Why Hire a Dog Walker or Pet Sitter??

Why would a person hire a dog walker or pet sitter when they have family, friends or neighbours they could ask to help them out? Well if you travel a lot or work everyday and need help with Fido or Fluffy, it can be a lot to ask of someone as a favour.

As a pet sitter my goal is to keep your pets as comfortable as possible in your own home by maintaining as regular of a routine as possible.   I will come into your home on regularly scheduled visits to feed, water and walk/exercise your pets while you are away.  Other tasks are also offered as part of the service such as medicating the pets, alternating lights in the home, bringing in mail and newspapers and watering plants.  Some other benefits for your pet are they are familiar with their surroundings and not stressing in a kennel listening to other dogs whine and bark.   Cats generally do not travel well so this is the ideal way to have your cat cared for.  Also you do not need to administer any additional vaccines in order to leave your pet at home and you don’t need to worry about pick up and drop off times scheduled at a kennel.  My visits will be scheduled based on your travel times so Fido and Fluffy are home and happy to greet you when you arrive.

Some tips for leaving your pets at home:

  • inform your veterinarian you are away and let them know who is taking care of your pets in your absence; provide your veterinarian’s contact info to your care provider
  • inform your family/neighbours you are away and that you have someone coming in to look after them; provide your pet sitter with emergency contact numbers in case there is an emergency with your house (broken window, fallen tree)
  • have a plan for things such as power failures, snow clearing, broken furnace or air conditioning, etc
  • if you are uncertain about leaving your pets with a pet sitter do a ‘trial run’ and go out for one night to see how they do

Daily dog walking services are ideal for anyone who has a long day at school or work or needs to run errands after school or work and want their dog to get out for some fresh air, to stretch their legs and, of course, to relieve themselves during the day.  I offer a variety of services ranging from potty breaks for puppies and senior dogs, thirty minute walks or sixty minute hikes – all of which can be tailored to your dogs’ needs.  Your dog can be walked individually or with other dogs – you make the decision.

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When searching for a dog walker or pet sitter some things to consider in your decision would be their experience and love of animals – ask them about themselves and how they came to be a dog walker/pet sitter.  Ask for references – you would do the same for anyone else you hire.   Ask about their training and practices – are they trained in pet first aid? how many dogs do they take out together?  what do they do if your pet gets injured? is their business insured?  When you hire someone to care for your four-legged family members you should feel good about leaving your pets in their care and confident that your pets will be loved and cared for appropriately.

 

 

Services

I offer dog walking and pet sitting services in Caledon, Caledon Village, Caledon East, Mono Mills, Inglewood, and Cheltenham.  Prior to booking any services I will meet with you and your pet, free of charge, to discuss your pet’s needs.  Please call 647-228-0273 or email wagsnwiggles.sue@gmail.com for availability and to set up a meet and greet.

Services offered:

  • 30 minute dog walk in your neighbourhood
  • 60 minute dog group hikes *dogs must meet required criteria*
  • puppy/senior dog potty breaks
  • cat/small animal visits
  • vacation care visits (includes collecting mail, watering plants, alternating lights/blinds, etc)
  • medication administration
  • house sitting *no pets required (includes collecting mail, watering plants, alternating lights/blinds, checking on heating/cooling/water pipes, etc)

*dogs must be friendly with other dogs, must behave for travel in a vehicle, aggressive/dominating behaviour will not be tolerated on group hikes

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October 1 is National Black Dog Day

The timing of National Black Dog Day and my recent trip to Peru could not have come at a better moment as the perfect subject for a new blog entry 🙂 huh you say?

Today is National Black Dog Day where in North America it is a day not only to celebrate our black-coloured (or mostly black-coloured) canines but a day to help promote their adoption in rescues and shelters.  It is well-known that black dogs (and cats) are usually overlooked at shelters by potential adopters.  Do people think black dogs are mean? Or they are just more drawn to lighter-coloured dogs? or multi-coloured dogs that might show more expression in their faces?

