Navigating challenging senior dog sit

Long-time pet + housesitter here and relatively new to THS.

Currently on a sit looking after an elderly dog and really struggling with it. Unfortunately the HOs misrepresented how challenging it would be. I asked questions in advance to ensure I could adequately cover. I give them the benefit of the doubt that they expected things to be easier.

This poor fellow has diapers and incontinence issues, is on multiple medications that I’m needing to creatively hand feed as his appetite is intermittent, severe separation anxiety so I can’t comfortably leave the house or even go to another part of the house without him becoming seriously distraught. He whines loudly and frequently even despite being given lots of love, attention, food/water, walks, etc. He’s also been waking me up early in the morning so I haven’t been able to get a full nights sleep since I arrived.

The owners had made it sound like the sit would be a breeze but it’s been quite quite stressful. It seems to me like the type of sit that should be paid rather than THS. Or that the dog would be better off in a good boarding situation. His younger sibling is currently being boarded and he could join her and probably be better off for everyone involved.

I’m just trying to figure out how to bring this up with the owners. I am trying to establish a good THS profile here and have 4 perfect reviews so far. I want to avoid jeopardizing that streak and more importantly do what’s right for the dog’s wellbeing and my own.

Has anyone been in this type of situation before? Any advice on how to delicately address this with the HO?

1 Like

There isn’t an easy answer is there. The boarders may not take dogs that are incontinent.
How long are you there for? If it’s only a couple of weeks then maybe there is a different solution. Who were their emergency contacts? Could they give you a few hours off here and there? Do they have a dog walker / dog sitter that they use when they aren’t on holiday?

You could explain how you are feeling to the owners and ask if perhaps their emergency contacts or dog walker could step in for an hour or two each day to help give you a little time off.

Sorry, not much help I know

I think you should diplomatically tell the owners exactly what is happening and that these issues weren’t discussed with you in advance of accepting the sit. Be honest and I would also report it to THS as they have misrepresented what’s involved.
I do feel very sorry for you, which doesn’t help you I know.


I would contact the HO, we were in a similar situation earlier this year. As a HO, we have 2 elderly dogs who have no particular issues, one can sometimes get stressed.
One week in to a 3 week sit, the sitter contacted us to let us know he had gone to the toilet in the kitchen. We genuinely did not know what to suggest, this has never occurred in his life , even as a puppy. I was extremely upset for the sitter and desperate that she knew we had not left out this information.
We worked together to come up with a solution, I will always be grateful to this sitter. Not only for dealing with it so well but for letting us know.
We think we have solved the problem , but for our next sitters I was sure to explain everything that had happened and how we dealt with it.
Please allow the HO the chance to respond and try to help the situation.


Thank you Brodie. Sounds like you handled that unforeseen situation in an incredibly kind and responsible manner. I think this one is also a learning lesson for all involved. I don’t have a ton of experience with senior dogs, have looked after maybe 4, and haven’t encountered these types of issues. But it seems like everyone should recognize that elderly dogs come with more unpredictability and risk of challenges coming up. That said, I think I’ll be more careful in the future to only accept elderly dog car where they have had prior experience (and reviews) with sitters before. This one has not. I’m now in conversation with the HO and taking it one step at a time. Thanks for sharing your experience and helpful thoughts.

Thank you Smiley. I was able to have a text conversation. It sounds like they didn’t foresee these issues but the dog has also not been alone like this before. It seems like the core problem is the extreme separation anxiety. They are trying to get a prescription for sedatives. I still feel so frustrated to be in this position but hopefully will work it out one way or another.


I’ve got 3 more weeks. It’s worst at night and I’m so exhausted by the sleeplessness. I contacted the owners and suggested the boarding option but they want to try obtaining a trazodone (sedative) prescription. They are checking to see if boarding is possible “as a last resort.” Thanks for your good thoughts, I appreciate it.


Ask the HO to contact their vet and get some Trazadone for the dog. It is has been miracle drug for my own elderly and anxious dog.

1 Like

Thanks Victoria, good to hear. Yes the owner asked their vet for a prescription and will see. I’m concerned about that being an adequate solution for the next 3 weeks and worried about side effects, but will take it one step at a time.

Trazadone is really well tolerated by most dogs. My 32 pound mutt (14) is prescribed up to 100 mgs a day but just 25 mgs every night has been a miracle for both of us. She had severe night time anxiety and was up and down off the bed all night. Good luck

That’s so great. This guy is on several other medications for other health issues so his vet will just need to make sure it’s right for him. Hopefully so.

Poor baby. He not only misses his family, but the other dog too! I don’t know what your plan was for during the sit, if you are in a town you want to check out, if you are working from home or what, but there is a middle ground between the kennel and you. Maybe there is someone, a doggie daycare, a paid local sitter they’ve used, etc who could at least offer some releif so you could have some time off. You can negotiate on this with the HO, assure them you aren’t going to leave, but let them know, you didn’t expect to have to be there 24/7. Don’t worry for now about reviews or perfect record. You have your previous reviews and you’ll be fine.


I would imagine she’ll get an excellent review

Well done and sounds like the owners are at least concerned for you. It seems you’ve handled the conversation with them very well, although by text. I see you have another 3 weeks….You will certainly deserve an excellent review at the end.


I know, poor thing. His owner told me this morning he’s never been apart from her or the family before like this. So it’s no wonder he’s been so distressed, especially when I leave too. I’m from this area so able to be mostly a homebody but still need to leave for things like groceries and errands. I took him with me in the car yesterday and that worked out better. I’ll make special arrangements if I need to go out anywhere I can’t take him. The HOs definitely didn’t foresee this level of anxiety and are looking into trazodone medication or boarding him as a last resort. They have been sympathetic and understanding so far. I trust we’ll work it all out in a good way. No longer worried about review (as part of the whole big set of combined worries!) now that I’ve broached the subject and we’re working together to resolve. Thanks for your good thoughts :pray:


Just curious, have they discussed bringing the other dog back? He might be less anxious if the other dog was there.

That’s such a good thought. I wish that were possible for both of them. I met the other dog briefly and she was such a sweetie too! But she is doing a training program while boarding so she’s gotta stick with her plan.

1 Like

We moved a post to its own new topic, as it was off topic for this thread. You can find it here: New sitter seeking advice