Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What Do I REALLY Do?

I read an interesting article the other day about a pet sitter detective! Pet owners noticed that their pet wasn't acting quite right when they were away, so they hired a pet sitter detective to see what the pet sitter really did in the owners' absence.

At first I thought it was a little creepy, I wouldn't want to be followed without knowing it. But then I thought that it was actually a good idea- there are so many people who think that all you need to be a pet sitter is a leash and a business card, and they are the ones who would cut corners or worse, not show up at all!

So I thought that I would be my own "Pet Sitter Detective" to give you a glimpse of what I do on a typical pet sit.

The first thing I do as I pull into the driveway is look around. I am checking for security risks. Open doors or windows, unknown people or vehicles, that kind of thing. I am not a security expert, but ideally, I like to see a home looking just the way it did the last time I was there. I also check around for wildlife, including bears, coyotes, foxes, and raptors like hawks and eagles, which can take off with a small dog. I usually encounter lots of deer, many who love to graze in yards or at feeders, and I keep my distance even from them, because deer attacks are not unheard of! Here in Northeast PA, knowing your wildlife is very important. I carry a canister of bear mace with me now after a too-close encounter with a black bear.

The next thing I do is enter the home, and I make note of the lock. Was the door locked? If not, why not? I make sure to not only lock every door after I leave, but to double- and triple-check it, security is definitely important to a pet sitter!

When I enter, again, I glance around the entryway and make sure things are as I left them. I don't check all over the house unless specifically requested to by the owner, I just observe the rooms that I use to enter and care for the pets, to make sure there are no signs of trouble.

I always check to see if a note has been left for me before I do anything else! The last thing I want is to come in after a dog walk to read "Please don't walk Fido outside today as he's recovering from a fall". I LOVE when owners leave me notes - I like to say "You can never give me too much information!"

After I read the note, THEN it's time to work with the pets! If I'm sitting for a dog, the dog gets leashed and we go out right away. I only let dogs out if they are in a secure, fenced area, or on a leash. I follow the walking route the client has established, and usually the dog knows the way. A pet sitter detective would probably note that I tend to let the dogs sniff and meander a lot - unless the client directs otherwise, I like to let dogs enjoy their walks and sniff at their surroundings. If there's snow on the ground, and the dog likes the snow, we usually spend some time playing outside, and I'll throw snowballs for the dog to chase, or I'll let them run through the drifts. I love watching dogs enjoy the snow! If dogs are not fans of the snow (or excessive heat in summer), I'll get them out and in quickly so they don't feel too uncomfortable. Just yesterday I actually shoveled an area for some small dogs who don't like the snow, and I could tell they were grateful! It's hard for a dog to squat when the snow is up to their bellies. Years of dog experience help me to read the signs of a dog who really wants to potty but just can't get comfortable, and it's my job to help make it as easy as possible for them. Of course, poop pick-up is included with service. In many of the areas we serve, it's a requirement to clean up after your dog. No client should ever have to worry that they'll get a call from their association or neighbor saying that someone left a mess! We have poop bags and lots of 'em, and we aren't afraid to use them! Unless the client specifies otherwise, we dispose of pet waste off-site, so that clients don't have to come home to any unsavory smells.

Once the potty break is over, we'll spend some time playing or cuddling, (or both!) depending on the pets' preference. I like to have playtime before mealtime, so as not to upset any tummies. If it's mealtime, I feed the pets based on the client's instructions. These are as varied as the pets themselves! Some pets get dry food measured into a bowl, some get meals with meat and gravy that are warmed up, some are on special diets. It is absolutely essential to me that pets are fed exactly as the client describes. Firstly, because my clients know their dogs best, secondly because part of my job is to reduce stress for the pets as much as possible, and keeping to the exact routine helps to achieve that, and thirdly, it's a sound business decision! If I were to just feed pets whatever _I_ thought was best, disregarding client instructions, the pet could get sick and I would be to blame! I take no chances with that. There are times when I have to use my judgment, for example, if a pet is sick, it might not be the best idea to give them food or treats. But I will always report to the client so that they are informed of the situation. We usually take dogs out after eating, too, since that's when many dogs prefer to do their business.

We follow client instructions when it comes to water too - for some it's just a matter of keeping water bowls fresh, and for others, there are specific watering instructions. If we observe food or water bowls that are getting a little grungy (they all do at some point!) we clean them - that's just part of our job.