I don’t know the real reason but I found it very interesting in Peru, where I was just on vacation, that black dogs are the most respected and loved.  They are believed to play an important role in helping usher the spirits of those who have died to the afterlife.  There is no doubt Peru is a dog-loving country.  Dogs were EVERYWHERE!  Of course, I was in my glory trying to take photos of ALL the dogs!  I quickly noticed these were not street dogs, not starving dogs, not skittish and scared.  These dogs were smart and street-savvy.  They got out of the way of passing cars without panicking or waltzed through an open door to a restaurant or store.  Of course we tried to feed them and that’s when we realized they were not starving for food, they just wanted to be with people.  They have families and many are wearing collars, harnesses or even sweaters/t-shirts.  They wander the streets in the day and I began to notice them later in the day hanging out with their families in front of their homes or as darkness fell scratching and barking at the doors of their homes, asking to be let in for the night.  There were no fights, some played with each other, some just slept in the shade.  It was fascinating to see dogs exist so freely, without rules imposed by humans, and do so calmly and in harmony.  I witnessed amazing exchanges of play and body language between them, I really wish I had captured it on video.

Close to our last day we lined up to use a bank machine and a black dog wandered in, looked at everyone and lay down on the floor.  A local lady was singing to him “negra, negra, negra” which in Spanish means “black”.  He looked at her and wagged his tail.  He was wearing a green collar.  When the lady was done her banking she left and called him “Tino” and he jumped up and followed her along the busy street- no leash attached to that collar.  It was awesome!

Here are some of the dogs I photographed in Peru – all friendly, most in need of a grooming, at least by our standards, but lovely, happy dogs who are not starving, not street dogs and do not need to be saved.  They have loving families and homes 🙂

Professional pet sitter versus an online app-driven pet sitter

The world has changed in soooo many ways since the introduction of the internet, smart phones and apps.  You can do pretty much anything at the touch of your fingers on a smart phone with an app – book a restaurant, book a taxi/uber, book a vacation, book a pet sitter and so on.  How do you know what you’re booking though?  Well the food you eat, the taxi you ride in and the vacation you enjoy (hopefully) but how do you know who is caring for your pets?  well if they mess things up you may not know until it’s too late, if ever.  There is a growing trend of online apps such as Rover, Care and others that offer online booking of a pet sitter, offering insurance and online payments – what could be easier!?  Unfortunately many of these sites require only the most basic of background checks if any, no experience and no training or first aid/medical training requirements.  That may work out for your pet if there are no issues but even with a young, healthy pet there can be accidents or unforeseen circumstances that you cannot predict and how do you know that person with the limited background check and NO medical/first aid training will even recognize there is an issue or be equipped to deal with the problem.  Do they care enough to spend some extra time or try to get a hold of you or transport the pet to a vet if it’s something beyond their capabilities.  There may be legitimate ‘diamonds in the rough’ who are looking for their start in the pet care business who actually love and care for your pets but the majority are looking to make some extra cash or think the idea of “getting paid to play with dogs” {this is a quote from Rover’s website link ‘become a pet sitter’} is fantastic or are looking for something to do in their ‘spare time’.  What happens when their ‘spare time’ is over and they’ve gone back to work or school and you need someone?

I often see many posts on social media of people offering “pet care” in their spare time or to make some extra cash – PLEASE steer clear of these!  These people are usually not insured and have no training (owning a couple of dogs in their family does NOT qualify as behaviour training or dog knowledge!) and are ill-equipped to deal with emergencies. Please avoid searching for “cheap pet care” they are cheap for a reason!  I live by the motto you get what you pay for.  I cringe when I see an all out post on social media like “looking for someone to care for my pup this weekend – just needs to be let out in yard, fed twice a day and given a little love” WHO does that?! Polls random strangers to see who is available and wants to care for their dog?  I have high standards of who is going to be trusted with my dogs and high standards for my dogs and how they should behave for that care giver.

A professional pet sitter will provide you with references, a contract, a plan for your pet’s care, will have insurance for their business and have some medical/first aid training.  A professional pet sitter will renew and update their training and fill you in on that.  They will do a meet & greet prior to your departure and show a genuine love/interest in your pet and a respect for your expectations for their care as well as your home.  There are horrible stories about Rover pet sitters that I won’t even share with you…just do your homework – talk to your vet for recommendations, ask for references and trust your gut when you meet with someone.

