DIY dog grooming (and when to call the pros)

 

dog tub

By Betsy Lane

All dogs require grooming. If you have a healthy, short-coated dog, grooming might consist of weekly brushing and/or combing, and a monthly nail trim and bath. But if your dog has a high-maintenance coat, fast-growing nails, or a tendency to roll in things you’d rather not discuss, you’ve probably realized you can’t do all your dog’s grooming on your own.

Elizabeth Gibbs, District Academy Trainer at PetSmart Grooming Academy and a member of the PetSmart Groom Team, says owners who are interested in grooming their own dogs can often manage brushing and combing, nail trimming, and bathing at home, with trips to a grooming salon every couple of months (or as needed).

Brushing and combing should be done at least weekly, and more often won’t hurt. Elizabeth recommends getting a slicker brush in a size appropriate for your dog (she likes this brush by Top Paw) and a good comb (she likes this comb, also by Top Paw). A quality detangling spray is essential for many dogs’ coats; she uses this spray by CHI on her own Poodle and Yorkipoo.  If your dog resists being brushed or combed, start with very brief sessions (a minute or two), and encourage your dog with soothing praise and yummy treats.

Nail trimming should be done monthly, using a sharp, high quality nail trimmer like these from Millers Forge. A quality product makes a huge difference both in ease of trimming and getting a nice, clean edge on every nail. Many dogs dislike this procedure, but will tolerate having a few nails trimmed at a time; you don’t have to do them all at once. Ask a groomer, vet, or vet tech to be sure you know how to trim your dog’s nails safely before you begin!

Bathing should also be done regularly, but the timing will vary a lot depending on your dog. It takes a dog’s skin six weeks to go through its lifecycle, so many dogs do best with a bath every 4 to 6 weeks. Elizabeth recommends an oatmeal shampoo (like this shampoo by CHI), or a hypoallergenic shampoo for dogs with allergies. You can also use a conditioner (like this conditioner, also by CHI) if your dog has a longer, fuller coat.

What’s the #1 thing Elizabeth wishes owners would quit trying to do at home? “I wish they’d stop cutting mats out of their dogs’ coats! First of all, it’s too easy to cut the dog, and then your dog has a gash in it. And second, owners often end up cutting a big hole in the middle of their dog’s style, leaving us no option but to shave the coat. Often, we can get the mat out by brushing, or we can find a way to fix the problem with the professional tools we have in the salon.”

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5 reasons why you should adopt an older cat

 

By Emily Bruer

If you’re thinking about adding a new feline friend to the family, you’ve probably been tempted by the idea of getting a kitten. While kittens can be fun, they are also a Lot. Of. Work. Older cats are generally much easier to handle, and if you are considering adopting during the #CleartheShelters event this weekend, here are some great reasons to  welcome a more mature kitty into your home:

Personality

What most people don’t realize is that kittens are like babies (because they are!), and their true personalities won’t be fully developed until they reach maturity at about 2-3 years of age. When you adopt an older cat you pretty much know what you’re getting. If the cat is extremely friendly it will likely be that way the rest of its life (barring trauma or illness). 

However, it is good to keep in mind that many animals will not act themselves in the shelter environment. If a cat has lived with one family its entire life and suddenly finds itself in a loud, busy shelter, chances are they will be overwhelmed and either withdraw or lash out. Be sure to ask shelter staff about which cats they think would be the best fit for your home, and take their advice into consideration. Most staff members know the animals in their care very well and will be able to point you in the right direction.

Save a life

No matter what age the cat you adopt is, you will be saving a life. But if you adopt an older cat you know you are making a huge difference in that animal’s life. Kittens tend to get adopted quickly, while older cats are left waiting (sometimes for a year or more) for the right home to come along.

After they have been waiting a while cats tend to get depressed, and it’s a downhill battle from there for staff to keep them alive. A depressed cat will often stop eating and refuse any specialty foods offered to it. The sooner an adult cat can get out of the shelter and into a home the better.

Calm

Kittens are [adorable] maniacs. They are into everything, climbing everything they can, pouncing on your feet, and just enjoying exploring everything in the world. On the other hand, adult cats are much more laid back, and they’re more likely to sleep through the night instead of bouncing off your head like it’s a trampoline at 2am. They are more interested in napping at your feet than chasing the lights from passing cars across the room.

Better in pairs

If you are open to adopting two cats, ask shelter staff if they have any bonded pairs. Pairs of cats frequently enter the shelter together when their owners pass away or move. Pairs can be hard to adopt out together, but many of these cats will stop eating without their best friend around to keep them company. Two bonded cats are about the same amount of work as one, so you might as well go for it!

