Does your Saint Bernard give you slobbery kisses? Does your Bull Mastiff like to dance? Does your Great Dane snuggle like a lap dog? Big dogs come with big love. That’s why so many people choose a giant breed to be their best, four-legged friend.
Of course, being the owner of a large dog also comes with its share of unique challenges. From finding enough space to getting enough exercise to footing the vet bill, caring for a big dog is not for every pet parent — or pet sitter. When it comes to finding someone to care for your larger-than-life pup, you’re looking for someone with the experience and knowledge necessary to keep them safe, healthy, and happy while you’re away. Here are some tips on how to do just that.
Find someone who understands your big dog’s unique needs.
From the time they are puppies, large-breed dogs have different physical needs than their smaller canine counterparts. A qualified pet sitter will have at least some knowledge of special exercise, nutrition, and medical concerns related to your pet’s size, including the following:
- In spite of their size, large-breed puppies are actually fragile. Running on concrete and jumping on or off tall surfaces can damage growth plates and cause stress on joints. While your pup certainly needs plenty of exercise, the type of activity is just as important as the amount.
- Most big dogs should be taken on hour-long walks at least twice a day. Your sitter should be both aware of this requirement and physically capable of fulfilling it.
- Due to their size, large breeds experience health conditions uncommon in other animals, including bloat and gastric torsion. To combat this, you likely have measures in place to prevent overeating and eating too quickly, such as a slow-feeder bowl, puzzle feeding games, or raised food dishes. Your pet may also be on supplements or medications for joint health. While you will certainly provide special instructions, it’s imperative that your sitter understands the importance of following them to your dog’s health and safety.
Find a large dog sitter who will come to your home.
There are quite a few practical concerns you should consider when it comes to finding a qualified pet sitter for your gentle giant. Finding a sitter who will come to your home can put your mind at ease, ensuring there will be a big enough space, the right gear, and the best environment for your pup.
- Big dogs, especially puppies, are clumsy. Chances are, you’ve designed your living space to be as safe as possible for your pet and your stuff by creating wide pathways, and removing breakables and valuables from reach.
- Larger dogs need larger beds and crates to be comfortable, larger toys to keep from choking, and sturdier collars and leashes to provide support without injury. Furthermore, if you need to transport your dog somewhere, a compact car probably won’t work. At your home, all of his things will be at the ready, so your pet sitter and your pup will have everything they need.
- When properly trained, a big dog is nothing more than a gentle giant. However, they can still be scary to children and other pets. It’s also possible for them to forget their size and cause harm unintentionally. Be sure your caregiver will come to your home without other pets or people your pup isn’t familiar with to prevent an unfortunate accident.
Find a reliable sitter with the right personality and credentials.
The fact that a sitter has experience with large-breed dogs doesn’t automatically make them a good fit. Every dog is different, and you’ll want to pick a sitter with a personality that jives with that of your pet. Plus, not all large breeds are energetic all the time, so you’ll also need a person with a matching activity level. Here are some tips on finding the perfect person for the job online:
- When picking a sitter from an online caregiving directory, don’t rely on their profile alone. Tell them about your dog, his or her energy level, favorite activities, and good and bad habits. Then, ask them questions about their experience and preferences.
- An email or phone interview is a good start, but you should always have your pet meet your sitter in person before you leave them alone together. Watch how your pet and prospective hire interact, and bring up any concerns you may have.
- Most online directories verify basic information and offer background checks to help ensure prospective sitters are who they say they are. Furthermore, reviews from past clients can tell you a lot about their reliability and trustworthiness. Still, ask your prospective sitters for at least three references of other pet parents of large-breed dogs, and check them all.
Regardless of size, breed, or any other factor, there’s no substitute for a pet’s parent when it comes to caregiving. However, with due diligence, you can find an acceptable stand-in who will make sure your large dog feels the love when you have to be away.