Bad dog.
October 10, 2014 7:27 AM   Subscribe

I am a newish dog host on DogVacay. I had a bad experience with a dog last night and am wondering what to do about it.

In case you are not familiar with DogVacay, it basically is an Airbnb for dogs except hosts get paid to watch dogs. Hosts and dogs each have profiles describing themselves.

Yesterday I received a dog that has been quite difficult for me. Also, its profile was very misleading.

The dog was described as super affectionate, playful, and energetic. Responds well to firm tone. Is generally obedient.

Unfortunately it turns out that this contained a significant omission. Namely, she is a former fighting dog--and that she literally wants to and will try to kill any dog she sees outside. This is why, I later learned, she wears a muzzle outside. She also wears a harness that wraps behind the legs.

Things were fine for our first two walks. She tried to kill each dog we walked by but I was able to restrain her with no significant issues.

But on our third walk things went poorly. She managed to escape from her harness, detaching her from the leash. She proceeded to charge at this other dog and was trying to attack it. The only thing stopping her was the muzzle. Thankfully the other owner was eventually able to grab hold of this dog's collar and wrangle her under control. By the time this had happened, the muzzle was nearly half off due to the scuffle. Meanwhile I was scared half to death.

I got home and realized that I had been bitten while trying to get the dogs apart. Linked are some pictures of the bite (right after it happened) and (the next morning).

I know that I am partly at fault for what happened. Although the dog's violence towards other dogs wasn't disclosed initially, it was disclosed at a meet & greet with the dog and the owners beforehand. I do think though that if this had been disclosed upfront that I never would have taken the dog on.

Further, I think the dog escaping from her harness could have been prevented. I had never worked with this type of equipment before and realized later that it was possible to hook the harness onto her collar.

Lastly I do want to note that I'm not sure which dog bit me. Given that the muzzle was half off by the end of things, it's possible that my dog could have done it. I consider it more likely that the other dog bit me. I consider this irrelevant though as the other dog was only trying to defend itself and my dog started the fight.

The above represents the essential facts. I'm not sure what exactly to do. Right now I view it as a learning experience. I also intend to tell the owner what happened. Let me know what else I should do.
posted by prunes to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Call the owners and demand that they pick the dog up ASAP! Or make other arrangements for its care.
posted by saradarlin at 7:46 AM on October 10, 2014 [13 favorites]

I'd call the owners and let them know they need to find alternate accommodations for their dog, like today. This is clearly not a dog that you can care for appropriately. It needs way more than you can give it.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:48 AM on October 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

How much longer are you responsible for this dog? If she isn't going home today, I'd look into finding her another place to stay.

First I'd start with DogVacay -- what are their policies for situations like this? Ideally, you'd be able to check her into a kennel that can keep her isolated for the rest of the owner's vacation, and DogVacay would pick up the charges. Less ideally, you check her into a kennel and it comes out of your pocket (but at least that would be offset by the sitting fees that you get). Either way, I don't think you should be responsible for this dog anymore.

Also -- take care of you. Are you up to date on your tetanus booster? Did you get the other dog's information (to check on rabies vaccinations)? I assume DogVacay requires its dogs to show proof of vaccination, but you should check that too.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:48 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would bring the dog to a kennel today.

I would also alert the website that this dog should not be in the program. This dog needs special care, and the average dogvacay host can not provide that.
posted by Flood at 7:48 AM on October 10, 2014 [18 favorites]

Response by poster: Fortunately she's going home today guys.
posted by prunes at 7:51 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Right now I view it as a learning experience. I also intend to tell the owner what happened. Let me know what else I should do.

Well firstly, don't blame yourself. The owner should have been more honest and upfront - and that is not the sort of dog you can board someplace unfamiliar. And really - boarding dogs can be hard on them. It takes their anxieties and behaviors and turns them up a bit, so in the future, you just need to be aware that the owner can be honest about how things are generally, and still have no idea what the dog is like when the boat gets rocked. As you do this more, you'll get a better sense for what your limits are.

The bite/scratch looks OK. Keep an eye on it for infection, but it should heal up OK. Absolutely, tell the owner about it - and If you have any concern at all, go to a doctor and the owner should get the bill.

The rest sort of depends on you. For me, I wouldn't be that troubled by it - challenging dogs gonna be challenging and all that. Take what you can learn from the experience and move on. I wouldn't have the dog back, necessarily, but maybe depending on how everything else went and how much I liked the owner. You'll have to judge here - if your instincts say to send the dog back immediately, or whatever, that is perfectly fine, too.

And a neat trick with dogs that are strong willed and hard to manage is a half-hitch. Here's a video. I use it all the time with dogs and works really well. It gives you better leverage, and provides the dog with instant feedback and control.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:54 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a reactive dog. He w pulls howl like a banished and attack any dog he met. After eighteen months of solid day in and day out training he now walks like a normal dog when out. I would not in a million lifetimes have leave him with a person inexperienced with his problem to care for. Dumping the dog on you with a false description and last minute bait and switch, was wrong on so many levels. Contact the website and let them know the dog was misrepresented at the very least.
posted by wwax at 8:07 AM on October 10, 2014 [13 favorites]

I think you have a responsibility to tell the program exactly what happened and that this dog should not be allowed to be placed again.

