How to incentivize training for your independent contractors

FF premium-2

By Cara Armour, Founder of Active Paws Inc and marketing manager of ProPetHero

The employee vs independent contractor debate is a hot topic on many pet sitter forums. The decision to use one or the other should only be made based on legal and financial facts, and how much control you want to have over your staff.

I presented a webinar on this topic to Pet Sitters International back in 2010, and the biggest thing that has changed since then is that the IRS has really started to crack down on the classification of independent contractors versus employees. This crackdown coincided with the boom in the pet industry and the gig economy, because having ICs is the cheapest staffing method for any business owner. If  your staff is classified incorrectly, this can send up a red flag and the next thing you know, you’re being audited. 

By using ICs, you can avoid employment tax and, in many states, unemployment insurance payments as well as mandatory worker’s compensation insurance. The flip side is that person contracted to do jobs for you must have their own business, should have their own insurance, and cannot be told how to do a job; they are simply given jobs and compensated for their completion. They cannot be trained, told to wear a company uniform, or scheduled for work. (See what I mean about having control?)

Employees are far more expensive, but the safer way to go. Employees can be trained and guided, told how to do their job and what to wear, and can often be paid a bit less up front since you are covering their insurance, taxes, etc. Both employees and ICs can be fired, but if an IC later tries to claim unemployment because they were confused about the nature of their employment relationship, you could be in serious trouble.

If you’re not sure that your ICs are classified correctly, check the IRS’s 20 Factor Test. Also keep in mind that individual states may have their own employment laws regarding worker classifications.

If you’ve considered the legalities of your situation and have decided to use ICs versus employees, how can you incentivize them to use FetchFind?

Since you can’t require ICs to take training like you can with an employee, that doesn’t mean that you can’t use many of the same incentivizing tactics from our previously blog on how to get the most out of your FetchFind subscription. The key difference is that they are incentives, and not directives or requirements.  Here are some of the easiest ways to incentivize the learning process:

Gift cards: Out of those ICs who choose to take the provided education, whoever scores the highest gets a $100 gas card or a $50 Starbucks card. 

Lunch and learn: If you have meetings, events, or dinners with your ICs, these are great opportunities to throw in some training (and you do not have to pay for their time). Just invite them over for a meal, but have FetchFind locked and loaded on your smart TV, ready for them to learn while they eat and socialize.

Educational benefits: Offer training as an additional benefit of performing jobs for your company. It’s a boost to their educational toolbox and their portable skill set, and they can say they are FetchFind approved through your company.

Just ask: The most cost effective way to get your ICs trained on FetchFind is to just ask! Ask them to have a look at the courses provided, let them know the benefits for their own businesses and with your clients, and remind them about the experience and credentials they can gain.

Charge for access: Finally, the most awesome way to get your ICs to indulge in FetchFind content is to buy a subscription for your company, and charge your ICs a smaller fee for access. This makes the learning process completely voluntarily on their part. ICs can be entered into the system just like any other staff, but you can choose who you add to the platform based on if they’ve paid for access.

Let’s break it down.

Your company pays for a FetchFind Premium subscription that gives you all of our content with weekly updates, plus Feline Fundamentals and the ability to upload your own content so that all your staff (including ICs) has access. Then, you can charge each of the ICs $10 a month. If you have ten ICs doing this, your monthly subscription is nearly covered! Even if you have only five ICs paying, that still gives your entire company access to an incredible training solution for a fraction of the cost.

It’s akin to group buying power. As an independent  pet care business owner, I pay into a small business association with other small business owners to get big buying power for health insurance (that’s a blog topic for another day). So why not have your ICs pay a small amount to buy into the amazing investment of pet care education? It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

So that’s the scoop on incentivizing your ICs to take advantage of FetchFind staff training. And now that we’re all busily preparing for tax day, it’s a good time to check your staff classifications with your accountant or lawyer to make sure you are making the right choices regarding ICs versus employees. While employees certainly cost more, that classification can save you the time, money, and hassle of an audit or steep misclassification fees.


Get CEUs, level up your dog training skills at the last Advanced Academy


It’s the end of an era.

