Our Au Pair Hates Our Dog: Ideas to help?

by cv harquail on January 8, 2012

What do we do when our au pairs don’t like our pets?

No au pair is required or should be expected to take care of a dog by walking him, feeding him or training him. Pets are most assuredly not the responsibility of an au pair.

While a pet-friendly au pair may be happy to help with dog chores, that’s always at his or her discretion, and host parents should understand that they can’t assume the au pair will do anything more than make sure the dogs doesn’t escape out the front door or go too long without water in his bowl.

But what if the au pair and the dog just don’t get along?


JM Host Mom shared this problem in our conversation about New Year Review: Reset Au Pair Expectations for 2012. It was one of three issues that she was struggling to deal with. I think this problem is significant in its own right, so let ‘s talk about it.

Here’s JM Host Mom’s concern:

The dog. She hates our dog. Our dog hates her. Our dog is a sweet little dog who is very active and exciting. Granted, she’s not the easiest dog in the world IF you let her run wild and don’t correct her. But we’ve tried to be compassionate and have spent HUNDREDS of dollars on an in-home trainer since our au pair arrived to try to help. The poor dog gets so upset and anxious that she barks constantly at the au pair.

The au pair is not doing the things the trainer taught her. The au pair complains about the dog, and locks her in her crate for long periods of time because it’s the easiest thing to do. We keep asking her, “are you doing what the trainer taught us?” and she says, “well, no…” We tell her to do what the trainer taught us (it’s not like it’s that hard) and NOT to lock her in the crate (which just exacerbates the dog’s anxiety and makes it worse). But nothing changes. We keep coming home and finding the dog locked in the crate.

The au pair says “oh she’s only been in for a quick ten minute time out,” but we’re pretty sure she’s been in there a LONG time because we can tell by the dog’s behavior (she’s our dog, we know what she’s like). Any suggestions?


See also:

Poll: Do you ask your Au Pair to walk your dog?
Can I ask my au pair to Bathe the Dog?

 Image: Smiling Dog AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by yark64


AFHostMom January 8, 2012 at 6:50 pm

I’m interested to see the replies, because as I said, to me this is a fundamental problem. Assuming that the dog is seen as part of the family, and the AP can’t stand the dog, I don’t understand how the relationship can thrive. Also, there’s a potential lying issue here–if the AP insists that the dog hasn’t been caged up for hours, and the HPs think she has, there’s a problem.
But having said all this, I don’t like dogs. We have a cat and guinea pigs. Dogs are a lot of work, and I know they’re not for everyone–however, if the AP matched with this family knowing they had a dog, and she simply can’t get along with the dog, there’s a big problem.

Melissa January 8, 2012 at 7:53 pm

An au pair shouldn’t be expected to have to manage a dog, aside from the basics (food, water, and an occasional walking or letting out in the yard). I also wouldn’t expect an AP to have to so actively manage a dog that a trainer has to be involved. However, not all dogs are ideal of course, and sometimes there has to be some give and take and effort. If it was clearly communicated during matching that the family has a dog and the AP likes and is willing to work with a dog, then I wouldn’t expect an AP to resist having to spend time and have ‘some’ management of the dog.
I think this case depends on just how impossible the dog is and the APs attitude about the whole thing. To me, this post gives the impression that the AP just doesn’t like the dog and is very resistant of having to deal with it. If that’s the case, I would quickly become very frustrated with my AP. If she’s not willing to put in a little work (whether it be with the dog, the kids, the housework, whatever) and has a negative attitude toward it, that’s a huge issue for me. If you invested time with a trainer and she indicated that she would go along with the suggestions, and now she is refusing to, that’s a problem. Or if she is lying about it (saying that the dog has only been in the cage a few minutes when it has really been much longer), that’s an honesty issue. However, if the dog is just very difficult to deal with by most people’s standards, then I would cut the AP a lot of slack. I think this is one of those things that depends on how you feel about her overall. If she’s a stellar AP whom you genuinely like, something like this is much easier to overlook. If it’s really bugging you, then I bet you have some other issues with her as well.

massaupairmom January 8, 2012 at 8:07 pm

I don’t think my au pair is crazy about my dog, but we have a fairly low maintenance dog, so it doesn’t impact our relationship the way this situation is. Even though the au pair may not be asked to care for the dog per se, she certainly can be required not to do things that are harmful to the dog, like leaving him in the crate all day. She’ll need to understand that she has to either do what the trainer suggests and find a way to make peace with the dog, or she’ll be in rematch the same way she would be if she couldn’t get along with some other member of the family. Of course, I do wonder whether this family has had au pairs before, and whether they got along with the dog? I don’t want to offend, but some dogs just do not have agreeable “personalities”, or may have training needs that are beyond what an au pair can be expected to adjust to (e.g. separation anxiety, resource guarding, etc.) I don’t think I’d last too long with a dog following me around yipping at me all day. I don’t know what this au pair’s child care responsibilities are like, but I know I am not as patient and consistent with our dog as I should be when I am juggling the needs of three small children. There are lots of people out there who thinks its charming when their dog does things I find intolerable, like jumping up to greet people who come in the house. Perhaps we should all consider sharing the temperament and behavior of our pets when matching? Just saying we have a dog may not be enough information.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 9, 2012 at 8:11 am

I think I agree with you. The OP’s description of her dog seemed coded for “my dog is unpleasant.” An unpleasant dog combined with an AP who might not like dogs, but definitely doesn’t like dogs barking at her all day is a recipe for disaster. I’ll put it up front – I don’t particularly like dogs and certainly the idea of having a dog seems like a lot of work for me. A constantly barking dog is like nails on a chalkboard for me, so if I were an AP with a dog nipping at my heels then I would want to scream.

