Posts Tagged ‘Pet Sitters’

Trusting someone to care for your fearful dog. What do you do?

October 8, 2013 17 comments

IMG_6838One thing that can be difficult about having a fearful dog is finding someone to watch them who understands their unique needs. Not everyone who works in the pet industry is experienced with or understands how to work with a shy dog. As a dog owner, my biggest fear is that they will somehow damage my dog’s progress without knowing it or somehow lose them because they did not understand their high flight risk.

It’s one of the reasons that most of my vacations these days are “stay-cations” and not big trips to exotic and exciting places. It’s the reason I don’t go to blogging conferences or go to visit some of my blogging friends. I can’t just leave my dogs at a boarding facility or with any pet sitter I hire for those few events when I need to be away. I can’t just trust that someone will keep them safe or that they will know to be gentle and quiet and kind around Daisy. I have to be very cautious about who I trust with my dogs because the progress they have made could easily be damaged with one bad interaction. And in Cupcake’s case, one bad decision could lead to her becoming lost again. I just can’t risk it.

But, last week I found myself in a bit of a conundrum. I had committed to helping out at the sheep herding trials (something I very much wanted to do) without understanding the extended time commitment involved. I would need to be at the trial (almost an hour away from home) from 7 AM to 5 PM. That was a problem. How could I leave the dogs for that long? Who could I trust to let my dogs out if I decided to go? Who could I trust not to “accidentally” let them out of the yard or the front door? Who would understand that Daisy is sensitive to movement and sound and that Cupcake is not trusting of many people? Who could I trust to let them out and not put them in harms way?

In the past, I’ve relied on family or just committed to a half day so I could still get home to let my dogs out or just chosen not to go at all. But, this was one time I didn’t want to opt out. This was something I had been looking forward to doing for several weeks. So the question was… Who could I trust?

I started with a friend who is active in the Lost Dog community because I knew she would be extra cautious about keeping gates closed and ensuring she came into the house in a way that would prevent a dog escaping, but I quickly realized that my dogs might be scared by her presence, having only met her a few times.

Various 2008 018Luckily, I have a friend that not only knows my dogs, but understands some of the issues my dogs have when it comes to strangers. She is also someone who helped in Cupcake’s search, so I knew I could trust her to keep the dogs safe too. And, as it turns out, Kellie was the perfect choice. Yes, Cupcake barked at her the whole time (unless she was petting her). Yes, Jasper tried to hump her (something he never does), and yes, Daisy was a little difficult to get inside the house (she has problems with entrances and exits), but in the end it all worked out. Kellie was able to safely care for my dogs, and I felt better knowing she was the one doing it. I was (am) so grateful she was available to help me out.

But, going through this experience made me realize how limited I am in my ability to do certain things. It also made me realize that having a fearful or shy dog should not limit one’s ability to enjoy some time without them. I can’t always forgo events just because I have fearful dogs. I need to find an alternative that work for both them and me. What if I was hurt or unable to come home? Who would care for them then? What would I do if that happened?

Clearly, I need a plan for handling future events like these. I would love to hear what other owners of fearful dogs do when they want to go on vacation or need to spend the day or weekend away. What do you do? How do make sure your dogs are safe while you are away?

Investigative Report Into A Doggy Daycare Shows Why You Need To Do Your Research

November 18, 2010 60 comments

Tonight, KMSP Fox 9 News aired a piece (please DO watch the video) about a local doggy daycare facility that, to be honest, left me absolutely speechless. The dogs were treated in a manner that was utterly appalling.

To the common layperson, using a prong collar to train, pulling a dog by it’s ears enough to cause pain, twisting a dog’s penis to teach them to stop peeing are not only outmoded forms of training, they are cruel, and they have been proven to lead to behavior issues in dogs later on.

There are a lot of people out there who work with dogs. Not all of them have your dog’s best interest at heart. Some of them do not even have a lot experience working with pets, or may treat your pet in a way that you wouldn’t want them to be treated. I wrote a blog post a while back about the need for owners to be their dog’s advocate. I cannot stress this enough. Whether it be a dog trainer, a doggy daycare or a pet sitter, you need to do your research. You need to know what methods they use to train your dog, discipline your dog, work with your dog, etc.

Understanding the latest in dog behavioral science is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but perhaps this information shared just this past week by Dr. Sophia Yin (a veterinarian with a Masters in Animal Science) will help dog owners to understand that knowing who is doing what to your dog is so important. Because the latest information shows that aggressive training techniques lead to an aggressive response from a dog. I learned about this information 2 years ago and shared it on my blog, but it is worth sharing again:

The highest frequency of aggression occurred in response to aversive (or punishing) interventions, even when the intervention was indirect:

• Hitting or kicking the dog (41% of owners reported aggression)
• Growling at the dog (41%)
• Forcing the dog to release an item from its mouth (38%)
• “Alpha roll” (forcing the dog onto its back and holding it down) (31%)
• “Dominance down” (forcing the dog onto its side) (29%)
• Grabbing the jowls or scruff (26%)
• Staring the dog down (staring at the dog until it looks away) (30%)
• Spraying the dog with water pistol or spray bottle (20%)
• Yelling “no” (15%)
• Forced exposure (forcibly exposing the dog to a stimulus – such as tile floors, noise or people – that frightens the dog) (12%)

In contrast, non-aversive methods resulted in much lower frequency of aggressive responses:

Training the dog to sit for everything it wants (only 2% of owners reported aggression)
• Rewarding the dog for eye contact (2%)
• Food exchange for an item in its mouth instead of forcing the item out (6%)
• Rewarding the dog for “watch me” (0%)

(Data from a study by, Herron, Frances S. Shofer and Ilana R. Reisner, veterinarians with the Department of Clinical Studies at University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine)

This is why it is so important to know who is caring for your pet. Not knowing, could put you, your dog or your child in danger. You need to do your own research. After all, it is your best buddy you are talking about here right?