When we started AnimalSense Academy in 2008 , the dream was to make working with dogs accessible to anyone and everyone, make the world a better place for animals through humane-based, research-based methodology, and create a community around both of those things. Over the years since Academy opened its doors, we collectively taught thousands of classes, trained tens of thousands of dogs, changed our name to CanineLink, and, finally, to FetchFind Academy.  I met so many smart, funny, fantastic people through the Academy programs that it leaves me speechless when I sit down to think about it.

But good things do sometimes come to an end (if only to make way for even better things). It is with a heavy, but proud, heart that I let you know the final FetchFind Academy Advanced Training program will happen this spring. This will be the last opportunity for you or your employees to take this comprehensive training program in its current form.

What you’ll get:

  • 20 weeks of hands on classroom and hands on learning from Chicago’s top dog training and behavior experts
  • Science based, positive reinforcement
  • Hands-on experience with a variety of demo dogs
  • Comprehensive training in handling and treating behavior problems, counseling clients, teaching and modifying behavior

We’ve added an extra month to the beginning of the program so that even if you haven’t been through our Essentials program, don’t have formal dog training experience, or if it’s been a while since you were in the classroom, you can still be ready to go out and get a position as a professional dog trainer by September 2018.

For business owners who want to add another revenue stream, this is the perfect opportunity to educate your best employee(s) and turn them into dog trainers.

If you’re already a dog trainer, but want to increase your skill level and get valuable continuing education credits, you’ll get 30 CEUs (certified through APDT) and connections throughout the dog training community. Many of our alumni obtained positions at boutique and multi-location training facilities immediately after graduation from Academy, have gone on to become CPDT-KA, and even started their own dog training companies!

Advanced Academy runs April 11 through August 29, 2018 (Wednesday evenings, 6:30-9:30 pm).

Want to learn more? Contact Lynda Lobo at, and she can answer all of your questions.

Finally, there are only 4 spots left, so don’t delay.

All the best,

Jamie Sig Trans - First Only


Best in Show – what you need to know about the 2018 Westminster Dog Show


Catch up on the 2018 Westminster winners before Best in Show tonight.

By Cara Armour, Founder of Active Paws Inc and marketing manager of ProPetHero

I can almost smell the hair products from my comfy sofa, and my eyes are squinting from the bright lights shining off the sequined clothing of the dog handlers – it’s time for Westminster!

The 142nd Westminster dog show is upon us and a quiet quarrel among the mixed dog-owning company I keep is brewing.

I live on both sides of the dog world, with one foot in rescue, and the other directly in dog shows. I volunteer as a foster home and dog evaluator for the Boxer Rescue and I own, breed, show, and enjoy AKC dog sports with my three Boxers (Debbie, Walter, and Phoenix).

There are a few more people like me who successfully hang out in both worlds, and I wish we had a bigger voice. I wish we could help to educate the world that there is enough room for rescued pups as well as purebred dogs. There doesn’t need to be a divide. In fact, both groups have the same mission: to eradicate the puppy mills.

But both sides of the coin also share the fundamental issue of irresponsible placement of dogs, and whether you rescue a dog or purchase a purebred puppy from a breeder, the obligation falls on both the provider and the acquirer to do right by the dog. It’s the responsibility of the breeder to make sure the puppy goes to the best possible home (and to take the puppy back if it doesn’t work out, whatever the reason), and it’s the responsibility of the adopter/owner to take care and control of the sentient being they have chosen to bring into their home.

Me, with Phoenix.

Both rescues and purebred dog fanciers have events that, in essence, showcase the dogs they want so badly to place in the right homes. Rescue organizations have regular adoption events; Westminster is that event for the purebred dog fancy. It’s the time to appreciate the breeds preserved through selective breeding, careful selection, and extraordinary amounts of time, energy, and money. The dogs on parade at Westminster are the ideal representatives of their breeds and are the there to represent the top breeding stock. So in theory, the best puppies come from the best winning dogs. To get one of those puppies, you’d better be a great home, because responsible breeders don’t let their animals go to just anyone who wants a [fill in the breed].

While I do show my dogs, I don’t have a dog that is considered ‘a special’ (in show world lingo), but all of my dogs are extremely special to me. I do hope to one day to have a dog that is ‘a special’ so that I can showcase it at Westminster (wearing something spangly). For now, I spend my time trying to achieve that goal and, most importantly, searching for the right home for the dogs that I helped to lovingly bring into this world.

