Doesn’t Want Mother-in-Law to Dog-Sit

26 Aug

I have a wonderful relationship with my husband’s parents. My mother-in-law offered to dog-sit for us when we went on a last-minute, 10-day Christmas trip becaused the kennels and dog sitters were all booked. We delivered the dogs to her house with their food, toys, snacks and bed. We checked in by phone twice while we were gone and she mentioned she was feeding them the same food her own dog eats, and giving them table scraps, and “spoiling my granddogs.”

When we picked up the dogs, they had red, irritated areas on their skin, they had gained weight noticeably (in 10 days), and they had picked up two bad habits: begging and snatching at our food, which they had never done before. They refused to eat their own food for two days after we got home (a premium food that we think is superior to the grocery-store brand my mother-in-law feeds).

We got them back to health and didn’t say much about it to my mother-in-law, because she was so nice to take our two dogs for that long on short notice. Now we’re planning another vacation in October and she’s offering to dog-sit again. I’ve told her we’ll just board them at the kennel, but she insists that’s a waste of money and keeps urging us to leave them with her.

How can I make it clear to her that we’d rather not without hurting her feelings for her past generosity?
G.L., Garland, TX

Dear G.L.,
Your mother-in-law was generous in offering to take care of your dogs before, and now, and you’re right to be considerate of her feelings and grateful for her help in the past.

The most direct way to handle this is to have a sit-down with your mother-in-law (with your husband present to show his support). Tell her that you’re very thankful that she was able to help you out before, and that you could not have gone on your Christmas trip if it had not been for her. 

I assume you retrained your dogs to mind their manners since they returned home, so don’t mention the bad habits they picked up. Instead, focus on the dietary requirements of your dogs. Separation, a new routine and a new home (even a temporary one) can lead to digestive distress, so the problem may not have been entirely your mother-in-law’s fault. However, the weight gain probably was. If you’re boarding your dog at the vet, tell her you’d feel better if a veterinarian kept an eye on their digestive distress while you’re gone.

However, there’s another way to approach it. Why not give your dogs a vacation, too? Make reservations at a dog spa/day care center. While you’re gone, the dogs will be able to interact daily with other dogs during group playtime. Some of the fancier pet hotels include petting time, reading time, snack time and other extras designed to make dogs feel good and have fun. At the end of the week, the pups can have a day of pampering with a bath, brushout, nail and teeth treatment and a trim, and go home to you refreshed and renewed.

If you go this route, tell your mother-in-law that you’d like to take the opportunity to give your dogs a vacation with playtime in which they can work on social skills, supervised by professionals, plus a spa day for each. You might also mention to her that that there are a lot of couples out there whose in-laws don’t have the slightest interest in their dogs, don’t welcome the dogs into their homes, want the dogs locked in another room when they come over, and basically don’t want to have anything to do with them. Let her know that you recognize that you’re lucky to have a mother-in-law who’s dying to have the “granddogs” over to spoil them. Then make a date to meet her and her dog at the local dog park or dog beach for a playdate.
Got a question about dog etiquette? Send it here.


Posted by on August 26, 2006 in Dog Etiquette


4 responses to “Doesn’t Want Mother-in-Law to Dog-Sit

  1. dogs in duds

    August 30, 2006 at 2:55 pm

    Just stopping by to say that I love the site!

  2. Terry Roberts

    September 24, 2006 at 3:33 am

    Hi! Just found this blog and think it’s great.
    I know exactly what a problem it is sometimes to decide what’s the best place to leave a dog – with family or in kennels or something similar. My mother had this problem for many years and soemtimes even decided to cancel travel plans.
    I like your advice!

  3. mary

    September 30, 2006 at 9:31 am

    I recommend leaving the dogs with the Mom and let her spoil them. Make the issue less about control and more about love. We all bounce back from over-indulging on vacation and so will the dogs. The dog sitting is a way your Mom can feel useful as she ages, and the attention the dogs give her makes her feel good. This is one of those red flag situations where it could get big and ugly and a little extra weight on a dog is something you can handle where a slighted or depressed Mom will come back to bite you in a bigger more subtle way over the years.

    Do encourage her to try to keep their weight down and let it be at that. Your good diet and dog parenting will override any short term spoiling. Love your Mom and thank her regardless of her dog-sitting style and the relationship will be your reward.

  4. Cherie Wright

    December 3, 2006 at 5:42 pm

    My mother-in-law comes over and only plays/talks to the dogs, gets down on the floor/grass and plays rough with the dogs. Lets them jump/lick etc all over her and then they want to do that to other people who don’t want to. She’s a big dog person, we dont have any kids. What do I do, it drives me crazy. She doesn’t even sit on our furniture, just on the floor to play with the dogs. And its hard to talk to her about anything else because she is consumed with the dogs and talking to the dogs.


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