Cat litter gets scooped once a day or more (and again, waste disposed of off-site unless instructed otherwise), kitties get fed and if they're social, they get cuddles and playtime too! Some cats prefer to hide from those who aren't family, and in those cases we leave them alone. Cats don't like to be chased from room to room, it stresses them out, and that's exactly what we don't want! If they hide, we check to see that the food and water levels are lower, and the litter box is being used and the bowel movements look healthy. Cats, especially male cats, or older cats, are prone to bladder infections, so we like to see that they are urinating normally. Urinating outside of the litter box can be a sign of trouble so we keep our eyes open for those kinds of problems as well.

We take care of other animals too - lizards, fish, birds, and small mammals. We follow client instructions, and if they aren't the kinds of animals that like playtime, we at least talk to them and pay attention to them as we feed and water, so that they know they are loved. True, snakes and iguanas may not care if we tell them they're beautiful, but it doesn't hurt to tell them. :)

Before we leave, we review our checklist or client paperwork to make sure we took care of everything. We tidy up after ourselves and the pets, and leave a note to let the client know how everything went with that visit (we also record the date and time so clients know when we were there.) We do a headcount - VERY important in homes with multiple pets! In fact in homes with more than two or three pets, I record my headcounts on my cell phone audio recorder, noting the date, time, and I recite each pets name as I look at them, so I know that I had visual confirmation of each pet as I said their name on the recording. We make sure doors and windows are secure, water faucets are turned off, lights are off (or on, depending on the client), plants watered if need be, mail brought in and packages taken in (so as not to alert potential burglars that nobody is home). Then I check to make sure that the keys are in my hand and my cell phone is in my pocket. I check that again, and then I triple-check. THEN I lock the door, close it, push it and pull it to make sure it's latched, check it again, and when I am fully satisfied that the door is secure, it's time to go.

Whew, that's a lot to do in each visit, and every pet sit is different! But each step is important, because we are entrusted to provide the best care for the homes and pets we watch over. Your Best Friend Pet Sitting has been in business for almost 5 years now, and we wouldn't still be in business, with glowing client testimonials, if we didn't take our job seriously!

So if you're considering hiring a pet sitter detective, these are the types of things he or she should be looking for. And if you're using a pet sitter who you think is cutting corners or not doing the job you asked them to do, call Your Best Friend Pet Sitting, and we will do the job RIGHT!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It's that time of year again - winter has arrived in Northeast PA. Brrrr - it's getting cold. I bought a little hand warmer this year, which I've used twice so far and found it to be useful.
The dogs I've been walking are all troopers in the cold. Except for my own little Fiona. She's part Italian Greyhound and she doesn't have much body fat, and her fur is pretty short. So, a new coat is in order. I've been looking at the Snuggies for dogs, but she needs coverage on the belly too. I wish I could sew, I'd make her a cute little jacket!
Essential pet sitter gear in cold weather: I love my hoodies, they keep my head warm without me having to carry an extra piece of clothing. When you have your hands full of leashes and keys, the last thing you need is a hat falling off! I also love my waterproof boots for the wet days, and Yaktrax for the ice. This time of year, I wear my bright orange vest, and I have orange bandannas for the dogs I walk when we're in wooded areas. I now carry bear-repellent spray on my walks - that's a story for another blog post, but I now make sure I have it with me on every walk!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I have been a member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters since June of 2006 - I actually joined before I started my business! I have run businesses before and I know that there's no need to reinvent the wheel - there are resources out there (no matter what industry you're in) to help you. I get a lot out of my membership that has made me a better pet sitter and a better businesswoman, so I wanted to give back. NAPPS is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization, which means that it's not like a company that's in business for itself and tells it's customers what to do or what to buy. NAPPS is run by pet sitters all over the country who all come together to shape the future of the pet sitting industry.

I started on a committee, and earned a position as committee chair, and eventually made my way to a volunteer position on the NAPPS Board of Directors. There's a lot of work involved, but it is so rewarding. When you volunteer for an organization like this, your input doesn't just affect yourself, or other board members. It impacts pet sitters (and their clients) all over the country. Okay, okay, I'm not trying to grandstand here, what I'm driving at is that just by stepping up and saying "I have an idea that will benefit pet sitters and our clients, and I'll volunteer to help make it happen," you can make changes that help countless others. If I reach out to just one struggling pet sitter, and point them to NAPPS and all of the resources, education, and support they provide, and that pet sitter learns and uses that education to benefit their clients and take better care of pets, that benefits every pet sitter, everywhere. It benefits every client and every pet entrusted to our care.

