14 Days Full-Time Dog Sitter


Under the same roof, we have Cynthia and me and a dog named Bailey. In Bailey’s eyes, it is without a doubt that I am not the dog owner. So when Cynthia has to return to Indonesia due to a family emergency for 14 days, I knew I was in for an unforgettable adventure.

Chinese New Year and Bailey’s Instagram account managed by Cynthia needed a photo. So I took one on her behalf. Photo taken with Nikon Z6.

Oh My Routines!

Most people whom I talk to would not truly relate to what “dogs need routines” mean. They would go, uh-huh, so what?

Well, dogs need routines. In Bailey’s case, since he doesn’t like to pee or poop at home (and therefore, no way to even train him to do so), he has to take his walk in the morning at 7-ish.

Every day.

Rain or shine.

In sickness (of the owner or the dog-sitter) and in health.

That alone is a pretty big commitment if you chew on it.

To make sure that he has his morning walk without fail, he would bark in the morning as a friendly reminder. I try not to respond to his barking immediately. That would reinforce his behavior thinking that barking equates to a voice-controlled door that opens when he barks.

At times, he would bark before 7 in the morning because he heard other dogs bark on the street (dogs’ roll call, as some may say).

I am not someone who wakes up early in the morning. Having to dog-sit Bailey for 2 weeks temporarily made me one.

Then he needs to be fed at 8 am. A bit of playtime and cuddle moments in between his naps. Between 5 to 6 pm, Bailey would expect his evening walk. At times I walked him in the neighborhood. If there isn’t much rain, I would take him to a dog run nearby so that he can run freely, without a leash. If I have the time and energy, I would take him out somewhere further with a car. Before midnight, he would need another short walk to, again, pee and poop.

3 walks. 3 pee and poop sessions. From 7 am to midnight.

That Walking Feeling Is, I Believe, Mutual

It is obvious that Bailey doesn’t enjoy walking with me and the feeling is mutual. The constant pulling. The ongoing picking up of rubbish to swallow and the refusal to obey my “leave it” command. Zero to little engagement even as I bring along treats. Sudden jump onto random pedestrians (one morning I had to apologize to what seemed like ten people of which, one jogger nearly fell onto the ground as Bailey made an attempt to jump onto her). Towards the end of the walk, Bailey would refuse to budge. He wanted more walking and more socialization with other dogs. To me, once I have collected his poop, the walk was done. Obviously, we were in constant disagreement.

According to Cynthia though, Bailey doesn’t behave like that. Hence, it must be just me and him. The feeling is mutual.

What Recall?

This is partially my fault. It was the Chinese New Year holiday period. My condo was quiet in the early evening. I have decided to walk Bailey up the stairs. Since he was so much faster than me, I took off the leash and let him run ahead. At the top of the stairs is a link bridge. From a distance, I saw a small dog with its owner.

Uh-oh.

I quickly ran to Bailey trying to catch him. He also saw the dog and he quickly ran to the dog with overwhelming enthusiasm (which, unfortunately, the dog owner with colored hair saw as aggression). Bailey outran me, of course. I tried calling him back. But my recall failed.

Looking back, I am still unsure if that dog owner was traumatized by a charging dog from behind or I, the dog-sitter was traumatized by Bailey’s behavior. I apologized, in a weaker voice than usual, and quickly removed Bailey from the crime scene.

To have a reliable recall, there must be a higher value than what distracted the dog in the first place. Unfortunately, neither my praises nor my treats work.

Prey Drive Not The Same As Aggression

Unless you have a dog that has a certain degree of prey drive (and hence read more into it), most people would think a dog is aggressive when they go after other dogs – especially smaller ones – or small animals with such vigor.

In short, prey drive is an instinctive behavior. Aggression is associated with emotions such as fear. They are different. It is easier to correct or subdue prey drive than aggression. Because in the latter case, you would need to resolve the emotional issue first.

Bailey has a medium prey drive. He likes stalking smaller animals and he likes to chase after them. He doesn’t hurt and he doesn’t kill.

I thought it was a good idea to bring him to Botanic Garden. Poor Bailey saw all the chickens roaming freely in the garden but could not give a good chase. He must have been feeling frustrated. Poor me with my arm ached from all the pulling. No, it wasn’t a good idea.

A tired dog is a happy dog. Bailey loves excursions. A successful one is the one that Bailey would sleep in the car. Photo taken with a phone.

Big Brother Role

My friend SF brought home a 5-month old Golden Retriever named Axel a couple of weeks ago. I was with my friend the day she brought him home (she lives alone and needed help). Axel is different from Bailey. He is shyer and he needs a lot of encouragement to even step out of the house. And when he does, he prefers to stick to the green field right next to the apartment not wanting to go further. So we thought, why not bring Bailey and see if he can ‘pack-lead’ Axel?

Bailey and I arrived early and we were playing at the green field next to my friend’s apartment. Shortly, Axel and SF joined us. I did my best to tone down Bailey’s enthusiasm. And it worked. I am pleased.

Bailey and Axel play well with each other. Photo taken with a phone.

As we led our dogs out of the green field, I noticed that Axel refused to move. In fact, he seemed disturbed by loud noises such as cars and motorcycles. He looked frightened.

