What’s it like to be a professional pet sitter? I am Kristen, owner of Your Best Friend Pet Sitting located in beautiful Hamlin, PA, nestled in the Poconos. I love to write about my experiences running a business, being a pet sitter, and living in one of the most beautiful natural places on Earth!
This time of year is amazing in the Poconos! Fall is in full swing, and the trees are ablaze with bright leaves. It’s been bright, sunny, brisk, and just about perfect, weather-wise. Great dog-walking weather! If only it would last.
The leaves are changing a little more every day, it’s really something to see.
2014 is approaching. We’re going to see some new and interesting things from Your Best Friend Pet Sitting to make booking sits easier! We are always looking for ways to make sure our customers (be they human, canine, feline, or other) are delighted with the service and attention you receive from us. We truly love the pets we care for, and we thank our clients for having us care for their furry family members, again and again.
Keep your eyes on your mailboxes. Your Best Friend Pet Sitting Dog and Cat calendars will be hitting the post office in the next month or so.
Hope you’re enjoying fall in the Poconos!
It’s summer, which means that lots of kids (and adults!) are printing out flyers to do some dog walking or pet sitting. To those of us pet sitting professionally for a while, who have seen the accidents, suffered the bites, and had to handle real medical emergencies, it almost makes us catch our breath in fear.
I can understand it though – the teenager who loves animals and wants to make a few bucks, or the person who wants to bring in some extra income without the hassle of business costs, they think “I have a leash and some free time – I’ll be a pet sitter!” They aren’t thinking of the things that can go wrong. They are thinking about their own beloved pets, and how fun and easy it is to take care of them, and they think “I can do this as a job!”
So they put up a few flyers, and maybe even get a few calls. They charge low rates, because they haven’t put any thought into pricing, or a business model, and they don’t pay taxes or insurance. But as a pet owner, if you are considering trusting the key to your home and the lives of your pets to uninsured hobbyists or kids, you should be concerned. Here’s why.
- Everything’s fine until it’s not. If there’s an emergency, you need a trained, experienced professional who knows how to handle the situation.
- Professional pet sitters have a lot at stake. We invest in our businesses, so we HAVE to do a good job, or we lose our entire livelihood. A hobby pet sitter or kid can walk away anytime.
- Beware the bargain pet sitters! Many people offer extremely cheap pet sitting services. This means two things. Firstly, they will make almost no money. (If you paid $3.00 in gas to do a $5.00 pet sit, would YOU do your most excellent work for $2.00 an hour?) Secondly, this means they will be out of business in no time. So when you need a pet sitter next, you’ll be back to searching for a reliable person to do the job.
- Do you really want to hand over the key to your home and the lives of your pets to an unknown stranger from Craigslist?
- Pet Sitting Insurance providers say that the most common claims are re-keying locks (if a pet sitter loses a key or locks it inside), and surprisingly, water damage – sometimes a sitter may accidentally leave a hose or faucet running, and it can cause tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage. If you hired an insured professional, guess what? You’re covered. If you used a teenager or a hobby pet sitter, you either have to eat those costs, or head to court to try to get that damage covered. It’s not worth it.
- What is peace of mind worth to you? If you can’t enjoy your vacation because you can’t get in touch with that shady Craigslist pet sitter, or you heard that the kid you hired hasn’t been making visits, or worse… is it really worth the money you saved hiring an uninsured professional?
The great news is that the professional pet sitting industry is growing, and insured professional pet sitters are becoming more and more mainstream. There will always be those folks who want to save a few dollars by taking a chance with trusting their home and pets to strangers or kids. The pros aren’t looking for the kinds of clients who would trust their pets to anyone. We want to forge relationships with the people who love their pets as family, and want to provide them with top-notch, one-on-one, personal, loving pet care by trained professionals.
If you have any stories or questions about the benefits of professional service vs. the other kind, leave us a comment!
“Honey, I’ll be late coming home from work today. I’ll be getting into an auto accident at 4:47 p.m., on the corner of Spruce and Young Street.”
“Oh, really? Why?”