Grateful 

Adult cats tend to bond more closely with their new people than kittens. I believe this is because they are grateful to have a stable home and a loving environment. They felt the fear and uncertainty of the shelter, and when you came their life immediately improved. They will always associate you with their rescue, and will love you dearly for it.

Adopting an older cat is a great way to get an amazing kitty without all the work of kittenhood. Be sure to check around the shelters in your area to find a cat that speaks to you, and don’t be afraid to visit several times before making your final decision.

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emily-bruer-pawedinEmily Bruer has been penning the adventures of her imagination since she was old enough to hold a pencil. Working at animal shelters for the last five years she learned an incredible amount about animal care and behavior. She is currently employed at a vet clinic where she continues her animal education. Emily’s love of animals is evident when you step into her home, which she shares with six dogs and six cats, all of whom were rescues.

Clear the Shelters – how to adopt your just-right dog

 

dog (1)

Saturday, August 19 is the nationwide Clear the Shelters event, when participating organizations will be lowering or even eliminating adoption fees for many of their available pets.

If you’re planning to look for a new buddy this weekend, it’s important that you don’t get caught up in the mindset of “if I don’t adopt this dog right now someone else will take him!” Adopting a dog is a big step, and you owe it to yourself, your family, and the dog to make sure that you do it in a mindful and informed way.

Are you thinking about adding a cat to your all-dog household? Read this first. 

Everybody has their own tastes in dogs – some people like laid-back couch potatoes, some like dogs who can go on daily runs, and some like smarter-than-you border collies. Individual preferences aside, the primary thing you should be looking for when evaluating a potential dog is sociability with humans. The quality of the adopter-dog interaction is a significant predictor of whether the dog will get (and stay) adopted or not, and there is a simple reason for that – dogs who are sociable with humans make better pets and family members.

A shelter environment is very stressful and can make an accurate behavioral assessment very difficult (even for trained professionals), but there are certain behaviors that should send up red flags immediately. Keep this list in mind when you’re looking:

  • Is the dog approaching you voluntarily, and, if so, how is he approaching?
  • Is the dog staying in the back of the kennel and not approaching anyone?
  • Does the dog body slam the kennel door when approaching?
  • Is the dog spinning or engaging in other repetitive behaviors?
  • Is the dog staring with a hard eye, and/or barking, and/or showing teeth?
  • Does the dog have a known history of separation anxiety?
  • Has the dog been returned more than twice by other adopters?

Need help decoding those dog barks? Check out this handy chart from canine behavior experts Stanley Coren and Sarah Hodgson!

If you see any of these things, either on the kennel card or with your own eyes, you should think long and hard before signing those adoption papers. All of the above are indicative of larger behavioral issues than the average dog owner is prepared to deal with. Talk to the in-house behavior and training experts about what the information on the kennel cards really means; quite often the volunteers who work in the dog adoption area will have valuable insights about the dog’s real temperament as well. Even better – take an experienced third party or dog trainer with you to help you make the right choice. That unbiased, informed opinion can help you from succumbing to sentimentality. Be honest with yourself and with the adoption counselor – an unrealistic view of what you are capable of handling does everyone a huge disservice (perhaps the dog most of all).

And a last bit of advice – don’t rush headlong into adoption just because of a reduced fee. Sadly, there will always be an overabundance of dogs available for adoption; the shelters won’t be clear for very long. Even a full adoption fee is a good deal, any way you look at it. If you don’t find the right dog this weekend, you can look again next week, or the week after, or the week after that. You deserve a just-right dog, and the dog deserves a just-right home – take the time to make the just-right decision.

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The annual Clear the Shelters event, sponsored by NBC Owned Television Stations and the Telemundo Station Group, is on Saturday, August 19, 2017. You can find a list of participating shelters here.

 

SuperZoo 2017

Groom Team

At the end of last month, I attended SuperZoo 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada—and I’m happy to say that what happened in Vegas won’t be staying in Vegas this time!

In fact, a major goal of my trip was to bring back insights and exciting new ideas to help make FetchFind the most useful, current, go-to web destination for all of you who love being part of this booming industry and awesome community.

SuperZoo is North America’s premier pet-industry show, drawing more than 1,000 exhibitors and nearly 20,000 industry professionals from around the world to explore and celebrate anything and everything related to pets. The show is designed to help pet professionals build better businesses, and it was truly inspiring to share four days with so many people as passionate as I am about being a positive force for pets and the pros who serve them.

I was super excited to spend time with the PetSmart Groom Team. Other than taking my dogs to be groomed, I’m pretty new to the dog-grooming universe, and it was totally eye-opening! The PetSmart team was supported by a large and energetic cheering section, and the sense of community and support was palpable—as was the competitors’ pride in their individual and team talent. Clearly, these groomers aren’t just going to a job every day—they love their work and couldn’t wait to demonstrate their world-class skills in the show’s thirty (!) dog-grooming competitions—including one just for rescue dogs.

