In-House Dog Sitters: 22 DOs and DON’Ts Meeting a New Dog

19 Nov, 2023

In-House Dog Sitters: 22 DOs and DON’Ts Meeting a New Dog

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In-house dog sitter Kelly Hayes-Raitt shares the tips she’s picked up greeting hundreds of dogs around the world.

In-House Dog Sitters:

22 DOs and DON’Ts for Successfully Meeting a New Dog

#22 Will Rock Your Dog-Sitting World!

By Kelly Hayes-Raitt

When you are an in-house dog sitter, you need to establish your relationship with your new furry charge quickly and successfully. Not only does this make your house sit happy and your new companion comfortable, it eases your homeowner’s mind.

pawshake between dog and human
Meeting a dog for the first time is an important meeting

Photo by Pawtography Perth

How you and the dog first meet each other sets the tone for your relationship throughout your in-house dog sit.

A threatened or frightened dog could cower, growl, become aggressive and/or bite you…not a good start for your in-house dog sit!

Here are 22 top tips for greeting your new fur-buddy, specifically tailored to in-house dog sitters:

Dogs Just Gotta Have Space

1. DON’T pat the dog on the head.

Just as you wouldn’t greet a new coworker by ruffling his hair, don’t assume your new dog wants his ears scratched before getting to know you. It makes dogs nervous when a stranger passes her hand over his head and starts touching him.

2. DON’T loom over the dog.

It’s our human nature to greet a new dog by moving forward to offer friendly pats. But to a dog, a stranger bigger than him coming forward and trying to touch his face poses a threat.

3. DON’T lean into his face.

Resist the urge to cup that cute little snout and rock it back and forth. It’s invasive and makes a dog feel trapped.

4. DON’T stick your hand in front of a dog’s face for him to smell.

As an in-house dog sitter, you need to remember that dogs have incredible senses of smell and can detect you just fine from a few feet away. If the dog is particularly nervous, sticking your hand in his face invites a nip!

5. DON’T make direct eye contact.

Direct eye contact – particularly staring – threatens a dog. That head-rocking move? It’s usually accompanied by too much direct eye contact.

dog with raised paw
Engage with the dog if you can

Photo by Camylla Battani

6. DON’T do a full-body hug on your first date.

In-house dog sitters should always remember that dogs, like humans, need their personal space. Respect his boundaries – especially during the first interaction.

7. DON’T be loud and squeaky.

Cooing over that cute little puppy in high-pitched tones just makes him more jumpy and nervous!

Dogs Need Predictability

8. DON’T make sudden movements.

Sudden, unexpected movements can upset your in-house dog sitting charge, making the greeting a lot less pleasant for both of you.

9. DON’T play with his ears, snout or tail.

These delicate areas are too invasive for a first greeting! Dogs use their noses to say hello, so grabbing his snout is like introducing yourself to a stranger by assaulting her from behind and covering her face.

Maintain Control During Your First In-House Dog Sitter Meeting

10. DON’T force interactions.

You should be a gentle invitation. Let the dog gain confidence by coming to you at his own pace. Kinda like a first date, eh?

11. DON’T overstimulate the dog.

Lots of big movements, loud noises, and over-fussing can easily overwhelm a dog and lead to barking, jumping and other anxious behaviors….Not a good start to your in-house dog sit!

12. DON’T encourage bad behavior like jumping.

If your new dog jumps on you, turn away or take a step back to disengage with him. Calmly instruct the dog to “sit.” This teaches the dog that he will not get attention if he behaves poorly. Once he calms down and sits, give him praise – and perhaps a treat!

DOs for Greeting a New Dog

Now that we’ve outlined the DON’Ts for greeting your new in-house dog sitting companion, let’s outline how you can successfully win over your new dog at the very first meeting:

13. DO calmly allow the dog to come to you.

Especially when you are on his turf, let the dog determine the pace of the greeting. Be patient and let him approach you on his terms.

14. DO present your body slightly sideways.

This posture is less threatening to a dog who doesn’t know you and helps him feel more at ease.

15. DO step back and invite the dog to you with open palms.

Avoid making loud noises, such as thumping your thighs, clapping or issuing squeaky appeals.

16. DO stay calm, quiet and gentle.

A composed and confident demeanor helps your in-house dog companion feel more at ease. Be the kind of person you would want to approach!

17. DO look at the dog with your peripheral vision.

Or look at him off to the side of his head. Avoiding direct eye contact helps him feel more comfortable and less threatened.

Once the Dog Approaches You, Strengthen the Bond 

18. Once the dog comes to you, DO gently stroke his back or side (not his head).

Start with gentle petting on these less sensitive areas to start bonding with your in-house dog sitting companion.

19. DO pause after a few strokes to allow the dog a break – or to lean in more.

The dog should decide how this first meeting goes! Surprisingly, this will inevitably put you in charge as you build a trusting bond between you.

20. DO stay relaxed and confident.

Dogs love attention and once they know they can be comfortable with you, they will naturally approach you.

21. DO use treats.

I mean, I respond well to chocolate! Treats are a great way to reinforce positive behavior and reward the dog when he sits, obeys your commands, and remains calm. Ask your homeowners ahead of your arrival to have their dog’s favorite treats ready for your first meeting.

I often ask dogs to sit before I throw a ball for them; the ball-throwing is their “treat.”

This Tip Will Forever Change Your In-House Dog Sitting Experiences!

22. DO recognize that whoever goes through the door first is alpha.

My walks with ChaCha, the untrained, hyper-active, rambunctious, smart-as-all-get-out lab/pit mix rescue puppy I pampered in Mexico every spring and autumn for a decade, totally changed once I learned this. I taught her to sit and stay at every door and gate until I went through first.

“Sit, stay, okay,” became my mantra. Relentlessly I practiced this with her. It made a huge difference during our walks. She followed my lead, she waited for my permission, she saw that I was, indeed, the head of the pack.

Secretly, I think this is why men open doors for women! They instinctively know we’re alpha!

How to Tell if Your New Dog Wants to be Touched

Dogs are pretty easy to read, once you know the signals. Your in-house dog sitting companion will seek out more interaction by signaling you. According to Preventive Vet, he’ll have:

  • An open mouth
  • Relaxed ears
  • “Soft” eyes
  • Loose body with a loose wagging tail

Dogs approach you

And, he’ll approach you for interaction, leaning on you or seeking out touch.

But a dog who is unsure of you, will exhibit (according to Preventive Vet):

  • Closed mouth
  • Lip licking
  • Obvious blinking
  • Turning their head away
  • Ears pinned back against their head
  • Wide eyes with the whites showing
  • Trying to back away from you or hide

By learning these intuitive DOs and DON’Ts for greeting your new in-house dog sitting companion, and by learning to read his signals, you can create a strong bond with your new furry friend!

Kelly Hayes-Raitt has been greeting new dogs throughout the world as an in-house dog sitter since 2009. She is the author of How to Become a Housesitter: Insider Tips from the HouseSit Diva. That’s ChaCha — the dog in Mexico — reading her book!



Further reading about keeping dogs, live in dog sitters and dog minders

At Housesit we always try to share useful and informative blogs and practical advice with our members. Read on to find some helpful articles with useful tips for dog owners and dog sitters about dogsitting and finding a house sitter.

Live in Dog Sitters – Roles and Responsibilities

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Kelly Hayes-Raitt

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