What I Learned First-Time Dogsitting

Our first experience caring for a dog.

Even though I love petting and playing with other people's dogs, I've always been uneasy with the long term commitment of caring for a dog. The main day to day tasks that come to mind are:

  1. Have to walk to dog (three time daily, especially since I live in a townhome with no backyard)
  2. Have to pick up after the dog (poop)
  3. Have to train the dog (no barking at night, no barking at people, and being potty-trained)

But in all honesty, I have no idea how challenging it is to care for a dog. Many of my friends have pet dogs, some who live in more tighter situations than myself. And they are all doing fine. So when my coworker was looking for someone to watch his dog for a week while he on vacation, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to give dogsitting a trial run. Not only is dogsitting zero cost to me, I also don't need to worry about a long term commitment. This was a win-win situation for both myself and my coworker.

When we picked up Charlotte, a long haired Chihuahua, from my coworker, we discussed a bit on her (the dog's) personality... her likes and dislikes. We were told not to feed her leftover food, no matter how much she begs. Along with her dog crate, we got some dog treats, dog food for a week, dog toys, and a dog leash. Before leaving, we took Charlotte on a short walk around her neighborhood to get a feel for the dog. First thing I noticed was how often she wanted to "mark her territory".

When we got home, we set her dog crate in the center of the main room in our townhome. Next to that, we put a bowl of water and a bowl of food. She didn't like any of her toys, but was really well behaved. Her favorite thing was to jump up on the couch, which we were okay with. When we watch TV, she was snuggle into the crevice between us. If I feel asleep while watching TV, I'd wake up to find her sleeping on my lap. When we called it a night (we closed the door to keep our bedroom dog free), she would sleep outside the door. We immediately realized that Charlotte was very well trained. This made it very easy for a first timer like myself to care for a dog. She rarely barked at anything and was already potty trained, which put my mind at ease. Taking her on walks on the weekend were easy, as we had much more free time on our hands. The true challenge would be life on a weekday with a work schedule.

My weekday schedule is busy, I leave the house at around 6:30am to Caltrain/Cycle to work and get home around 5:20pm. So my schedule during the week was to get up an extra 15 minutes earlier to walk Charlotte at 6:20am. Even though I'm a morning person, wake up just a bit earlier was quite a challenge. One thing I found annoying was the lack of a backyard for Charlotte to freely roam. If she left my townhome, she was on a leash. Walking her right after work, and also before going to sleep wasn't an issue at all, and we were approached by many kids in our Townhome community.

On one of the days, we went to a park with Charlotte to our friend's one-year old birthday party. The was our first time with a dog interacting with a group of people. Right as we got out of the car, I got nervous that bringing the dog was a bad idea. Charlotte "marks her territory" everywhere she goes, which isn't ideal for a party with a bunch of young kids. Overall, we had a good time, she did her usual sniff attack of every corner of the park.

Our biggest challenge with dogsitting was she would not eat any food the first couple of days. I actually got concerned she would starve for a week. Our guess was Charlotte was uncomfortable in her new environment. Friends assured us that dogs are still animals, and Charlotte would eventually eat when she got hungry. Next, we notice that Charlotte had really bad breath! At first we thought she was dirty, but in a few days realized the source was her mouth. A friend came over and found one of her teeth were loose, which we assumed meant bad dental hygiene.

What I Learned While Dogsitting

  1. Walking the dog three times a day isn't such a big deal. It's a nice way to get out of the house.
  2. Chihuahua's "mark their territory" everywhere! It's natural.
  3. Surprised in how fast she learns. After a few walks around my community, the dog knew which door was my house.
  4. Picking up after the dog is not glamorous, but it isn't a deal breaker.
  5. Having a dog around the house is nice (and even better when not barking all the time).
  6. When I get a dog, I want a bigger dog (more average sized).
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