Sage Advice: Childcare Provider Becomes Canine-Carer

September 26th, 2018

When a dog falls in love with the nanny


Dog_Nanny Image

Dear Amy: I’m a nanny, and the family I work for has a very sweet lap dog they inherited from their grandma, who recently passed away. I think that sentiment and grief is what led them to keep a dog very poorly suited for their lifestyle.

They spend a lot of time out of the house and the dog has to be crated while they are gone, especially as the house is being redone and the workers aren’t careful about keeping him from going into the street. The family is very loving and treat the dog well, but a problem has arisen: He always behaves better when I’m around. He doesn’t bark, he falls asleep at my feet, and he doesn’t try to chase cars when we go on a walk.

They are working to improve their relationship with the dog, but I’ve been put in an awkward place. They have started joking that I should take the dog. All of this has made me feel guilty when I leave at the end of the day!

I don’t think it’s my place to tell them how to take better care of this dog. This isn’t my dog and the family is working through their difficult adjustments! How do I ease the guilt and let go? I definitely don’t want a dog.

Nanny in Need

Dear Nanny: This family has acquired a new family member, and this increases your workload. You might be able to negotiate a raise based on this extra work. “Monetizing” this sweet pup will remind your employers that you are a professional caregiver.

If they are on vacation, for instance, you should only agree to canine-care if they are willing to pay you a fair wage for dog sitting. Don’t let them pressure you to take the dog home with you – even for a limited time – because then, I assure you, you will end up with him.

It sounds as if you have the golden touch with children and canines — and this is no surprise because caring for children and dogs requires a similar skill set: patience, gentleness, and firm and loving course corrections. Your clients are acknowledging your skill with this dog when they joke that you should take it. But you should – and you must– be as firm and clear with them as you would be if they attempted to foist a child upon you.

The next time they joke or hint about this, you should say, “Well, there is no way I will take the dog, but I have gotten to know him and if you want I’d be happy to show you some of the things I’ve learned.”


In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2018 by Amy Dickinson

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