroom as the 2 dogs were barking forever. We just had the worst time ever.
Dogs pulling and not doing well with other dogs is a nightmare. I would (for a Long sit) either walk them super early when nobody is around (if possible) or talk to the owners. I strongly believe some owners think dogs pulling is a cute and normal behaviour. When you pet sit multiple doggies, and realise not all them are pulling, you realize quick enough that not sits are created equal.
My only advice, if you were to finish that sit, would be to change your schedule completely to avoid others. I know this can mean very early, but I just couldn’T imagine a long sit with a pulling dog.

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Definitely ask the owner about how they handle this. If you have no success, watch a few TV episodes of Dogs Behaving Very Badly. The Dogfather has great techniques for changing this behaviour in nearly every episode. Good luck!

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Thank you everyone for your support and advice, we will give all of your suggestions a go. I am sure we will get there in the end.


I would also endorse the gentle lead, we used one with our Rottweiler and it completely stops the pulling as they don’t like their head jerked around. I can’t imagine that HO’s would object and may even thank you.

We have had a couple of experiences like this with large dogs going ballistic when they see another dog when out walking on a lead. What I learnt to do was to always be aware of where the nearest tree, pole or light post was, anything that I could quickly take a turn around with the lead when this situation arose, which makes it much easier to hold them still. It’s very important that you stay calm and relaxed while this is happening otherwise it gives the dog more reason to be reacting. I got to where I would spot an oncoming dog before they did, took a turn around a nearby pole etc, then waited patiently until the ruckus had died down before proceeding. No yelling, no scolding and certainly no pats, just pretend nothing has happened and walk on. It worked really well and was certainly a lot less stressful for me. Hope that helps :+1:


That’s a great idea with a large dog, the tree or pole thing. I’ll keep that in mind.

Personally, I accept sits only with dogs I think I can control, even if it turns out their humans didn’t reveal that the dogs were reactive — I consider size and breed. That’s in my interest, as well as the dog(s). It can’t be good for any pet to repeatedly go nuts, health wise, stress wise.

I have a highly reactive dog of my own and stay situationally aware when we walk. We go where and when it’s not busy and I steer him away from potential triggers, such as other animals.

What I’ve noticed: Situational awareness isn’t something everyone is good at, even with prolonged exposure. Like my husband isn’t — I’ll always see potential triggers before he does or see ones he doesn’t see at all. I mention that, because some sitters will be better at it than others. Some also will have a calmer personality even in stressful situations, which animals can pick up on.

You can ask Qs, but it can be hard to suss out sitters who aren’t good at it. Some will self-select out if pet owners identify their dogs as reactive — that’s the best scenario.

I’d bet some lie or hide such, just so they can get a sitter. That’s some screwed up pet owners, IMO. Like when we leave our dog, we make sure to leave him with professionals who know how to keep him safe and not unnecessarily scare or harm other pets or humans. That’s part of the responsibility of having pets.


@Maggie8K you are right about situational awareness! I work in a school for children with special needs. Many have very challenging behaviour and last year I spent a lot of time in one such class. You need to be able to “read the room” to spot what might be about to happen and intervene before it happens or escalates. Some staff never develop that ability.


I did a house sit with pets that couldn’t tell the time and woke me at stupid o’clock. I found out the night beforehand from the HO that this was normal behaviour. So three days into a long sit I asked the owners if I could train their pets a bit and teach them some things and they were fine with it. In the end I made a video with the pets showing them how to use the commands (at the HO request).

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@Debbie, interesting how such skills cross into various parts of life and work.

I sometimes coach senior managers or execs who run into career ceilings, because they can’t read the room. And a couple of times, I could tell that my husband and I were being sized up by (potential) criminals on the street — a pair in each case. Meanwhile, my husband had no idea and I had to clue him in.

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@CatsIAdore don’t know what it is recently but I think cats have currently SET their alarms for stupid o’clock :flushed: Being woken at ridiculous hours, pitch black, meowing, sitting on me and if that fails to make me want to play, a paw on the face. Not happy Jan! (Aussies will get that pun lol)

Aww, that makes me appreciate the cat I just finished sitting in London even more. He was sweet and charming and kept normal hours. When he wanted attention, he’d tap with a gentle paw and meow politely. Miss the little fella.


Best ad ever. I lived in Australia during the Not Happy Jan era.