Say hello to Behavior Fundamentals – now online!

bfo

By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

We’ve been working like dogs (heh) all summer long* and are super-duper proud to announce the official launch of Behavior Fundamentals Online!

Behavior Fundamentals started out as our popular in-person program through CanineLink (now FetchFind Academy) in Chicago. Not only did it fill the growing need that dog lovers had to understand their canine companions on a deeper, more scientific level, it helped launched the careers of many amazing dog trainers (all of whom are now making the pet world a better place through science-based, positive training!).

During the month of October, you can grab the entire Behavior Fundamentals Online program for only $99!

Click here to sign up now.

All of the modules are also available a la carte; click here to learn more about pricing and curricula.

If you have any questions or comments about the program, please contact us at hello@fetchfind.com or 872-802-4114. #fetchylovesyou

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lynda-lobo* I just have to give an extra-special FetchFind shout out to Lynda Lobo, CPDT-KA, (⬅︎ ) who really knocked it out of the park with the development and design of Behavior Fundamentals Online. We love you, Lynda!🙂

 

Volunteering: a win-win proposition

shelter-puppy

By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

Lots of people want pets but can’t have them for a variety of reasons – building restrictions, finances, career, allergies – but the good news is that you can get your puppy-kitten-bird-rabbit-reptile fix by volunteering at a local animal shelter or rescue. Not only will you meet some great people, but you can also make a huge difference in the lives of dozens of animals. (Did we mention that you can cuddle sleepy puppies on your shoulder? That’s an activity with no downside, as far as we’re concerned.)

When you sign up to be a volunteer at an animal shelter or rescue, be prepared for the following:

  • Be willing to wait a while before being accepted as a volunteer. Many shelters have a backlog of applicants, and it can take a few months before you can schedule an orientation.
  • Be comfortable with a fairly extensive application process, reference checks, and – in some cases – fingerprinting.
  • Be able to commit to a certain number of hours per month (this will vary by organization).
  • Be willing to follow the rules and procedures as determined by that particular organization. Those rules are there for everyone’s safety, including the animals in your care.
  • Be willing to work in lower-level programs before moving into higher-level or different types of programs. (For example, you might have to do basic dog care for a certain number of hours before moving up a level to dog training, or being allowed to cross-train in cat care or the low-cost clinic.)
  • Be willing to purchase a volunteer shirt and adhere to a minimal dress code (for safety purposes) – long pants, volunteer shirt, sensible shoes, etc.

Volunteering can have additional benefits beyond helping pets. If you have an employment gap or are looking to make a career switch, a history of increasing involvement and responsibility at a non-for-profit organization can be as valuable as paid employment on your resume.

The bottom line: every time you volunteer you have the chance to change, or even save, an animal’s life. You may not think that your half hour of dog or cat socialization after work matters much in the grand scheme of things, but taken together with everyone else’s half hours throughout the days and weeks, it can make a huge difference in the well-being of any given pet, as well as in the overall quality of care the shelter provides. Everybody wins!

 

 

 

Why having a dog with a strong predation instinct isn’t always a bad thing

Chester looking very proud after a successful night of mouse hunting.
Chester looking very proud after a successful night of mouse hunting.

By Bill Mayeroff

It’s not easy to love terriers. But I do it anyway.

Anyone who knows anything about terriers can tell you that my dog Chester is indeed 100 percent terrier. He’s stubborn. He’s got a ton of energy. He loves to try to run after whatever small, fuzzy critters might cross his path. He’s perfect for me, but he wouldn’t be the right dog for everyone.

One of the toughest aspects of Chester’s personality to deal with is his ridiculously strong predation instinct. He’s a terrier and terriers were originally bred to hunt and kill vermin. So when we go out for walks, he wants to go after any squirrels, rabbits, mice, rats or chipmunks we might encounter. It’s tough, but with management, it’s fine. If I see him starting to eye a rodent of some sort, I usually just turn him around and walk in the other direction or just stop him in his tracks until the rodent runs off. I’m unlikely to ever be able to train him to not go after fuzzy creatures, so this is the best I can do.