The family has 2 options as I see it. 1) They love their AP, who isn’t perfect but has built a bond with their child – hire a dog walker to deal with dog, or 2) the AP has been low functioning and there are major issues – rematch. However, if they decide to go into rematch, then they must be up front about the dog, since it obviously is an issue.

We have had APs who have loved animals and who have feared some animals. We had an AP who hated the hamster and peanut butter, but yet gave the hamster a peanut butter massage when it escaped from its cage and landed in a glue trap (huge present for that!) because she loved the little boy who loved the hamster. We had an AP whimper at the sight of a relative’s dog. All of our APs have been loved by our cats, so my guess is that they have been very kind to them. Some APs, missing their dogs, have gone out of their way to play or walk with neighbors’ dogs.

However, my bottom line is – the pets are ours and our APs are not responsible for them. If we’re going out of town for the weekend and the AP is staying, then we ask her to feed them. However, if she has plans, we find someone else to do it.

Returning HM January 8, 2012 at 10:16 pm

We’re probably in the minority here, but as a family who not only has a large dog (golden/lab mix) but also fosters golden retrievers, we actually have as one of our criteria for selecting APs that they themselves have and are active in the caretaking of dogs at home and that they are willing to be active caretakers of our dog(s) on the 2-3 days each week that I do not work from home. That means doing a midday walk and feeding the dog(s) in the evening on those days. Of course we are very clear about this in matching. Skype interviews include a fair amount of discussion about the dogs and the webcam being focused on them, including watching them run around the rooms and seeing how big they are in the space of our small house. And I ask questions about how potential APs dispose of their dog’s waste at home (we live in a very densely populated area, so we have to pick up the waste and dispose of it), how much they interact with their dogs, where their dogs sleep, and whether they have had challenges with their dogs — and all this factors in matching, honestly. Our dog is a member of our family, and any foster dog we take in is desperately in need of love and care, so it’s essential that anyone who is part of our household is willing and, indeed, eager to do this. And also tolerant of blond dog hair on black clothes! So far, in five years of hosting, we have only interviewed one candidate who balked at the dog care, and clearly, she was not the right AP for us anyway.

I am clear that I do not expect dog care as part of the AP job, but it is definitely part of the “member of the family” thing in our household. We have always gotten APs who see our dog(s) as a benefit to our household, and indeed, when our most recent foster was adopted right before Christmas after four months with us, it was our AP who cried the most when he left. She has already asked when our next foster will come! This has been typical of our APs, and I cannot imagine having an AP in our household who didn’t feel this way about our canine buddies.

If an AP of mine locked our dog in a crate without permission, or left a dog in a crate for longer than I said was OK, that would absolutely be grounds with me for a serious conversation and, if it continued, rematch. I agree with whomever posted above that you should say that the crate is off limits for the AP except under very specific circumstances. If the dog fears the crate is in her future every time she is with the AP, she is going to freak out when she is with the AP because she is so fearful of the crate, and it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy that she will act out enough that the AP will put her in the crate as long as the crate is an option. I wonder, can you put up a babygate around the room where AP is in, so the dog can see the people but isn’t in the way? Have you tried rescue remedy (a homeopathic calming potion for dogs – we sometimes use this with rescue dogs when they first arrive to us, until they are settled)? What about separating the dog in a different part of your house during the day when AP is alone with your child? What about the many other calming approaches – Thundershirt, calming collar, lavender spray – as a way of calming your dog and making her easier around the AP, which may have the rebound effect of making the AP nicer to the dog and thus the dog like the AP more?

You wrote in the other posting that you really like the AP, so I think some conversation with her is in order. Explain to her additional steps you will take to help the dog be calmer around her – whether it’s babygating the dog or giving the dog rescue remedy or trying a calming collar or a Thundershirt (which are wonderful for dog anxiety). But then ask her in return whether she is willing to take the steps you need from her to work with your family – and your dog is a member of your family.

And next time around, I suggest making being a dog lover – and a willing participant in the presence and care of a dog – a bigger part of your AP selection process. All of our APs have themselves come from dog (and often multiple dog) households, and it’s possible to find wonderful candidates who think having a dog is a benefit for their host family and who can’t imagine being in a family with a dog without playing a vital role in their care. Good luck with this!

hOstCDmom January 8, 2012 at 10:52 pm

We are not with Cultural Care now, but were a number of years ago. I recall the application having a section about pets and pet care, specifically asking if we required the AP to do any pet care, and if so what duties would s/he have. We had pets, but did not require any pet care from the AP, but the existence of the questions about what pet care we “required” lead me to believe (contrary to what CV states in her post above about how pet care never should be an AP repsonsibility) that it was actually “OK” from an agency standpoint to “require” certain pet duties from the AP? (and by OK, I mean officially permitted, not that it is necessarily a good idea or good for the relationship with the AP to “require” pet duties). Does anyone know if any agencies explicitly note that it is ok to have an AP assume pet duties?

cv harquail January 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Hi hOstCDmom –

I can see why, if your previous agency included questions about pet care, that it might seen that pet care is something you can legally ask of your au pair. Requiring your au pair to care for your pet falls outside of what constitutes childcare. It isn’t something that you can plan to have your au pair do as part of her au pair duties.