What Is the deal with Westminster?

Just about every dog owning (and even non dog owning) person in the US and many other countries knows about Westminster, but why is it so prestigious – and, really, what does it matter?

A little history

According to a newspaper article titled, “The Dog Show, 125 Years of Westminster” written in 2001 by Maxwell Riddle, “Westminster gets its name from a long gone hotel in Manhattan. There, sporting gentlemen used to meet in the bar to drink and lie about their shooting accomplishments. Eventually they formed a club and bought a training area and kennel. They kept their dogs there and hired a trainer.

“They couldn’t agree on the name for their new club. But finally someone suggested that they name it after their favorite bar. The idea was unanimously selected, we imagine, with the hoisting of a dozen drinking arms.”

Westminster is the second oldest sporting event in the country, after the Kentucky Derby.

Westminster kept growing

Much like the city of New York, the Westminster dog show began to grow in popularity, eventually becoming the multi-evening televised event it is today. (Think about it – how many non-human competitions get this much air time on a sports channel?) 

Unlike any other dog show, not just any pup can be entered. Dogs must be invited specifically to enter Westminster because they are the top five ranked among their breed, or they must have won at least one major show (meaning they garnered three, four, or five points from a win at a previous show such as a local AKC-sanctioned kennel club show or even the AKC National Championship Dog Show held every December in Orlando, Florida).

In essence, Westminster is a fancy parade celebrating the historical preservation of the breeds we have come to love. I’m not sure if we’ll see the two new breeds added to the AKC this year  – Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen and the Nederlandse Kooikerhondje – but we’re bound to see some beautiful dogs.

If you enjoy purebred dogs in all their glory, tune into Fox Sports 1 between 8-11pm on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 to enjoy the final group choices and Best in Show winner. The group winners picked thus far are:


  1. Borzoi – GCHG CH Belisarius JP My Sassy Girl (Call name: Lucy)
  2. Bloodhound – GCH CH Quiet Creek’s Limited Edition
  3. Beagle – GCH CH Windstar’s Magnum Opus
  4. Whippet – GCH CH Pinnacle Tennessee Whiskey


  1. Pug – GCHS CH Hill Country’s Puttin’ On The Ritz (Call name: Biggie)
  2. Pekingese – CH Pequest Feel The Burn
  3. Affenpinschers – GCHS CH Tamarin Tailback
  4. English Toy Spaniels (King Charles & Ruby) – GCH CH Clussexx Paddington Of Flivverway


  1. Bichon Frises – GCHP CH Belle Creek’s All I Care About Is Love (Call name: Flynn)
  2. Poodles (Standard) – GCH Hightide Stormsurge
  3. Boston Terriers – GCH CH Sabe’s Simply Invincible
  4. Keeshonden – CH Skyline Summerwind Order In The Court  


  1.  Border Collie – GCHP CH Majestic Elite Clever Endeavor (Call name: Flick)
  2. Cardigan Welsh Corgis – GCHP2 CH Aubrey’s Tails Of Mystery
  3. Old English Sheepdog – GCHB CH Bugaboo’s Let It Go Blu Mtn
  4. Pyrenean Shepherd – GCHG CH Eclipse De La Petite Ferme De Wihr

Catch up on the winners here. 

Those official breed names are so fancy, and so much fun to say out loud. They represent the pedigree of the dog, derived from this formula: [grand champion or champion title] [breeder’s kennel name] [registered name]. So this year’s Toy Group winner’s name, GCHS CH Hill Country’s Puttin’ On The Ritz, is translated as:

  • GCHS: Grand Champion Silver – a grand champion who has won 200 grand championship points
  • CH: Champion – has acquired 15 points, including 2 majors, won under different judges and at least one point under a third, different judge
  • Breeder kennel name: Hill Country
  • Registered name: Puttin’ On The Ritz
  • His call name is “Biggie”.

If you want to learn more about the prefixes, suffixes, titles, and abbreviations for purebred dogs, you can check out the AKC website here. It’s a great crib sheet for watching the show tonight.

