Should I fire my dog walker?
December 23, 2008 9:38 AM   Subscribe

I happened to be home today when our dog walker picked up our dog, and I was surprised to see that the dog DID NOT want to go with the dog walker. Is there a problem?

We have a wonderful two and a half year old vizsla. She's outrageously friendly and loves guests coming to the house - usually when people come to the door, she's overly eager to see them. She LOVES to go out for a walk or to play.

My husband and I work from home or can take her to work most days, so the dog walker only needs to come for her Tuesday and Wednesday. She picks the dog up around noon and takes her walking or to the dog park for at least an hour. The dog walker is nice enough and was recommended by friends.

I was so surprised today when the dog hid from the dog walker under the table. It didn't look like she was playing a "chase me" game, it looked like she didn't want to go with her. The dog walker said, "oh, she does this every time." ??? Is that a sign that I should be concerned? I know it doesn't seem like a big deal, but my spidey sense is sort of going off that something is wrong. Can you think of a good reason that an otherwise friendly dog would hide from someone?
posted by robinpME to Pets & Animals (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh! I completely forgot about this until right now - our neighbor's dog hides from the dog walker too! She picks up the dog sometimes to go to the groomer, and I had to help her lure the dog out of hiding one day. The neighbor's dog is a crochety old lady, and I probably wouldn't like to go to the groomer either, so I didn't think anything of it at the time, but now it's making me wonder. My neighbor actually told me he had to start taking the dog himself because the dog kept hiding and trying to bite (!?) the dog walker.
posted by robinpME at 9:43 AM on December 23, 2008

If your dog walker hadn't said, "oh, she does this every time" it wouldn't concern me, because my dog would almost always rather stay with me than go with someone else, and you were home at the time. Given the exact scenario you described, I have no idea whether or not you should be concerned but I can't think of a good reason your dog would hide from her on a regular basis. It would be enough for me to not use that dog walker anymore with my own dog though, for whatever that's worth.
posted by booknerd at 9:49 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Until I read the bit where the walker said "she does this every time", I was thinking that perhaps your dog didn't want to go because you were there. How about doing a simple test, and getting one of your friends (that you know your dog is familiar with and seems to like) to come over and try to take your dog out, ostensibly for a walk. That might tell you if its the walker, or just being taken out for a walk by someone else.
posted by Joh at 9:51 AM on December 23, 2008

I don't use a dog walking service, but I would be questioning anyone that my dog wouldn't want to go with. She is thrilled to be there when I take her to daycare. I think you are right to question your dog's behavior.
posted by Silvertree at 9:53 AM on December 23, 2008

Response by poster: Good idea Joh. For what it's worth I bet she'd go out with someone else in a heartbeat. Like I said - she loves people, and especially people she knows. When my mom visits she does all the dog walking without a problem. And she'll happily go play with the neighbor's daughter if I'm inside.
posted by robinpME at 9:55 AM on December 23, 2008

I tried, a few times, to bring a friend's dog up to hang out with me when we lived in the same building. This is a dog that I had a good relationship with when her owner was around and, since I didn't have a dog at the time, I thought it would be fun to have her hang out with me instead of sitting home alone. I'd get my dog fix and she wouldn't be so lonely.
She hated coming with me, didn't want to leave her apartment and would slink along if I took her for a walk like I'd been beating her. If I brought her back to my place she would sit at my door and whine till I'd let her go back home where she'd lay by the front door with her chin on her paws looking pathetic till her Mom came home (we could see her through the window).
I don't know if there's a problem with your dog walker or not but your dog may just have her agenda.
posted by BoscosMom at 10:04 AM on December 23, 2008

Oops, her own agenda.
posted by BoscosMom at 10:07 AM on December 23, 2008

I say trust your spidey sense. Your dog is not having a fun time with this person. And that's the whole point, right?
posted by HotToddy at 10:10 AM on December 23, 2008

The dog won't tell you and neither will the dog walker -- I'd drop him/her.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:17 AM on December 23, 2008

Why not go on a little surveillance mission the next time the dog-walker takes your dog out. Then you'll know either way. I just did that last week and it totally alleviated the concerns I had.
posted by lunaazul at 10:47 AM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

Before you drop someone you were previously happy with, I would recommend getting a friend with whom your dog is unacquainted to come by and see how that goes. If that goes well and so does the friend that does know the dog, it couldn't hurt to try some other walkers.

There's also the option to rig up a webcam somewhere and keep an eye on it for a week and see if anything untoward is going on.

Dogs are particular. If you hadn't noticed anything by now resulting from your dog walker, there's a pretty good chance that there's nothing bad going on.