All the poop-y things

There is a phenomenon that happens every winter that I don’t understand.  It never fails as the days get shorter and colder, darkness comes earlier and the snow flies for some reason people get out of the habit of picking up after their dogs.

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I don’t get it but year after year you see more dog poop on the trails and sidewalks in the colder months than you do at other times of the year.  Is it because people don’t want to take their hands out of their gloves or mittens?  They can’t see the poop because it’s dark before 7:30am and after 4:30 pm?  Or think they can’t be seen NOT picking up because it’s dark and fewer people are out and about in the winter?  Do they think magically when the snow melts the poop will melt too?  I have answers for all of these…..take your mitts off – it only takes a minute! or even leave them on…a gloved hand will still go in a pick up bag.  Carry a flashlight or use the one on your cell phone-pretty simple.  Poop does not melt with the snow so just pick it up.  Some of it will break down but it takes a long time and no one wants to have to look at it or worse, step in it!  As someone who spends a LOT of time around dogs and is diligent about picking up after them there is nothing worse than stepping in it!

Speaking of poop-y things how do you carry your pick up bags?  I find it interesting how others carry their bags.  Personally I will just stick a couple of bags or a roll of bags in my pocket.  Yes, that means you’ll likely find a pick up bag in the pocket of pretty much every coat I own and yes, I have washed many unused bags that have been left in pockets.  Some people have those cute little dispensers attached to their leashes, some people will just tie a bag or two (or five!) to the leash handle.  I don’t know why but both of those two methods drive me crazy!  I want nothing attached to my leash except the dog of course.

 

 

More poop talk…..how do you pick up in your own yard?  Do you use individual bags like you would use on a walk?  One larger bag with a smaller one over your hand or do you use a shovel or trowel?  Do you have a scooper?  Do you use a scooper service?  Do you pick up all winter long or leave it for that dreaded spring clean up?  Personally I have a bucket lined with a bag and use a scooper and I pick up all winter long because I can’t stand that big spring clean up when there is just so much poop!  I also use my yard for play and training with dogs so I certainly don’t want them or me stepping in it.

 

What exactly do you do with a kong toy?

I recall with my first dog I did lots of research, was given lots of information from the breeder and felt prepared to do all the right things for my dog.  Many things did not go as planned….one of them being I assumed because his mom loved toys and balls my dog would too.   Well he didn’t really, could have cared less actually.  There was this fantastic toy called a kong that everyone raved about to help with his separation anxiety and crate training.  Ok I got one of these bee hive shaped things but he didn’t seem to care.  Put treats in it.   Ok well they just fell out in two seconds and that was it, zero interest again.

I don’t recall where or how I found out what to do with kongs but wishing I had known earlier than I did I share this with all new puppy owners and first time dog owners.

Firstly get at least two kongs so you can always have one prepared in the freezer.  Clean after each use, they can go in the top rack of a dishwasher but since I don’t have one I just wash them by hand in the sink.  Then fill them with a handful of kibble.  The size of the kong will obviously depend how much kibble will fit in each.  Be sure to deduct this amount of kibble from your dog’s meals so they are not getting extra calories!  Run water over/in the kongs and set them in the sink or a container to let the excess water drain out.  Then I put them in the freezer – you can put them in a container, ziploc bag or I use the bottom of an egg carton to situate them in the door of the freezer.  Lastly I put a small amount (about the size of a fingernail) of something tasty to get their interest….peanut butter, cheese whiz or cream cheese.

If your dog is crated I just put the kong in the crate and they can figure out how to get the food out!  If not crated I usually put the kong down on a dog bed or mat or blanket for them to enjoy.   They all have different methods – it’s fun to see how they get the food out.  I’ve had dogs pick them up and bounce them and the food bounces out (this is better contained in a crate), some will lie down and lick them, others will bite them and get the food out.   The point of freezing them is so the kibble sticks together and doesn’t all fall out in two seconds so it is something for the dog to work on and enjoy!

Do I offer Doggy Daycare?