Agility is for All-American dogs

If purebred dogs just aren’t your thing, you can enjoy the Westminster Agility Championship that took place on the piers on Saturday February 10, 2018. It aired on the regular Fox network, but can be caught on replay and is bound to hit YouTube shortly. AKC agility not only permits the All American (aka, mixed breed) to participate, they even provide the dog a special award for competing, and winning, against the purebred counterparts.

agility westminster
Westminster Master Agility Champion Winners, courtesy of Bill Chiarchiaro. Overall winner Jessica Ajoux and 20″ Fame (front rear, holding the biggest ribbon). From left, Howard Carr with Pink won 8″, Laura Dolan with Pre won 12″, Jennifer Crank and her [also named] P!nk won 16″, and Amber Mccune with Kaboom won 24″. Liz Buckner won the overall All-American with Jefe.
Whether you’re #TeamFancy or #TeamAllAmerican, grab your remote and your unbathed pup to watch the fur fly and the couture sparkle. Tonight is going to be BIG. While I’m always going to root for my own beloved Boxer breed, my heart would be happy to see Biggie the Pug take home Best in Show.


Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 12.40.42 PMVisit our Facebook page for a chance to win Put your guess for Best in Show in the comments, and the first one to get it right wins a free Breeds course! (A $30 value.)







What is separation anxiety in dogs (and how can I fix it)?



By Jamie Migdal, CPDT-KA and CEO of FetchFind

I hear this all the time: “My dog has separation anxiety, and I don’t know what to do.” A lot of the time these cases are mild. The dog is new to the home, or something has changed in its world (e.g, the kids have started school, someone has started a job with longer hours, or a construction crew has taken up permanent residence on your block). They might not do well in a crate, or with too much freedom. Genetics can also play a role in the appearance and degree of anxiety. Every dog is different, and while this behavior can take a long time to fix, it can have a happy ending if the owner is willing and able to put in the work.

What is separation anxiety?

What the average person thinks of when they hear “separation anxiety” usually means that a dog presents with certain anxious behaviors when left alone. Anxious behaviors can include things like:

  • Panting and drooling
  • Incessant barking, whining, or howling
  • Extreme self-soothing behaviors (licking or chewing themselves nonstop)
  • Chewing baseboards
  • Hurting themselves trying to get out of the crate

If your dog is unable to take a nap and be calm when you leave for the day, separation anxiety might be the issue.

For extremely severe cases, such as if your dog is hurting himself or destroying the house, you will need to call a skilled trainer for help, or even a veterinary behaviorist (who will do a detailed medical/behavioral assessment and possibly prescribe medication).

For less severe cases of separation anxiety, I recommend two things:

Change your routine when leaving the house. If you always put on your shoes and then grab your keys, try putting your shoes on last or grabbing your keys when you’re watching TV.  Also, start giving your dog something to do while you are gone, like a peanut butter Kong. Your dog focuses on that while you’re leaving and has a positive association instead of a negative one. It can also help to block your dog’s view of the door, so they can’t actually see you leave. 

Ignore your dog when you get home. I know a lot of us have dogs because we want someone to be excited when we come home, so this doesn’t have to be a forever change. When you come in, put your bag down, take off your coat, go to the bathroom, etc., before engaging with your dog. Try not to speak or touch him for about 10 minutes. If your dog needs to go outside as soon as you come in, try to do as little interacting as possible. What you’re doing is making the dog realize that you coming home isn’t such a big deal, so being alone isn’t all that bad.

This can be a pretty slow process, so be patient with the dog and yourself.

Save time + money by adding your own content

No more binders – hurrah!

By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and Director of Customer Relations – FetchFind

In an earlier post about heatmaps, I talked about our reporting system and how it can help you as a business owner. In this post, I am going to talk about how you can make your life and your business better by adding your own content to your FetchFind subscription. 

The FetchFind Monthly Pro Plus subscription offers many features, one of which is the ability to add your own content. Many business owners already have a few company-specific training videos, HR manuals, and procedures that need to be shared with their staff, but don’t have a good place to store it or track staff viewing or engagement.

Well, FetchFind to the rescue!

We have the perfect solution – and that solution is us. Unlike other training options, where you are left wondering how to incorporate your current training curriculum and HR documents, we make it easy for you by making it part of our platform.