Maybe the agency asked these questions to suss out potential problems before people matched?

It’s interesting to see the distinction that many moms are making in these comments, between things that are ‘au pair duties’ and expectations that are related to being ‘part of the family’. Families with pets (and hopes that the au pair will help with the pets) should be clear about their expectations upfront, so that -even if it isn’t ‘legal’ — both parties agree in advance that the au pair will walk or feed or whatever the dog/ cat/ ferret/ miniature pony. My family is big on dogs and ponies, so finding an au pair who liked animals was important to me. But I did try to keep my expectations minimal… as long as the au pair was kind to the dog, that was enough to require of her. We did sometimes pay our au pair extra to care for our dog when we went away for long days or overnights. And, I’ll admit it, when our older daughter was old enough to walk the (well-trained) dog, sometimes the au pair went along when my kid walked the dog (but this was only for the afternoon walk when no poop was expected. I don’t know what they did when there was surprise poop….)

Returning HM January 8, 2012 at 11:27 pm

I have no idea what APIA (our current agency)’s rules are, but when we were with APC, our AD told us to be clear with our APs that our request for dog walks and feeding were as a member of our family and not as part of the AP’s work. I do count those hours towards our AP’s weekly and daily total but am clear that her dogcare is something we ask as a member of our family. No one has ever complained about this, and in fact, our AP often offers to walk our dogs even when I am home (and is often found playing with our dogs of her own volition).

JJ Host Mom January 9, 2012 at 1:03 am

We have this problem with an awesome au pair so I’ll chime in.

We have an older rescue greyhound. She was great before we had kids. Since we had kids she became a nightmare. Most notably, she howls at the top of her lungs every time the kids cry. We have three year old twins so there has been a lot of loud howling for the past 3 years. To be honest, there are many moments when I, also, hate this dog. Our au pair has to be around her and two crying kids much more often than I do, so I understand her feelings.

We did what OP did – invested in dog training with the au pair. Because dog training isn’t really dog training; it’s training the dog’s people. When we do the things the trainer taught us, she’s much better with the other behaviour problems, although she still howls unfortunately.

Our au pair scowled all the way through both dog training sessions and was clearly resentful of being there. But she stuck it out. It took her a while to start following through on what the trainer taught us but she eventually did and now is doing a great job with it. I think we’re all doing the best we can with a less-than-ideal situation, which really is just par for the course when you’re a family, right? From my point of view, this dog has been part of the family for years, and I don’t just abandon family members, so we’ll do whatever it takes to make it work. But I’m sure my au pair would rejoice if one day, the dog just wasn’t there anymore. But the key point is that even if the AP is understandably very much less than thrilled with the whole situation, she’s doing what it takes to make it work.

To be clear we don’t expect the au pair to provide any dog care, except occasionally when we’re out of town and she’s at home by herself, we’ll ask her to feed the dog a couple times a day. We don’t walk the dog (I know, I know, but something had to give in our crazy schedule) and she has a dog door so she can let herself out.

So that’s my situation.

With respect to the OP’s issue, I think the dealbreaker for me would be locking the dog in the crate and lying about it. That’s cruel to the dog and dishonest. Besides that, you can reasonably expect the AP to follow through on what the trainer taught all of you. It’s not difficult stuff; you just have to do it. It also doesn’t constitute dog care; it’s just that the dog is around the house and it’s about how you interact with the dog when she’s there.

I would have a sit-down with the AP and make sure she realizes those are absolute requirements. I would take the door off the crate while she’s on duty, and hide it somewhere. Being able to crate the dog is a privilege that she abused and, IMHO, has now lost. Furthermore I would also set up a nannycam; from what you’ve said I’d be concerned that she’s abusing the dog, and would want to know about it. (I wouldn’t normally advocate nannycams at all, but think they’re appropriate in situations where you sense that a living being may be subject to harm.)

If the dog situation doesn’t improve, then rematch.

As an aside, if she’s not patient with your dog, how much patience is she showing with your kids? Just something to think about.

JM Host Mom January 9, 2012 at 10:08 pm

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS! I feel like you have a window into our life right now. We have one son, and our AP only works about 30-35 hours a week, not a particularly heavy load. You are precisely right, what we’re asking of her is NOT dog care, it’s just to follow the directions of the trainer with respect to how she interacts with the dog such that they’ll get along better. For instance, if the dog barks when she’s not supposed to, the right thing to do is to put her in a sit and say “hush” firmly. If that doesn’t work, the AP has to keep trying until it DOES work. Because if she doesn’t correct the behavior, the behavior will worsen, which is exactly what is happening now.

And as a side note, we did make it very clear up front that we have a dog and that she is active and can be difficult at times. That being said, we had NO CLUE that the dog would behave like this with the AP, as she has never behaved this way before. She is actually quite well trained and her behavior problems only started (and worsened) AFTER the AP arrived.