That strong predation instinct isn’t always a bad thing, either. Recently, I was hanging out on my couch with Chester when I saw a little mouse scurry across the floor behind my TV stand. I hate mice and I hate them even more when they’re in my apartment, so I was not happy about this.

But luckily, I have my own, personal, live-in mouse killer. That’s right, folks. Chester was there to save the day. I pointed out the mouse to him and he went after it. He stalked it back and forth across the living room. He flushed it out from behind the couch. When he finally got it into the open, he got it in his mouth and that was that. And the best part? He dropped it immediately after he killed it. He didn’t even try to eat it. So I was able to pick it up and quickly get it out to the trash without having to pry it out of his mouth.

It’s moments like that when I’m really glad I never attempted to train him out of going after rodents. I love the fact that if a mouse makes its way into the apartment, I can turn Chester loose and he’ll take care of the problem. He’s done it before, in fact. He got another mouse in my apartment a few months back and he’s gotten a couple rats in my parents’ backyard (among other things; his total kill count stands at 8 since September of 2011).

I’ve written before about how dog training isn’t about creating a perfectly-behaved dog. Rather, it’s about figuring out what behaviors you can and can’t live with in order to peacefully coexist with your dog. Chester’s drive and ability to kill rodents is a behavior I’m happy to live with because while most days, it could be seen as a hassle (I don’t actually see it that way; I’m just pointing out that some might), it has occasional benefits that I think outweigh the cons. 

There’s no real moral to this story, by the way. I just wanted to point out that sometimes, behaviors we tend to think are undesirable can have unexpected payoffs.

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Look at these two handsome gents.

After five years as a newspaper reporter in western Illinois and two more as a freelancer in Chicago, Bill Mayeroff‘s life has gone to the dogs in the best way possible. These days, Bill lives in Chicago with his terrier mix, Chester, and works at a small, no-kill animal shelter while he studies to be a professional dog trainer at FetchFind Academy. Bill also blogs about his two favorite things – dogs and beer – at Pints and Pups. 

Low-Stress Handling — What Groomers Should Know About This Hot Niche Market

Dog grooming

By Nan Kené Arthur, CDBC, CPDT-KSA, KPACTP

Low-stress handling is becoming a big trend in the veterinary community, with more and more facilities committing to teaching, rather than forcing, dogs to cooperate with needed vet care.

Following that trend is the grooming community, and while it’s still a nova, humane handling is making inroads on its way to full stardom. As this movement grows, so does a well-needed niche market that groomers can glom onto and build reputations as gentle groomers.

Dog trainers that deal with behavior cases readily confess that one of the more challenging behaviors to modify is sensitivity to touch and handling. This is especially true once a dog or puppy has had one or more negative experiences with things like grooming or rough handling during vet visits. (Is this torture?)

For some dogs, it can take only one scary experience to become “hand shy,” or worse. This can quickly grow to the point where the dog feels a need to lash out at hands or equipment as a way to protect themselves from perceived danger. Sadly, many of these same dogs then advance their reactions and often have to be anesthetized for routine care such as nail trims, de-matting, and ear cleaning. This risks the dog’s life, and further perpetuates the handling and grooming issues, as the dog still has to be restrained during the anesthesia process.

Benefits of proper touching and handling

It’s sometimes hard for humans to remember that dogs are a different species, and therefore communicate differently. As humans, we approach life in a species-specific manner, as do canines, and it’s important to keep that in mind any time you approach a dog during grooming or any handling.

Humans are frontal in our approach to one another — we stand vertically, we have hands with opposable thumbs, and we communicate with the spoken language and physical gestures, particularly when things are painful or scary for us.

Dogs, on the other hand, are horizontal— they rarely approach each other from the front, they readily protect their paws from injury given that it could incapacitate them, and they too communicate with one another in their own language, which includes growling, snapping, and biting if they really need to make a point.

