How do other sitters handle the situation in which a HO/PO indulges and even encourages bad habits in their pets?

I was thinking about a recent sit I had in which the HO told me to ignore the fact that her dog eats everything it sees on walks. She even put it in her Welcome Guide but didn’t mention it when we met during our IRL meet and greet. I was so stressed out on our walks (3x day)! She had a nose that could detect bits of food clear across the park and as soon as she caught the scent, she’d pull me toward it. My arms and shoulders were sore during the entire sit. But even more concerning was the danger of her eating something that would make her sick or worse, kill her.

I’ve had dogs all my life and my instinct was to always try to make her drop it, but she would growl, snap and try to bite me when I tried to stop her from eating things off the ground. It really bothered me that this behavior was being tolerated. I doubt I’ll apply for another sit with this family. Other than that one issue, it was a great sit.

How do you all handle situations like this, where HO/PO’s have indulged and encouraged bad habits that endanger their pets?>

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What kind of dog?
I used to work for a charity that rescued English Springer Spaniels in Scotland - yes only Springers, about 100 a year for the last 10 years.
Most of them had some kind of problem, and what you describe above was common. They are very prey driven, trained to smell, search etc and this often comes through in everyday walks.
I actually ended up adopting one of these, he was the friendliest, calmest dog at home, but as soon as we got outside, his nose was into everything - I had him for just over 5 years and NEVER let him off the lead, I knew he would just go and find something to eat.


She was some sort of hound mix. The way her nose controlled her life she definitely had a lot of scent hound in her DNA. She wasn’t prey driven; she ignored the many squirrels and rabbits we encountered on our walks. Her nose sought any edible morsel, even when buried in grass and silt.

Depending on how long we are on a sit, we try and do our best to correct pets’ bad behavior, and many pet owners thank us for it. We have looked after many dogs that also eat everything on their walk. One dog got sick from eating moose droppings, among other things, and it was not a pretty picture… Another dog ate every piece of paper and tissue he encountered. After we left, the owners told us he ate snail bait, almost died, but luckily survived. We were relieved it did not happen on our watch.!
We are always on the lookout, we say “leave it” firmly and pull them tight on their leash. Walking dogs who eat everything is hard work!
We also trained kittens and cats not to jump on kitchen counters and tables by spraying them with water, clapping our hands and saying “down”. It takes time, repetition and consistency. It is all in how we suggest to pet owners that their pets’ behavior could be improved to prevent illnesses and injuries.


We used spraying water on a dog on our last sit to discourage it from stealing things from kitchen benches, but the owners had a couple of dog training books that were discouraging any negative consequences so we were a bit wary of telling the owners this. We did tell them about mixing a vinegar lemon & chili spray to stop him chewing things.
It’s difficult to know how much training to do with dogs on a short sit. Lots of dog owners have allowed bad habits. In fact we haven’t had many dogs that I’d call well trained.

I’m new to this forum. Have there been discussions on tips for training pets?

This is a hard one, if they are “off lead dogs” it’s hard as they could have already got to the said food before you are even aware, thankfully we have not had dogs that “eat anything” off lead, however have had a few “on lead” just like we make them stop at the curb and wait to cross the Road, if we see the food we will keep them walking, we had one who spent most of the day sitting at the “treat” cupboard door when ever we were inside… we felt sad for the Dog. I would ask lots of questions and keep a really close on the Dog and potentially not sit it again. The Dog that was food obsessed stressed me out, it ever drank the Coffee dregs from the Machine, we don’t drink Coffee so the smell was never there and interestingly the Dog seemed fine that there was no Coffee. x