NoVA Host Mom January 9, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Gut feeling as a dog trainer and someone who shows them: go with HER gut. If your puppy is so distrustful of the AP, she must know something you don’t. Humans are the only creatures on the planet who repeatedly ignore their own instincts because we don’t want to be rude, or think it might be nicer to do or say X. Follow the pup’s lead on this one. Especially if it’s the AP bringing out the worst in her.

I had a boyfriend who was not a dog person. I had 2, and was showing and breeding then. But he loved me, so he was respectful of the dogs. Was he ever going to take them for a walk? No, but he always was kindly towards them and never said a harsh word to any of them. He respected me and them as living beings too much to be mean for the sake of mean. Ultimately it was him or a new dog. It’s that big black Lab who is now 10 years old that C2 adores so much. I made the right choice. So has your puppy.

German Au-Pair January 9, 2012 at 1:33 am

Honestly? To me this au pair just sounds really unreasonable. I assume she knew you had a dog when she matched with you so she had time do decide whether she could live with a dog or not.
You mentioned your dog rings a bell when he needs to go outside. That leads me to the conclusion that it is both, a smart and well trained dog.

What I would do is to sit down with her and have a serious conversation with her. Tell her that the crate is completely off limits for her, unless someone just broke a glass or something. And if you come home and find the dog in the crate, you better find her doing something that required the dog to be in there.
And then she can choose. Either she puts up with a dog that is driving her nuts because she doesn’t stick to the trainer’s advise, OR she trys following the rules and see for herself that it’s much easier to deal with the dog then.

I would take that very serious. Because to me it seems incredibly disrespectful towards you and your family (of which the dog is a part) to ignore your requests, do something that is clearly not good for the dog AND lie about it.

NoVA Host Mom January 9, 2012 at 2:19 am

We have 2 large dogs, and the reality is that while the AP is not responsible for the day to day care of them, they are a part of the family. If the AP plans to live in out home, there better be a happy meduim going on. She does not have to walk them or even feed them, but don’t lock them in crates (or the basement or outside of the house for hours and hours) without our express permission. Frankly, if an AP plans to treat a dog with such little regard (especially after the OP HF went to such extremes to help everyone continue their relationship), then I have to presume they are treating the children with even less. In my home, the dogs settle down and don’t talk back; the same cannot be said for my darling beautiful Child #2 (whom I love more than my own life but I am the first to admit that the poem about the girl with a curl was written expressly for her).

We figure that while the AP is at home with the girls (and dogs) and the pups want to go out, the sliding door is opened and closed (and then again to bring them inside). And really that’s about it. Other than to treat them with kindness and respect, as with any living creature. The AP is someone who shows the children how to behave and how to treat others, all by example. If my children were to watch the AP treat their beloved pets (and furry family members, of sorts) in such a thoughtless and cold manner, then the girls are not being taught the lessons we as parents want them to have as they grow and go forward in their lives.

Child #2 spent 15 minutes today standing up eating her snack with one arm around our 10yo lab. He is the calming force for her, to the point that when she is in a raging temper, you can tell her to go sit and cool off (usually, I mean to go sit in time-out). Her answer to that (while yelling at me) is to walk to his dog bed, sit down, and pet this big furry goof while crying. If he is not on the bed, he has learned she wants him to come and sit next to her. This was not something we taught her or him, for that matter. This was a decision the two came up with on their own. C2 is 21 months old. Wise beyond her months, and clever enough to either rule the free world or get everyone to drink the Kool-Aid.

Both girls love all creatures great and small (we ride horses together, that is we hold them up while they are lead around), and if they were to see someone we tell them to respect and listen to treat animals in a manner opposite of how we were teaching them, it could cause confusion at the least, or anger and resentment and acting out at the worst.

My answer to an AP who treats our pets with such little regard is to rematch. Immediately. I know not everyone likes dogs, or cats or even fish for that matter, but since it’s not as though APs come to our house not knowing about them, then I expect anyone who interviews with us to know that we are a package deal: HD, HM, HC1, HC2, and 2 host dogs.

(as an aside, I find animals to be incredibly intuitive and if this H-dog is not happy with the AP, there is a reason. My late pup (who passed after 13 wonderful years) growled at passers-by so infrequently that even though I’m a LEO, I changed to the other side of the street each and every time. I’d trust her gut instinct above my own any day of the week).

NoVA Host Mom January 9, 2012 at 2:27 am

Oops. C2 is 22 months old. Where does the time go?

Should be working January 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm

I love the story about the C2 crying while cuddling the yellow lab! My 6-yr-old son is not always nice to our goofy, tolerant goldendoodle puppy, but yesterday morning my 10-yr-old daughter woke me up to show me how he had locked himself with the dog together in her sleeping-crate and the two were cuddled up like peas in a pod.

NoVA Host Mom January 9, 2012 at 9:09 pm

AWWWWW! Love it! See, they come to their own understandings sometimes. :D

Pia aupair January 9, 2012 at 6:58 am

Well i have a little different view on this.
First when i was an au-pair it was clearly stated that we could not be required to do any pet care.
when i matched with my family we didnt talk much about the dog. i had never lived with a dog before and since it wasnt an awfully big dog i agreed to a match since everything else matched very well! But I am not a dog person!
When i arrived at my hostfamilies house there was no dog anymore and my host parents decided to not get another one.

