I meet a lot of dog owners in my line of work and many of them tell me they haven’t taken a holiday since they got their dog. When I ask them why, they usually reply ‘”we couldn’t put him/her in a kennel!” Or maybe even, “we tried kennels once; never again!”Guilt seems to be a big factor for owners when they consider leaving their dog behind. And for some owners, leaving their beloved pet in a big concrete building away from all their creature comforts is more than they can bear.
Obviously if you can get a family member or friend to look after your dog while you are away, this is usually the best option; if you trust them to do the job right. But if you don’t have that kind of option, you should consider hiring a qualified and recommended pet sitter.
6 Reasons why a Pet Sitter Equals a “Stress-free Holiday or Vacation” this Year
- You will have someone not only looking after your pet(s), but also your home. Most pet sitters will also do home services like collecting mail, watering plants and leaving out trash bins so you don’t have to worry about coming home to a pile of mail, dead plants or smelly trash. It will all be taken care of. Having someone in your home while you’re gone also discourages thieves from targeting your empty home. Most pet sitters will take care of other pets as well as dogs and cats, but always check first.
- Money talks. A pet sitter will usually charge you for the time you are away, not by the number of pets you have. So, if you have lots of pets, a pet sitter could be a cheaper option in the long-run than using kennels.
- Happier and Healthier Pets. By remaining in their own home environment, most dogs and cats are a lot happier and less stressed by the absence of their caretakers. They are less likely to pine, worry or even get sick while owners are away because they’re at home! By staying in their own home, they also avoid coming home with unwanted fleas or maybe kennel cough.
- Nothing changes while you’re away. This is one of the best reasons to use a dog sitter the next time you go away. Your dogs remain in their normal routines for feeding, walks, play time and nap time; so there are no big changes which could potentially stress or upset your beloved pet. Plus they also get the full attention and personalized care of someone the entire time you are away.
- Special care and attention. If you have a pet that requires special feeding or medication, this can pose an added worry when kenneling the pet; will the same person do this properly, every day and on time? With a pet sitter, you can spend the time showing them exactly what needs to be done before you leave. Make sure you leave a detailed list for the pet sitter too (spelling out routines, feeding schedules and procedure, etc.), so that your pet sitter does exactly what you normally do, ensuring your pet is in excellent hands and in their normal routine. Also include any emergency contact numbers (including your vet), just in case something happens.
- Highly Recommended! Good pet sitters usually get their work from repeat business and word of mouth. Someone who does a good job and has proven to be trustworthy will always be recommended. So ask your friends or other dog owners who they use to pet sit their animals. You might be surprised to find there is a local pet sitter (or more!) in your own area.
A lot of pet sitters have many years of experience looking after different animals, including their own. Don’t be afraid to ask them about their experience; many professional pet sitters will bring references from other clients, insurance certificates and a contract for you to complete to keep everything legal and professional, with both parties knowledgeable and happy with the expectations. In addition, they will usually do an introduction interview to meet you, and of course your pets, as well as answer any questions you may have.
Once you’ve hired the perfect pet sitter, you can happily go off on holiday with the confidence that your dog, cat, etc., is in safe hands and receiving the best of care. If this is the first time you’re away from your beloved animals, don’t be afraid to ask your pet sitter to send you a text or update email; as a fellow animal-lover, they will understand!
Remember to book your pet sitter well in advance; holiday seasons are busy times for these professionals.
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Do you go for walks with your dog happily trotting by your side? Or do you feel like you are being dragged behind a heat-seeking missile with absolutely no steering (or brake for that matter), just waiting for disaster to strike?!
Ever wonder how some dog owners make walking their dog look like pure pleasure?
Ever wondered how an 11-year old girl can easily lead her pony without being dragged in every direction? (Especially when full-grown adults are being dragged off-course by dogs half their size?!)
Want to know their secret?
The answer is simple; they were taught to behave this way.
Someone put the necessary time, effort and knowledge into teaching that pony (or dog) – at a young age and before bad behaviour set in – what is (and isn’t) acceptable behaviour. We all know that a child would not be able to hold onto something as powerful as a horse, especially if the horse was young, wild and untrained.
So why don’t we think in the same terms with our dogs?
Imagine if you were to alter your mindset when it comes to your dog. What if you put a wolf in the place of your dog; wouldn’t you show greater respect for that creature and treat it differently? Now, what if that wolf wasn’t properly trained with care and kindness? Imagine the mayhem, fear and even injury that could result! Wouldn’t you feel responsible if you were to get this wrong?
So why do we look at our dogs so differently? If left untrained, wouldn’t they be as likely to cause mayhem, fear or injury as the wolf? Of course! So let’s start working on that new mindset below.
Teaching Your Dog
Puppies and dogs learn in the exact same way, by experience. Those behaviours that feel pleasurable will most likely happen again. Using positive praise and rewards will work, but only if you give these at the right time. For instance, your dog starts pulling on the lead and you start speaking to him, telling him to behave, go easy, slow down and so on. But when he is walking nicely beside you, he gets very little positive interaction from you. So which behaviour do you think he is more likely to repeat?
I always teach my clients to get their pup or dog happily walking beside them at home without the use of a lead. Why? Because this helps your dog quickly learn that they can be part of the team and get your positive interaction without being coerced or dragged into place. The idea is to make it fun – almost like a game of “follow the leader” – to help your dog learn to walk beside you. With lots of short 5-minute “games,” you will begin to easily ingrain this “good” habit or behaviour as a natural way of your dog walking with you, without consciously thinking about it.
