So You Are a Nanny: What to Do if Your Employer Has Pets

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As a nanny, you spend your working hours focused on all aspects of childcare, from education and socialization to cleanliness and travel. The last thing you probably want to think about is incorporating an animal into the mix. But a lot of families have pets, and that means you’ll have to learn how to work and live with them just like you would with any other part of the job. Whether you’re a pet lover or you never wanted a pet of your own, you’ll need to do your homework and figure out how to deal with Fido before taking a job. As you interview for nanny jobs and meet potential families, keep these tips in mind:


Check to See If You’re Allergic

It’s not uncommon for some people with pet allergies to not even know they’re allergic. Yes, many people pick up on this long before they become adults, but it’s possible that you could be allergic to the fur or dander that comes with a pet and not know it, especially if you haven’t had a pet of your own or if you haven’t spent a lot of time around animals. Allergies can also develop with age, so while you might have been fine with dogs and cats when you were younger, you could have acquired an allergy since becoming a nanny. If you’re interviewing with a family with pets, ask to spend time with them. You can also visit an allergist to learn more about any health needs you might have.

Ask About Pet-Related Duties

It’s always a good idea to be as clear as possible with a potential employer about what’s expected of you, and that includes duties related to pets. If they have a dog, do they expect you to walk it? Clean up after it? Bathe it? (Always an interesting process.) If they have a cat, are you on litter patrol? It’s vital to cover these things up front so that neither party winds up expecting the other to watch the animals. The family is hiring a nanny, which means your primary focus will be the children, but you never know what kind of pet duties they could have in mind.

Be Clear About Boundaries

This is related to the previous point, but it has more to do with your ongoing relationship with your employer than with the interview. As you grow in your role and become a functioning part of the family’s childcare, it’s only natural that you might wind up assuming more duties than you had when you started. (E.g., as kids get older, different things are required.) However, it’s also worth noting that this is still a job, and for all the familial closeness you might feel, especially if you’re a live-in nanny, you are still an employee first and foremost. That’s why it’s important to maintain boundaries about what you are and aren’t required to do, and to revisit these on a regular basis with your employer. It’s one thing to be OK with walking the dog; it’s another to suddenly be responsible for puppies. Talk honestly and directly with the family about what’s best for all parties, and remember that good boundaries are part of a healthy working relationship.

Help the Children Learn About Animal Care

If your employer has a pet, that means their children will need to know how to care for and play with it. This is a golden opportunity for you to teach the children about proper animal care, from diet (proper food, modest treats, etc.) to cleanliness (dogs need baths, all pets need clean water dishes, etc.). You can help the children see that a pet is a member of the family, too, and that they need to be cared for like anybody else. If you’re with a family for a while — or if you happen to be caring for children living with an older pet — you could also find yourself in the position of having to help them cope with grief when a pet dies. This is never an easy time for any pet owner, especially a child, but as a care provider, you’re in a unique role that lets you educate the children in the house about loving pets and support them in the process of moving on.