This, to me, is a BIG part of the difference between a true professional pet sitter, and a "hobby" sitter - the hobby sitter has no motivation to improve their services, as it's not their primary source of income, and they don't invest money in their own education. They aren't running a real business, so if they remain uneducated about pet care and think it's as simple as clipping a leash on a dog, sure they won't have many clients, but that's okay - it's not their livelihood. For those of us who do this for a living, we have a STRONG motivation to be the very best pet sitters we can be. We have to continually delight clients and their pets with our service...or we won't have any clients! I'm glad I have NAPPS' resources at my fingertips!

I sound like such a cheerleader today because I was in conference call meetings with fellow NAPPS volunteers for over 3 hours yesterday. And I was thinking about it afterward - how 3 hours of meetings are enough to make anyone's head spin, but I was feeling energized and excited instead of burned out. And I realized that I felt energized firstly because NAPPS volunteers have become my friends, and I really enjoy talking to them, but mainly because we are doing so many great things, awesome, fun, exciting, beneficial things to help our fellow pet sitters. I love being a part of this process and adding my voice to the mix. I love hearing what other pet sitters have to say about where they want to see the industry go. I love that even though this is a solitary job, I have a legion of peers out there supporting me and helping me, and to whom I can lend support and help.

I never thought 3 hours of meetings could make me feel so good.

If you want to learn more about the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, visit their website at If you're already a NAPPS member, join me in my enthusiasm and get involved! The two or three hours per month you'd spend helping out is an investment that will pay dividends for you and your business.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pet Sitter Secret: The Tick Puller

I had to share a great tool that I received from a fellow pet professional that has saved me a lot of time and allowed me to help pets! I'll preface this by saying that nobody is paying me for my review, I am just sharing a great tool in the hopes that others can use it. (I'll always disclose if I receive money to promote a product. So far there is no line of rich corporations banging on my door to offer me buckets of cash, but I will not turn down their beautiful cash buckets! I'll just be sure to be up front about it.)

The item is called the O'Tom Tick Twister. You can see their website here:

It's a really quick and easy way to remove a tick. Here in Northeast PA, ticks seem to be more and more common (is it just me? I NEVER saw ticks as a kid!) so having this handy is a good idea.

Some suggest keeping ticks that you find in case your pet experiences any health issues.

Of course, prevention is the optimal solution, and worth taking a few minutes to research (searching for "Tick Prevention" in Google is an ideal start).

In other news- the weather in Northeast PA has been spectacular these past few days. I see the dogs I walk soaking in that sun, they know that winter is nigh!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Developing Relationships

This weekend I got to bond with some really great dogs. As a pet sitter, one of the most enjoyable processes of my work is the relationship I develop with the pets I care for.

Last year I attended the annual conference of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, and spoke with Bill Berloni of Theatrical Dogs (he trains dogs for live performances in stage shows, and he is not only talented, witty, and fun, but the dogs he uses in shows are all rescue dogs! How cool is that?) Bill said that when it comes to working with dogs, he aims to "honor the being". I repeat that to myself all the time - "Honor the being." It really clicked with me. Every pet, every creature, has it's own personality, likes and dislikes, and way of communicating. Part of what I do is to try to open my mind and heart to the pet in my care, and ask "What do you need right now? How can I make sure you are comfortable and happy?" I observe the pets I care for constantly to learn their language. Of course pets need food, water, shelter, etc. But for dogs and cats, there are games they like to play, ways they like to be held (or not held at all!), toys they prefer over others, a special blanket they have to sleep with. I love the process of learning about pets likes and dislikes.

So this weekend I sat for a bunch of beautiful dachshunds (and other pets too!) and they all are so unique. A few of the dogs I have known since they were puppies, and even though it's been a year since I saw them last, they remembered me and immediately one was in my arms (she always loved to be held), another was wrestling my sneaker (she's a playful one), and another wanted his tummy rub - he knows I give great tummy rubs! I loved that I know these dogs well enough to know what they like, and to be able to provide that to them. The response from the dogs is always favorable, it's like they are expressing to me that they appreciate that I know them so well!

Bonding with pets is never a wasted effort, and it can be done with the right gesture, or word, or tummy rub, or toy.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

You KNOW You Want To See More of This

Now you HAVE to come to the dog wedding. You don't want to miss THIS!

The Dog Wedding!

I was trying to think of something to share about pet sitting to give a little insight into the pet sitting world. And today I thought that one thing I didn't know before I became a pet sitter was that pet sitters have to be good at waiting.