“I’ll be driving through the intersection like normal, and some guy won’t be paying attention and he’ll plow right into me. I’ll be alright, but they’ll take me to the hospital to be sure. The car will be a mess though, so can you pick me up, oh, around 8:30? And call the tow truck driver so he can be there, waiting?”
“Sure thing. I’ll bring our insurance forms too, you’ll need those. Oh, and I’ll pack a change of clothes for you now, you’ll probably need them.”
“Good thinking! I’ll see you tonight at 8:30 at the hospital, after my accident.”
“Are you sure you can’t push this off till Tuesday? Tuesday would work better with my schedule.”
“Sorry, dear. I have Rotary Club on Tuesday. It has to be tonight, it’s the only time I’m free.”
“Alright. See you tonight at 8:30.”
If only we lived in a world where we knew in advance when things would go wrong. Unfortunately, it never happens this way. Accidents are accidents. Emergencies are emergencies. You can’t schedule them, and you don’t know when they can arise.
When you are away from home, and you entrust the care of your home and your pet to someone else, it doesn’t mean that accidents won’t happen and emergencies won’t occur. But what matters in those situations is the person you put your trust in. Can they handle an emergency? Do they have a plan? Do they have a backup plan, just in case? Do they carry insurance to help defray the costs of an accident they may have caused?
Every year, we hear stories in the news or from friends, about the “kid next door” who was asked to pet sit for a few bucks a day, and it ended in a disaster that the teenager was not equipped to handle. Or the stranger on Craigslist who offered a great deal to watch someone’s pets, and the owners came home to missing valuables. Or the well-meaning dog-walking hobbyist, who could not afford to pay for the expenses incurred when she accidentally left the sink running and caused thousands of dollars in water damage.
When you turn the keys to your home over to someone to care for your pets, it can be so easy to think “It will be fine. I’m sure nothing will go wrong.” But only an insured, experienced professional pet sitter can give you the peace of mind knowing that:
- If there is an emergency, they have a plan.
They have the experience and knowledge to know what to do.
- They have the security of insurance so you aren’t stuck paying for damages they may have caused.
They have the professional reputation at stake so you know they have to work hard to delight you and your pets with service.
- They have plenty of references so you can make an informed decision.
A professional pet sitter will no doubt cost a little more than the kid next door, or your brother-in-law, or the unknown stranger who offers to walk dogs cheaply on Craigslist. A professional pet sitter has expenses such as insurance, certification and education, gasoline, taxes, and other fees associated with running a real business. And those very things are what enable professional pet sitters to provide the highest level of care for your home and precious pets.
If we could plan for accidents and emergencies, you could hand your fur-babies’ leashes to the next-door neighbor kid, knowing that there are no emergencies scheduled for that week, so Little Timmy could walk your dogs for a few dollars, and you won’t have to worry. But this is real life. If something were to happen, you need the security in knowing that a trained professional is at the helm, ready to do their very best for you and your pets. The few extra bucks are worth it. your peace of mind is worth it.
Spring has exploded in Northeast PA, and with the unparalleled natural beauty of our lakes and forests comes a serious hazard, and that is the threat of Lyme disease.
The Center for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov/lyme/) says; ”Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.”
Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the risk of getting Lyme disease. Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants, some recommend tucking pants into your socks to make it harder for a tick to find exposed skin. Use pest repellent containing 20% or more DEET (read the labels and follow all precautionary statements). Avoid bushy, grassy areas, and walk in the center of trails. Check yourself thoroughly for ticks after coming indoors and remove ticks immediately. Some recommend using tweezers to remove ticks, others recommend products like the Tick Twister. The idea is to try to disengage the mouth parts of the tick so they are not left behind when the tick is removed. Do not try to burn or smother the tick.
Some people have recommended a product called diatomaceous earth to help keep tick populations down. Food-grade quality diatomaceous earth is a natural, chemical free product that can create a barrier around your yard that ticks and other insects can’t cross. Follow all package instructions carefully. Food-grade diatomaceous earth is safe for you and your pets to eat, however it poses an inhalation risk so be cautious while using and follow the instructions carefully.
