When you have dogs, and your friends have dogs, and your dogs end up spending time together and get along well enough, it’s inevitable that one day either you’ll need them to watch your dogs, or they’ll ask if you can take care of their dogs for a weekend or so.
We never mind helping out in this way. It’s usually fun having a new dog or two over at your house for a few nights, but it is definitely a disruption in the normal routine, and certainly takes a bit of extra time and energy managing the new addition. Not that you shouldn’t do it, but here are a few thoughts to maybe make it as easy as possible on all involved.
Routine vs. Reality
Routine: Dogs are excellent creatures of habit, and when something as disruptive as not staying at their own house with their own pack is already occurring, it’s good to keep as much to their normal routine as possible. This means mostly feeding, sleeping, and exercise times and procedures. So if possible, try to let them stick to what they know and when they expect it as much as possible.
Reality: If it’s just not possible to give them their morning walk like they’re used to, and instead you walk in the evening, etc., don’t fret too much about it. Dogs are also amazingly resilient and able to adapt to new circumstances. Bringing them in your home and treating them like one of your own is, assumedly, already taking pretty darn good care of them. If you’re giving them food, water, shelter, love and exercise, they’re going to be alright.
Exercise and Rest
We’re big fans of the practice that a well-exercised dog is a good dog. We have two young and highly athletic dogs and we get them out just about every day. Half the time they are off-leash and we log no less than 15 human miles each week. We know this isn’t necessarily typical of most dogs, so when watching a new dog, we have to take into consideration whether or not they should come with us on these outings.
We also recognize that even highly active dogs like to rest quite a bit, and our two regularly take afternoon naps whether we’ve been out or not. Our Malinois mostly chooses her kennel to give her a bit of a mental break as well; she worries less and rests better when in the safety of her kennel. So when we have another dog over, we still try to schedule this alone and down-time so everyone can relax.
Most recently, when our neighbor’s dog stayed with us, since he was accustomed to being home alone for most of the normal day, we’d return him to his house to let him relax there for a few hours.
Feeding time can bring about sudden and unexpected drama amongst even the most buddy-buddy of dogs. It usually takes both of us to simultaneously feed everyone at the same time and as separated as possible. If this doesn’t work, then usually separating them and feeding one at a time may be the solution. It can be a pain, but better than some silly instinct-based fight over dinner.
Love and Affection
Our dogs get a lot of attention. Too much, really – but so it goes. And whenever another dog is staying with us and we can tell they’re bummed about being displaced and their pack not around, our tendency is to give them as much love and attention as they’ll allow. Some dogs are great with this and it works pretty well. Some see the extra attention as affirmation that something is horribly wrong and makes them worry about their family even more. And whatever level we go with, whenever we’re giving any one dog any attention whatsoever, here come the rest looking for their turn. If we all get too excited, fights can develop. So try to keep things normal with your dogs, and be aware of how the visiting dog is reacting.