That said, rather than assuming the dog walker is doing something bad, you might try some other walkers to see if they have a better rapport with the dog.
posted by toomuchpete at 10:55 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

How is your dog with other dogs? Maybe your dog is smelling something he doesn't like on the dog walker.
posted by missmagenta at 11:00 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yes, I was going to suggest something similar to toomuchpete. Maybe if you and your husband spend a little time with with your dog AND the dog walker, the doggy might feel better.
posted by frecklefaerie at 11:07 AM on December 23, 2008

I've had similar experiences as BoscosMom with two different dogs. When roomate was home, the dog and I were great friends and the dog would easily come on a walk with me if I held up the leash; but if roomate was away for a few hours or days, I always had to coax the dog out of hiding to leave the house. I never did anything bad to the dogs (hitting, yelling, moving fast, etc.) to make them not like me-- in fact I always tried to make our walks extra-fun by including things the dogs liked. Both dogs were neurotic about their owners being around, and both owners had somewhat erratic schedules, so I always chalked it up to the dogs not wanting to leave home just in case their owner would be stopping by.
posted by holyrood at 11:59 AM on December 23, 2008

I'm a dog walker in NYC and know that dogs do like to play their games.

Most dogs I pick up are a ball of bouncy excitement and tail wags the moment I arrive but one golden retriever lies down flat refusing to budge and looking decidedly miserable until I give him a treat and then begins the loopy retriever excited bouncing and tail wagging and grinning. The dog loves his walk and has a fabulous time. The lying down looking hard done by at the beginning is just his schtick.

Dogs are creatures of habit and really like to do the same thing every day. It might be just that your dog likes the game of hiding under the table. I'd second a scouting mission to see how your dog is on his walk before giving up on someone you were happy with up to this point.
posted by merocet at 11:59 AM on December 23, 2008

Does the walker walk your dog with other dogs? That is, is this possibly a socialization problem with the dog?
posted by rhizome at 12:00 PM on December 23, 2008

The dog may think it is part of her job to protect the house when you are not there. Also, she may want to be around 'just in case' you return. She might feel that she is abandoning her job, therefore doing something wrong.
posted by Vaike at 1:03 PM on December 23, 2008

If you do the experiment with another person coming to take your dog for a walk, be sure to do it the first few times with you NOT home when the person arrives and then a few times with you home. As Vaike suggests, it might be that pup is feeling she's disobeying by leaving the house with someone not you when you're absent, or she might be intimidated by someone coming in to get her when she's alone and now just connects that freaky feeling with the dog walker herself.

My friends have a few dogs who have all known me for several years and are all very (overly) friendly, and the couple of times I've gone in to let them out when their humans were delayed getting home for an hour or so, a couple of the pups were a little bit like, "Wha? This is weird. Who the hell are you, lady?"
posted by FelliniBlank at 3:01 PM on December 23, 2008

I'm fairly sure my dog wouldn't go with just anyone. He is hugely protective of the house and while he's absolutely not vicious or mean or unfriendly, he just takes his time warming up to strangers. He wants to know what you're about first. I can think of maybe 4 people our dog would go willingly with besides us, and all of the people are very much involved in our lives.

Has the dog seen you and the dog walker together often enough to make the association that this is an okay person? Maybe schedule a dog walk and go with them?
posted by jerseygirl at 7:04 PM on December 23, 2008

1. Ask the dog walker if the dog is enjoying the walks despite the hiding under the table routine? If yes, great! If no, drop the dog walker.

2. If you don't trust the walker enough to be honest with you about this, drop the dog walker.
posted by rafter at 9:41 PM on December 23, 2008

My dog did not like 2 out of the 3 dog-walkers we've had. None of them were abusive or irresponsible, but my dog is shy and only one of the walkers was friendly and patient enough for her.

I was torn about keeping them but I figured that a shy dog needed to learn to deal with people she didn't completely love. I don't think there's a wrong decision here as long as you're sure the dog-walker isn't mistreating her, which sounds unlikely.
posted by nev at 11:23 AM on December 24, 2008

Maybe it's something as simple as the route she takes. Maybe they always walk by the yard where the big mean dog once barked at your dog and scared her, and now she's always scared at that point on the walk, and the dog walker just doesn't realize it.

Or maybe there was a scary dog at the park once, and your dog now associates the park and the walker with some traumatic barking/nipping incident - maybe something the walker doesn't even remember.

You could quiz the walker about anything that may have happened that your dog might be afraid of, and work on some behavioral modification techniques.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:30 AM on December 26, 2008

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