The au-pair singed up for a child care job and all of you know that some young women are already overwhelmed with that job and the new environment they are living in.
I never was but if i had to but myself in their shoes i might have been very resentful to deal with the dog as well. Her job is it to raise the kid not the dog and as the Hostmum already stated they knew their dog has a challenging character (and it sounds like that was not mentioned during the interview!) but they dont have to deal with him all day!
I like the idea of the babygate! i can see how cruel it is to lock the dog away in a tiny crate all day but i can also see how the aupair might not have the patience next to the kid – who should be the priority – to also deal with the dog in any other way.

and also everybody is saying that the dog is a family member but shouldnt your aupair be treated as one as well?

German Au-Pair January 9, 2012 at 11:36 am

Exactly! An au pair should be treated as a family member. If I locked my family’s dog in a crate after my own mum told me several times not to, I would be in trouble.
The au pair is treated as a family member by not letting her deal with that alone but paying someone to help. However she is not ACTING as a family member as she ignores the help and specific requests of the hostfamily.
If an au pair matches with a hostfamily, she signs up for the WHOLE hostfamily.
Matching with a family with a dog and then being mean to the dog would be a deal breaker for me.

Yes, my answer might be colored by the fact that I like dogs. But if I didn’t, I would just not match with a family that has a dog.

JJ Host Mom January 10, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Thank you for saying that, German Au-Pair! You can come be our au pair anytime you want. :-)

Niksmtn January 9, 2012 at 9:44 am

I agree with “returning hm” comments above! Let me add that we are a family of five horses, three dogs and a cat! All living at our home/ranch. I am also a CC for our agency and host an au pair. We interview first for the needs of our child, but when searching, I do an advanced search for those AP’s that like animals and or ” riding” which means riding horses. When you read their host family letter you can tell a lot about their level of experience and comfort with animals. We also skype and focus our interviews around family life and the animals, their behaviors and overall family responsibilities. Bottom line, if you are an animal lover, dog, cat, horse, whatever you will be happy to help out from time to time. I’m not sure how much your dog is part of your family, but if the dog is and the AP cannot learn or wish to try and learn, she needs to go. If your dog is a menace and has neurotic behavior you and your family cannot control that is unreasonable and you choose to keep the dog, then you should not subject your AP to the dogs behavior and a rematch is in order.

DCMomof3 January 9, 2012 at 10:05 am

I had a colleague who rematched over this very issue. Her kids were at school all day and the AP was home. I think that the AP’s day consisted of mall, gym, skype, video games. My colleagues asked her to take the dog out in the middle of the day, but the AP often did not. I can understand my colleague’s point of view – this girl is home all day anyway, she can take the dog for a 10 minute walk. And the AP’s point of view – why should I waste my 10 minutes on the dog? Ultimately, my colleague just decided that the AP wasn’t really living up to her family responsibilities if she couldn’t be bothered with a short walk with the dog. So, I guess it can depend on how much the AP really wants to fit with the family dynamic if that family includes a dog.

Niksmtn January 9, 2012 at 10:10 am

Furthermore, I read and hear a lot of words being used ” not my responsibility, “not my task”, “not dealing with” “unreasonable”, ect. These words used by either HF’s or AP’s is a buzz word for me that the match is in serious jeopardy. HF and AP’s should be coming to the AP host family programs with open minds and the willingness to learn new things. Albeit, some things are harder to learn than others and might take the people out of their comfort zone to begin with, but seeing both sides “try their best” is what you want to see and hear. If a family or an AP is not working hard to learn, try and be part of the spirit of the programs, then they need to move on until they find the match that suits their needs. we had an au pair one year, who said it was not her task to go check the mail. Well checking the mail was my 2 year olds favorite thing to do, part of teaching him and a job for him everyday. Things unraveled fast after that statement and it became another not her task to clean up her dishes, to give the dogs water, or to use the vacuum from time to time. Very shortly after this is became not my task to let her use the car, have a smart phone, a computer, a large suite with a private bath, gratis food to her unusual vegetarian diet, and unlimited use of a gym membership. Can you say Rematch! We rematched with a lovely au pair who just like everyone else in the family, just does what is needed. We are still in touch with our first au pair who on her 3rd rematch, finally said she learned something and that we were her nicest and easiest family. Sometimes it takes moving on to learn for both HF and AP ‘s.

mytwinsrgr8kids January 9, 2012 at 11:21 am

Wow. This may sound harsh, but your AP is abusing your dog and disregarding your instructions. If she treats your pets this way, are you 100% certain that she is not behaving similarly with your children? You’ve tried the dog trainer approach. It failed. It is time to protect your family and clearly, for you, this includes your dog. In your shoes I would rematch.

