Every field has things that only the professionals in that field know and wish their customers knew. Many times, professionals in any field wish that they could tell their clients things that would make their jobs easier, provide their clients with better a better service experience, or clear up misconceptions. We have all seen the posts on what the food industry doesn't want you to know, what airline flight attendants want every customer to know, etc.
Todays blog post is about what your Pet Sitter and Dog Walker want you to know. There are many misconceptions out there about this field, fueled by service apps, non professionals doing the job and poor communication. I have written about the benefits of hiring a professional sitter/walker in the past (read that post here). The benefits of hiring a professional cannot be overstated in my opinion! That said, the professionals have some things they would like you to know.
I have reached out through some public forums to professional dog walkers and pet sitters all over the world. They cover a variety of locations, come from all walks of life and experiences. I asked one question to all of them: "What do you want your clients to know that you don't want (or know how) to tell them?" The responses are insightful and hopefully helpful to you, the consumer.
A few items of note: I have clustered the answers into categories, for ease of reading, and I have promised anonymity to the respondents, so no names or cities will be used, however all answers are from professional pet sitters and professional dog walkers. When several answers covered the same topic I paraphrased or used a quote that met the general consensus. Quotes are from the professionals themselves, but no names will be given.
Basic Dog Cares/Training:
- Puppies need training: "If you are going to get a puppy please learn puppy behavior beforehand.."
Puppies are a lot of work, they will require training and you will need to work with them consistently to get the results you desire. Before getting a puppy, please read up on and become familiar with normal puppy behaviors. Knowing that it is normal for your puppy to chew everything it can fit in its mouth, including pieces of you and your family, will help you understand that he is not biting you to be rebellious or naughty-he is being a puppy!
- All dogs need appropriate equipment: "Make sure their dogs have ID tags on their collars."
Every dog should have tags on their collar in the unfortunate event that they are able to get off leash or out of the house. Yes, as professionals we all take steps to prevent that, but even the best behaved dog will sometimes get off leash or push through an open door. Making sure that your dog has tags on his/her collar, with a current phone number, ensures that if your pup is found by someone else, they can safely return them to you. Along the same lines, collars should be in good repair and fit well, not too loose or too tight (a good rule of thumb is that you should be able to comfortably fit two fingers in the collar but not three). The same is true if your dog wears a harness- be sure it is the appropriate size for your dog and is properly fitted.
- Manners are important for your dog: "Little dogs need training too, just because they can fit in your darn purse doesn’t mean they can be monsters", " I would say it is okay if your dog jumps a little when I show up. I get soooooooo tired of hearing down, down, down, off, off, off,"
It is not cute to us when your 120 pound dog jumps on us at the door or tries to knock us over when we are putting a leash and harness on them. It is also not ok when you 8 lb pup tries to bites us because he is not trained. Dogs of all sizes should be taught appropriate manners- for their safety as well as ours. While we don't mind a dog who is excited to see us (after all, we love what we do and are excited to see them as well), an out of control dog can hurt us, themselves or others. There are many professional trainers and classes offered to help with this behavior issues. Your professional pet sitter or dog walker will be happy to work with you to find a suitable resource in your area if you ask them.
- Consistency is important:" I would like owners to know the importance in a stable environment and everyone doing the same thing so not to confuse the dog. And that using a trainer is as important as following thru with what you learned. When I get my clients to see a trainer, I go too, reason is to that I can make sure I am doing the same thing and we are all on same page. I feel this is important in my company."
If you have agreed to work with a trainer, then it is important that everyone be consistent with your pet. Many professional dog walkers and pet sitters will happily meet with your trainer to be sure that they and their staff are holding the same expectations for your pet that you are. In fact, many of us prefer that! Dogs thrive and learn best when the rules are consistent and the same for every person. They get confused if one person lets them on the furniture, the next person does not. The same is true for commands that you use. Most dog walkers and pet sitters will ask you what commands you use for certain behaviors. The reason is that that we can be as consistent as possible. I even ask owners to take the dog for a short walk with me so I can see them in action and hear the commands for myself.
- We are knowledgable in what we do: "In this day and age your dog walker is more knowledgeable than when little Susie from down the street would come walk Fido for $5 way back when. When we notice a problem and bring it up please listen. We aren’t attacking or challenging your skills and knowledge as a pet parent, simply trying to offer more information so you may provide a better (and potentially easier) life for yourself and your pup."
Professional pet sitters and dog walkers spend a lot of time acquiring knowledge to provide your pet with the best care. We spend hours sifting through reading material, taking classes and speaking to other professionals to learn everything we can. If we bring a concern up, please understand that we are doing so because we believe it is in your pets best interest. We are not questioning your ability as a pet owner or your love for your pet. Many times we are able to notice something early and sometimes prevent an issue from getting worse. Our education is ongoing and we are always learning to better service you and your pet.
- Your pets' benefit from structured feeding times: "Free feeding dogs can lead to obesity", "That overweight pets can't decide for themselves they need to go on a diet, you have to cut back on their food to keep them at a healthy weight!", "If you wouldn’t eat or drink it, or out of it, please don’t do it to your pets; meaning healthy foods, fresh water, and clean bowls."
Allowing your dog to "free feed" can cause obesity. Dogs can learn to eat out of boredom, just like humans. It is best to have set times your dog eats and measure out his/her food. Limit human food as many of the foods that are healthy for humans are toxic for dogs and cats (for example, grapes, avocado, onions). On the same note, please clean your dogs dishes after every meal/water change. Dirty dishes grow bacteria which can make your dog or cat ill. That slime in the bowl? Yeah, its called biofilm and is full of bacteria which is not healthy for your family or your pet.
- Pets have emotions: " Your dog does not know better and is just playing. Your dog does not feel guilty, that is fear you are seeing."
All animals have emotions. They feel love, fear, sadness and frustration. Dogs and cats do get depressed, they get anxious and they feel scared. Don't assume that your pet is "playing" when he/she reacts. Animals feel emotions, but cannot always express them in ways that we, as pet owners, understand. Talk to your professional sitter or dog walker and ask their opinions. We have seen many animals express emotions in different ways and can often help you understand your pet better. We have suggestions for boredom, frustration, anxiety, depression and fear because we are trained in these areas. If we don't know the answer, we have other professionals that we can reach out to for advice.