It's sort of interesting now that I think about it. When I worked 8-5 (or actually, 6 to 6 with Chicago traffic), I went to work, and I came home. But pet sitters leave and come home throughout the day. Sometimes I get home and it may only be an hour until I have to go out again. So I find productive ways to fill small amounts of time. I have about a half hour before I leave for another pet sit, and that seems like the perfect amount of time to write a blog post.

The Dog Wedding

Most? All? of you know that next Sunday, September 19th, my puppy Fiona will be joining her puppy friend Jake in canine matrimony. Come join us - it will be a lot of fun and a great fundraiser for Hillside Animal Shelter and One Life to Live Rescue. You're invited!

What: Jake and Fiona's Dog Wedding and Fundraiser
Where: Nay Aug Park, 500 Arthur Ave., Scranton PA
When: Sunday, Sept. 19th, 2010 at 1:00 p.m.
Cost: Free! Although we are asking for voluntary donations of $2.00 OR new or gently used pet crates, beds, toys, food, towels, blankets, leashes, etc. to benefit Hillside Animal Shelter and One Life to Live Rescue.
What Will Be There: Live music by Analog Velvet, raffles, face painting, canine contests, and of course - Jake and Fiona's wedding!

Come on out, bring the kids and the dogs, and celebrate with us! And help homeless animals at the same time. We really appreciate it and I hope to see you there!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Daily Visits for Cats

I've been enjoying the beautiful weather, planning for Jake and Fiona's Dog Wedding & Fundraiser, and I've been getting lots of calls from new customers (Hooray!)
One question that has come up three times in the past week is about cat care, and why I don't do every-other-day (or EOD) visits for cats.
There are several reasons, but the main reason is simple - I am a professional and my job is to make sure your pets are safe, comfortable, and happy. Since cats can be fine one day and deathly ill the next, and there is no predicting when a pet can get hurt or sick, time becomes THE deciding factor in cases like these.

Fortunately I never had to learn this first-hand. Through the great organizations NAPPS and PUPS, I can network with other professional pet sitters and learn from THEIR experiences. So when enough professional pet sitters come forward and say "EOD visits for cats are a BAD idea, and here's why," I listen.

My job is to help minimize risks to your home and pets, and making daily visits for cats is a standard and accepted way to make sure your cats get the care and attention (not to mention food, water, and clean litter boxes!) they need. Day to day, I can check the food and water levels as well as litter box output (yes, I do check these things since they can provide clues to a pet's health! Not the most glamorous of tasks but a very important one). Having this daily information is important, especially if a cat gets sick. A vet might ask "When did the cat last eat?" and there's a big difference between "within the last 24 hours" and "within the last 48 hours".

Working with cats all these years has taught me so much. There's this perception that cats are less than social, and I have found the opposite to be true. Cats are very social, and even the seemingly aloof ones crave attention sometimes. I like to address the social needs of cats and make that a part of my visits, just like I make sure they get food, fresh water, and a clean litter box, too. I like to learn what their favorite toys and games are, and get to know their personalities as well.

Generally people who call a professional pet sitter are not the type to skimp on pet care - they cherish their pets as part of the family and want the best for them. But they may not realize that daily visits for cats is not only the norm, it's what is best for the safety and well-being of the cat.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day Off!

It's rare for a pet sitter to have a day off in the summer, let alone on a weekend! and truthfully, I didn't have the whole day off - took care of some wonderful kitties in the morning. But the rest of the day was mine to be had!
My husband and I drove around and had fun checking out some garage sales. We got some nice deals and of course spent a buck buying some stuffed animals for the dogs. We can't buy them stuffed toys at the store because they tear them open (yup - even the "nearly indestructible" ones) in 5 minutes. So we get the "garage sale specials" for them, and of course they tear them to bits in a day but they have the best time doing it and it was cheap (although cleaning up all of the stuffing is a bit of a pain! And we take the eyes/noses off beforehand so there's no accidental swallowing). Seeing Loki grinning on top of a pile of stuffing is definitely amusing.

After that I did what everyone else was doing - I hit the lake! Ahhh, it was beautiful. Those of us who are fortunate enough to live and vacation in the Poconos know that feeling. Drifting on a beautiful lake on your raft, or in your boat, with blue skies above and green trees all around, a light breeze to keep you cool, and the sweet sound of nature all around you.