SF tried to use kibbles as an incentive to get Axel to move one meter by one meter. Unfortunately, that also attracted a lot of Bailey’s attention as Bailey is highly food motivated.

That didn’t work. After barely moving for 20 meters, I suggested to SF not to use kibbles. Just let Bailey does his job.

True enough, Bailey walked in front – like he always does when walking with me unless he is really tired – Axel followed. What a beautiful sight to behold! Once Bailey realized that we were in a pack, he constantly checked back at us. I thought that was pretty cool.

Good job, Bailey!

Bailey Met His Nemesis

Only when you are a dog would you understand the draw of a dog run or a dog park.

I like bringing Bailey to a dog run. He can go unleashed. I don’t have to deal with the pulling. It is a good way to burn down his energy. He loves it. I love it. It is a win-win.

Walking to the dog run is often a challenge for me. He is constantly distracted by other dogs on the street, constantly distracted by the rubbish on the ground (even kibbles for cats). But as we approach the dog run, the scent of other dogs – whether present or not (as dogs leave marks or pee mails) – grows. Bailey would pull stronger and stronger until he totally forgot about me.

One day, like any other day, I would command Bailey to sit between the double gates, calm himself down, before letting him into the dog run. On this particular day though, even as I opened the inner gate, Bailey ran back to the outer gate instead, not wanting to enter.

I was puzzled. As it turned out, he was not pleased with two of the dogs inside. One of them had injured him in the past. Bailey would stand near the gate not wanting to play with his other friends. Although to him – and I know – I am merely a vending machine for food and drink, my pawrent instinct kicked in. I took Bailey to a far corner and played fetch with him, keeping an eye on the whereabouts of the two dogs. I just don’t like how they play with Bailey. No means no.

I rarely see Bailey burying his face into the curtain. Kind of cute I must say. Photo taken with a phone.

Jogging & Bailey Took the Blame

Bailey and I played fetch when we were inside a dog run. That is one good way to burn down his energy. Outside the dog run though, he needs to be on a leash. To achieve a similar outcome, I would prefer jogging.

It is rather fun jogging with Bailey. It is a mix of a slow jog, sprint, and sudden stop.

I enjoy walking Bailey on a rainy day. Because most dog owners would not prefer to walk their dogs in light rain or on wet ground. I like it because lesser distraction means lesser pulling.

Anyhow, one morning, I was jogging with Bailey in a park. As I turned into the park, I stepped onto a wet metal grid on the ground. It was slippery and I fell on my butt. My right forearm was scratched. My palms were bruised. I had minor bleeding here and there. One stranger asked if I was okay. She thought I fell because Bailey was pulling.

While yes, Bailey was ahead of me, it was totally my fault.

A Park Full Of People Thought I Did The Unthinkable!

Here in Singapore, we are not allowed to unleash our dogs in public, except dog runs or dog parks. It was in the early morning. The weather was lovely. One-third of the park was occupied by elderly dressed in uniform standing one meter apart exercising with music played in the background. Some rested by the benches. Others took a stroll on the pavement. In the middle of the park, there was a large patch of green grass. Ginger, the Singapore Special (an actual local breed name) was with her owner’s helper.

Ginger is a rather unique dog. Inside a dog run, she would observe other dogs and play with a selected few. Bailey is among the ones she called friends.

With a leash though, Ginger behaves rather differently. She would still play but when she becomes frustrated (I would presume with the leash), she would bite her own tail.

Back to that one fateful morning, Bailey was playing with Ginger. It went well until he pulled too hard. The leash broke!

All hell broke loose.

Imagine a fast-running dog, unleashed, dashing across the park. Everyone was looking at me running like a mad man trying to catch Bailey. They probably thought that I was the one who unleash the dog in public, the irresponsible one who jeopardize everyone in the park.

Bailey, predictably so, ran back to Ginger. I tried to catch him but I failed. He ran away.

In his second rendezvous, I made a mental commitment. I had to catch Bailey. I threw my body onto him, grabbed him with a good and firm hug, rolled onto the wet grass that I know, and everyone knows, is soaked with dog pee. The helper asked if I needed to borrow her spare leash. I politely declined, tied the broken leash onto his harness, took him home and have the leash replaced, and brought him down in time for the “school bus” that transported him to the dog school.

Till today, I am still keeping the broken leash just in case someone that day took a video and sent it to the police. I swear. I am innocent.

What Else?

One fine day, Bailey has destroyed or shredded my T-shirt in the morning and the floor mat at night. On the other day, he has destroyed his bed made of canvas, shredded a hole in the middle. I tried to brush his teeth every night. It was an interesting experience having my fingers right inside his jaws. I have risked losing my fingers trying to stop him from eating a discarded chicken drumstick in bone (and I succeeded). While some dog owners may frown upon him thinking that Bailey is too aggressive, it was heartwarming to see Bailey playing well with dogs with the same energy level (Luna, Whisper, Ole, and Bella). I tried cleaning his ears once and got my face and body covered with the fluid he shook off. I bathed him every week. I bought a trimmer online and shaved his fur around his paws (not good for his hips in the long run). I don’t necessarily enjoy the process of being a dog-sitter. But I must admit, there were moments I enjoyed.


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