Bathe the Dog?

by cv harquail on October 22, 2009

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“Is it too much to ask your au pair to wash the dog once and a while?”

An anonymous person (host parent? au pair?) suggested that we address this question.

Here’s my opinion:

Yes, it is too much to ask your au pair to bathe your dog. Even a sweet, little, fluffy dog. Unless your au pair took the dog on a muddy walk for her own fun, washing the dog is just not part of her job.

Au Pairs are here to care for children, and even if your dog is adorable s/he still isn’t a child. And, your dog isn’t “kid-related light housework.”

Some au pair agencies make it explicit that pet care is not to be expected of an au pair. Other agencies don’t mention pets in their guidelines, but it would seem to me that pet care is not within an au pair’s purview.

I think it’s okay to ask the au pair to feed the dog or ‘help’ your child feed the dog. And, I have asked my au pairs if they would walk our dog once and a while when I’m not getting home until late, but I have offered to pay them as dog-walkers too ( $5.00 Not much, but it’s the thought that counts.) But baths? No.

Also, since this is not official childcare, your au pair must be able to decline to bathe the dog if you ask her and she’d prefer not to. And, you can’t hold it against her if she says she’d rather not.

What do you all think?

Is it okay to ask your AP to bathe your dog?

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See Also:

Poll: Do You Ask Your Au Pair to Walk The Dog?

Bath Time! by JStreit on Flickr

{ 20 comments }

anon October 23, 2009 at 8:33 am

I think the voting choice should include one more option “Yes, because she is a member of the family”
It seems that many times the “kid related light housework” is the line that defines what they can and cannot do. At the same time the the au-pairs should be, and often want to be, a member of the family.
In my opinion the good comes with the bad and I have communicated that to our current aupair who is a lovely girl by the way. I can’t see why it be ok to be a part of the family when it comes to nice things like driving the car, having friends over, going on all the vacations (Disney, Cruise etc.) with us without having to take extra vacation time but then not be a member of the family when it comes to daily live that may or may not include bathing a dog (we do not have pets). For us, in order to determine if we can or cannot ask something (not make it her responsibility) of the au-pair we ask ourselves if we would 1.) Do it ourselves, 2.) Is it family related and part of our daily!! live , 3.) Would we ask our children to do it.
In this case I would not think that it is part of her “regular” responsibilities, meaning she is the only one that bathes the dog, but certainly I think it would be ok to ask her to bath the dog every once in a while just like host mom and dad & children, if old enough, should.
Share the good and the bad….

Taking a Computer Lunch January 13, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Under this answer, then, she should only bathe the dog when the kids help – as in she is teaching the kids to care for the dog. Under this scenerio it’s a reasonable request.

PA aupair mom October 23, 2009 at 9:11 am

I think bathing a dog is a little much to ask of the au pair. Feeding the dog/cat is quick and relatively easy. Bathing the dog is much more time consuming, often messy and frustrating.

asking the kids to do it, with her supervision, seems more appropriate to me.

Anonymous October 23, 2009 at 9:16 am

I agree with PA mom, that this could be something that older children could do with the supervision of the AP. So saying “would you please help the kids get the dog bathed while I’m at work today” would be acceptable to me. We have our AP do light pet duty if we are gone (for a weekend for example), and she has chosen to stay home.

I do think boundaries tend to blur as far as what is or isn’t the APs duty. For example, if she is going to the grocery store, I may have her get something completely not kid related (i.e., cat food), or I may ask her to unload the dishwasher (could be considered kid related, but we’re not going to tell her to just unload the dishes the kids used). In the alternative, I could leave all the kids laundry for her to do during the day, but I don’t. If I’m doing laundry, I do the kids, too. If she’s doing laundry, she does whatever needs to be done, even though sometimes that means my laundry gets thrown in with the kids.

I think one of the biggest keys to a successful AP/family relationship is not obsessing over every little detail of who should be doing what. Families just don’t work that way.

PA aupair mom October 23, 2009 at 10:19 am

Anonymous is absolutely right about the laundry. Whoever is doing the laundry on a particular day just throws it all in. We don’t separate it out as kids’ laundry, our laundry, her laundry. We take turns. Same with the dishwasher.

I think the answer could also depend on what type of relationship you have with your AP. If she is a “family member” she might not mind but if you have an employer/employee kind of relationship, she may easily be put off by the request.