Ialreadyhate yourau pair January 9, 2012 at 12:33 pm

well I am an au pair and also I went to vet school in my home country and let me tell you…if she doesn’t love animals she doesn’t love kids!! why becase animals as well as kids make people sensitive and make us just love them. It is absolutely understandable that someone doesn’t feel comfortable with pets or with children but one thing is being indiferent and another thing is feel hate for them., and according to what I read in your post you definitely have a problem between and au pair and your dog!! I don’t think this is a reason for you to think about rematch or something but just don’t force your AP to do what your trainer says because she certainly does not care and will not do it,,, If I were you I would prefer my AP to ignore my dog instead of mistreating him by locking or calling him names…Just let her know that your pet is important for you, that you DO care about the dog and if she will not help thats fine because at the end her job is with your kids but ask her not to lock him…well hope I can help you…make sure she doesn’t hit him or more little details,,, believe as an au pair I can tell all the hprrible things I know some other girls do to their host families (including the dog) as a “little revenge” for when they are not satisfied….

Amelie ex-aupair January 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm

About the first part of your post! Absolutely not true! One person might love children but not animals. Even some of the moms who posted here said they’re not dog people…

I love children and I had a great time taking care of 3 small ones during my au pair year, I absolutely love my 5yo cousin and I really want to have kids of my own some day.

One the other hand… I really don’t like dogs. I can’t stand dogs. They lick, and they bark, and they smell… I would NEVER mistreat a dog, I just don’t like being around them. Big or small, I’d never match with a family with dogs.

(I absolutely love cats, and have two. My host family had two as well at the time I lived with them. I didn’t have to do any kind of pet related chores, and it was great to have them around)

AFhostmom January 10, 2012 at 1:07 pm

I am with Amelie, as i stated above. Not a dog person here but i do love animals. I just dont want to be around dogs. :)
Sweeping generalizations are rarely accurate.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 10, 2012 at 1:35 pm

I agree. We don’t have dogs in our house (too much work to care for one medically fragile child and work full-time). We had one AP who was terrified of dogs – froze and whimpered at the sight (and it didn’t take long for dogs off leash to head in her direction). She was extremely tender to our special needs child, very loving and attentive, and our typically developing child loved her cooking. I would not confuse the failure to love an animal with an inability to love a child. Ialreadyhateyouraupair, you are playing with fire when you accuse someone you have never met of being cruel toward a child because the HP complains they are ignoring a dog that is behaving tiresomely toward them.

Caligirl January 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm

I agree with all the posters who said rematch. I hope the original poster will keep us updated- I am so curious as to what she decided!

toocute January 9, 2012 at 8:11 pm

If it were my animals, I would REMATCH immediately! I have two dogs and one cat and they ARE a part of our family and very important to my daughter. My AP’s love and empathy toward the animals is a very good example for my daughter. It may be a cultural issue where the AP comes from a country where animals are not family members. Nevertheless, there is no excuse for her to treat any animal, four legged or otherwise, with such disrespect. It is the owner’s responsibility to make sure the dog is reasonably trained and it seems you have made this effort. It is the AP that needs some training in being respectful to those (including the dog) around her. Dogs are very good judges of character and I would listen to your dog here.

Happy Au Pair January 9, 2012 at 11:09 pm

I really think the biggest problem is the lying…
I’m not crazy about animals but still I matched with a family with one dog, two cats (they got a third one after I arrived) and a couple of chickens. Because I loved this family from the first time I talked to them :) They asked me if I mind living in a house with animals and I said “As long as they don’t sleep in my bed…” HM promised they wouldn’t and that I don’t have to care about them.
I really got along very well with the pets although the dog sometimes pees and even poops in the house (she’s old and sick) – it’s not my job to clean that up, but I certainly won’t leave it there until HM gets home because 1.) it smells, 2.) what if someone steps in it? and 3.) I like the house to be clean :)
Then they got cat#3. She’s crazy. She doesn’t like the other pets and the other pets don’t like her, so they fight all the time. She makes a mess out of everything (knocks things over and breaks them) and even bites through plastic bags to get some bread from the counter. The other cats started copying her… So HP decided to keep that cat outside during the day – that meant they had to close the dog door and I had to let the dog out a couple of times a day. Although I really let her out very often she pees and poops in the house a lot – sometimes like five minutes after I let her out… (She although likes to go into the bathroom garbage and mess it up) That means a lot of cleaning for me… A couple of days ago HM decided she can’t handle letting the dog out in the middle of the night anymore and opened the dog door again – so I got that nasty cat in the house again. It’s very annoying… I love the dog and I love the two other cats but this one is just too much.
But still… I LOVE my hostfamily and I know they love that cat (I’m not that sure if HD does, but HM and the kids do :)) so I’ll just do my very best to clean up after her and not get mad about it and I know they appreciate what I am doing.
What I want to say with this is: If that Au Pair really loves her HF and cares about their feelings she will find a way to get along with that dog and if she doesn’t she should at least be honest and say so and not lie about how she treats the dog…

JM Host Mom January 10, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Thank you all so much for your responses! It’s a comfort just knowing there are others out there that have had challenges with APs and animals.