With the FetchFind Monthly Pro Plus subscription, you can upload as much of your own proprietary content as you want. We host it for you, so you don’t have to worry about taking up valuable server space. You can also create sections specific to your content, or you can put it in one of our designated sections. You have total control.

You can also use our system to create quizzes, which helps to ensure your staff is reading, viewing, and comprehending the information you have provided for them. Everything you upload to the platform can be tracked just like any other piece of FetchFind content.

This feature is invaluable for many reasons, but probably the most important is that we save you time, which ultimately saves you money. And who isn’t looking to save money? No more time spent on emailing your new hires about all of the HR documents they need to sign – it’s already uploaded and ready for them view as soon as they sign in. No more time spent tracking down your new hires to make sure they watched your New Hire Orientation video. All you have to do is take two minutes to look at the reports page. The time you save can then be spent on client acquisition and satisfaction – which increases your bottom line.  

We at FetchFind know how busy you are and how hard running a business can be. We want to do everything in our power to help make your life easier and by listening to you, we have found a solution. Let us take this one piece of your job off your plate and let us do the training for you.

Questions? Feel free to reach out to me directly at

Welcome to the feline revolution!


By Arden Moore

Face the feline facts. Cats can be fussy, fascinating, frustrating, funny and even a bit freaky. It’s easy to be puzzled or perplexed as to why cats do what they do.

Don’t expect cats to apologize or grovel – leave those actions to gotta-please dogs. Cats pride themselves on being candid about what they want and when they want it. I say that cats put the C in clever, the A in attitude, the T in tenacious and the S in “so what.”

What are they clearly not? Little dogs who purr. Cats outnumber dogs in households, yet they remain challenging to understand and to handle, especially when it is time to transport them in pet carriers to the veterinary clinic or give them medicine. Yowl! Hiss!

For all of you pet professionals, the time is perfect to get schooled in all things feline.

Ever since I was a toddler, I’ve shared my life with cats. My feline friendship began with a cool Siamese named Corky, who joined me swimming in our backyard lake. Today, I travel the country with a confident, comedic orange tabby named Casey (see picture, above) who assists me in pet first aid trainings and pet behavior classes. I continue to be both a teacher and a student, sharing my intense knowledge of cats I’ve learned from the world’s most respected feline experts to you through my best-selling books, presentations, and radio shows.

That’s why I am honored to team up with FetchFind in creating Feline Fundamentals.

This must-get subscription is only $19/month and is perfect for pet sitters, groomers, bloggers, hospital staff, trap-neuter-vaccinate-return cat rescuers, cat pet parents and, simply, everyone who loves and adores cats. Through videos, how-to photos, text, and more, Feline Fundamentals will provide you with a steady supply of cat knowledge.

What is the best (and safest) way to greet a cat? How do you break up a feline fight and escape injury free? Why do cats hack up hairballs? Is there a safe, quick way to give medicine to a client’s cranky cat? Why should I pay attention to litter box deposits? We at FetchFind stand ready to arm you with step-by-step guidelines as well as practical tips, tricks and tactics to these questions and countless more. And each month, we will add new content to the subscription as there is so, so much to reveal about felines.

Yes, a feline revolution is underway. A generation ago, phrases like catios, cat cafes and catification did not exist. Today, pet careers are being created and expanded out of this global fascination with felines. Here is your opportunity to really get to know and care for 21st century cats. Don’t pussyfoot around – sign up MEOW!

The Feline Fundamentals subscription is available for $19/month for individuals and FetchFind Pro subscribers. Feline Fundamentals is included for FetchFind Premium subscribers at no additional cost. Learn more or subscribe here. 

Office goals: Coffee. Walls. Dogs.

Remember when I told you about my new goal planner?

I’ve been diligently working away on my 30/60/90 goals, and one of my 30 day goals was to do an audit of all of our expenses – subscriptions, utilities, insurance, and general office stuff. It was helpful, and important, and, well – super duper disruptive. Because once I sat down and reviewed the numbers, I realized we were spending waaaaay too much money on our office space.

And just like that, one of my 90 day goals turned into a 30 day goal almost overnight, and – long story short – we’re moving!