Emma October 23, 2009 at 11:07 am

I seem to be experiencing a disconnect here. My reaction to the question “Is it okay to ask your AP to bathe your dog?” is no, however if my HF asked me to bathe the dog I’d probably say yes and not think anything of it. If I’m part of the family that means doing some of the less pleasant stuff.

TX Mom October 23, 2009 at 12:02 pm

I think that a HF has to be careful about defining tasks that are “family related” as AP responsibilities. There are some tasks that we do that I wouldn’t ask an AP like: bathe the dog or clean parent/family toilets or do yard work. (There have been weekends when our family is outside clearing brush in the TX heat and our AP is in air conditioning sleeping where I would love to trade with her.) I expect her to clean her toilet and the children’s toilet and ask her to feed the dog. I do believe in sharing household duties (like emptying the dishwasher) but she shouldn’t have to do it more than her adult share (i.e. 30%.)
It sounds like anon has a reasonable approach, but there are some HF’s who are unreasonable.

kp October 23, 2009 at 12:09 pm

I once had a friend whose attitude towards anyone who worked or lived in her home was this: “if it’s not beneath me to do it, it shouldn’t be beneath anyone else in this house.” If she was willing to clean up the kids’ dirty toilet, why can’t the au pair? If I’m willing to lug the trash (that 4 kids, an au pair and two adults have contributed to) why can’t she? If we model to our children that this teenager who lives with us is somehow above contributing to the functioning of the household yet she contributes to the mess, eats the food, uses the car, and has all the benefits of living within the home- what will our children do when they are teenagers/young adults visiting overseas or staying with friends? In my mind the au pair is supposed to be “part of the family” and with that goes all the chores and responsibilities she presumably had (or should have had) when she lived in her own home. Treating these girls like princesses who can’t put their own dishes in the dishwasher or clean up after themselves, the children and the pets who are living with them sets a dangerous precedent. Why should I be doing manual labor when there’s a 19-yr old sitting at the table texting her friends on the cell phone I’m paying for?? Obviously there are families who abuse their au pairs, but any reasonable host parent will not. We simply expect the same consideration, respect and sense of responsibility that we would want from our children and family.

kp October 24, 2009 at 11:37 pm

as for pet care- if it is the kids’ responsibility, then the au pair can help them. Personally, I don’t bathe the dog- my husband does or we take him to a groomer. I don’t know that I’d ever ask an au pair to do this!

Another CA Mom October 23, 2009 at 4:09 pm

First – I agree that it would NOT be appropriate to ask our au pair to wash the dog – unless she got her all muddy!

But aaaugh, I am having flashbacks to a “selective” definition of “being part of the family” – might as well unload here so that I can move on with my life, huh?

When I went into labor with our 3rd this past spring, it was on a Saturday and my mother-in-law was here. Our 1st au pair (who was in her 19th or 20th month of the 21 months with us) came up to see us off at 8am or so – and then told my mother-in-law that, watching her trying to wrangle a 3 year old & 2 year old, she would stay and help my mother-in-law for the day.

That meant so much to my mother-in-law, and so much to me, when I heard the story. It was only a few weeks later – when our au pair then informed me that she had gone “extra hours” that week, because she counted every minute that she had offered her time that Saturday as working time. Working time that she offered up. Gah!

It still upsets me.

cv October 26, 2009 at 7:51 am

Ugh. To have her count it as ‘on duty’ after presenting that time as a ‘helping out’ is almost worse than having not gotten the help at all. No wonder you’re still irked!

Hula Gal October 23, 2009 at 5:57 pm

I draw the line this way. If she contributes to it it is fair game to ask her to help with it. She didn’t choose to have a dog so why should she bathe the dog. She contributes to the trash so she takes it out as her household chore. She contributes to dirty dishes so can help clean them. She is not our daughter she is an au pair that we are hosting for a year. And she is not a maid, or a house manager, or a mother’s helper. I try to be very careful about what I ask her to do and respect the boundaries. She has a car because it gives us some private time without her in the house. She has a cell phone because it gives us peace of mind. So these perks are as much about helping us as they are about helping her so I don’t begrudge her those things.

NewAPMom October 23, 2009 at 6:00 pm

I see it the same as Hula Gal. Any basic household tasks the au pair benefits from, she should help with. This includes dishes, trash, and cleaning the bathroom, for example. Anything extra that the host parents decided to get into that doesn’t directly benefit the au pair should not be her responsibility. For example she shouldn’t have to wash or walk the dog, weed the garden, or work on any DIY home improvement tasks.