Adding to the complexity of these differences are the learning experiences when dogs are forced to endure routine handling during vet visits or grooming. This can make a dog even more sensitive to being touched or handled when compounded with our mixed messages when we arbitrarily offer human behavior towards them.

Regardless of why or how a dog builds a sensitivity to handling (or anything else), it’s always a shock when someone’s sweet dog all of the sudden turns into Cujo and growls, snaps, or bites during the course of handling, petting, or grooming. No matter how shocking, it’s important as a professional to respond, not react, if a dog displays any of these behaviors, and even better to be proactive to prevent the fear in the first place. If a dog has resorted to using one of these stronger statements, you can be sure that communications have broken down somewhere along the line.

Some professionals might be inclined to just “make” the dog accept grooming and handling, but that not only puts the welfare of the dog in question, it increases your risk for getting bitten, and all the while making the sensitivity stronger.

Even when dogs have had a steady course of positive experiences with handling, it’s still beneficial for groomers and support staff to sustain and maintain good handling experiences for each dog they encounter. If for no other reason than to offset any potential negative experiences in the future, this ethical approach to handling dogs helps minimize everyone’s stress levels.

Luckily, with some simple techniques, training can become the bridge for helping dogs relax more with grooming and to overcome issues that might already in place.

In addition, the good news is that you don’t have to have a long training background to help dogs be more comfortable with grooming; you only need to understand more about dogs and behavior. Working with a positive, certified trainer can teach you the basics, and by doing so, you will be building an alliance that can send you more business.

Building that niche market

The majority of people want their dogs handled with care and kindness, and those that want to work on helping their dogs be less stressed with grooming are going to be willing to pay extra for you to go slowly and build trust.

The problem is that most people have no idea what takes place in a typical grooming session. While most groomers are professional and know their craft well, they are taught a lot of restraint and “get it done” techniques that can lead to the aforementioned sensitivities. Sara Scott, a groomer in Salt Lake City, offers a service where the owners are able to watch her groom for an extra fee, and she can show the owner how she strives to be as gentle as possible with the dog. That extra fee covers the additional time spent, but gives the owners the assurance that their beloved dog is in good hands.

Scott works with a number of trainers who also refer to her when they have more difficult handling cases, even for things as simple as baths, because they know she will not undo any of the work they are doing to help the dog be more comfortable with handling in general.

Setting your own policy about how you will go about grooming dogs is another easy way to enhance your business. If you decide that you will only use gentle methods of grooming, you can set your prices higher to begin with and market yourself as a specialty groomer up front. Then, by learning techniques that help dogs relax with grooming, not only do you get a dog that is able to cooperate with you (making grooming easier), you have techniques that you can then offer to teach other groomers or give classes to owners that teach them to keep up with their pet’s grooming in a positive way. For example, Sara Scott offers classes such as “Untangled,” how to keep mats to a manageable level, and “Stable on the Table,” which helps dogs learn to be steady and accept touching and handling while on the grooming table.

All of these ideas add to the revenue stream, and even give you a way to profit from selling things like brushes, combs, and other related equipment and products that the owners can buy to keep up with what you have taught them.

Creating “Buy In”

Likely, the most difficult pushback of instituting this sort of plan will be from busy grooming shops that are used to production grooming where time is money, but if you can demonstrate how doing this can actually increase the revenue by helping make the venue “the place” to go, and where they specialize in humane handling, post-grooming support, and education, the pace can slow down and the revenue can increase.

Being an expert in that arena can also put you in front of the local news cameras as filler content for morning news shows, which are always looking for new things to offer their pet-friendly audiences. It can be a pretty impressive piece when a dog offers his paw for a nail trim!

Working with trainers who have certifications in behavior and training, such as those from the Karen Pryor Academy’s Certified Professional Dog Training program, is an excellent place to start, and groomers such as Jennie Willoughby (who owns Waggin Tails in Moorpark, CA), have taken the course to augment their business and train their groomers how to use training techniques that make it easier for the dogs.