The groomers at SuperZoo enjoy quasi-rock-star status, and it is 100% deserved! They are artists by anyone’s definition.

The whole SuperZoo experience was amazing, and I’d encourage anyone in the industry to attend it at least once. Having been intimately involved in this industry since I was in college, I know how easy it can be to feel isolated at times—which is why I’m so big on building networks and working together. But once you attend SuperZoo, you’ll know you’re not alone—not one bit—in your passion for pets or your professional commitment to making their lives as great as you possibly can.

Here’s to seeing even more of you at SuperZoo next year!

Feeling inspired,

Jamie Sig Trans - First Only

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How to get a great ROI from pet industry trade shows

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By Keith JohnsonFounder of PawedIn Media

Pet industry trade shows are a considerable investment in time and money, so it is critical that you do what you can to maximize the effectiveness of your time while there. There are three key things that you can do to make it impactful so that you come away from the whirlwind trip feeling confident about the results.

Get clear on your purpose for attending, how you will achieve that purpose, and a measure of success.

In your notebook, write down and refine why you are attending the event. Make it crisp on one objective, careful not to create a laundry list of what you are going to do while there. Examples of the purpose can be:

“To make new relationships that my business can further develop over the next year.

“To find new products I would like to introduce in my stores.”

“To learn new marketing tactics to increase my sales.”

Next, write down the two or three ways you will do to try to achieve the purpose. This helps your get focused on what you are going to do. Finally, put a number on it up front. The old adage “you get what you measure” applies here, as studies show that people are more productive when they quantify what they are trying to achieve.

Break out of your shell during the event.

Most people are not natural extroverts…me included! But you must be as much as possible at trade shows. There are many times where people casually pass a booth, and really really they would welcome meeting and learning something new. As an exhibitor, you need to engage them in through an informal “hello, how are you?” As a show walker, you must engage with exhibitors and educators that meet your purpose in a time-effective way. If you are not sure if the individual will be a fit, after an introduction, get crisp on a few questions which will help you qualify the individual or exhibitor. If you realize you are not a fit, don’t try to force too long of a conversation – you want to be able to talk with more people. And if you are working a booth, always be standing in the front of the booth, not sitting behind a table. People will naturally avoid talking to people sitting as they feel that they may be disturbing you. And try using the person’s first name…it helps to remember the individual later while setting a stronger foundation for an on-going relationship.

Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up.

I have been in many businesses where after the big show, the next steps sort of never happen…the leads are never acted upon. Unfortunately, this is all too common. As soon as you get home, you should be taking out the business cards and notebook, and creating a spreadsheet of the companies and individuals talked to, including all information so you don’t need to refer back to business cards in the future. I do this through a shareable Google Table so that I can share with others and make real-time updates. What is critical is to specifically write the next step, who will do it, and when should it be done. Also, send that individual a LinkedIn invite so that they are able to remember you by your face. To maximize your ability to follow up, make sure you write down one or two points immediately after you talk with them, on the back of their card or in your notebook.

Following these three key activities will help you maximize the benefit of the show in helping you achieve your goals. They also will help you cut out the “time traps” people typically fall into during a show, such as spending too much show time with individuals and co-workers they already know and can talk with anytime. Hope the show is productive for you!

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keith johnsonKeith Johnson is the Founder of PawedIn Media, which helps pet companies grow through new media. He spent 18 years with P&G and was the Global Brand Manager for IAMS. He also created a breakthrough ecommerce pet food company, Petbrosia. Keith’s expertise is in leading businesses at various development stages, the pet category, ecommerce, and impact & inbound marketing. 

Want to hit the trails with your dog? Here’s how to prepare.

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By Elena Sipe

Want to go backpacking with your dog? It can be an amazing bonding experience! It takes some preparation, but this adventure doesn’t have to be daunting or dangerous.

A lot of what determines how well your trip will go is in the preparation stage – making sure you have enough water, food, clothes appropriate for the season (your dog may need a coat too!), and that your backpack isn’t too heavy.

Much of this comes with practice, but generally, the less stuff you carry (while still serving your basic needs), the better.

If you’ve never been backpacking before, it’s a good idea to do research, take a class, or go with a more experienced friend.

Make sure the trail you choose is not beyond either your skill level or your dog’s, and that dogs are allowed on the trail. Check the weather, too—you don’t want any unexpected surprises!

Remember – if the going gets too rough, you can always turn back!

How do you get your dog ready?

First, you want to determine if your dog is ready for backpacking. Are they fully grown? In decent shape? Have they been hiking before? Do you want them to wear a backpack to give them a job to do and help share the load?