To clarify just a bit and then add an update…

I can understand people’s feelings here about dog care, that it is not required of the AP. And if that was what we were asking of her, I would agree. We ask nothing more of our AP in terms of dog care than that she open the door when the dog has to go to the bathroom (obviously the dog can’t do that itself). We do not ask her to feed the dog, walk the dog, or in any other way take care of the dog. All we ask is that she GET ALONG with the dog. We would love it if she would take the dog along when she goes for walks with our son (that is one of the things the trainer said would help greatly, because it will help her work off some energy and it will build a bond between them, lowering whatever anxiety the dog has associated with the AP). But we do not push her. We ask her to take our son out for walks, but we do not require that she take the dog. When we get home, we always ask how the day went, how the dog did, and we ask “did you go for a walk with our son? Did you take the dog?” If she says yes, we say thank you for doing that. If not, we don’t push her at all. It’s up to her how much she chooses to do/interact with the dog. But we feel that one of the reasons she doesn’t get along with the dog is because of her chosen level of interaction with the dog. She won’t allow the dog to come near her- to sit near her, or even enter her room. She’s not afraid of the dog (there’s nothing to be afraid of), she just doesn’t like the dog. That’s her choice and we don’t criticize, but I feel sure it’s not helping because the dog feels rejected and can sense that it is not liked. Add to that her locking the dog in the crate, and I’m sure the dog feels pretty terrible. I would if someone wouldn’t allow me near them and locked me in a cage when I was trying to tell them I was upset.

As to our dog’s character- she is an active dog. She’s a small dog (a breed similar to a Jack Russell), and she is naturally somewhat vocal. But being active and vocal does not make her challenging or bad. Some breeds of dog need a little extra work because they are smart and active. That is why she has been through a LOT of training. She had training when she was a puppy, training after we moved to our current house, and now our current trainer. We work with her a lot because it is fun, and have considered training her as a therapy dog because she is SO cute and cuddly and fun. She has never had any problems more severe than wanting to lick someone when they come to visit. She’s a sweet, lovable dog who is very smart (we taught her to ring a bell when she needs to go out. It only took 2 hours for her to get it!).

We did discuss with our AP at length that we had a dog, what her personality is like, and what we expected in terms of her relationship with the dog-that she would only need to let the dog out when she rings her bell, and that we would teach her the proper commands to use with her. We told her our dog is very active and vocal (and no, “vocal” is not code for a barking problem. By “vocal” I mean she likes to talk- she responds when you talk to her. She barks like any other dog- if someone comes to the door or there is some other kind of disturbance. That’s it). We were very up front about all things dog related, to the point that there’s even a whole section in our handbook that talks about the dog as well. AP said she was fine with everything. I recognize that the AP had no way of actually knowing our dog before she came, of course, and I’m sure she had good intentions. But if asking an AP to get along with the dog, to let the dog out, and to use the commands the dog is familiar with when they interact is TOO much to ask, then we’re definitely in the wrong program.

Now here we are. I can’t quite get a handle on why the dog is behaving the way she is with the AP. I definitely trust the dog’s instincts though, and acknowledge (and worry) that something is going on that I don’t know about. When HD and I are home, we don’t have ANY problems with the dog, EXCEPT when the AP is around. When the AP is around, the dog barks continuously a really high pitched, shrill bark, which I know is her “I’m anxious and upset” bark. This is what she does with the AP when we are not home.

The trainer has tackled it on two fronts- 1. the AP’s overall relationship with the dog (giving her tips for activities that will help them bond and help the AP establish her place in the “pack”). 2. How to directly confront the barking when the dog gets started. When something doesn’t work, the trainer has given us new tips for things to try. The AP is OCCASIONALLY trying some of the initial things the trainer taught us for dealing directly with the barking (anyone who knows about training dogs knows you have to tackle a behavior consistently, EVERY time, or it will continue to worsen). But when they haven’t worked, the AP gives up, and does NOT use the new tips the trainer has given us. Nor is she making ANY attempts to do the things the trainer told her to do to improve their overall relationship. This is where we feel the effort is really lacking.

Thanks to your kind advice here, I think we’ve come up with a plan. Our LCC has been involved (and was also waiting to see what the responses would be here), and is planning to come for a visit. We are going to have our “reset” conversation with our AP this week, of which this will be a huge part (the other parts I posted on the previous thread about reset conversations). Basically we will acknowledge that their relationship has been a challenge and has thus far not been successful (and seems to be getting worse). We will kindly tell her that she doesn’t have to love the dog, and we’re not asking her to take care of the dog, but she has to get along with the dog. Their relationship is not working right now. And the dog is not going to change unless the AP changes what she’s doing. And the dog is not leaving. She’s our dog and we love her. She’s not an unreasonable dog. She’s a sweet dog who wants to be loved. And we feel we’ve done our part in trying to help them get along (Hundreds of dollars worth of our part, thus far, with the trainer). We are willing to bring the trainer one more time (to the tune of another couple hundred dollars that we can’t afford), and we’re going to expect to see some changes within two weeks. I’m going to ask the trainer to be very specific in exactly what the AP needs to do, and hopefully we’ll see some changes. Otherwise, as much as I would hate it, I guess it will be into rematch we go.

Amelie ex-aupair January 10, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Is this your first au pair? Is it possible that maybe the dog is disturbed by the fact that there is a stranger living in your house, and acts the way it does around the au pair because of it?

Calif Mom January 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Shouldn’t matter that it’s the first au pair. We’ve had a string of au pairs and 3 different dogs and never had these problems.