Conclusion

Looking at low-stress handling as an option to augment your current or new business is not only is beneficial for the dogs, it’s a wonderful way to help you grow a niche market that provides solid traction into the ever-growing community that wants their pets groomed with as little stress as possible. And that foothold equals additional income when you work with training and behavior experts via referrals and by building your reputation as the groomer who wants to take grooming to the next level.

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Nan Kené Arthur, CDBC, CPDT-KSA, KPACTP, is the owner of Whole Dog Training and author of “Chill Out Fido!: How to Calm Your Dog”. Nan is a Certification Instructor with dog*tec Dog Walking Academy in San Diego, and also serves as Faculty with the Karen Pryor Academy.

This post was originally published on January 25, 2016. 

Bark Management 101

barking-dog

By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

Most dogs bark, and while barking can sometimes be a behavioral concern it is a natural part of doggy daily life. This is not to say that you shouldn’t worry about problem barking, or that nothing can be done to solve it. Training and management can help improve the behavior, but, unless you have a basenji, your dog may always bark.

While there are some dogs that just bark now and then, barking can become a problem when the dog barks too much, too loudly, or when the barking is accompanied by other undesirable behaviors.

Solving or troubleshooting your dog’s barking problem depends heavily on understanding just what type of barking your dog is doing. This can be done by observing the cause and characteristics of your dog’s barking.

In The Bark Stops Here, Terry Ryan groups barkers into six broad classifications:

Attention-seeking barkers: Characterized by a bark which is high in pitch and accompanied by pauses and moments when the dog looks around and listens for a response from anyone. ASBs are not picky about who they get attention from.

Territorial barkers: Characterized by a low-pitched, intense burst of barking. This kind of barking is usually startling and short lived. It is accompanied by a distinct body posture: the tail is up, the ears and the corners of the mouth are forward, the stance is tall and forward on toes, the hackles are up, and the nose is wrinkled. Territorial barkers initiate barking when a perceived threat enters into the dog’s imagined territory.  (Remember – the dog defines his territory, not you.)

Boredom barkers: Characterized by a flat boring bark with occasional howling directed at nothing. This kind of barking is repetitive in nature and is usually of medium pitch.

Fearful barkers: Characterized by sharp, high-pitched barking accompanied by a distinct body posture in which the dog’s tail is tucked between her legs, the hackles are up, the pupils are dilated, the nose is wrinkled, and the corners of the mouth are back. Barking is initiated by a perceived threat coming close to the dog. For the fearful barker, barking is designed to increase the distance between the threat and the dog. While the dog may step forward while barking, she will usually retreat as well.

Excitement barkers: Characterized by high-pitched barking, accompanied by a great deal of continuous movement, a wagging tail, and variable intensity.

Separation anxiety barkers: Characterized by high-pitched frantic barking, and accompanied by pacing, drooling, whining, scratching, chewing, and howling.

Problem solving devices and methods:

Training: a number of training options can provide help in the barking arena. You can work on “Watch me,” put barking and “Quiet” on cue (see below), and even work on certain calming signals.

Exercise: your dog might not have as much barking energy if she gets to run it off at the beach! Mental exercise is as effective as physical, so if you can’t get outside try some nosework or indoor games.

Medication: pharmaceutical intervention can be a powerful tool for helping dogs who are anxious or fearful barkers. In those cases, the barking is a symptom of something bigger, and when the bigger issue is addressed, the barking often decreases quite dramatically. If your regular vet isn’t trained in problem barking solutions, consult with a veterinary behaviorist. Look for someone who is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists; they have the training and experience to find the best solution for the issues that are causing the barking in the first place.