I could have spent the day doing work (even though I didn't have afternoon pet sits, I still have some paperwork-stuff to do). But when it's a beautiful day and there's so much fun to be had, I think sometimes the choice to go out and experience the sweetness that life has to offer is the RIGHT choice. Work will still be here for me Monday!

I hope you have been able to enjoy this gorgeous summer. If you haven't, what are you waiting for? Give me a call, I'll spend time with your pets so you can have some guilt-free fun in the sun!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

Whew! What a busy day! Lots of pet sits this weekend. And what a weekend it was; am I right Poconos people? Blue skies, fresh air, green trees - it makes you happy to be alive.

Because of the heat I took it easy with the dogs I walked outside. That midday sun gets hot! I spent some time combing and brushing some pets (including my own) to help get rid of some excess fur. (It's also a great way to for me to bond with a pet for those pets that enjoy being brushed or combed!)

Luckily the pets I'm caring for this weekend are okay with loud noises. Some pets don't handle the 4th of July fireworks well at all, and extra care must be taken with them to ensure their safety and level of comfort. (I recommend putting the radio on for background noise to help drown out the sounds of the fireworks. Others have recommended an item called the Thundershirt to help calm dogs.)

I'm up past my bedtime, tired but happy, and looking forward to a fun, busy day tomorrow!

Happy Independence Day everyone!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pet Sitting in the Poconos

To those who live in Northeast PA - is this not the BEST time of year? We put up with the long, miserable Pocono winters because we know that the summers are sublime.

Dog walking in the summer, especially in this beautiful area, is perfect. Of course keeping an eye on the heat and on the dogs is part of the job - some dogs don't do well in the heat at all and professional pet sitters and dog walkers know it! We accommodate our furry friends as necessary to minimize any risk of overheating.

There's so much for dogs to see and sniff, it's a pleasure watching a happy dog enjoy time in the beautiful outdoors.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Pampering Pets

One of the best things about pet sitting is getting to pamper pets! Clients of pet sitters rely on us for being there to feed, water, and provide potty breaks and cleanup for their pets.
And there's so much more to it than that! I often get asked if I play with the pets, and at first I was a little confused, since playtime is the best part of the job - of course I play with the pets, and make sure they get lots of affection! When you hire a pet sitter, you are getting one-on-one time for your pets, and that makes for happy pets!

Pet sitting gives me the opportunity to spend quality time with each dog, cat, bird, hamster, and lizard I care for. I take the time to learn each pet's little quirks and habits. I know that Molly's favorite toy is her stuffed chicken, and Sally likes it when I toss a kitty treat across the tile for her to chase and pounce on. I know that Zoee likes to lead the way on our walks, and that Fremont makes happy little moaning noises when I scratch under his collar. Dexter the iguana is a slow eater, Bane likes to roll in the grass, and Tommy the Bichon will stand on his hind legs and wave his front paws in the air if he thinks I have a treat.

It's such a pleasure getting to know these amazing animals so well, and being able to hear those purrs and satisfied sighs after a long tummy rub, or see the grins of tired, happy dogs. I love hearing from my customers, too: "Kristen, we're home, and everyone seems so happy and relaxed! Thank you!" Music to my ears!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Busy Busy!

Whew, this spring has been a busy one! Lots of folks taking trips and needing a sitter, and lots of folks taking day-trips and needing me to stop by in the midday to give their pooches some exercise and a potty break! That has kept my schedule full and I've been running from morning till night. It's such a welcome change after the winter, and this is a GREAT time of year to be in Northeast PA.

Since I've been so busy, I've had to turn down a few last-minute pet sits. It's a tough issue that crops up for every sitter during the busy season (or year-round), so here are some tips to help you plan so that you aren't left without a pet sitter!

  1. Before you book your vacation or outing, check with your sitter to make sure he or she is available. This saves you and your sitter a potential headache!

  2. Make pet care your first priority - not your last! If you know your dates of travel, call your pet sitter immediately to book pet sitting for those dates. Even if it's 6 months in advance! The more advance notice you give your sitter, the better.

  3. If advance notice is impossible (we understand! Sometimes things pop up!) call as soon as you can. For last-minute sits, having some flexibility with the time of the sit can help your sitter fit you in to his or her schedule.

  4. Sometimes we really can't "squeeze you in". Clients expect us to take time and care with their pets, and by squeezing someone in to a booked schedule, even for a quick potty break (don't forget we have drive time there and back to think about too!) it means we would have to give less than our best to our clients who have booked us in advance, and that's not acceptable to us or to the people and pets we serve. We appreciate your understanding (and knowing that we wouldn't skimp on service to YOUR pets to accommodate someone else's last-minute plans!)