No, I don’t and here are a few reasons why.  Well firstly, I don’t have a facility to take the dogs to be able to offer doggy daycare.  It would be fabulous to have a place where I could have people drop off their dogs to be in my care for the day.  What would I do differently if I had a doggy daycare facility?  Well instead of having dogs stand around in a yard or hall I would take them on scheduled hikes so my facility would also need property with trails.  I know, I know, I buy lottery tickets every week.

My concern with doggy daycares and people who send their dogs to them is the mentality that dogs need to be exercised/entertained/stimulated for 8-10 hours.  I think that is too much.  I have high energy breeds myself and firmly believe that dogs need to learn to settle, chill out, and turn “off”.  Yes, of course, your dog comes home tired after playing for 8 hours!  But does he understand on a day he’s not going to daycare and you have a terrible headache that he just needs to chill out and settle down because you can’t entertain him today??  I think a 30-60 minute break to stretch their legs, get some fresh air, do their business and chase a ball or frisbee, wrestle with a friend or simply run back and forth on a trail is sufficient enough for them to go back home and chill out until you get home.  I don’t even walk my dogs everyday…some days I’m just too busy or if the weather is crappy we do some brain games/training and then they are told “all done” which gives them permission to find a bed and lie down, chew a bone or toy.  Even my own dogs in my home are not on top of each other – they all have their favourite spots to lie down, sleep or rest and they are not even near one another.  I used to have a home security camera so I could watch my dogs while they were at home to see what they were doing, watch them play and interact and know what they do when I’m not there.  Well, that novelty wore off really quick.  The alerts I got were for a dog getting up to get some water then lying down again, a dog shifting in their sleeping position, a dog’s head pops up out of sleep if they heard something out on the road, and so on.  So basically pretty dull and boring – they didn’t wrestle, they didn’t chew the couch (thankfully), they didn’t raid the fridge, they are not sitting staring at the door waiting for me to get home or pacing waiting for something to do.  They know when it’s time to work or play and when it’s time to chill and honestly, I think they enjoy their chill time!

If you throw a ball for a ball-loving dog for an hour they will chase it and bring it back, over and over.  Even if they are tired or sore or bored.  That is what I think happens at doggy daycares – there are so many dogs at different energy levels that one will always invoke play but dogs don’t think like us – I’m tired and maybe a bit sore and little bit cranky after Max chased me and I crashed into the fence because I didn’t really want to wrestle but I couldn’t get away from him, now I’m sore and I want to lie down but now Charlie wants to play with me.  The dogs don’t have an option to get away, go to a quiet spot to sleep or rest.  Not all personalities mesh.  Dogs are not so different from people in that sense although we don’t sniff each others’ butts ha ha!

I honestly prefer dogs to be moving, walking, running, sniffing and exploring as a way of stimulating their senses and exercising their bodies.  If I won the lottery would I buy a doggy daycare facility?? It’s not likely and if I did I would use it for training and still operate the way I do – walking and hiking dogs to stimulate their brains and exercise their bodies.  Yes, even in the unfavourable weather.

 

Take me with you

I have always taken my dogs for fun adventures to the pet store to do their shopping and when they were young puppies or rescues that were new to me, to do some training.  It is one place that usually welcome leashed and well-behaved dogs.

As the world evolves and changes I have found there are many more places that are accepting of leashed, well-behaved dogs.  While I don’t believe our dogs need to be with us 24/7 I do think it’s great that I can find a hotel that will allow me to travel with my dogs, patios where I can enjoy a meal and drink with my dog and other establishments that are welcoming of our dogs.  The GO train system has recently launched a pilot project where they are allowing dogs on the trains with certain restrictions.  My dogs are a huge part of my life, they are family members and I often have them with me whether for work, taking them to training/classes/shows/the vet, whatever the case may be.  Many businesses have joined the trend of allowing dogs in their businesses so owners don’t have to leave them in a hot vehicle in the summer.  Again, I don’t think our dogs need to be with us all the time, however, if I’m out with them and need to stop off to run a quick errand or pick something up it’s good to know I can bring them into the store.

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Utah, Party, Spy and Traffic pose in the sunflower field at Davis Family Farm.  We were warmly welcomed by the folks at the farm to visit and take pictures.

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Jake and Scout on the patio at the Villa Caledon Inn where they were served their own beverage….water, of course!