We’re not just moving into another office, though – we’re moving into a co-working space. And not just any old co-working space – a dog-friendly co-working space! (They also have free coffee from one of our excellent local roasters, but that wasn’t one of the deciding factors. Not really. It didn’t hurt, though.)

The hardest part about the decision to move into a co-working facility was the dog thing. We briefly considered no dogs (which would have greatly expanded our options), but that just isn’t who we are. So we created a matrix, made some phone calls, toured some spaces, and narrowed it down to five possible choices (all of this in less than a week).

Because I know you all love a good chart almost as much as I do, I’m sharing the decision matrix with you. It really does help to visualize these big decisions.

Sure, we had to give up the handcrafted artisanal beer cooler, but we get to have our dogs with us.  In the end, that decision was easy.

What are your workspace must-haves? Send me your top 1 or 2 with permission to use your name; I’d love to share them with everyone on social media.

Yours in box-hell,

Gluten-free peanut butter dog treats



Here’s another tasty homemade dog treat from the folks at The Chopping Block! These yummy tidbits are gluten-free, so they’re perfect if your pup is on the sensitive side or if you’re going to be giving them as gifts.


  • 1 can sweet potatoes, drained and mashed
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup peanut butter (you can use other nut butters, if you prefer; make sure it’s not sweetened with xylitol.)


  • Step 1 – mash the sweet potatoes.
  • Step 2 – mix eggs, peanut butter and oats until combined.
  • Step 3 – use an ice cream scoop to scoop out your treats. Pick a size appropriate for your dog. (If you don’t feel like scooping a ton of little tiny cookies out then you can also break them into smaller pieces as you dole them out to your dog.)
  • Step 4 – take a fork, dip it in water and smash the treats down like you would a peanut butter cookie, partly because it looks cute, but mostly because these cookies do not spread on their own.
  • Step 5 – bake at 350 degrees until the treats really dry out so they don’t spoil. Feel the bottom of the cookie and make sure it isn’t soft at all; if it is, bake it longer. If they seem to be browning too much before they are hard, turn the oven down. The baking time will depend on what size scoop you use and how much you flatten them. These take about 40 to 45 minutes, so figure on 30 minutes for very small treats and maybe an hour for larger ones.


This recipe was originally posted on The Chopping Block blog. Their next Homemade Dog Treats class will be offered on Saturday, February 24, at the Chicago-Merchandise Mart location. Register here.


15 minutes to a better website


By Kristina Pouliot, Sales Associate, FetchFind

Ah, the new year.

Out with the old, in with the new!

A time for reflecting on memories past, setting present goals, and imagining a brighter future.

As you start hitting your stride for 2018, take a moment to think… How much consideration has been given to your company’s website lately?

If your answer to that question is along the lines of:

“Gee, I haven’t thought about our website since it was set up X years ago.

You are not alone.

It’s easy to push “website update” to the bottom of your to-do list (between “clean garage” and “eat more turnips”) but if your pet care .com or .biz has missing (or incorrect!) information, potential customers will have to work way harder to find the information they need. By keeping your website up to date, you’ll boost your site’s ranking on Search Engines, and keep all future website visitors happy and informed.

For the new year, you owe it to yourself to pump some tunes and give your business website 15 minutes of TLC. To keep your mood high and your spirits up as you make these quick website updates, I’ve made you a fun Apple Music playlist of pet-related jams to keep you productive and in good spirits while you power through your website update. 🙂

Tackle these four questions to get started with 2018 site update:

Is your contact info updated? There’s no point in having a business if potential customers are unable to get in contact with you, right? So, make sure all your business contact information is updated and easy to find on your website. This can include an updated phone number, email address, and physical address too. If you have different phone numbers for your daycare and dog walking services, share both of those numbers! Ensuring this information is up-to-date is an easy way to build credibility and trust with all those who get in touch with your business.

Do the hours on your website reflect your actual hours of operation? Your business may already have its hours listed on the website, but this is a good time to double check that those hours are accurate. Don’t forget to include your time zone and holiday hours too. If you host events or have deals that change month to month, consider uploading a quarterly or yearly calendar to your site.

