Whole Dog Journal's Blog January 18, 2017

How Does Your Dog Act When You're Not Around?

Posted at 04:31PM - Comments: (11)

A few years ago, I was dog-sitting for a friend while her family traveled out of the country for a few weeks. I’ve met the dog, Leila, a Papillion-mix, a number of times, but just in short visits.

It was the height of our hot, dry summer during Leila’s visit, and when those conditions are in effect, I often take my dogs to swim in the Feather River, which flows through my town, just a couple blocks from my home. I took some pictures one evening, and posted them on Facebook, of the dogs, including Leila, wading deeply in the water.

dog in stream

Leila in the water

Later that day, there was a comment from Leila’s owner: “Leila went in the WATER? She NEVER touches water!” I laughed, because it seemed quite natural to me that she’d go in the water. I didn’t even notice her response to the water; wading in the cold water when the temperature was over 100 degrees seemed like the only sensible thing to do. But Leila’s owner couldn’t get over this behavior, that she had never seen in seven years of owning the dog and taking her to other creeks, streams, rivers, and the ocean.

I bring this up because I’m out of town for two days, and my sister is caring for my dogs. And I just had a report about Woody’s behavior that surprised me. It wasn’t the fact that he had chewed up my hard foam back roller; he’s been eyeballing it for some time as a potential toy, and I do recall I left it on the living room floor. My fault. No, it was the report that when my sister brought him to her house to play with her dogs, he was running through her home so fast that he leaped to the back of her sofa, and his momentum actually made the sofa (which has not one but two recliners hidden in it) fall over backward! WHAT?

My sister was laughing so hard when she was telling me this, that she didn’t hear my consternation at first. PAM! Why are you letting him tear through the house like that? She just kept repeating that she thought it was so funny to see my goofy, exuberant young dog so joyful about the abundance of new toys to play with, and so happy to visit. Pam has been my go-to dog-sitter for Woody since he was a pudgy puppy, and he adores her and her treat- and toy-filled home where (seemingly) everything goes. She never admonishes him for (apparently) ANYTHING! I could see the scene in my mind’s eye, and after I got over my surprise, I had to laugh, too. After all, I know this isn’t anything he’s going to try at MY house.

I’ve asked before, but the answers are so interesting, allow me to repeat the question: Have you ever been surprised by a dog sitter’s report about your dog’s behavior?

Comments (11)

My dog goes crazy after motorcycles when we walk. He's otherwise great on the leash but have a motorcycle come by and ok looking for something to hang on to. My dog walker reported he didn't do this with her, which I was very skeptical about. But sure enough one day I got off work early and halelneed to see my dog walker walking Riley. Yes, a motorcycle whizzed right by him and it was like he didn't even know it was there! I tried every tip and training exercise my dog walker and trainer told me but he's never stopped. Maybe a protection thing?

Posted by: Barbandriley | January 22, 2017 5:27 PM    Report this comment

As a dog sitter, I find that sometimes a new client will say their dog is very friendly and it does seem that way when we all meet.; tail wagging, lying at my feet. But then when I go to the house, without the owner there, that "friendly" dog has become quite unfriendly. I have been in some scary situations. Some owners don't realize that dogs will act differently when they are left alone in their home.

Posted by: islandsooz | January 19, 2017 9:31 PM    Report this comment

My niece had a large German Shepherd who was a serious barker and lunger at other dogs. She couldn't cope so eventually bought a citronella anti-barking collar for him.
From then on he was a perfect gentleman. After some time my niece discovered that she had NEVER actually activated the collar!!
Or in other words, dogs do indeed respond to our behaviour and the very subtle cues we unthinkingly send to them.

Posted by: Jenny H | January 19, 2017 8:54 PM    Report this comment

Not at all unusual - talk with a professional pet sitter. We see this all the time.

Posted by: dccarter | January 19, 2017 12:19 PM    Report this comment

According to my husband, my JRT, three years old, doesn't chase him when I'm not home. She will run after him and sometimes snap when I am home and he says she doesn't do this when I am away.

Posted by: squiggs | January 19, 2017 11:47 AM    Report this comment

My border collie mix has been a leash puller since day one! I've worked and worked with her on it and she's better than she used to be, but if something catches her attention she about pulls my arms off. When my mother-in-law watched her I warned her about this behavior and said it might be better to just take her to the dog park than try to walk her. When I got an update, MIL said she was the perfect lady on her walk, never pulled once, never went after anything. Everyone else's dogs misbehave when they're gone? Mine apparently finds her manners!

Posted by: Stephenie D | January 19, 2017 11:36 AM    Report this comment

My mini doxie seems like a completely different dog when I'm not around. I was told that she is such a sweet and nice dog when I'm not there. Behaves beautifully, most of the time.
She can be such a little butt sometimes. Her behavior is much better since I started taking her to a trainer and helped us begin to figure out the problem.

Posted by: joandmar | January 19, 2017 10:49 AM    Report this comment

When we were visiting family for thanksgiving our pet sitter reported that our Chessie decided to take himself for a swim in the pool one evening. I was shocked! He loves to get in the pool but he would never get in without permission, when I'm home. He sometimes looks at the pool and then over at me in hopes that I'll say okay, but that's it. Our pet sitter told it like a funny story but what a pain, at night, in November, to have to deal with a big wet dog.

Posted by: Beeker | January 19, 2017 9:49 AM    Report this comment

One of my dogs, a cocker spaniel has night terrors from time to time and he never seems to have them when we go out of town. My dog sitter thinks we're crazy because she never has noticed that problem. I would think that he would be more nervous when we're gone than when we're here.

Posted by: dihard | January 19, 2017 9:44 AM    Report this comment

My 7 months old puppy does that often,running at top speed through the house or when she`s outdoors,like a crazy locomotive that bumps into you while she`s at top speed;But that happens only when I scold her for misbehaving.I guess she`s telling me that she doesn`t like to be scolded?

Posted by: lella | January 19, 2017 9:32 AM    Report this comment

My neighbor has a 20 pound female dog and my 20 pound poodle - malty mix will tear through their house then out the door. Never does this at any other house. When neighbors door stayed with us for 15 days neither dog ran in the house. I think my little guy gets overly excited and that is how he expresses his excitement. (Neighbor thinks its the funnest behavior ever and laughs)

Posted by: pepe | January 19, 2017 8:51 AM    Report this comment

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