By spreading the word about Lyme Disease, and how we can minimize the risks, hopefully we can see incidents of this painful disease decrease.
I have been active in the great organizations NAPPS (The National Asssn. of Professional Pet Sitters) and PUPS (Professional United Pet Sitters) since well before I opened my business. Having all of that information, the educational opportunities, networking forums, and guides were instrumental in learning the ins and outs of being a well-educated, informed pet sitter and business owner.
I do get emails now and then from folks who are interested in making pet sitting their career, and are looking for advice. I’m flattered! Seems like just last week I was the new kid on the block, trying to learn as much as I could from those who had been in the business for years. There’s so much to know when you are just starting out. I thought I’d offer these tips to those serious about a career in pet sitting.
- Join NAPPS and PUPS. This is my top tip, and if it could be my only tip, it would be sufficient. When you are starting out, there is too much to know. There is no point in spending days, weeks, months of time and tons of money starting your business, when you can join these organizations and have guidance and information to help you every step of the way . They offer forms and templates, networking opportunities (where you can get answers to your questions from plenty of experienced sitters), and all of the information you’d need to run a pet sitting business. While some sitters are hesitant to pay for these memberships, I would argue that $160 for NAPPS and less than $30 for PUPS (for a LIFETIME membership, that’s a no-brainer) is well worth it. If you are not willing to invest in your business, your education of the industry, and your clients, then your clients will not invest in you!
- Get insurance.
- Have a plan – there are lots of free business plan templates online to guide you. A business plan is challenging but really makes you think about how you’re going to succeed.
I could go on about respecting your peers, delighting your clients, being good with pets AND people, and on and on. But these 3 things will get any novice pet sitter off to the right start!
5. Be prepared. I keep all sorts of emergency supplies in my car, but I have found that the best preparation is experience and knowledge.
4. Don’t underestimate any animal. They are smart, and they know that I may not know all the “rules”, so just like kids, they push boundaries. I have been tricked and outsmarted by cats, dogs, and birds. Usually they are just trying to get an extra treat, toy, or prime spot on the sofa. I’m always amazed at the intelligence of animals.
3. “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”. No matter how well we plan, something can happen on the road or on a pet sit that throws the day into chaos. That’s why we never book exact time slots – we book in 2-hour time frames, so if you want a pet sit at 12 noon, it will occur sometime between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., and as close to noon as we can get it. This kind of flexibility lets us provide the best care for the pets we visit, and allows us to work to the job and not the clock. No pet goes neglected or untended, some pets and situations require a little extra time and care. No pet parent should have to worry that we’d just leave, even if the job isn’t finished.
2. Relationships take time. We know that all pets are different, with different histories and levels of trust. Developing a bond takes time and can’t be rushed. We take things at a pace your pet is comfortable with.
1. They Know We’re Not You. We are never there to take the place of Mommy and Daddy, and pets know this. Instead we come to them like a loving, trusted friend, and the pets know this too! I think of it this way: When I was a kid, I had 2 kinds of babysitters. The first kind sat and watched TV or talked on the phone, largely ignoring my brother and I until we got into trouble. The second kind would play with us, keep us occupied, take our minds off the fact that Mom and Dad weren’t there, and entertain us. We LOVED those sitters – they not only cared for us by being there, but they knew that kids needed entertainment and distractions to keep us out of trouble, and also happy and comfortable. It’s hard to mope about missing Mommy when you’re having so much fun! We strive to be that kind of pet sitter. And the pets know it. They know we’re not Mommy and Daddy, and they also know that when Kristen, Jennifer, or Kathi show up, they are in for comfort, fun, and LOTS OF LOVE!
We’ve got some big travel days coming up. You know what that means. Long hours in the car listening to the radio and you know, you just know, they are going to play that darn “Jingle Dogs” song that gets on your nerves after 30 seconds…
We can at least take one worry off your mind – knowing your pets are in good hands and that we care for them as if they were our own. Here are some tips to help you schedule and prepare your holiday travels:
- Holidays are busy times and pet sitters are not exempt from wild holiday schedules. Once we’re booked, we’re booked, so we recommend scheduling holiday pet sits at least 4 to 6 weeks in advance.