JM Host Mom January 10, 2012 at 5:12 pm

She is not our first AP. We didn’t have a noticeable problem with the previous AP and the dog. But we have discussed this as a possibility with the trainer.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 10, 2012 at 1:20 pm

It’s time to rematch. You’re asking too much of the AP who is not interested. She didn’t come to the US to care for your dog, even if she was told that the dog is part of your family. When you match, you’ll need to make sure you clearly communicate that the dog is high energy and will require a lot of the AP’s time and energy. If I were you, then I would only match with young women who have grown up with a dog in their homes, otherwise, it may be overwhelming for them to care for a young child and a high energy dog. If you feel that she has done a good job with your child, then offer to actively help her find a good placement with another family and encourage your LCC to help.

While others, including you, have read into the dog’s behavior a negative action on the part of your AP, it could be that your dog has figured out how to get into your AP’s head and annoy her. In the end, it doesn’t matter. You want someone who will bond and deal with the dog, and this isn’t the AP who will do that. It’s okay to express your sadness in her inability to deal with the dog in your rematch conversation, but I would recommend leaving it at that.

Should be working January 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm

If you are holding off on rematch, here is one more (expensive) idea. Pay a dog walker for a LONG 3 hr romp in the woods every day. As I told my kids when we got a puppy this fall (and still tell them), “a tired dog is a good dog.” The dog should be happily exhausted and maybe will then SLEEP when the AP is around.

Calif Mom January 10, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Don’t hate me for reading from the bottom of this string.

I just caught this (for some reason) and totally agree with SBW. That was my initial thought when I read the post: hire a dog walker because a tired dog is a good dog. It’s a truism of all dog trainers I’ve ever worked with.

My 12 yo had a different approach: douse the au pair in bacon fat. :-)

Calif Mom January 10, 2012 at 5:05 pm

OK, I’ve read more now. You’ve already had a dog trainer involved? REMATCH.

Chemistry wiht family is chemistry with family. Dog is part of the social mix in your home.

We had an au pair who loved a big dog and couldn’t handle him at all. She lost control of him doing things we told her not to do. He got into fights with neighbors’ dogs. Next au pair had no problems with him at all.

You don’t have the right au pair. Not really her fault. Not really yours. Just is. Perfectly reasonable reason to rematch. You will probably discover that there were chemistry problems with the rest of your ‘pack’ too after she moves on.

Best of luck!

Take heart knowing that the money spent on the dog trainer was probably really good for the rest of you. please just don’t expect your kids to be in charge of even a small dog on walks. Dog-dog behavior is unpredictable for adults and pros. And the downstream consequences of problems are just too horrible for a kid to have to deal with. (Off soapbox from personal experience now…)

DarthaStewart January 10, 2012 at 10:36 pm

ROFLMAO about the bacon!

As someone who used to have a very, very large dog (I think that a Mastiff qualifies, yes? all 160 lbs of farting, snoring, slobbering love of him..) We learned after our first au-pair to really emphasize just how big, slobbery, and messy he was, and that he lived *IN* the house. I still couldn’t get over the couple of au-pairs who we matched with who said they were fine with the dog, then promptly got upset that there was a dog really living in the house. They ended up in rematch. I suspect that’s where you’re headed too, and it may just be easier to cut to the chase, break the match now, and find yourself someone who is likely to work better with your whole family.

NoVA Host Mom January 27, 2012 at 2:03 am

That is definately a cultural thing our LCC advised we needed to mention ahead of time. We go between 2 and 3 dogs (2 now, because my “old girl” passed last year), and she said that in lots of other cultures, while they consider the dogs their pets, they are 100% outside dogs. I’ve never forgotten that and write it several times in our essay (figuring that even if the essay is only glanced at, they might notice it at least once).

Au Pair in Italy February 11, 2012 at 7:46 am

Wow! It is simply amazing that the letter writer here seems to think that the Au Pair is in the wrong!

I am an Au Pair and experienced something similar when I first came to Italy and joined my current family. When I signed my contract, I was not informed that a dog would be involved, however a few months prior to my arrival I was told by email that the family were getting a puppy. Now, I love dogs don’t get me wrong, but I wanted to know how this would affect my life and what responsabilities I would have in addition to my role with the children. I was told that the dog would be trained and that I would not have to worry about taking care of it.

Fast forward to my arrival, the day after I landed in Italy the mother said “oh by the way, I am going to Germany on business for a week!” and basically dumped me with out two of control children (that’s another issue entirely!) who I did not know and a puppy who deficated all over the house and chewed the furniture. Suprise suprise, I HATED my job! I would wake up every morning terrified of the mess that I would find in the hallway because SOMEONE had let the dog out of her kennel in the night. I think I cried myself to sleep for the first week straight and I was a nervous wreck by the time the mother came back! At that point I took out my contract and told her that I would have absolutely NOTHING to do with the dog from that point on. She assured me that she was sorry blahblahblah, but she kept taking advantage of the fact that I live here and she views me as a servant.

Luckily for me, the dog turned out to be very intelligent and we are pals now. After several months of me training her and spending time with her during the day, she stopped her habits and now basically sees me as the alpha in the household. Still, I should not have had to do that in order to keep my sanity and let me tell you, I really have lost all respect for this woman as a result of this and a few other things that she has done over the past 8 months!

Don’t put this burden on your Au Pair because trust me she will lose all respect for you and if it is her first time away from home, she likely run right back to where she came from leaving you to deal with your poorly disciplined animal!!

It barks constantly at her and you wonder why she puts it in the cage! You should be ashamed!

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