Am I a bad dog babysitter?
January 29, 2014 6:30 AM   Subscribe

Need advice on arrangements for my folks' dog while I'm at work.

Upon reading this question, I'm beginning to ask myself if I will be able to provide suitable accommodations for my parents' dog while they're out of the country.

I'll be taking care of their 10.5lb, ten year old Shih Tzu for about five months soon, which is great! I love her and want to be able to provide good care for her. The problem is, I am renting and can't leave her in the main space in the home while I'm at work all day because she will pee on the hardwood and damage it.

I have a good sized bathroom (about 100 square feet) where I can put her bed with blankets, water, a small radio and puppy pads (which are good, but liquid tends to leak through the bottom a bit so not suitable for hardwood). The bathroom has a window and I can keep the light on and the fan going for air circulation.

She would be on her own for about 8.5 hours, 5 days a week. I'll be able to come home and check in on her during that time on some days, but not all. I can feed her and take her outdoors before and after work, and she'll have loads of attention when I am home. She is not a very active dog and spends a good part of the day curled up in her bed anyway. She's not much of a barker and does well on her own in general.

Is this cruel or ok? Any suggestions to make her more comfortable/happier?
posted by gohabsgo to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 100 square feet is bigger than lots of kitchens, so I don't think this is as problematic as it could be, particularly the way you describe this dog's personality. That said, I would babygate her in there instead, and I'd give some thought to arranging for a dog walker for the days you cannot come home.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:42 AM on January 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

I think it sounds fine. You might want to put some sort of plastic tray under the pads; pee soaking into grout for hours is also no good. Is she reliable about using the pads, so you could leave the bathroom door open, or will she randomly go other places?
posted by Kriesa at 6:45 AM on January 29, 2014

The dog isn't house trained? Do you know for a fact that it will pee on your floors or are you just assuming? We never had that problem with our Shih Tzu. He was left alone all day and accidents were rare.
posted by missmagenta at 6:46 AM on January 29, 2014

I would babygate her in there instead

Your plan sounds fine to me, but I'd agree with DarlingBri about the babygate. My dog HAAAAATES having doors shut on him. It makes him feel alone and abandoned.

I wonder if something like this would work for her bathroom needs?
posted by phunniemee at 6:48 AM on January 29, 2014

Best answer: You might want to put some sort of plastic tray under the pads; pee soaking into grout for hours is also no good.

They make dog litter boxes that are just the right size for pee pads! This solves the leaky-pee-pad problem, and also solves the problem of the dog attempting to do the right thing but peeing right on the edge of the pad.

The dog might also like it if you leave it a sweatshirt or something that smells like you. My dog stays in my bedroom while I'm at work, and will pull laundry out of the laundry basket to make a nest.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 6:52 AM on January 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: LOVE the baby gate idea so at least she can look out, sounds great!
She loves my sweaters so I will put one in there for her to cuddle into.

She is house trained but regularly has accidents if she is left more than 4-5 hours or so during the daytime. At my folks' place she has a doggy door so this is not usually an issue, but I live on the 3rd floor of my building and can't arrange that. If there's a tray under the pad, she will just pee next to it instead of stepping onto the tray. :-/
posted by gohabsgo at 6:58 AM on January 29, 2014

This sounds OK to me. You might also consider leaving a radio on softly, light music or gentle talk, to distract her a little.
posted by The otter lady at 7:00 AM on January 29, 2014

I will fourth the idea of a babygate instead of closing the door, like phunniemee says, some dogs will scratch or bark or chew at doors when they are "trapped" behind them.

In lieu of crate-training our Lab, we put him in the mudroom behind a baby gate. He was a much bigger dog than a Shih Tzu and he was fine. Confining a dog while you're out is not per se problematic (see crate-training), but you have to do it responsibly, which it sounds like you're trying to do.

Personally, I'd look into hiring a dog-walker for a mid-day walk, especially if the dog is not accustomed to being alone 8-9 hours at a time. But even so, I'd keep her confined when I was not home. If she's got good bedding, a chew toy and a water bowl, she'll be fine.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:03 AM on January 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Another thought is doggie-day care. She could romp and play with other dogs, and you won't have to worry about her.

But your plan sounds okay, if the dog doesn't get stressed out about it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:11 AM on January 29, 2014

Best answer: If she won't step on a tray I'd look at buying a thin, rollable plastic cutting board. Or you could cut plastic garbage bags to size but that sounds like more work.
posted by phearlez at 7:44 AM on January 29, 2014

Best answer: Is there any chance you could do a test run for a few days, just to confirm that the dog likes the setup before doing it for 5 months? If she's acting stressed or bored you would then have some time to look into dog walkers, doggy day care, etc. And working out the kinks first would probably make both of you more comfortable.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:44 AM on January 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Can you stay at your parent's house or have her there when you're at work so she can go outside using the doggie door? If she is house trained I imagine it could be stressful for her to regularly get to the point that she can't hold her pee anymore and needs to pee inside despite her training.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:02 AM on January 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

Our dogs (both 10lbs) stay in our bathroom while we're at work. It's maybe 20sqft or so (very small) and about the same footprint as two dog crates in their size. We have a dog walker come in midday for a short walk every day. They like the door being closed so that it feels like their own little den and they don't have to worry about guarding the rest of the apartment while we're gone. Light, radio, water dish, soft bed and they're happy as clams (I set up a webcam for the first few weeks we did this so I could monitor them while I was at work). We give them a treat every time they go in there, so now when we pick up the jar of treats they start sprinting for the bathroom. I'd recommend getting someone in to do at least a relief walk (5-10 mins), which shouldn't be too expensive, unless the dog is already trained for using puppy pads. You have enough space so that the puppy pad and her food/water/sleep area can be separate so that's good, but getting a dog to consistently use a puppy pad is a long training process.
posted by melissasaurus at 9:53 AM on January 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

You could look into doggie lawn which might lead to fewer leaks than just the pads.
posted by bowmaniac at 11:49 AM on January 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Our dogs get a visit from a dog-walker daily during the week when we're at work. There are two of them, so they probably keep each other company to a certain extent. I also started leaving the radio on NPR after listening to an audiobook version of Racing in the Rain :). They seem pretty happy.
posted by elmay at 1:11 PM on January 29, 2014

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