  5. We WANT to help you! For most professional pet sitters, this is our full-time job and how we earn our living. We love our clients and their pets, and we want to be there for you. We will always do everything we can to see that your pets are cared for. Sometimes, we are unavailable or booked (and pet sitters need vacations too!) Help us to help you by calling us in advance, and discussing options with your sitter - we may be able to refer you to someone or offer another solution.

  6. If you're a new client, remember that almost every professional sitter requires a meeting with you and your pets PRIOR to any service. So not only does the sitter need to have time in their schedule to sit for your pets, but also enough time to meet with you and your pets beforehand, and have you fill out our necessary paperwork. What this means is that if you are a new client, and you need service Saturday, and it's already Friday, there's a good chance that the sitter may not be available to meet with you and your pets prior to service, and will be unable to help you.

    TIP: It's a great idea, especially for those new to the area or vacationing here, to call a pet sitter to arrange a meeting, even if you don't have any dates for service scheduled. Once the meeting is over and the paperwork is complete (and your pets get along with the sitter) then you have the peace of mind knowing that if you DO need service, then the pre-service meeting and paperwork are already out of the way!

If you live in the Hamlin / Lake Ariel / etc. area and are thinking you may need a sitter, don't wait! Call today to book your pet sitting service!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring Digging

Spring has come to the Poconos at last! The daffodils are in bloom everywhere, they're so pretty. I was at the garden store today and it was busy - everyone's getting their gardens ready.
I was puttering in the backyard this weekend and noticed our dog Annabelle was sniffing and pawing around the perimeter of the fence. Sure enough, when she found a spot she liked, she started to dig, and it didn't take her long to get a good-sized hole going. I stopped her before she could make it any bigger, but I know she'll be back there when my back is turned!
Digging is a problem for some of us who have fenced yards. So what can we do?

Ideally, when you construct your fence, it's a great idea to bury the fence a few inches (even deeper for busy diggers) into the ground. That can make it a lot harder for a dog to escape under the fence.

My fence is already built, so I work around it in some creative ways.

Rocks of all sizes are abundant in this area, and they have been a good temporary solution for blocking up holes.

A trick I have used to great success is to poop-scoop the yard and put some in the digging spot. That can deter dogs from digging in that area. Make sure to observe, however - some dogs will not be bothered and you'll want to keep an eye on your dog and the hole over a few days to see if it's been disturbed.

My husband dug a shallow trench under the section of fence where the hole was, and squeezed in a piece of 4"x4" wood that he spiked into the ground, and secured to the bottom of the fence. He filled dirt in over it. It would take a very motivated dog a long time to get under that thing. Our dogs have left that area alone since making the change, which tells me that it was a successful experiment.

Dogs are smart and can be taught not to dig. A quick call to a local dog trainer for a few no-digging sessions can solve your problem for good and save a lot of frustration and anxiety. I have heard of dogs being taught to dig only in a special area, for example a sandbox exclusively for the dog, or a certain part of the yard. While I haven't heard anyone's first-hand experience with this method, I think it would be challenging to teach. My gut tells me that it might be easier to just train the dog never to do the unwanted behavior. I'd be interested in hearing others' thoughts on digging dogs and how you deal with the challenge!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Delighted by Training

It has been a fantastic few weeks of pet sitting some really amazing pets. The more I work with dogs and cats, the more I see their intelligence and depth of feeling.

I have 3 dogs and 2 cats of my own. Annabelle, our newest (formerly our foster dog - but we fell in love with her) is learning some obedience commands. Loki and Fiona know a lot of this stuff already, so they're playing along, too, sitting on command, laying down, and so on. We had a lot of fun playing together, but it was also fun to observe the dogs and see the little lightbulbs go on over their heads as they learn (and refine) commands.

I taught Loki & Fiona to hi-five, which is a fun, easy, and impress-your-friends-cool kind of trick. When I first started teaching Loki, he needed lots of encouragement to jump up, and then to tap me with his paw. But after a few little sessions every day, he was getting it. He would hit me with his paws, just not on my hands. So then I got him to the point where I would only reward him if he tapped my hand. I could see, over a few sessions, how he would refine his technique to get that treat!

I am not a dog trainer, I just do this for fun with my dogs. The challenge of learning new things gives them mental exercise, and the treats I reward them with make them happy. I love bonding with them and watching them figure things out. I do these little training sessions in five- to ten-minute blocks of time during the day, squeezed in before or after dinner, on the way to the mailbox, whenever it seems that the dogs need some activity.