Debarking: I have never recommended surgical debarking, and I never will. Many vets will refuse to perform the procedure, and it has been banned in several states and many European countries. In addition to being inhumane, debarking eliminates one of the dog’s primary methods of communication. If a dog can’t give you an effective warning bark, he’s more likely to go straight to the biting. Also, a debarked dog can still make plenty of noise; my collie, Whisper, was debarked by her previous owners, and she still barks all the time – it just sounds hoarse and painful.

A note about behavior correction collars:

Citronella bark collars: In some cases, a citronella bark collar can be a helpful tool, when used in conjunction with proper training. The CBC is designed to correct the dog for barking by administering a spray of citronella every time the dog barks. This can be effective because it works on four of the dog’s senses: she hears the spray, she sees it, she smells it, and she tastes it (and she doesn’t like it). It is immediate in its response so you won’t have to worry about your own timing.

This is a “last resort” option, and is not always the best solution, especially if your dog’s barking is related to issues of fear or anxiety. Keep in mind that citronella collars tend not to work consistently throughout the lifespan of the device, which means that the collar either won’t spray at all or will spray at random intervals. This will just confuse the dog, and may end up reinforcing other undesirable behaviors. It’s especially important to consult with a behaviorist when considering a CBC, both to be certain that you’ve exhausted all other options and to make sure that you have the right treatment plan in place.

Shock collars: Don’t be fooled by language that says the dog receives a “harmless electronic stimulus” from the collar. Shock collars hurt, and the likelihood that it will end up reinforcing other, more dangerous behaviors is pretty high. If your dog receives a shock every time he barks at someone walking into the house, he will quickly learn to associate pain with visitors, which can result in aggression towards humans.  There is no guarantee that pain is going to be a deterrent, either; some dogs have a higher pain tolerance than others, and their need to bark may override the pain inflicted by the collar. In some cases the constant shocks may make the barking worse.

How to teach “Quiet” by putting barking on cue:

Some dog owners find success in managing barking by training a pair of behaviors: Speak & Quiet. Here’s how!

  1. Initiate barking by using a controlled bark trigger, like the doorbell rung by your training partner or a knock at the door. You have to be able to control this trigger and make it happen a number of times. Remember, training dogs is repetitive!
  2. When your dog starts barking say, “Bark, yes, good bark!” or “Speak, yes, good speak!”
  3. Take a tasty & smelly treat and put it in front of your dog’s nose and say “Shhh” or “Quiet.” Do not give the treat if your dog continues to bark.
  4. Most dogs will stop barking to take the treat, and when he does this say, “Yes, good quiet!” and give the treat.
  5. Repeat!

Keep the individual sessions short (10-15 minutes), and schedule several sessions throughout the day. Once your dog has learned a good, solid “Quiet”, make sure you reinforce it regularly (two or three times a week). If a new barking trigger presents itself, start over with step 1.  You can find apps with sound effects like sirens, children’s voices, or other barking dogs to use as trigger noises.

 

Shipping a dog: What you need to know

dogcratesBy Bill Mayeroff

Moving, especially a long distance, isn’t easy. 

You have to organize and pack your life into boxes, transport it (or have someone else transport it) to your new location, get it into your new home and unpack it. It’s stressful for everyone involved. 

That process is even tougher if you have a dog. If you’re driving, you can put the dog in your car and hit the road. But what if you have to fly across the country? Or overseas? It becomes a lot more difficult.

Luckily, there are myriad companies around to assist you with the process. Some will get your pet just from one airport to another. Some will also offer temporary boarding as well as home delivery services. But as I and most dog owners know, leaving your dog in someone else’s hands is scary. We all worry about our pets and their safety. 

That begs this question: What exactly do you need to know before putting your beloved canine companion in the hands of one of these companies?

To answer it, we’ve compiled a handy list of tips and questions to keep in mind before making transport arrangements for your dog.

First and foremost, plan well in advance. A lot of these companies require several weeks’ lead time, so you should be ready to purchase the transport service at least two months before you actually move. Plan further ahead of time if you can. In that same vein, make sure your pet is healthy. Most of these companies require documentation that your pet is healthy enough to be shipped and if you’re moving to another country, even more documentation is likely needed (but moving a dog internationally is a whole other post).