Practise walking in different directions, stopping and starting, while encouraging your dog to stay with you at your side. Keeping it short and fun means you will both want to repeat this as often as you have time throughout the day. Once your dog understands he needs to be consistently at your side, you can increase and decrease your pace and do more complicated manoeuvres. Once your dog can keep up, it’s time for the next step!
You will now add the lead to the equation; because it is no longer the tool to “make” your dog walk nicely at your side. You have already practised (and achieved) that part! The lead is used to keep your “wolf” alongside you if it sees other distractions and to keep it safe from making mistakes until it learns the “way of the world.” A lot of social spaces demand that dogs be on leads; you and your dog can do this easily and happily now, because you have taught your dog that being by your side is a really nice place to be!
Once out in the world, remember you must keep letting your dog know you are still playing the game with the same encouragement of praise and some rewards. If your dog gets distracted by something, just stop and stand quietly, then change direction and call your dog to you, praising it when he comes.
Don’t set yourself or your dog up to fail.
Start with a 5-minute walk and – if all goes well – increase the walk time in increments (instead of going from 5-minutes to an hour walk in one single leap). How about doing two 10-minute walks instead of a 20-minute walk? This keeps things fun and fresh (for both of you!) and it’s probably easier for you to find the time in your day instead of taking a 20- or 30-minute block out of your busy schedule!
So, as you’ve seen, there really is no “secret” to having a well-mannered dog, it just takes some well-invested time, patience and knowledge at the beginning to be able to enjoy your walks with your dog for the rest of your time together.
I wonder if you were like me growing up, totally ‘dog mad’? Now when I think about it I probably nigh on tortured all the dogs I knew as a kid. I have photos in my album of me with my arms wrapped around the neck of my aunt’s dog, my grandad’s dog, our dog, I dressed them up, we had tea parties or just ‘ran and played’ together around the back yard, they were my best friends. To me it was like they knew what I felt like doing or was just thinking about and I found real happiness in their silent but good humoured company. I knew when I grew up I would ‘Work’ with dogs. I tried working with horses for a while which I loved too but to me there was nothing like the reciprocal friendship and love you get from a dog, both our species have been together a long time and we are alike in a lot of ways.
Finding your Joy
Ok I know not all of you feel like this about dogs and there may have been something else that held or holds that top spot in your heart more than anything else. If you didn’t have to pay the mortgage, rent or babysitters and you could do something you Really Love would it be what you are doing now in real life? No? What about, it’s your main Hobby outside of work? It doesn’t matter what it is but unless you find time to find your joy, have fun in your joy and even share in your joy, life and it’s stresses will soon catch up with you and we all know that just sucks!
If you are like me and you need to find some doggy joy in your life my advice is go and try it and see how you feel about it, move on if you think there could be more or ‘this isn’t for me’. Volunteer! at a dog shelter, at a dog groomers, with mountain rescue, with ‘P.A.T. dogs, at a doggy day care centre, at a dog club, look after other people’s dogs (with permission of course!)
Now there are more dog jobs or ‘vocations’ as they like to call them, than ever! When I told my careers teacher that I wanted to work with animals, especially dogs, I was given the list of Vet, Vet Nurse, Groom, possibly working in an Animal Shelter/ dog pound. That was it! Now there are animal Therapists, Behaviourists, Biologists, Beautcians, Carers, Trainers, Handlers and the list goes on. Do some research, I think I would have loved to be a Wolf Biologist if I had known that was something that was a Real Job back then.
What ever it is that makes your heart sing and puts a Real smile on your face and you wish you could do it all the time, That’s It, you’ve Found It! Your Joy, cherish it with all your heart. Go visit it Often if not All the time!
If you dont know what makes you feel like that, try something new. When you have a rediculous grin on your face and you say to no-one in particular ‘I Love doing this’, you’ll know.
Share with me what Your Joy is by leaving a comment below
Bernie (The Dog Owner’s Coach)
OK, here’s some background for you all, about me and my 4 dogs so you get to know me almost instantly without having to ask some awkward questions! You will also notice I use this ! a lot, dont ask me maybe it’s how I actually speak!
I live in Derry, Northern Ireland or Londonderry or the Maiden City or the City of Culture 2013, take your pick. I live with my long suffering partner, who bless him is a very supportive soul and of course there are my four kids, Solo 16yrs, Bracken 9yrs, Luna 3yrs (we think) and Rudi 8 months. Apart from Bracken they are all rescues and they are in ascending order, a Whippet cross collie, a Border Terrier, a Border Terrier and an English Springer Spaniel.
I have always had dog’s in my life, there are plenty of family photos showing me squeezing the family’s or somebody else’s dog! If there was a dog in the vicinity I would find it or it would find me, things haven’t really changed much! I worked in show kennels while at high school and then worked with horses for a while, same thing just bigger! I then got Solo when I left college, I was living with my best friend at the time and she bought/ rescued Solo for my 22nd Birthday.
There’s a load of crap in the middle there but the last 9yrs or so have been mainly focused back on dogs. I am a qualified Dog Listener, I managed a rescue centre for 2 years, I petsit and dog walk, I bake my own wheat and gluten free dog biscuits and as from about 6 weeks ago I now sell raw or natural dog food too. So you could say I have a very doggie life indeed!
So I will share my life, my experiences , the ups and downs of dog ownership, hopefully helping some of you on the way and you get to know us all a little bit better.