Post edited to clarify BEFORE taking your dogs with you anywhere you should call ahead and confirm they are allowed and what, if any, the restrictions are.  For example, some hotels only allow dogs under a certain weight, the GO train only allows dogs on the trains between certain times.  If you CANNOT take your dog with you please make the appropriate arrangements so you are not leaving them in a hot vehicle or get upset when you are turned away from the establishment.  If your dogs do accompany you be sure they are well-behaved and not disturbing other guests or patrons of the establishment and not being a nuisance.  And whatever you do please DO NOT follow the unfortunate but recent growing trend of putting a fake service dog vest on your dog just so you can take your dog with you.  Service dogs perform extremely important tasks for their owners/handlers and if their right is ruined by others putting fake vests on badly-behaved, non-trained dogs it would be a big detriment to their safety and lifestyle.

 

Sharing and caring

As a dog walker or pet sitter I often get to learn a lot about my clients based on our exchanges in our everyday lives.  Most times I may only meet you once at the beginning when you sign up for my service and from there out I only see your pets and maybe the occasional time I run into you somewhere.  I have seen some of my clients at the bank, the grocery store, their local work places, on the trails walking their own dogs and so on.  I have been lucky to share many things with you besides your pets…..some of you have had babies, had children grow up, graduate school, move out, get married and so on.  I have been in your circle when you get new pets, say goodbye to family members or pets, recover from illnesses or surgeries, renovate your homes, go on fabulous vacations and so on.  Through all the craziness that is life I am happy to share your pets with you and feel like a small part of your lives.

Some of you may know a bit about me.  I have a passion for animals and love training and working with dogs specifically.  I enjoy watching them learn new things and then apply those things to help them be well-behaved pets.  I have dogs that I’ve purchased from breeders as well as dogs that I’ve adopted or rescued and support both sides of that argument.  Some of you may know that I am a runner.  I have been running for about 20 years and it’s one of the things that I enjoy doing with my dogs.  Recently I ran a half marathon (my fourth) and a 32-hour relay marathon that I was asked to be on the team by, yes, one of my clients who I now consider to be a friend 🙂

This Sunday I’ll be running in the Furry Friends 5 km run with my dog Traffic to raise money for the Caledon Animal Shelter.  I set a goal of raising $250 and am currently at 70% of that goal.  If you wish to join me and Traffic you can still register until Friday June 8th (you can run or walk) or you can pledge me to help me reach my goal of $250.

Thank you for your support to those who have already pledged me 🙂  This is my little share since I feel I know so much about most of you.

Safety first (and always)

Over the years that I’ve owned and taken of care of other people’s pets I’ve learned a lot of things about safety measures we can take to keep them safe.  Some things are quite obvious but to a first time pet owner removing your dog’s collar when in a crate may not seem so obvious, for example.

Pet stores offer a wide variety of products that serve many purposes safety-wise such as reflective leashes and collars, warm coats and boots to keep them safe from the weather and elements including road salt, light up collars and collar tags, muzzles – yes these can be used for their safety and ours, and so on.

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they may look like aliens but these are light-up dog collars

Unfortunately I know of someone who was struck by a vehicle while walking on a rural road on a dark night.  While I do most of my dog-walking during the daytime hours I found the need to make myself feel safer and more visible while walking some dogs on a rural road.  On a foggy day or other weather that has poor visibility I noticed cars passing by didn’t seem to see me as well until the last minute.  The dogs have bright-coloured harnesses and leashes so I invested in a reflective and light-up vest that I can wear over any coat or other outerwear.  I walk against the traffic so I can make eye contact with the drivers and am able to see if they are paying attention and notice me.  If I think a driver has not seen me I can move the dogs and myself further away from the road, which unfortunately means into the ditch, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.  I will always smile or wave thanks to any car that notices and gives me a bit of a berth if they can.  It is just common courtesy I think but am surprised how many cars do not move over even an inch.  The same courtesy should be given to anyone walking/running/pulled over or even putting out their garbage!!

 

Putting a collar and identification tag on  your pet can help them safely find their way home if ever lost.  Microchipping is also a good option, however, if your pet is found wandering the chances of a person having a microchip scanner in their back pocket are pretty slim so I.D. tags work instantly if you have the correct & updated contact information on them.   There are also GPS tracking collar tags available now.  I don’t know much about these so you should do your research, however, it is a great use of modern technology that can help keep your pets safe!

