How to get the most out of FetchFind Monthly Pro for your team

cara collage 2

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

I listen to a lot of podcasts, and a popular question that they ask is, “if you could tell your 20 year old self something you know now, what would it be?” I realize that while there is a ton to tell my younger self, sadly what is most important to make my life better then didn’t exist.

Running a pet care business 15 years ago

When I first started Active Paws Inc back in 2003, I was using excel to print schedules and handwriting corrections on them. Smartphones didn’t exist, so I spent my dinner time responding to emails and phone calls. I certainly didn’t have amazing online training available, provided by experts in the industry. I had to either go out in the field and use my precious admin time to train my staff, or rely on a senior pet care provider to train the new hires.

Neither scenario was ideal. My company means the world to me, so I want my staff to know everything I have learned over the years; but, I only have a small window of time to deliver that information. I also do not have that time. I am busy with payroll, new hire paperwork, reconciling the bank account, bringing in new clients, handling client problems, answering employee questions, looking over schedules, doing accounts receivable — you get the picture!

Besides not having the time to do the training myself, my senior staff isn’t always overflowing with spare time, either. I have to pay them to train new hires or do a ride along, and I have to pay the new hires for their learning time out in the field. If my senior staff wasn’t trained correctly, or have developed habits that were not in line with the company standards, our precious new hires could learn bad habits and the quality of our care could snowball in the wrong direction.

Only having in-the-field training

There are many issues with only being able to train in the field as well. I don’t always have access (within the two week training period) to all of the “example” animals in our care that exhibit common behavioral issues or special walking tools, such as body language basics, safe greetings for shy dogs, using a gentle leader, introducing two new dogs headed out to a walk together, cats going outside of the box, etc.

So I was super excited to find out that someone was doing this, just for MY staff! For the 20 year old self that I would get the chance to talk to, I would tell her to hold on, an easier way to run your business was coming, courtesy of FetchFind Monthly Pro!

To be honest, I am [still] a little surprised that the training is only $59 a month, for unlimited users. My staff has access to things that would take months for them to be exposed to with that particular animal or in that particular scenario. Even though I provide checklists for my senior staff, I no longer have to worry if the new hire saw or was taught everything, let alone worry if they actually learned it. I now know that they’ve learned it, since the report in FetchFind’s admin dashboard shows me they did.

Why is education so important?

Prevention – the best way to prevent a bite is to train staff how to recognize the triggers and avoid them. If they don’t know what to look out for, they won’t know that a bite is coming.

Retention – while the pets in my care are an important priority, the liability of the people in my employment is actually my biggest concern. If they are not happy, well, and healthy, they cannot care for the animals our clients have contracted us to care for.

Employee happiness starts with confidence in the job. Confidence in the job comes from training and feedback.

If you have poorly trained staff who have to fumble through their tasks and learn by being corrected, they don’t feel great about the job they are doing. Don’t leave your staff figuring out or learning as they go. I started that way and it didn’t feel good. I felt great about my job after I had learned everything I know.

Health and wellbeing of the animals – someone that doesn’t know a cat going outside the box could be a medical problem might write it off and not mention it.

Confidence your clients have with your company – a new hire that wasn’t trained in customer service may not know how to act around your clients, and therefore could make your clients feel uneasy about the people you hire to care for their pets. I have seen staff who interview well get super nervous and act strange around our clients. This behavior would then prompt me to train them, but of course that’s after the fact. Now I can take care of that beforehand.

Cost effectiveness

I know from networking with a lot of pet care businesses that we know our time is valuable, but we rarely – if ever – put a monetary value on it. You really should! Figure out what it would cost to have someone trained to do your job and to the caliber your company demands, then add the value of your knowledge, and you’ll have a good number for an hourly wage. Now charge that to your company for training your staff. (I know you wouldn’t, because that would affect your bottom line, but you can see where this is going.) I can guarantee that doing all the training covered in the FetchFind Monthly Pro subscription would cost you much, more more than $59 a month.

Then you have the senior staff –  you might get away without paying them extra, but you have to pay the new hire to tag along and do a one person job with two people. I have tried making the visits enough for two people, but the backlash of the new hire seeing the tremendous workload sometimes turns them off. I’ve had people quit after a couple days out in the field because they were so overwhelmed by what they saw and needed to learn!

I now have all new potential hires take an hour’s worth of courses on FetchFind Monthly Pro before they are even hired. I consider this my second interview for them, and a way for me to see how they do in the training, since I can see their results. If they don’t score well on certain quizzes and  I choose hire them anyway, I know the areas in which to concentrate further training.

While content is added every Friday to FetchFind’s Monthly Pro subscription, the crucial information needed to get a new hire confident with caring for pets is already there, and can be taught in 5-10 hours (depending on the type of pet care business you have). If you care for cats and dogs, there obviously is more content to consume.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s estimate the minimum wage to be $10/hour. For 10 hours of paid training on courses that cover more than you could in 10 weeks, you’re looking at $100 + (lovely taxes). A few hours of my time is worth that amount, not to mention the cost for 2 weeks at 5 hours/day training in the field (that’s $500 + taxes).

So basically for an hour of training as part of the interview process and $100 in payroll, you have saved yourself $341 ($500 – $59 – $100). (I left out taxes for the sake of simplicity.) That’s $341 savings per new hire for more consistent, time efficient training.

There are a few ways around the pesky payroll as well. Depending on the structure of your pet care company you can have staff take courses while pet sitting, if you provide in-home visits. I have asked my clients about doing this and they love it. No course is longer than 17 minutes, and for those that pay per job, this is a massive bonus! I get the wifi password from my client, the staff performs the visit in the time the client has requested, and for the downtime when your staff would be at the house not doing anything but being present for the pet, they can be learning as well. As I write this blog, I am pet sitting a Chesapeake Bay Retriever who has been a client for 8 years. I am sharing while she is snoring.

