no bucket lists here

Well where to start….it’s been a LONG eleven months since I posted anything here. To say I didn’t have time would be a lie. With Covid-19 shutdowns and my business cut in half I have had plenty of time to write a post, I just didn’t have the idea or inspiration. I was worried about my business and the state of the world and didn’t want to write anything negative sounding but negative was what I was feeling. Roughly a year ago the whole entire world looked like a totally different place. Covid-19 changed the world in so many ways but I’m going to talk about what changed for me and the industry I’m in.

Firstly many animal based industries like dog walking were completely shut down early in 2020 for eight weeks, being deemed as non-essential. Although many of my clients were working from home and still wanted me to walk their dogs I was not allowed to; some clients had kids home from school or were home themselves and were able to walk the dog so no longer required my services. Most of the world transitioned to online work, zoom meetings and terms like social distancing and wearing masks became normal. When I was able to go back to work I had to ask clients to ensure their dogs were used to seeing a person in a mask as that was how I would be arriving to their home to take their dog out. As most of the world did, I had to make some changes to my services and the way I operated. Namely, I no longer use the dogs’ own leashes but purchased biothane leashes that I could use and sanitize between walks, wearing a mask became normal when entering a home, I carry and use hand sanitizer like it’s going out of style, there is no longer any stopping to chat with my clients that were home but rather a quick pick up/drop off to ensure proper social distancing. There was nothing I could do with my business to move it online as the rest of the world had. How do you walk a dog online?

While I was shut down I took an online course in iphone photography to improve the photos I took for my clients as well as for my website and social media outlets. I also took part in some dog training challenges and videos for friends and other groups I am a part of. I found a part time job at a dog training school as I have always loved training dogs but just didn’t have the time to offer it to my clients. If clients ever asked I was always willing to share tips, tricks or ideas but just didn’t offer it as a service. So here was a new world opening up to me in terms of employment. I tried to make the most of the diminished schedule by spending a LOT of time outdoors this summer hiking, running and paddleboarding with my dogs. Luckily I was still able to participate in some new forms of classes for my dogs where masks and hand sanitizer joined the regular items in my agility training bag.

Just prior to Covid-19 I participated in a fun event last winter called Iron Paws which encourages outdoor activity with your dogs. I loved it and had so much fun. It inspired me to track each and every bit of activity I did with my dogs using a tracking app on my phone. I joined another challenge and received a stunning medal when it was completed. The challenge was to complete 1000 kms of activity in the calendar year. I only tracked activity I did with my dogs and finished in September. By the end of 2020 we logged 1200 kms (yes, I still kept track after the challenge was completed since it became a habit) I’m not a super competitive person but I do like to track accomplishments. I much prefer to document and count “up”, so to speak, the things I have done rather than check them off in a countdown to what?? The day I can no longer do those things? Bucket lists are not for me thanks. I had a great idea to start tracking how much walking/hiking I did with YOUR dogs until the first Covid shutdown. I say the first shutdown because as I type this Ontario is in the midst of another shutdown where dog walking has been deemed non-essential again. At this point I may just hold off on the idea until 2022.

I do have some ideas of new things to introduce to my business and I still await the surge of people needing my services as it seems EVERYONE got dogs during the pandemic!!! Yay!! I do worry, as most in the pet animal industries, that with people being home so much with their new pets they will not have been appropriately trained or properly socialized and may suffer from separation anxiety when their owners do return to work. I am currently working on putting together an at-home training program for pet dogs that you can access online and work at your own pace with your pup! How exciting! Stay tuned!! If this sounds like something you’re interested in contact me for more info

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.