What to do when your dog becomes afraid of the walker (c)
2011-2017 Frania Shelley-Grielen all rights reserved

Sometimes caring for your pet means you have to hire pet sitters and dog walkers.  No
matter what a potential service may tell you about how wonderful their sitters and
walkers are, please do take the time to make sure your dog walker is the right walker
by taking the time to meet them before you engage them to walk your dog.  Pay
attention to whether they ask you what your dog likes and how you provide it as
opposed to telling you what an expert they are even though they have never met your
dog.  Relationships are created with our pets through experience and trust and are not
instant.  Watch them in action; are they good with dogs- speak gently, approach from
the side, avoid scolding or punishment, stay off their phone?  Did they come bearing
treats?  Do they want your dog to like them and willing to work to make that happen?  
How does your dog respond to them?  You know what it looks like when your dog likes
somebody or not so watch closely to see how your dog feels about the prospect of this
possible walker.  Take a walk with them and your dog.  Start your walk with you
holding the leash with your dog next to you and work up to the walker holding the
leash with the dog next to them.  How are their leash handling skills?  Do they speak to
your dog while walking to engage them and get their attention?   Are they able to walk
your dog without holding that leash too tightly or jerking on it?  Do interview more
than one walker to compare and find the best fit.

But what happen when believe you have found the right walker and with all your best
efforts there comes a time when the walking or sitting did not go as you or your dog
would have liked?  Perhaps proper introductions were not made or sufficient time taken
for the walker to develop a relationship with the dog or the walk was rushed too often or
the handling was too rough.  A sufficiently negative experience or an accumulation of
not so great experiences can prompt a strong fear response and elicit a behavior that is
self-defensive -your dog may not want to go out again with walkers and communicate
this in canine fashion by hiding when the walker comes, growling and snapping.

When your dog starts telling you something is wrong, try and figure out exactly what
it is. Investing in a hidden remote camera and observing your walker when you are
not around will allow you to make sure that your dog is not being scolded, handled in
the wrong way or otherwise harmed.  It also can tell you if your instructions are being
followed as to when walks are actually happening and if other dogs are part of the
party when you have requested a solo walk.  (In cases where the dog has been seriously
traumatized by the events, do consider working with a good behaviorist or do the
research to lean how to help the dog get over the trauma).  Once you have determined
that everything is as it should be when you are gone, revisiting walking protocol is in
order.  One of my clients is going through this and no one is happy about it.  Here's my
advice (I have changed names to protect the innocent):

Oh Valerie, I so wish we could fix this right away, really, for you and mostly for Lawrence
who is petrified to be doing all this. If the first walk with the new dog walker went well,
whatever approach the walker used for the second walk should have been the same. What
did the walker do the second time that did not happen the first time? Something was
different that was scary; perhaps speed, restraint, caution, noise, attention, different
handling.

The walker may not have been aware of it at all, but Lawrence reacted to the difference
and once he was scared and defensive again another strange human (
the manager then
went over to try and walk Lawrence himself
) entering would not help unless that human
did remedial work -softly announcing their presence upon entering the apartment by using
Lawrence's name, lying parallel on the floor to the bed, no talking at first, looking away,
then speaking soothingly, then offering treats, squeaky balls, etc. that's the protocol and it
might take up to an hour at that point.

Lawrence does need to trust the stranger entering his home; it is natural and necessary
behavior for him to be defensive if he is fearful of being hurt. Meeting the walker before the
first walk with you there for one visit, a (short!!!) walk with you home and the walker
walking the dog for the second visit, a third visit offering Lawrence lots of treats and
playing with his squeaky tennis ball (
this is one of Lawrence's favorite toy you may need
another special toy your dog likes
) when you are not home -no walk yet(!) and if all is
going well, on the fourth visit, a walk alone (leave his collar on for this visit, less handling
that way) (
some folks leave the collar off a dog when they are home, leave it on if you
are expecting a walker so that new person in your dog's life does not have to be putting
the collar on when they arrive, less stressful for your dog)
is the best way to go.
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
"A sufficiently negative experience or
an accumulation of not so great
experiences can prompt a strong fear
response and elicit a behavior that is
self-defensive -your dog may not
want to go out again with walkers
and communicate this in canine
fashion by hiding when the walker
comes, growling and snapping"
Ask me for an individual consultation
info@animalbehaviorist.us
212-722-2509 / 646-228-7813

Entire website copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen

What to do when
your dog
becomes afraid
of the walker