If all your answers are yes, then it’s time to size your dog for a backpack. Measure your dog’s length (neck to rump) and their girth (around the widest part of their ribcage). You can use these measurements to determine their backpack size.

Try on a few at a pet store and determine what things you are looking for—specific colors, handles, etc. Once you have your backpack, introduce your dog to it by letting them sniff it. If they are acting okay around it, put it on them. If they back away, try again, slowly, with treats.

Adjust the backpack so the straps are snug but not tight on your dog’s body. This will prevent chafing. Let them walk around the house with the empty backpack on for a few hours, and take them on several walks. Once they are okay with this, start by adding a little bit of weight to each side and going for more walks with this weight.

To add weight evenly to both sides, try adding a bit of kibble or rice to plastic bags (same amount in each bag) and putting one bag on each side of the backpack. Over time, you can increase the amount of rice/kibble and thus the amount of weight.

Gradually build up the weight in the backpack over the course of a few weeks. Make sure to have your dog go up, down, and over things, so they can get used to maneuvering with the extra weight.

At maximum, your dog (and you!) should carry only 25% of your weight.

Say your dog is 100 lbs. The math looks like this: 100 x 0.25 = 25 lbs.

The bag weighs something too, say 2 lbs: 25 – 2 = 23 lbs. In this case, your 100 lb dog can carry a maximum of 11.5 lbs on each side of the backpack, but it’s better for them to carry less than this.

Packing

Assess how much food and water you will need based on the weather and difficulty of the terrain. Use a map to determine water sources along the way, so you can bring a water filter and add to your supply as you go.

Keep in mind that both you and your dog will need more food than normal, as you will be expending more energy.

For water and food, pack two small collapsible silicone bowls for your dog. You can measure out the amount of food you think they will need in a bowl beforehand and mark where on the bowl the food reaches. This eliminates the need for a measuring cup! Make sure their food goes in waterproof bags and that you hang both their food and yours downwind and away from your tent when you set up camp.

Another item that is useful to pack is dog bootiesSure, they look silly, but those pads get worn out with days of long mileage, pointy rocks, and hot surfaces. Get your dog used to these the same way you would with their backpack—gradually.

Make sure to have first aid supplies for both of you, and take things slowly. Keep an eye on how your dog is doing as you go along. If your dog is laying down to rest at rest stops, they are getting too tired and it may be time to call it a day or head back.

For sleeping arrangements, consider bringing your dog their own sleeping bag if they can’t fit in yours. That way they will have their own bed and won’t get yours dirty.

Before you go, make sure you leave your trip details with someone you trust in case of an emergency. Give them emergency vet contact info, where you are going (what trails, how many miles), when you are leaving, when you expect to be back.

Don’t forget a camera to capture that smiling doggy face!

On the trail

Be mindful of other hikers and backpackers on the trail. Not everyone is a dog lover, so make sure your dog is polite around new people and other dogs. Do not (repeat: do not) allow your dogs to chase wildlife.

Unless your dog has perfect recall, keep them on a leash. Many trails only allow dogs on leash anyway. It’s worth investing in a leash that has a hands-free option and adjustable length.

Make sure to bury your dog’s poop (this goes for you as well), and try to keep it off the trail. It’s best to do your business 200 ft away from water, so as not to contaminate it.

At camp

Your dog may need something to do at camp, so it’s a good idea to bring them a chew toy or bully stick. Remember to keep your dog tied up at camp and keep an eye on them at all times.

When you’re ready to head out, make sure to leave your campsite how you found it.

With practice, this will all become second nature. Good luck and happy trails!

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elena-sipe-switzerland-300x276Elena is an adventure-seeker, world traveler, foodie, and all-around nerd person that is rarely seen without her rescue dog, Alfie, by her side. When not hiking or spending time near water, Elena can be found eating, cuddling with Alfie, enjoying nerdy books, and learning, which they both love even though only one of them gets treats for it.

10 high maintenance dog breeds

By Betsy Lane, MA, Education and FetchFind Academy Instructor

“High maintenance” doesn’t just mean your dog’s home away from home will be the grooming salon. It can also mean a dog who herds your children, routinely outsmarts you, or just wants to be by your side… All. The. Time. Let’s take a look at 10 lovable breeds that require some extra upkeep. As with any pet, educate yourself before you fall in love, so everyone can live happily ever after.

afghanAfghan Hound 

These regal-looking, athletic dogs sport long, flowing coats worthy of any human shampoo ad. Those luscious coats require some daily touch-ups, a thorough weekly brushing, and regular trips to the grooming salon.


beagleBeagle

These compact, short-coated dogs don’t require much grooming, but they are active and vocal! Unless you’re prepared to keep your Beagle busy with projects, training, and long daily walks (or runs), be prepared for considerable noise. This breed’s “singing” is a major reason their owners give them up for adoption.