Maybe in a month or two we'll have learned a new trick. But if not, that's fine, time with pets is NEVER wasted.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Microchip Your Pet!

In light of Baby P's situation, and based on my own personal and professional knowledge, thereis one piece of advice I offer to EVERYONE reading this:

Please get your pet microchipped!

What is microchipping? A microchip is a tiny computer chip (about the size of a grain of rice) that your vet can implant safely under your pet's skin (usually between the shoulder blades). Each chip has a unique number that is entered into a database. If your pet gets lost and is picked up by someone, they can take that pet to any vet or shelter who will then scan the pet for a microchip that will tell them who the pet belongs to! The chip is permanent, can't get lost, and is very inexpensive. We paid $46 per dog to have ours microchipped (they did it when we had the dogs in for spay / neuter so they were under anesthetic, however the procedure doesn't require it and I understand it's not painless, but it's quick and not too painful either).

There is no annual fee - once your pet is microchipped, it stays with them for life, and all you have to do is notify the company if your address or contact info changes.

I have not been able to think of a single downside for microchipping. My 3 dogs are microchipped, and for $46 per dog, the peace of mind is so worth it. I know that if they were to get lost (and something like 1 in 3 dogs get lost in their lifetimes - NOT a good statistic), I have exponentially increased the chances of getting them back.

I welcome any thoughts on microchipping, pro and con! What do you think?

Update, And Some Personal Thoughts.

It looks like Baby P's mom was able to find the person who adopted the dog from the shelter. From what I understand, that person is attached to the dog and won't give her up.

I thought a lot about this. I imagined how I would feel if I picked out just the right dog at the animal shelter, feeling like I was saving a life, only to find out after I got attached to the new member of the family that there was someone desperately looking for the dog that I adopted.

I know that's gotta hurt. We fall in love with our pets. I know I'd be devastated.

But I think that if I were in that position, I would have to think "What is the RIGHT thing to do?"

This dog had a home, a family that cherished him, a family that still cries and grieves because he isn't with them. I think that just as a human being, I would have to do the right thing and give the dog back to it's rightful owner. I couldn't live with myself knowing that I was keeping this precious dog away from the family it loves so much. I think about the message I'd be sending to my family, friends, the kids in my life - "We're going to do the wrong thing because it will hurt to do the right thing." Sometimes it DOES hurt to do the right thing. If I found a million dollars, it sure would hurt to have to give up all of the financial freedom that could offer me when someone came forward with proof that it was their money. Maybe I'd resist, I'd probably cry a lot too! But as an honest person, and to be the person I need to be to look myself in the mirror every day, I would give the money back because it was not mine. And that's just money, with no thoughts or feelings! I imagine this poor, confused little dog, who misses it's real family, and the thought of depriving that poor dog makes my heart ache.

The fact is this is a tragic situation all around. People are hurting. I just know, that if it were me, I would rather hurt for the RIGHT reasons than not hurt for the WRONG reasons.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I Hope This Will Have A Happy Ending

I recently got news of a local woman whose Yorkshire Terrier escaped while she was in the hospital. Someone turned the dog into an animal shelter in Clarks Summit, and the dog was adopted by another woman.
I feel very much for the woman who lost her dog. If it were me, I'd want my friends helping me get my dog back, that's for sure!

They have released this photo of the dog, and I'm reposting the text of the flyer here in case anyone can help. If you know the person who adopted this dog, or you have any information, please contact the number below. Her Mommy wants her to come home. I think we can all relate to that!


My name is Baby P and I was adopted from the shelter in Clarks Summit at the end of 2009 by a woman who is employed at UPS. I am a chubby little Yorkie who has a broken heart. I have been trying to get back to my Mommy. I miss her and I know she is heartbroken and devastated. She didn't even know I accidentally got away. She was in the hospital. When she found out, she made countless amounts of effort to have me returned. I have been on a confusing journey and now that you saw the ads my Mommy has been placing, why won't you reunite me with her? I want to go home with my favorite toys in my comfortable bed and most of all, I want to play with my brother and sister. My Mommy does not deserve this pain. She cries every day and night and I need to be with her!

I appreciate that you got me out of the "humane society" and I do like you, but you know that I do not belong here and my Mommy is grieving and my home is with her and my family. If the situation was reversed, wouldn't you want your family member back? Please have a heavy heart and compassion.