Dogs: Is Boarding Them The Best Option When You Are Away?

May 24, 2010 3 comments

Being a pet sitter, I tend to be biased about who should care for your dog when you go on vacation. (People like me, of course!)

The reality is that many people assume that boarding their pet(s) is the ONLY option (or the BEST option) available to them. After all, what dog wouldn’t love to go someplace where they can play with other dogs? The truth is that not all pets do well in a boarding facility. Having someone in the facility 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, does not guarantee your pet will be safe or that your pet won’t be stressed.

Before you go on vacation, you need to determine if your dog is a good fit for a boarding kennel or would do better in your home with a pet sitter. So here are some questions to ask yourself…

– Is my dog easily stressed in new situations? Does he/she drool, pace, whine or pant excessively when in a new situation (such as a boarding kennel)?
– Does my dog have a special medication or multiple medications that need to be administered throughout the day or at specific times?
– Is my dog easily stressed around other dogs? Does he/she have issues with other dogs?
– Did my dog come from an animal shelter or similar facility? Was he/she stressed in this environment before I adopted him/her?
– Is my dog used to being at home with me or with another family member there most of the day? Is he/she most comfortable at home?
– Does my dog have behavioral issues that would make it difficult for a boarding facility to care for?

If you answered “Yes”, to any of these questions, then hiring a pet sitter may be your best option. Most dogs tend to be less stressed in a familiar environment (i.e., their home) and are more likely to be happier and healthier (no exposure to doggie illnesses) at home than in a boarding facility.

People worry that their dog will get too lonely while they are gone, but the truth is that in most households dogs stay home alone a good majority of the day. Even at a minimum of 3 visits a day and 3 walks a day, your dog may be getting more exercise and one-on-one attention than they get on a normal day.

I let my clients do the speaking for me and my profession. Over and over again I have heard the same comments from my clients (many of whom used to board their pets) – “What a surprise! Normally it takes my dog several days to re-acclimate after being boarded, but he was happy and acting normal right away!” or “My dog usually won’t acknowledge me for a few days after returning from being boarded, but this time she was happy to see me and didn’t seem stressed at all!”

Before you go on vacation, think about checking into local pet sitters in your area. Here are a few great directories:
PetSit USA
Pet Sitter’s International
Association of Pet Sitting Excellence
Professional Pet SItters of Minnesota

And, if you do decide to board your pet, do your research. Talk to other clients. Check the Better Business Bureau and/or Angie’s List to see if there have been complaints about the boarding facility. Ask them if they have ever had any pets die or get injured on their premises and why.

Then, make your decision.
Good luck!

Wednesday Winner: Nelli Designs

November 4, 2009 Leave a comment

As a pet sitter, you eventually have to face the loss of some of your favorite pets due to old age or illness. I have been looking for a gift that I an give my clients when their pet passes on. Cards are great, but I wanted something I could give them that would memorialize their pet in a dignified but special way.

LS003422Recently, I found a gift idea that seems to fit exactly what I was looking for. It’s a candle from Nelli Designs. The candle is decorated with a leather dog collar and has a tag hanging from the collar that you can have engraved with the pet’s name and a quote. I purchased three of them and I gave one to one of my clients this past week. She loved it! I plan to give my other two clients theirs this week.

If you are in the pet industry and need that perfect gift for a client who has recently lost a pet, consider sending them a candle from Nelli Designs. I know they will love it and they will be touched by your thoughtfulness.

Today’s Wednesday Winner is Nelli Designs. Check them out!

Pet Taxis – Fido hails a cab

April 16, 2009 1 comment

j0213529I was sitting at a coffee shop talking to a friend about social networking a few weeks ago. While we were talking, a friend of hers called on her cell phone. During their quick conversation, she began laughing and said to me, “My friend is in downtown Manhattan and just saw a Pet Taxi go by.” I am sure it must have caught her off-guard. Pet Taxi? Seriously? Who knew?

Actually, pet taxi’s are becoming much more common than you think. In fact, many pet sitters now offer this as a service to their clients. In big cities, like New York, you are more likely to see them everywhere. Pet Taxis can also be found in other countries.

Need to take your dog to the groomer but can’t take the time off work? Have an emergency medical issue with your pet but unable to get your pet there? A pet taxi is the perfect solution, especially if you already are working with a pet sitter. They provide a great service for busy people with busy lives. And, it’s affordable too!

Here’s a few links to information about pet taxis. Check them out.
Pampered Puppy: “Taking the High Road”
ASPCA: “Pet Taxis in New York City”
Sittercity: “Petsitting definitions: From Pet Taxis to Doggy Hotels”

So you want to hire a pet sitter…

March 10, 2009 2 comments

I think one of the hardest things about starting a pet sitting business is educating people on what a pet sitter is and what a pet sitter does. Some of these things can be answered in my previous blog posting: Going On Vacation? What To Do With Your Pet.

For the owner who is looking for a pet sitter, the hardest part is knowing who to trust with your pet. You want to find one that fits both the needs of you and your pet. Not every pet is the same or has the same needs. Likewise, not every pet sitter is the same or offers the same services.

There are a wide variety of places you can locate a pet sitter, including the following: Read more…

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