Next, you need to figure out your own needs. Will you be able to get your pet to and from airport cargo terminals? Or will you need door-to-door service? Will you need to board your dog for any length of time after you arrive in your new location? A lot of pet shipping companies offer boarding services, so take advantage if you need to. It’s best to err on the side of caution. If you think there’s a chance you won’t be able to spare the time to get your dog from an airport, make arrangements to have it boarded. It’s much better to arrange for it and not need it than it is to need it and not have arrangements.

Once you’ve figured out those things, there’s still a lot you need to know, but there’s one very important question to ask ahead of all others: 

How does this work?

Luckily, this is a fairly easy question to answer. Most pet transport companies’ websites have sections that lay out the process in (sometimes excruciating) detail. If you can’t find it online, call the company and ask them to take you through the process step by step. If they can’t/won’t do it or if they can’t seem to answer all your questions, look elsewhere. 

As a side note, remember this: The only stupid question is the question you don’t ask. Don’t be afraid to ask anything you need in order to be confident that your pet will be safe. The best companies will be happy to do whatever they can to assuage all your fears. 

Other things to consider: 

  • Cancellations – what happens if your pet’s flight is cancelled? 
  • Are there weather restrictions? If you’re shipping your pet by air, it’s likely traveling as cargo on a commercial flight. Many airlines will transport pets from their cargo terminals to the planes in climate controlled vehicles, but if they decide it’s not safe to do that, your pet’s arrival may be delayed. Find out what weather restrictions may come into play. 
  • You may be tempted to sedate your pet for a long flight. But the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) advises against it. From the AVMA’s website: “It is recommended that you DO NOT give tranquilizers to your pet when traveling by air because it can increase the risk of heart and respiratory problems. Short-nosed dogs and cats sometimes have even more difficulty with travel.” As a result, some companies might not allow you to ship a sedated pet. And if you believe the AVMA (which you should), it’s not a good idea anyway. So don’t do it.
  • Related to the previous bullet point: Know your dog’s temperament. How well does it handle stress? Travel is stressful enough on humans who know what’s going on. It’s far more stressful for a dog who has absolutely no control over what’s happening to it. Can your dog handle that? 

I know this seems like a lot to think about (and it is), but as long as you take your time and make sure all your questions are answered, you can alleviate a lot of the stress associated with shipping your pet.

For further information, you should also check out the AVMA’s frequently asked questions about traveling with your pet.

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Look at these two handsome gents.

After five years as a newspaper reporter in western Illinois and two more as a freelancer in Chicago, Bill Mayeroff‘s life has gone to the dogs in the best way possible. These days, Bill lives in Chicago with his terrier mix, Chester, and works at a small, no-kill animal shelter while he studies to be a professional dog trainer at FetchFind Academy. Bill also blogs about his two favorite things – dogs and beer – at Pints and Pups. 

Top tips for selling a home with a pet in the house

mo-sofa

By Jason Feldman, Chicago Pet Friendly Real Estate

Selling a home can be complicated… and even more so when you have a pet. People have asked me questions like:

  • What should I do about the hairy mess my cat leaves on the sofa?
  • My dog usually urinates from being overly excited when there are strangers in the home. What do I do with my dog when there are showings?
  • My dog has a pee pad. Can I leave that in the closet?
  • My bird has a foul mouth. How do I keep him from cussing out visitors?

Here is our checklist for selling your home with a pet in the house:

Whenever possible, remove your pet from the house during showings and open houses. If they have to be there, then make sure they are in a secured, locked cage or room. Put a sign on the room door that alerts visitors to the presence of the pet so that nobody freaks out.

Clean and remove stains, giant tumbleweed cat hairballs, and unpleasant odors.

Remove dog and cat toys so nobody trips on a squeaky ball.