- Before you go, don’t forget to stock up on pet food, cat litter, medications and supplements your babies need while you’re away. We recommend having enough on hand to last your entire absence, plus ten days. Hurricane Sandy has reinforced our policy of always being prepared. Pressed for time? Ask us about our pet food and supply delivery program!
- Pet-proof your home one more time. Bored pets, or pets that are feeling stressed out, can get into trouble when unattended. Make sure crates and fences are secure. Wires and cords should be inacessible to curious pets. Knick-knacks, toys, stuffed animals, pillows, and couch cushions can all suffer damage if a pet is motivated enough. Put away items that are irreplaceable (or dangerous to unattended pets). Keep food well out of reach or secured in another room. Pull knobs off your stove (dogs and cats have started fires by pawing or nosing at the knobs). An ounce of prevention…
- Put fresh batteries in your dog’s invisible fence collar.
- Pets enjoy toys to help relieve boredom. I love Kong toys for many dogs, stuffed with biscuits, cheese, or peanut butter. I know a couple that puts soup in the Kong toy and freezes it for a cool treat in summer. Cats really love things they can bat around. (Pet Sitter Secret Tip: A wadded-up ball of notebook paper will entertain even the most aloof of cats, and it has been my go-to toy in a pinch when I can tell a playful cat is itching to chase!) Rabbits enjoy toys that are safe for babies. Bird toys are fascinating, brightly-colored affairs that hang in bird cages for them to chew and work at.
It is our goal always to delight both our human and our furry or feathered friends with our service. Your communication and feedback are essential.
Speaking of communication and feedback, have you Liked us on Facebook? Do you follow us on Twitter? Have you helped others make their pet care decisions by leaving a review of our services on Yelp.com, Yahoo Local, and Facebook? We appreciate it!
It is getting frosty out there! The gorgeous leaves are dropping from the trees, and you can smell it in the air – winter’s coming.
I’ve recently heard some great cold-weather tips for pet owners and I wanted to share, as these tips can save lives!
- Pound the hood of your car before starting it. Cats, squirrels, mice, and other animals may seek warmth under your car, or even up in it. A few raps on the hood will frighten critters into leaving, and you can start your car worry-free.
- Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia. If you plan on taking long walks in the snow with your dogs, keep your eyes out for signs of hypothermia: violent shivering followed by listlessness, weak pulse, and lethargy. Frostbite is most likely to affect those parts of the body that are most exposed, such as the ears, tails, and feet. Treatment for frostbite involves applying warm (not hot) water soaks to the frostbitten part for 20 minutes. Do not rub or massage the affected parts. But do make sure that dogs suffering from either frostbite or hypothermia get immediate medical treatment.
- Winter ice melters can be harmful to your pet. Rock salt can damage your dog’s paws, and worse, when dogs come inside and lick their paws to relieve the discomfort, they ingest all of that harmful salt. The same goes for chemical ice melters, too. If you do need to use an ice melter, try to have your dog avoid walking on it altogether. There are also pet-friendly products on the market that can melt ice without salt. However it should not be assumed that these products are safe if your pet were to ingest them, so read labels carefully.
- Cats love sleeping next to a warm fire. Make sure your fireplace is screened off so pets can’t get too close and risk being burned by a popping ember or a sliding piece of wood.
- Stock up on supplies. Living in Northeast PA, we have to expect the unexpected. Heavy snow can happen anytime, and the meteorologists don’t always get it right. Keeping extra pet supplies on hand can mean a lot when you’re not sure when the plow is going to get to your road.
- Keep an Emergency Kit. This is good advice year-round. Keeping a few totes of emergency food, water, blankets, flashlights, first aid supplies, medications, and a weather radio can save you precious time in an emergency. Be prepared! The most in-depth guide I know of for pet owners (or anyone) preparing for emergencies can be found on the website of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters: www.petsitters.org. The problem with putting off emergency planning until it’s too late is that by then, it’s too late.