And just in case you wind up having to pay for costs associated with that bite, you should tell the owner about it in writing so you can refer to it later; keep a copy. (Possibly getting a written note letting them know of a potential liability will also dissuade them from trying this again. They sound super shifty.)

Sorry you had to deal with this, sounds terrifying.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:22 AM on October 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

-Tell the owners
-Tell the website
-Get the owners information, in case you end up needing medical attention. Their renters/homeowners insurance should cover it, if they have it. But if you have health insurance, the insurance company will worry about tracking down their insurance or them personally for reimbursement.

What these owners did was in no way reasonable. For perspective, I have a 10lb chihuahua who occasionally likes to lunge/bark while on leash. When I go out of town, I will only leave him to be walked by my vetted-with-many-references dog walker who is both very experienced with aggressive dogs in general and also walks him every weekday, so knows him specifically. Even if he stays with friends while I'm out of town, the dog walker handles all of his walks. And this is a tiny dog who can be picked up with one hand.
posted by melissasaurus at 8:26 AM on October 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

The bite/scratch looks okay - it looks like you got grazed while trying to get the dogs apart. Keep an eye on it, but I don't see an actual puncture.

For future reference, a good way to separate dogs is to grab them around the haunch (in front of their legs), pick them up, and wheel-barrow them backwards away. This works best if both dog owners are doing so in opposite directions.

I have two dogs; our recent adoptee is a very dog-reactive dog. She has abuse in her past and fits your boardee's description to a T (energetic, affectionate, listens well)... with people. With extensive training, she is learning that other dogs are nice, but in the mean time I don't have anyone else walk her - it's just too big of a risk.

If your boardee was reacting across the street from another dog that strongly, her reactivity is pretty severe and not something I would foist on someone without plenty of warnings and walk-throughs. Did they perhaps expect the dog to be sequestered from dog contact? It sounds like the secondary defense measure worked (mostly) but they shouldn't have left her with you without tutorials until you knew how to properly secure her.

I'm not familiar with DogVacay, but perhaps include a disclaimer that you will not take dog-reactive dogs? Or, if you're okay with certain levels of reactivity, that may be something to bring up with prospective owners before accepting the dog. For example, a standard question could be "Does the dog exhibit any reactivity? If so, what situations trigger their reactivity?".

Definitely bring this up with them and go through other channels like the website. This is a huge liability for them to be taking by boarding their dog with someone without warning them.
posted by bookdragoness at 8:33 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

This isn't you. Regular people should NOT have to deal with aggressive dogs.

In your profile you should state that you do not accept aggressive dogs or former fighting dogs. (OMG, WTF?)

Then narc out the dog to the website, and if you can, leave comments, you should do so, in case they try this shit with another provider.

If anyone tries to leave you a dog with a muzzle in the future, just say no.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:34 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

wow, I assumed DogVacay would have a "guest" rating system for the dogs like AirBnb does! If they don't have such a system, you should contact someone at the company and encourage them to implement one *now*! Maybe call, or maybe also get at them publicly via Twitter or Facebook. If they refuse to do this - BBB rate that shit.

If they do have dog ratings already - give Bad Dog the bad review they deserve (in addition to whatever escalating levels you can take to get them removed from the site entirely). some potential text for a bad review for Bad Dog, in case you aren't convinced: dog requires unusual harness that owners didn't take the time to teach you about, dog requires muzzle to prevent attacks on other dogs, dog does not walk well and lunges at other dogs while walking. heck, just go straight to 'owners described dog as former fighting dog but did not disclose that in dog's profile' in the review. And for next time - maybe consider requiring a reference from a neighbor or the dog's vet before booking a dog if they haven't been reviewed on the site yet. (This is all in the case that the site DOES do dog reviews, which if they don't, oh man they REALLY should!!!!)

This was totally not your fault in any way! definitely take it up with the site and make them solve this problem for future DogVacay hosts!
posted by ghostbikes at 2:26 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @ghostbikes

DogVacay asks hosts to rate dogs after the fact, but this data is not shared with the hosts.
posted by prunes at 2:46 PM on October 10, 2014

I think what you do now is decide if you're going to keep pet sitting in the future, and if so come up with a plan to avoid this type of thing. It looks like DogVacay itself does..basically protect either the dog sitters or the dogs.

You need to decide if you're going to bail based on incompatibility at the meet-and-greet (which is ostensibly the whole point of having one), and you also need a defensive strategy for handling new dogs. Examine all equipment and become comfortable getting it on and off correctly. First walk either with owners or at a quiet time of day. All walks in secluded areas or at quiet times if dog seems to have problems. Etc.
posted by anaelith at 6:18 AM on October 11, 2014

I don't mean to minimise how upsetting this is but I think it's also an early learning opportunity around how you can best run this as a business. You can give potential clients a form at the meet and greet or via email and ask about dog aggression, food aggression, cat aggression, prey drive, walking routine, feeding, veterinary information, meds, etc. It makes you look really good as a service provider and will give you better information about your guests.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:48 PM on October 11, 2014

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