Our pets are our family so we want to keep them safe and away from any harm.  Consider which concerns are most likely to affect your pets’ safety and invest in the tools to keep them safe.   For example if you have a dog who tends to run off and wander spending some money on a GPS collar tag might be a great idea to help get them back.  If you walk your dog at night any light up or reflective items will make you both more visible.  I hate to hear stories of accidents or tragedies concerning pets especially when it could have been preventable.  Let’s keep ourselves and our pets safe!

 

Teaching adaptability

While your pets are young and growing, or if they are grown but newly introduced to your home it is important to stick to a routine to make them comfortable, teach them that you are their family and provider and help them learn what your expectations of them are.

Once your pets are in a routine I think it’s important to switch it up sometimes.  What I mean by that is not always feeding them at the exact same time everyday, not walking them the exact same route everyday, and so on.  If your pets learn to be adaptable it will make it easier for you if you need to travel and take your pets with you.  It will also make it easier if you travel and have to leave your pets at home in the care of someone else.  A friend, family member or pet sitter may not be able to feed your pet at the exact time that you do due to scheduling so getting your pets used to being fed within a time frame rather than an exact time will help.  If you walk your dogs for an hour everyday but your care provider can only do a half hour walk then the route they walk will need to be different so getting your dog used to different routes will help.

If I’m unable to provide exactly what you’re asking for with regards to your pets’ care I will always try to offer an alternative solution whether it be a shorter walk or a different time frame for their visits and if your pet is taught to be adaptable it will be easier for you to accept what I can offer and know that your pet will be just fine.

What exactly does “vacation care” mean?

I’ve had a few calls recently requesting ‘boarding’ services which is something I do not offer.  I don’t have a facility, therefore, have no where to house any guest dogs.  I have my home where my own dogs reside with me.  What I offer is called “vacation care” which essentially means your dog(s) stay in your home and I visit them in the comfort of their own home.  We will work out a schedule that works for your dog depending on the time of your departure as well as your arrival back home.  I will visit 3 or 4 times a day so that visits are spaced out every 6-8 hours depending on your dogs’ needs, for 30 minutes per visit.  In the visit time I will walk, play with them, feed and refresh water for your dog – whatever their normal routine is I will try as much as possible to stick to.

What is the benefit to leaving your dog at home and having me visit?  There are numerous benefits; the first would be the dog is in the comfort of their own home and do not need to stress about being in a kennel with other dogs barking or in unfamiliar surroundings.  In their eyes everything is normal except I’m visiting to feed and let them out instead of you doing it.  Your dog doesn’t need to be given any additional vaccinations to stay at home as they do when going to a boarding kennel.  If you have other pets at the home such as a cat or small caged animals they will also be cared for on my visits (usually at no extra charge but depends on the work involved).  Other small tasks will be done at your home for no extra charge such as mail/newspapers brought in, plants watered, lights alternated so that your home looks lived in while you’re away.

The vacation care I offer may not work for all dogs, however, a lot of dogs do better staying at home.  It is especially beneficial for owners who have more than one dog as they are company for each other and boarding multiple dogs can be costly – think boarding costs as well as vaccination costs.  Many mature, well-settled dogs do just fine staying at home alone.  Dogs it may not suit would be very young dogs who require more attention or dogs who are crated/kennelled in your absence.

I recently took an overnight away and had someone come in to check on my dogs, feed them and let them out – exactly as I would do for your dogs and they were so settled and quiet when I walked in the door two hours ago.  Of course they were happy to see me but now are all sleeping at my feet as I write this blog.  No anxiety, no stress AND I didn’t have to drive anywhere to pick them up!

Of course you would need to live within my service area for me to offer this type of service as I will be driving to and from your house 6-8 times in a day depending on if you book 3 or 4 visits.  Three visits a day would be just like you going to work for a day and then spending an evening out as well, maybe at a class or attending your child’s sporting event, shopping, whatever the case may be and you see your dog in the morning, for dinner and again before bedtime.

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