My background is a non-dog owner; I will soon be looking after my sister's two year old male goldendoodle who was homed with them at the age of eight months. I'll be looking after him for about a week while his family are out of the country. My nephews will be around if I have questions while my sister is away, and my SO loves dogs1 so I'm not taking this on completely alone!

I will be discussing this with my sister, naturally, but are there any general things I should be aware of? Particularly aspects that someone who is used to having dogs might overlook when briefing someone who isn't! I already know about his usual walk frequency and timing, and that he will be my best friend if I keep some treat on me!

Lastly, I understand that this cross can be prone to anxiety. I've met him and played with him on a few occasions, so I won't be a completely new and strange face. I also assume that I'll be able to borrow his usual sleeping basket and some of his toys while he is a guest at mine; and plan to ask my nephew round so that he has another familiar face. What signs of anxiety should I look out for; and if he does seem anxious, what can I do to ameliorate this?


The week has been and gone without incident. The only things I can think of to add to the excellent answer provided by Victoria are:

  • Gear for walking. You might think "I walk places, no big deal", but bear in mind you might be walking two or more hours per day and plan accordingly. That means both waterproofs and decent footwear at least!

  • Knowing a bit about how a particular dog will communicate is useful too. Spending time with him/her (as mentioned in comments) can help here, but if nothing else it can be reassuring to know that what appears to be an "Oh god I'm dying"-type whine might only be a way of saying "I'd like to go out" or "I'm bored and would like attention".

We both had a great week- thanks in part to the constructive advice here! :)

1 She has a very cute looking pitbull back home, unfortunately a continent away so out of the question for the purposes of experience or socialisation with my sister's dog!

  • Is it possible for him to come visit, with your sister before they leave him alone with your (like a week or so before)? Jan 13, 2016 at 23:15
  • @JamesJenkins Good suggestion! I'm not sure, my sister's schedule may or may not permit.
    – bertieb
    Jan 14, 2016 at 10:08
  • If you can stay at your sister's house that would be a world of difference. The dog feels at home there as that is his home. That home is already pet proofed.
    – paparazzo
    Jan 14, 2016 at 19:11
  • @Frisbee I think the dog would adapt better than I! In all seriousness, that's a good suggestion too but unfortunately not practical for other reasons
    – bertieb
    Jan 15, 2016 at 0:54
  • 1
    First step, I'd think would be to get to know the dog and vice versa before dogsitting, if at all possible, so the dog isn't dealing with both "where's the rest of my pack" and "who is this stranger" at once. Establish yourself as another human who can be put on a leash and taken outside... (grin)
    – keshlam
    Jan 18, 2016 at 0:49

1 Answer 1


Things to ask your sister: - can he open cupboards? If so, think about how to secure those, particularly any that might contain risky substances or food.

  • can he open doors? If so, check your doors and think what you can do to secure them so any that might be dangerous cannot be opened with paw

  • does he steal things off kitchen surfaces? (even if he doesn't usually, it's usually safest to assume a new dog MAY do this and be more careful about putting things away. )

  • Is there anything that upsets his stomach (dogs can have surprisingly delicate digestions, and every one is different!)

  • how reliably will he come when called? (even if the answer is 'very', consider what you would do if this time he decided not to. A dog is most likely to do a runner in his first week in a new house!)

Things for you to think about:

Consider how garbage is stored. Can the dog get into it? Can you move bins to less vulnerable locations?

Out on walks, how will you approach other dogs? Be aware that dogs with handlers they don't know well could be more wary and less likely to be happy to greet, even if normally they are really friendly.

Will you let him off the lead? If so, where is the safest place to do that?

Is he usually walked on a flexi lead? If so, be aware that the locks on these can fail, and they can get wrapped around the dog or other dogs. This is one of those things nobody tells you :-D It's safest to use a fixed-length lead if you are somewhere like a busy road where the lead lock failing could be fatal.

Where is the nearest vet? What out-of-hours provision is there? Store the vet contact number on your mobile, just in case that late-night dogwalk goes horribly wrong.

One thing you MUST do : Get a dog tag with YOUR home phone number, mobile and address on it and put it on your visitor on arrival. If the nightmare happens and you mislay your visiting dog, you don't want a helpful finder to be trying to contact your sister on holiday: you want them to be able to call you direct or walk right to your door, so you can get there pronto and have it all be over. Trust me, it is worth spending a small sum for that.

I hope you have a lovely time with your visitor and all these precautions turn out to be quite unnecessary!

  • 1
    This is a great and well thought-out answer! Covers a few things I had considered - which is reassuring! - and others that I totally hadn't.
    – bertieb
    Jan 15, 2016 at 2:22
  • 1
    I forgot to mention 'store vet phone number on your mobile, check what the out of hours cover is' so I've added that to my answer. I forget that there are people who don't have any animals, so don't do that as an automatic thing when they get a new phone :-D
    – Victoria
    Jan 16, 2016 at 9:15
  • Hehe yeah, I certainly don't have that number! The answer is great in my opinion, and the upvotes agree; since there's been no other answers I will accept.
    – bertieb
    Jan 16, 2016 at 16:13

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