Call my Mommy at 570-941-0722 or 570-878-6121

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Oh - And More Exciting Things!

In all my "Rah-Rah-Rah" about NAPPS and their Annual Conference, I forgot to mention some of the exciting new things!

  • I was elected to serve as a Board Member on the NAPPS Board of Directors! This is a volunteer position that will allow me to share my voice in shaping the future of the pet sitting industry. I am so pleased to be a part of such a professional, caring group. I have learned so much from NAPPS that has helped me provide the best care to the pets entrusted to me, and I am very happy to give back with my time and knowledge.
  • I also received the NAPPS' President's "Commitment to NAPPS Award" for 2010! My beautiful plaque says: "In recognition of your tireless commitment to NAPPS and your fellow members".
  • I'll soon be sharing some information about a wonderful organization that helps pet owners nationwide retrieve lost pets. MORE INFO TO COME!
  • I have pages and pages of notes and information to share with pet parents. Expert information, web sites, training tips, and more are coming soon to help you with your pet peeves! (Sorry...couldn't resist that little pun.)
  • If you haven't already become a fan of Your Best Friend Pet Sitting on Facebook, what are you waiting for? You can also find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.
February bookings are flying in, March bookings are well on the way, and it's not too soon to be thinking about Memorial Day!

Very Exciting Things!

I just returned from the Annual Conference for the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. Wow - what an event!

If you're unfamiliar with NAPPS, I recommend checking out their web site and learning a little more about them. Sadly, some people think pet sitting is an easy gig and they invest $5 bucks in some home-printed business cards and think that qualifies them to access people's homes and care for their furry family members. Granted, those folks usually aren't around for long once they realize that it really is hard work, and more and more customers insist on insurance, bonding, and some kind of qualification in order to hand over the keys to their home to a stranger!

This is where NAPPS comes in. Being a member of a professional pet sitting organization, networking with other pet sitters across the country, learning from them, and having access to a wealth of information can set apart the "pet checkers" from the professional pet sitters.

At the conference, I attended 2.5 days' worth of educational seminars led by leaders in the industry (as well as professional speakers and educators from other industries who lent their expertise). I talked with dozens of other pet sitters who shared their ideas on how I can improve my service to the clients I serve and their wonderful pets. I took 20 pages of notes! By investing in my business, I am investing in all of the pets I care for. Everything I learned will be used to make me a better pet sitter, to delight my clients with my service, and to provide top-quality care to the animals entrusted to me when their Mommies and Daddies are away.

Some of the things I learned include:
  • How to help keep clients' homes secure and safe
  • Helping clients deal with the end of a pet's life in a loving way
  • Training tips from the experts
  • Stellar customer service and communication skills
  • Laws affecting animals and their caregivers
As you can see, there is so much more to pet sitting than "how to walk a dog"! And I am delighted to be able to share what I learned with my clients.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pet Sitting in the Snow

In the summer, when the weather is warm and sunny, and the Poconos are beautiful beyond compare, I get jealous looks when I say "I'm a pet sitter, I spend a good part of the day outside with dogs!" And then winter hits the Northeast, and my friends are in their cozy offices while I'm outside shivering!

But it's not all bad if you're prepared. It didn't take me long to learn that good cold-weather wear is a must, and makes the job so much easier. I wear a hat a scarf of course. But I also picked up cleats that I pull on to the bottoms of my boots outside to give me traction on the ice. Hand warmers can provide some extra comfort in the cold. I lucked out and found some good gloves that aren't so bulky I can't snap a leash onto a collar, but also keep my hands warm. (Mittens aren't always easy for a pet sitter to use - we need our fingers to get keys in locks and get leashes on dogs!)

Recently I was at a client's house, and I noticed that the indoor temperature was colder than it should have been. I gave them a quick call, and they called their fuel supplier. Turns out their fuel supplier forgot to make his December delivery and they were out of gas! With the freezing temperatures, they could have come home to frozen or burst pipes had I not been there.

Being a member of pet sitting organizations like the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) and Professional United Pet Sitters (PUPS) allows me to learn from other pet sitters. I had heard enough stories to know that a cold house is not only uncomfortable for the animals, but potentially disastrous for the pipes (or even the furnace), so I didn't hesitate to call my client to let them know. They were very grateful that I knew enough to call and not just dismiss it or ignore it. When I checked back later, the heat was on and all was well. I was able to rest easy that night, and my clients were too!

How are you coping with the winter weather?