Eliza October 23, 2009 at 6:09 pm

In my application, I requested not too many indoor pets, only as I have a cat allergy and didn’t want 5 cats (or dogs for that matter) in my room.

However, I am very much a dog person, (if I wasn’t it might be a different story and some people just do not like dogs) my host family doesn’t have a dog, which is fine, but if they did, and asked me to bathe it I would. I think it’s about how you ask, when you ask etc.
For example, if one Saturday morning you said “It’s a sunny weekened au pair, do you mind bathing the dog AT SOME STAGE”
I feel that would be acceptable, that way she can choose a time when she is not busy and can shower (no one wants to go anywhere smelling like wet dog).

In regards to other housework, apparently, at this point, from what I have been told, besides keeping mine and the kids rooms and bathrooms clean etc, it seems I will not have any extra set housework duties. However, even at home, if something needs to be done, I do it. So, if there are dishes and everyones busy, I’ll do it, same goes with vacuuming, bedmaking, cooking etc.

I think that’s what shows ‘part of the family’, doing it because it needs to be done, not because you’ve been asked.

Natt October 23, 2009 at 11:47 pm

How about bathing the cat? :)

I often bath my two cats, and all our aupairs so far have found it quite a novelty! The kids help me, we all get in a bubbly mess, and then we fall about in giggles as the cat shakes her paws to dry them off.

I wouldn’t ask my aupair to bath the cat as she might get scratched. I do agree that being “part of the family” does include some not nice things, as well as nice!

Jade October 24, 2009 at 3:29 pm

When i aupaired i fed the cats and spoilt them but keep in mind i am a cat lover of note.

Another Aussie Au Pair October 25, 2009 at 4:24 pm

I don’t think washing the the dog is a big deal at all (it can be fun actually!), but if the children are old enough then maybe the Au Pair can supervise/help them. If not it’s fair as long as 1. the Au Pair likes/isn’t afraid of the dog & 2. it’s a chore that everyone in the house takes turns at.

HostMom in NY October 26, 2009 at 4:00 pm

I must say that the more HostMom experience I get and then more I think about our relationship with our current au pair as well as our previous au pairs, I realize that the whole ‘part of the family’ and ‘au pairs’ responsibilities debate is forever going to be remaining a debate. There will never be a ‘one size fits all’ solution. As another poster pointed out (on a different post) there are so many variations on the host-aupair relationships ranging from employer/employee to truly-part-or-the-family.

We don’t have pets, but my gut reaction to the question of bathing the dog is “NO! It is not au pairs responsibility”. Asking au pair to help kids bath the dog is basically asking her to bath the dog, unless kids a fairly old – tweens, and once again I would say no, it is au pairs job. However, my opinion comes from our current relationship with our au pair who we love, btw. But, I cannot say that she is part of our family, and I think both her and us like it that way. In any case she has repeatedly told us and our LCC that she is happy with us and we are tentatively talking about extending with her for the second year. But at the same time, her only chore outside of kids is to unload the dishwasher in the morning. Other then that, she is responsible for doing kids laundry (with their help, they are still small), helping/supervising them to clean their room, tidy up the living/dining areas after kids are done paying or doing homework, take kids to activities, play dates, library, park, museum, etc. She rarely eats meals with us – about every 2 weeks or so, but she we she does, we all enjoy her company as she does ours.

But, at the same time, she does not participate in our activities. Partially by her choice, when we invite her, and partially because we don’t invite her to some of them. We need family time on weekends when we can reconnect with our kids and each other and it is hard to do when you have an au pair there. For the same reasons, we will not be bringing her with us on family vacation.

This is not so say that she and I have not had late night chats about a bunch of things ranging from cultural difference to personal family and extended family situations, to relationships advice.

au pair October 27, 2009 at 9:52 am

if I was treated like part of the family Yes. I would bathe the dog. But I am not. Once I am not part of the family bathing the dog becomes a work for me. So it is TOO much to ask the au pair. It’s already too much to have to clean the dog’s poopie and even walk the dog. I wouldn’t be happy if my family ask me that. But If I was treated as part of the family I would do it with my heart open. But they don’t even invite me for dinner. Which means I am the employee and they are the employers.

ThinkingAboutThisIdea January 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm

I think that the HF can ASK, but the au pair can say “no thanks ^-^b”.
The dog isn’t party of her/him job, but isn’t too much help. Like… s/he can do this with the kids and have fun! But if this sound like a duty – become a duty-, gonna be too much.

This is a kind of thing that a conversation could resolved.

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