Move food and water bowls if they are a tripping hazard, they smell, or are just plain ugly.

Make sure your realtor highlights any special elements that incorporate a hidden dog feeding area or cat litter box. Other animal lovers will be attracted to these features.

Remember to remove excrement pads and clean the cat litter before all showings. No exceptions here! Walking into a kitchen with a cat *ahem* “gift” on the floor is not the prettiest element of a kitchen.

Repair or replace any damage like scratches on the back of doors (yes, you CAN see how your dog misses you while you are away). Consider refinishing the floors if there are visible scuff marks.

Make sure your realtor screens all buyers before they view your property (condos) to make sure their type of pet, size, and quantity will be allowed. This will help avoid wasting your time.

Lastly, make sure your realtor knows all of the pet-friendly features in your building and neighborhood, such as dog spas, dog runs, nearby parks, walking services, and more.

All of these should help make selling your home easier and faster, and make the experience better for your pet, too. Good luck!

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jason-feldman-croppedJason Feldman is a Realtor with Related Realty and specializes in helping people with pets buy and sell homes in the Chicago area. His website is Chicago Pet Friendly Real Estate, and be sure to check out his Facebook page for more great tips on buying and selling a home!

15 ways to honor the memory of a beloved pet

jamie-poodle-lydie

By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

Yesterday, September 11, was  National Pet Memorial Day.  There are many different ways of remembering and honoring the memory of our pets (some of them quite spectacular). Personally, I’m not one to hang on to things like dog collars or favorite toys  (I’ve moved too many times in the last five years to be very sentimental about keeping things), but I am very thankful that I had professional photos taken of my dogs Sam, Liddie, and The Poodle while they were in their prime. I’ve known people who have opted for many of the following:

Urns
Jewelry
Paw casts
Plush toys
Burial pods
Garden stones
Memorial donations
Professional portraits
Pet cemetery burial

Some people cemeteries will also allow pets to buried with their owners. You can even have your pet’s ashes made into fireworks or launched into space. If you have a lot of money sitting around, you can have your pet cloned, cryo-preserved, or taxidermied.

However you choose to remember your pets, I do recommend that you talk to a grief counselor if your usual support network is not enough.  I know that many people feel that grief over the loss of a companion animal is not as “important” as the grief they would feel for a human being, and some will run out and get another pet immediately, without allowing adequate time to mourn their loss. But the human-animal bond can be very, very profound, and it is appropriate – and ultimately healing – to treat it as such after your beloved pet has passed on.

 

Living a top dog life

candace-dogs

By Candace D’Agnolo, CEO of Dogaholics

Hello. My name is Candace and I’m a dogaholic.

I’ve been a dogaholic “legally” for the last decade, but I know in my heart and soul that I’ve been a dogaholic my whole life.

I moved eight times before junior high. So when I had to say good-bye to classmates and neighborhood kids every year, my only constant and consistent friends were our family pets. So when it was time for me to start a career, creating a pet business seemed like a natural fit.

My vision for Dogaholics was to be a small retail store and serve my local neighborhood with healthy food and treat options. But, that was small thinking!! I eventually learned that when you dream big, you start living what I call the “Top Dog Life”!

Over the last decade, Dogaholics became more than just retail products by expanding into doggy daycare, grooming, dog walking, branded merchandise, speaking engagements, classes, online educational programs and now business coaching… connecting pet parents and petpreneurs all over the world!

Maybe you started your pet business because you wanted a more fulfilling career. Or perhaps it was because you liked dogs more than people. But as your business grows, you quickly realize it’s less like playing with puppies all day and more working like a dog.

I’ve been there. Working like a dog has been a consistent theme in my adult life. After dealing with massive construction around my stores and employees stealing from me in the height of the recession, I hit the danger zone in 2010 when my business and personal life were failing. I had $200k in business debt and wasn’t generating enough income to pay my bills. I was working 16-hour days on a regular basis; I gained 50lbs and my marriage was suffering. Instead of giving in to the anxiety and stress, I turned it all around and have since brought millions of dollars into my business. I travel around the world and live a stress free life with my canine kids.