As a pet sitter, I have seen a lot of emergencies. Power and water outages, heavy, unexpected snowstorms, fallen trees and massive limbs blocking roadways, flooded bathrooms and basements, even evacuation orders. Having emergency plans in place saves time, which is essential in a crisis. Being prepared for winter is just a piece of our emergency plan, but an essential piece, living in the Poconos.
The winters here aren’t all doom and gloom, though. The silence of the forest after a snowfall, the dusts of snow that fall from the trees, and best of all, a winter walk in the woods with a snow-loving dog – these are, to me, the joyous part of winter.
Whew, I am still reeling from what was easily our busiest summer ever. When I first dipped my toes into the wild world of pet sitting, I could hardly envision what my company has become today. It is impossible to describe the feeling of gratitude I have toward the people who believed in us, the people who trust us to give loving care to their pets, and the pets themselves who place so much trust in our hands, that forms the sacred core of what we do. We are care givers. We are nurturers. We are guardians, and safety monitors, and playmates. It is a joy to share our lives with the pets we care for. It’s hard not to feel grateful when you love what you do.
I had a great moment this weekend, caring for some gorgeous dogs I’ve known for years. One girl was always a bit shy with me – she’d interact, but never got too close. I don’t take it personally. It can take years to develop the right relationship with pets. My job is to make them feel comfortable, and if it takes a year, it takes a year. So it was a feeling of pure joy when this girl nuzzled my hand to be petted, and even gave it a few licks. Patience, persistence, and gentleness form a good foundation for trust. (Treats help too!)
Pet Sitters Jennifer, Kathi and I are bracing for a busy holiday season. If the summer was any indication, more people than ever are travelling. Book your holiday pet sits today! It’s never too early.
Thanks for making this our busiest and best summer ever. Now let’s keep those autumn pet sits rolling in, it’s been beautiful dog-walking weather, and we want to spend time with your furry, finned, or feathered family members!
I saw a little blurb on Facebook that said something along the lines of the 4th of July being a day that dogs are likely to get lost. I can’t vouch for it’s accuracy, but it’s hard to think of a worse day for most American dogs. If it’s not the blazing heat, it’s the pops and booms of fireworks that drive some dogs out of their minds with fear.
When it comes to the heat, that’s easy. Keep dogs indoors as much as possible when the temps climb over 70 degrees. Never leave a dog unattended in a vehicle in the heat, not even for a few minutes. Dogs die this way every year. And now that more and more people are becoming aware of the problem, leaving your dog unattended in a car on a hot day can result in people calling the police, or even smashing your window and taking your dog. These are serious consequences, and so easily avoided by simply letting your dog remain at home, where he or she is happy and comfortable, enjoying the fan or A/C and taking it easy.
Fireworks are a tougher matter, since people don’t have control over where and when fireworks are used. Whether you live near an area that does a big display, or you have an adventurous neighbor, there’s not a lot you can do to protect your pets. Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years to help soothe pets who dread the 4th of July.
- Put on some indoor noises such as a radio or a soothing CD on repeat to help mask outdoor noises.
- Products such as Feliway (for cats) or Comfort Zone D.A.P. (dog appeasement pheromone for dogs) are sold in diffusers to diffuse pheromones that are said to help soothe dogs and cats.
- I have heard some pet sitters recommend the Thundershirt, which is a shirt that provides soothing pressure (almost like a hug) that can help some pets relax.
- Some people have had success helping pets relax by using Bach’s flower essences.
- If you’re going to be out for the day, have your pet sitter come by to make sure everyone is alright and comfortable. If you won’t be gone long, you can leave an unwashed T-shirt in the area your pet will be, they may feel comforted by the familiarity of your scent.
- Having an engaging toy, treat, or bone available (such as a stuffed Kong toy or bone, something the dog has to work at) may occupy them and provide a welcome and rewarding distraction to the noses they fear. It ha he added benefit of helping your dog associate the loud noiuses with a pleasant treat.
- Talk with your vet and find out what they recommend.
Consistency, gentleness, and patience are key in helping pets cope with their fear of loud noises. Having a pet sitter who knows your particular pets, and can provide the one-on-one attention your pet craves, is key in giving you peace of mind when you’re away enjoying your Independence Day.