Bichon Frise 3Bichon Frise

The perennial darling of the dog world, the compact Bichon has a big personality and loves being your constant companion. Bichons have hair, not fur, which means daily brushing and a monthly bathing and scissoring, often done by a pro. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


border-collie-667487_960_720Border Collie

Like most herding breeds, Border Collies enjoy working long hours, often barking instructions to their humans for good measure. The American Kennel Club describes BCs as “remarkably smart workaholics.” Be sure you’re up to the challenge of keeping your BC constructively entertained for its lifespan of up to 17 years!


cocker-spaniel-english-2415289_960_720Cocker Spaniel

 Those silky coats and extra-long ears mean extra TLC is needed: thorough brushing a few times a week, weekly bathing and trimming of the medium-length coat, and weekly checks of the ears (plus cleaning as needed). Many Cocker Spaniels see a professional groomer every 4 to 6 weeks.


german-shepherd-dog-2357412_960_720German Shepherd Dog

The German Shepherd is big, intelligent, alert, athletic, and loyal. GSDs also shed year-round and “blow coat” twice a year, leaving even more fur everywhere they go. GSDs are happiest working alongside their humans, so be ready to spend your spare time keeping your GSD pup busy. GSDs are also surprisingly vocal, having different “voices” for every communication need!


KomondorKomondor

The Komondor is a Hungarian livestock guardian breed. It has a corded coat that requires careful attention not only to keep it looking neat, but to prevent painful mats. Komondors can be wary of strangers, so get a dog trainer’s help building positive associations with a good groomer while your Komondor is still a puppy.


poodlePoodle

An honor student and varsity athlete, the poodle makes a great pet for owners willing to put in a bit of extra effort. Daily grooming is a must, and regular trips to the grooming salon will keep these magnificent dogs looking and feeling their best. ………………………………..


Puli copyPuli

Ah, the Puli! Those mop-like dogs with the hardworking yet playful attitude! And that corded coat! Like the Komondor, the Puli’s cords take considerable work to maintain. A good relationship with a capable groomer is a must, as a trip to the groomer can take the better part of a day (those cords take forever to dry).


yorkshire-2040656_960_720Yorkshire Terrier

The tiny Yorkshire Terrier’s long, silky coat requires daily grooming to look its best. From a daily clean-up of any “eye goop” to being sure the fur at the back end stays clean and clear of urine and feces, Yorkies are not easy keepers. Daily brushing to avoid tangles and mats should be preceded by a spritz of leave-in conditioner, and baths at least once a month are a must.


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Introducing Kitty to Baby

Chinese Baby with Tiger Patterned Cat

By Sandie Lee

Cats are creatures of habit, so it can be very upsetting when a new schedule-changer (aka, Baby) turns its world upside down. But there are ways to soften the emotional turmoil and prepare your cat for the new family member.

Keep a consistent kitty schedule

Babies are hectic, demanding little humans, and their needs can disrupt the entire household. Before your baby arrives, make sure your cat already has a regular, predictable routine for feeding, litter box cleaning, medication (as needed), and play time.

If you feel you may have trouble keeping Kitty’s schedule, enlist the help of those around you and invest in an automatic food dispenser. Having consistent times for daily activities will help your cat be more resilient when everything else gets crazy.

Slowly introduce new sights, sounds, and smells

Humans may take for granted all the new sights, sounds, and smells a new baby brings with it. But for cats (who – let’s face it – like to have things their way), all the strange, loud stimuli can be quite overwhelming.

To help conquer this, let your cat sniff the new baby items as you bring them into your home. Let Kitty rub her face on the items (marking) so they will be just a part of the home to her. After the baby is born, bring home an item from the hospital that the baby has been in contact with and let your cat sniff and mark it. This allows your cat to become used to the smell of the new baby before he comes into the house.

Did you know there’s a CD of baby sounds? (You can also download baby sounds for pets on iTunes.) This is excellent to play in the background so your cat can become accustomed to all the odd sounds a baby makes. Play this when your cat is relaxed or you’re cuddling with her so she knows there’s nothing to be afraid of.

No extra attention

As much as we may want to pre-emptively assuage our feelings of guilt, we have to resist the temptation to heap on extra attention to Kitty before the baby arrives.

Remember, cats are routine-based animals, so if you load on the affection to make up for a later deficit, she will come to expect this every day. To help ease Kitty into the “lesser” role, introduce more toys that will have her playing on her own, but still be sure to give her some one-on-one time as per your new schedule.

Allow exploration of the baby’s room

Don’t keep the baby’s room “off limits” before the child arrives; allow your cat to investigate so she becomes familiar with the baby’s items.