Why do I mention all of this? Because while it’s my unique story, our roller coaster rides aren’t that different. Life and business is a roller coaster. Starting out slow and chugging along, then speeding ahead – faster than you can seem to keep up with. There are ups and downs, and turns ahead that you don’t even see. If there’s one thing I’ve learned after running my own company for ten years, you better like riding the roller coaster because it rarely ends when you want it to!

Fortunately for me, I was able to stop the ride for a moment. In April of 2016, I strategically sold the retail division of Dogaholics to Bentley’s Pet Stuff. The economy, competition, internet, and big box stores had nothing to do with me closing. I got the price I wanted and I was able to exit my business exactly how I always dreamed…on my terms.

If you want to stop the roller coaster of business (or at least control the speed) – you must learn what it takes to be a good leader, develop systems around everything, and train your team to thrive.

I look forward to sharing more retail and business tips on how to stop working like a dog and how to start living the top dog life instead!

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Learn more about Candace’s life as a dogaholic on Pets Mean Business!

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1candaceIn addition to being the CEO of Dogaholics, Candace D’Agnolo is a successful business coach, author, and speaker.  She started Dogaholics as a retail store, and took her initial concept of a brick and mortar location and turned it into multiple revenue streams – retail, services, online informational products, books, merchandise, and now business consulting. Candace is also a board member of Chicago Canine Rescue and loves giving back to her local community. She has helped raise over $200,000 for shelter dogs and find many forever homes. Having a way to give back through her business has been one of the most rewarding experiences of her life.

Life after dog, part 3: the dogless dog trainer

bailey-certificate

By Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA

In part two of this three part series, I talked about life with kids after losing my dog, Bailey. In part three, I am going to talk about being a dog trainer without having a dog.

Bailey played a big part in my decision to become a dog trainer. I was always learning from her. I learned early on that Bailey didn’t excel at training when I used more old-school approaches. So, I had to expand my knowledge and find a better fit. That is when I came across positive reinforcement training and it was then that I learned that training could be fun. Our relationship also thrived.

When I started becoming unhappy at my full time job, I decided to find other ways to become happy. That is when I decided to take classes with FetchFind to learn about dog behavior and to maybe eventually become a dog trainer. Fast forward to 6 years later and I couldn’t be happier in my career.

I try to learn something from every client I work with. Some dogs teach me more than others, but Bailey was a constant. She always kept me working and wanting to learn more. Her behavior changed after she was diagnosed with cancer, after my daughter was born, and as she got more sick over time. I was always trying to find new ways to help her.

Bailey was also a great dog to practice with. I loved going to a seminar and learning a new trick and coming home to Bailey and practicing with her. She loved the attention and the increase in treats, and I loved spending time with her and perfecting my skills. Now, I don’t have that outlet. I am lucky that family members allow me to practice with their dogs, but it isn’t the same. I miss the bond that I had with Bailey.

We moved shortly after losing Bailey, so when we got settled in Colorado, I didn’t have the need to run out and find a vet, groomer, pet boutique, etc. This past year I have finally started reaching out to companies and networking. Slowly I am getting my name out, but it wasn’t automatic like it was when Bailey was around. When I started my business, I didn’t always have an easy “in” with companies. I have had to perfect my elevator pitch a little more.

I am lucky that I work with dogs so I can get my dog “fix” whenever I need one. But no dog will fill the gap that I am feeling and have felt since we said goodbye to our precious Bailey. I am very lucky to have had a companion that taught me so much and brought so much to my life. When the timing is right, I will welcome another dog into my life. It is still too early and too hectic right now to even think of it, but I will be so much more prepared for the journey ahead, and I will have Bailey to thank for that.

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Read part 1 and part 2 of Life After Dog.

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Erin Schneider 250x300Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.