Have you linked your social media accounts to your website? If your business is active on twitter, facebook, or any other social media site, it’s a great idea to add the links those accounts on your website! A good business presence on social media adds credibility and trust to your business, and if you’re already

Is your site mobile friendly? Face it. It’s 2018 and a large percentage of online research happens via smartphone. If your website is not optimized for this mobile browsing format, visitors to your page might struggle to find the information they need and take it as a sign that your business is behind the times.

That’s it! 15 minutes now can equal a lot more business later – it’s a great return on investment.







Risk management during canine influenza outbreaks


By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

Do you remember the Great Canine Influenza Outbreak of 2015? (It was horrible.) Well, it’s baaaaack – there’s been an uptick in cases in various locations across North America this year. As always, it pays to be vigilant about risk management so that we don’t end up with shuttered boarding facilities, overwhelmed veterinary hospitals, and very sick dogs. 

There are two different dog flu viruses: H3N8 (first reported in the U.S. in 2004, with a vaccine available since 2010) and H3N2 (first reported in the U.S. in early 2015). H3N8 was originally an equine flu virus that jumped to dogs; H3N2 was originally an avian flu virus. There is no evidence that either strain can be transmitted to humans.

Everyone with a dog who goes potty outside will run the risk of meeting another dog who may be currently asymptomatic for the flu, but still contagious. Here are some tips for managing these interactions in a way that will minimize the chances of your dog becoming infected.

  • No greetings! There is a 2-4 day incubation period for canine influenza, and that perfectly healthy looking dog may be shedding the virus all over the place. Some dogs may have the flu but be completely asymptomatic. No greetings means no nose-to-nose, no saliva exchange, and no butt sniffing.  Since the virus is exchanged through respiratory secretions, stay out of sneezing range. If you live in an elevator building, pick up your dog and carry him outside if he’s small enough; this will keep him out of range of other dogs and away from contaminated surfaces on the inside of the elevator, in stairwells, and in lobbies or entryways.
  • Keep your dog under control at all times. This means a 6’ leash, shortened as much as possible when passing other dogs. If you’re using a 26’ flexi-leash, you’re not in control of your dog. If you think you don’t need to keep your dog on a leash because “he always listens to you”, then think again. You may be willing to risk your own dog’s health by letting him roam untethered, but it’s unfair to other owners to let your dog be Patient Zero just because you think he should be a free agent.
  • Good hygiene is your friend. Wash your hands, wipe your shoes, and clean your surfaces, especially if you have contact with other dogs. CIV can be spread by direct contact with infected dogs, by contact with contaminated objects, and by moving contaminated objects between infected and uninfected dogs. If you have a multi-dog household, take care of the healthy dogs before touching the sick ones, and keep them apart as much as possible.
  • Evaluate your risk. Canine flu shots are considered “lifestyle” vaccinations, and are highly recommended for dogs who go to daycare, boarding, dog parks, or play groups. A single dog who rarely leaves the yard will be at considerably less risk for infection.
  • Vaccinate. Whether you have a stay-at-home or highly social dog, ask your vet about vaccinations. It’s a two step shot (an initial shot and a booster a few weeks later), and if your dog isn’t already sick it can help prevent or mitigate the effects of the flu. You can get a single shot that covers both strains (called a “bivalent”); you’ll still need a booster in about three weeks, and peak immunity won’t kick in until a couple of weeks after the booster. My dogs tend to be a bit sleepy for about 24 hours after a vaccination, but to be honest I’ve never been able to tell if it’s because of the shot or because they’re grumpy about having been to the vet. Regardless, let your pup take it easy for a day or so after the vaccination.

How do you know if your dog has the flu? Well, sometimes you won’t know; it’s not unusual for dogs to show no signs of illness. But the usual flu symptoms include reduced appetite, lethargy, cough, runny nose, fever, and eye discharge. Most dogs recover in a few weeks, but if your dog develops a secondary infection it can lead to pneumonia, or, in rare cases, death.

If your dog is displaying any of these symptoms, or even just seems a little bit off, it’s always best to see your vet – and remember to practice good space management and hygiene while you’re in the waiting room. In addition to being contagious, sick dogs can be more snappish that normal, so you’ll want to keep a little extra space between you and the other pets. You can request to be put into an exam room or a separate waiting area to reduce the risk of contagion or dust-ups.

For more information about canine influenza, see articles on the AVMA and CDC websites.