Although the idea of a cat “stealing a baby’s breathe” is a myth, it’s not a good idea to let your cat sleep with a new baby as they can curl up too close and restrict an infant’s airway. Some more jealous cats have even been known to urinate inside the crib, so to prevent these unwanted incidents, use a baby crib tent to keep your infant safe while your cat can still see what’s going on.

High-up getaways

Cats love to be high up in the air, so invest in a tall scratch post that Kitty can call her own. This allows your cat to flee from a situation she may perceive as “too much” but still allows her to be a part of the goings-on of the family. Tall cat trees are also perfect perches for when baby becomes a toddler and may become too “grabby” for Kitty’s comfort.

Talk to your doctor about toxoplasmosis

One of the easiest ways to reduce the risk of toxoplasmosis is to keep your cat indoors. The Centers for Disease Control state that you’re more likely to contract toxoplasmosis from raw meat or gardening than from your cat, but talk to your doctor about your concerns to be on the safe side. You can also educate yourself by reading more about the disease here and here.

Still  my baby

Cats are sensitive creatures, so even after the baby arrives be sure not to ignore or shoo away your feline pal. Up to this point, she may have been the center of attention and now she will have to get used to not getting the lion’s share of affection. Give your cat the love she craves when the baby is napping or when someone else in the household is tending to the baby.

Working out the time issues between Baby and Kitty will take some effort, but it will be well worth it when your child grows up with a loving pet that may just turn into a best friend.

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sandie-lee-writerSandie Lee has been in the writing industry for over 20 years. She hails from a small city in Ontario, Canada where there are two seasons; winter and not winter! Her husband and two furbabies, Milo and Harry, make sure she is diligently writing each day.

 

Emergency prevention, planning, & protocols for dog walkers

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This article was originally published in the dog*tec blog. 

Taking care of other people’s best friends means living with the chilling prospect of emergencies. Dog walking emergencies can come in all shapes and sizes, from a vehicle break down to a sprained ankle to potentially traumatic accidents. Out on a trail, an otherwise reliable dog takes off chasing an unknown scent and is lost or hit by a car. Two dogs who normally play well together get into a nasty fight. A dog you are walking swallows a rock or other non-edible item whole. All are scenarios that make dog walkers sweat. But failing to consider and prepare for accidents makes them more likely and will only aggravate an already bad situation if it happens.

Your clients, the dogs, your staff, yourself—everyone is better served by a 3 P’s approach—taking deliberate care to prevent emergencies, planning for their eventuality (life does happen, after all), and having set protocols to follow for each type of emergency to stave off panic and keep things under control.

Emergency prevention

Preventing emergencies is much easier than dealing with them. And preventing emergencies is really a matter of following good dog walking practices:

Set the tone. A dog who is calm and focused on you is less likely to be involved in an emergency. Consistently asking your charges sit to greet you and leash up, sit and wait at doorways and curbs, walk nicely on a loose leash instead of pulling, etc. will make your days both easier and safer.

Walk dogs, don’t socialize them. You can’t bite what you’re not near enough to reach. Live beings—both humans and other dogs—are unpredictable. Use strong recalls and focus techniques (like “Let’s go!” or “Watch me!”) to keep dogs interacting with you instead of strangers or dogs you don’t know. When appropriate, pull over to the side for a focused sit-stay to allow others to pass. Politely decline requests to pet your dogs, even if you know them to be friendly. They may well be, but every dog has her limits and you never know when a well-meaning but blundering dog lover will find one of them.

Practice good screening and group composition. Choosing the right dogs—and matching them carefully if you’re a group walker—can go a long way toward avoiding fights and other emergencies. Always decline dogs with behavioral challenges that are beyond your skill and knowledge set, and avoid more than one challenging dog (we call them project dogs) per group, at most.

Actively monitor and interrupt. When walking groups, interrupt play or other interactions before they tip into conflict. Frequent obedience breaks (such as practicing circle stay pull-overs), and calling dogs (recall off leash or “Let’s go!” on leash) to break up potentially heated interactions, keeps things light and fun. Think of it a bit like monitoring a group of children—it’s best to initiate a break in play before a squabble breaks out.

Keep up on vehicle maintenance. The only thing worse than your car breaking down is your car breaking down with dogs in it! Maintain roadside assistance, schedule routine maintenance, and head to the shop at the first sign of trouble. Treat your vehicle like the key business investment and tool it is.

Watch the temperature. NEVER leave dogs in your car other than to pick up other dogs. Keep your keys with you, and the windows cracked. If you live in a particularly warm area, outfit your windows with dog-proof screens that keep dogs in, hands out, and air flowing.

Use proper equipment. To avoid a startled dog breaking free from you, secure leashes to head harnesses, body harnesses, or martingale-style anti-slip collars. Never use flexi-leashes, as they are too easily pulled out of your hand by a bolting dog, and can also cause serious injury to you and the dogs you walk. Be sure all dogs wear a large tag with your cell number to expedite a quick reunion with a lost dog.

Emergency planning

Being prepared keeps emergencies contained when they do happen. Better a small emergency than one that blooms into a crisis.

Carry a 1st aid kit—and know how to use it. Keep a full kit in your vehicle and a small kit on your person as you walk. Visit DogSafe or PetTech websites for canine 1st aid kit information and to look for 1st aid classes if you are not already certified.

Always have client contact information on hand. You should never have to rummage frantically through your vehicle for your phone list or, perish the thought, go home to get it. Keep up-to-date, well-organized client contact details in your car or phone at all times, and require any staff to do so as well.

Program emergency vet phone numbers into your phone. Write down or program into a work phone emergency directions to the closest vets from your most-used trails or the neighborhoods you service and keep them in any car ever used to transport dogs. Make sure all staff members know where to find the directions and understand them. Even if you work solo and you know the directions well, have them pre-programmed into your phone or GPS. When a crisis hits, it’s all too easy to forget one’s own name, let alone how to get to the veterinary hospital.

Get permission to help in writing. Your client service contract should clearly spell out what’s expected of you in an emergency.

  1. Have clients give you permission to seek emergency treatment and agree to cover the cost.
  2. Have clients specify whether there’s a cap on the cost they will accept. (Don’t assume everyone shares your willingness to take out a second mortgage to pay for surgery.)
  3. Have clients specify whether they authorize you to take the dog to whichever vet or animal hospital is closest. In other words, they want you to exercise discretion in getting their dog the best, fastest care. Otherwise, they may refuse to pay because you didn’t use their vet.
  4. Have clients state their wishes with regards to resuscitative care. For example, some clients may not wish to have senior dogs resuscitated.

Recruit an emergency assistant. One way to prevent panic in an emergency is to have a person to call who can help you keep calm and assist with urgent tasks. Don’t just make a mental list of cool-headed friends, though. Your emergency assistant must know and agree to his or her new designation, and the two of you should set up a protocol for such calls. Maybe it’s her job to meet you at the vet clinic and provide general support. Maybe she is the one who takes the other dogs home. Maybe she finishes your walking stops for the day. Whatever it is, you always know that someone can come to your aid. You and a fellow dog pro can do this for each other, or you can ask a friend who works from home or has a flexible office schedule.

Take your emergency assistant out with you on your regular rounds so she can meet all the dogs. Then practice your emergency protocol with your assistant to make sure everything goes as planned when you really need it to.

Emergency protocols

Knowing what to do in an emergency will help keep you calm. And being calm will allow you to more effectively handle whatever situation comes your way.

At the Dog Walking Academy we provide step-by-step protocols for handling all manner of emergencies, including vehicle breakdowns, you being injured or becoming ill during a walk, a dog in your car biting another dog or person, and losing a dog. We encourage our grads to carry these protocols with them, giving them a clear path forward should panic or shock set in. If you don’t have specific emergency protocols, take some time to develop them—or come join us for the Dog Walking Academy.

Secure dogs and call your emergency assistant. Regardless of the situation, one important step in any protocol when walking groups is to secure all dogs to keep the situation from escalating. The last thing you need while dealing with an injured dog or sprained ankle is for another one to take himself off on an adventure. Get everyone safely leashed if they aren’t already, then call your emergency assistant. In most protocols, your emergency assistant is the first call you’ll make. Knowing someone is in your corner and on the way to help can do a lot to bring calm, no matter the emergency.

Communicate with the client. Call the client when you have calmed down, not before. Also hold off until you know the precise nature of the damage. Sprained leg or amputation? Eye patch for a few days or blindness? Best to find out before you make the dreaded call. When you do, speak in a calm, confident tone. A distressed owner needs to know a professional is in charge of the crisis. Clearly state whether everything is handled and this is just a courtesy call to let the client know, or whether some action on her part is required.

With any kind of mishap, even if everything turned out fine, the best policy is to tell the client. Some clients might not care that their dog was missing for 20 minutes on a deer-chasing adventure, or that he got into a scuffle in which no one was hurt, but that risk is preferable to a client who hears it from someone else and is outraged at your failure to tell her about the dramatic event, regardless of the outcome. And if running off or scuffles become a trend, your client may be angry to learn something’s been brewing and wonder why you didn’t let her know sooner.

Take responsibility as appropriate—you are an adult and a professional. But don’t verbally rub sand in your hair, don’t heap blame on yourself, and don’t ever tell the client they ought to sue you. Accidents happen. Dogs are not appliances.

Depending on the situation, here is a possible strategy for the conversation: describe in a straightforward manner exactly what happened, share all the steps you took to handle the situation, give a report of the current status of the dog, and share anything you plan to do (if relevant) in the way of policy or process changes to avoid something similar happening in the future. Stress your concern for the dog’s and the client’s well-being, and ask if there’s anything else you can do to be of support at this particular moment.

Emergency follow-up

If the worst happens and a dog is seriously injured or killed while under your care, let your other clients know in writing. Bad news travels fast and if you are not the one to tell them, they may think you’re trying to hide the episode. You have to protect your business and your brand, and honesty is the best policy.

The letter should include any policy changes you are making to prevent the same thing happening again. Be thoughtful about protecting anonymity; don’t hang clients out to dry. If a dog is expelled, for example, don’t name that dog. If a dog is killed, find out whether the owner wants the dog named or not. Some do, some don’t. But don’t name the dog who killed, just say he was expelled.

Openness is the best policy about smaller incidents, too. A scuffle in a walking group that results in a dog needing a couple of stitches, for example, should also be communicated. Doing so breeds confidence, prevents rumors from festering and growing, and demystifies normal canine behavior. Emphasize what is being done about the problem: “We had another tiff over tennis balls today, so we have decided not to bring them to the beach with us anymore.” Hopefully, you are communicating with your clients every week anyway (highlights from Fido’s week, etc.), so bad news isn’t the only news they get.

(Of course, if scuffles happen more than once in a blue moon, something is wrong. Screening procedures and staff training are the first places to look for a possible issue.)

Don’t fret

If you generally run a strong business, if you take good care of dogs and of people, if you handle a crisis with responsibility and grace, it’s rare to lose clients over injury incidents. Be open and honest, be calm, and face the situation down—it can happen to anyone.

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How much water should your dog be drinking?

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By Emily Bruer

It’s important for us to know what is and what isn’t normal for our pets. Things like water intake, appetite and energy levels can be indicative of your pet’s health and well-being. If your dog’s habits suddenly change it could be due to a medical condition or a change in his environment.

The answer to “how much water your dog should drink?” is far from a straightforward one. Each dog is unique in size and metabolism and each dog’s water intake will be different. The best way to know how much your dog should drink is simply by observing him.

It’s normal for dogs to drink after exercise, eating, and sleeping. They also will drink sporadically throughout the day, so get to know your dog’s habits when he is healthy.

Another great way to know if your dog is drinking enough water is by checking his urine. Stand near your dog when he is urinating; if there is a strong odor to the urine, or it seems to be a dark yellow or orange color, it could mean that your dog is dehydrated. Similarly, if the urine is pink or red it is an indication of blood in the urine and you should get your dog to the vet right away, as they could have an infection or stones in their bladder.

Another great way to test your dog’s hydration levels is by gently lifting the scruff (the skin on the back of your dog’s neck) until it is taut, and then letting it go. If it immediately falls back into place your dog is hydrated, but if it takes longer than a few seconds your dog could be dehydrated.

If you believe your dog is dehydrated, but he isn’t interested in drinking water, a trip to the vet is in order. When an animal is dehydrated for too long it can cause damage to the kidneys as well as other internal organs. Better safe than sorry when it comes to hydration and your dog’s health!

Water temperature – When offering your dog water one thing to keep in mind is the water’s temperature. While it is tempting to give your dog ice cold water, it’s actually much healthier to let your dog have water that is room temperature.

When a warm dog ingests ice cold water their body must then use valuable energy to warm up the water. If it doesn’t, it can cause your dog to have a tummy ache or even throw up.

Not too much –  Another common cause of vomiting in dogs is drinking too much water. If you have just brought your dog in from a hot day or from a bout of vigorous play, his first instinct will be to drink a lot of water.

Unfortunately, if they have access to an unlimited supply they will often drink too much and then proceed to puke it back up. It can also cause a condition called bloat. You can find the symptoms here.

To prevent too much water intake, offer your dog several small bowls of water every 10-15 minutes until they are cooled off and relaxed. Once they have calmed down, you can put their normal water bowl back down and let them have access to the unlimited supply.

Every dog is different when it comes to water intake and bathroom habits. Get to know your dog’s routine while he is young and healthy, so you can recognize potential problems as he ages. If you notice an abnormal change in your dog’s routine don’t put off calling your vet, as what could be a simple infection could quickly get worse without treatment.

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emily-bruer-pawedinEmily Bruer has been penning the adventures of her imagination since she was old enough to hold a pencil. Working at animal shelters for the last five years she learned an incredible amount about animal care and behavior. She is currently employed at a vet clinic where she continues her animal education. Emily’s love of animals is evident when you step into her home, which she shares with six dogs and six cats, all of whom were rescues.