What about an incentive program?

You can ask staff to take the course not as a requirement, but rather as an incentive. Whoever scores the highest gets a $100 gas card or $50 to Starbucks. This is one of many ways to cost effectively get your staff learning.

Do you ever throw staff parties, events, or dinners? I take my crew out on a yearly excursion of their choosing. We have gone bowling, laser tagging, and even taken a trip to an amusement park. Have everyone meet beforehand for a half hour to an hour of training – it’s a great group exercise and bonding experience.

Finally, the cheapest and most cost effective way to train – just ask! Ask your staff to have a look at the FetchFind Monthly Pro courses provided. Let them know the benefits it will provide them in their daily tasks and the experience and credentials they can gain.

My younger self would be jealous

I’m sad that my 20 year old self wasted so much precious time and money doing things the hard way. Pet care software, CRMs, and now unified pet care staff business training exists, and it’s always online at our fingertips. My 20 year old self is jealous for sure, but at least now I can prevent turnover, have animals in safer hands, have happier staff, and – most importantly – have more time to work ON my business.

********

Cara ArmourCara Armour os the co-founder of Active Paws Inc., a professional pet care business based in the greater Boston, MA. In 2009 Cara won Pet Sitter of the Year, the industry’s highest honor awarded by Pet Sitters International and collected many other accolades over the years. Since 2003, Cara has been trained in Pet First Aid and CPR, and in 2015 she started her own online pet first aid & CPR company. She later joined the team at ProPetHero. She is also a volunteer and foster home for The Boxer Rescue Inc. She has been a mentor to many in the pet industry as well as those in the small business world. Cara spends her free time traveling to agility, lure coursing, and conformation trials. 

 

DIY dog grooming (and when to call the pros)

 

dog tub

By Betsy Lane, MA

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.”

********

https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon
Learn more at https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon

Emergency prevention, planning, & protocols for dog walkers

el-salvador-1782203_960_720

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.

********

Save time and money with the new annual FetchFind Monthly Pro subscription! Learn more here.

Three unexpected things you need to know to keep your dog healthy

maltese in arms

By Betsy Lane, MA, Education and FetchFind Academy Instructor

We all know the basics of dog care – good food, exercise, regular vet checkups, and sound safety & training practices. But did you know about these three things that can have a big impact your dog’s health?

Getting to the bottom of anal glands

Let’s just get this one out of the way: Anal glands are two little sacs that sit just inside a dog’s anus. They’re filled with super stinky stuff that contains pheromones, and when your dog passes a (firm) stool, some of this material gets squeezed out with the poo. A generation or two ago, dog owners were encouraged to empty these sacs (express the glands by squeezing them) on a routine basis; this was often done by a groomer, vet, or vet tech—or even by brave owners themselves! Like most vets today, Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, advises against fixing what isn’t broken: “If your pets don’t have anal gland problems right now, tell your vets and groomers to please leave them alone. Do not automatically express your pet’s anal glands.”  How do you know when something’s wrong? The most common signs are the dog biting at his or her bottom and/or scooting along the floor on his or her behind. If you see either of these behaviors, it’s time to call your vet.

Poisons! So much more than just chocolate.

Most dog owners know to keep their pups away from chocolate, but in fact coffee and caffeine are also toxic to dogs, because all three contain methylxanthines, which can cause everything from panting and excessive thirst to abnormal heart rhythm and even death. The poison experts at the ASPCA have compiled a list of more than 15 common food items that are toxic to dogs,  including xylitol (a sweetener hidden in everything from breath mints to peanut butter), avocado, citrus, macadamia nuts, and cheese (yes, cheese!). And while we’re on the subject, please put this number in your phone: ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number: (888) 426-4435.

Mats: Much more than an eyesore.

We’ve probably all seen the “before and after” videos of miserable-looking dogs covered in matted fur–and the amazing transformation that comes after the dog receives some grooming TLC! Even in mild cases, we know matted fur doesn’t look good–but it doesn’t feel good, either, and can pose very real health risks to dogs. Dr. Julie Horton, DVM, says, “matted hair can lead to severe medical problems for pets,” including skin irritations, lesions, and even maggots! As if that’s not bad enough, mats collect debris, feces, and urine, trapping it next to a dog’s sensitive skin. Mats are a painful, unhealthy, expensive road nobody wants to travel—and they can be avoided with proper coat care. Get started by asking groomer about the best tools for your dog’s at-home maintenance, then augment that routine with regular appointments with an experienced professional groomer (every 4 to 6 weeks is a good rule of thumb). PetSmart® Grooming Salons take reservations online, have 1000s of locations, often have coupons, and always have a Look Great Guarantee!

********

https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon
Learn more at https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon

We’re on a mission from Dog

Republic Fetchfind beagle no shadow

We’re on Day 10 of our equity crowdfunding campaign raising $750K in capital. 

We are building FetchFind for pets and the people who love and care for them, so we want to open up the investment opportunity to more than just traditional, accredited investors. We want to grow our company with AND alongside the people who wholly understand the emotional connection between some 80 million US households and their collective 200 million pets. 

Equity crowdfunding has been made possible only recently under new laws, and it’s exciting to be part of this leap forward in democratizing the startup investment market. Republic, a spinoff out of AngelList, is hosting our campaign where anyone can invest as little as $50 in exchange for a part of our company.

I’m thrilled to say our funding is going strong, and picking up even more steam as our investors tell their friends and colleagues, who then tell THEIR friends and colleagues, and so on. The power of a crowd is truly amazing.

The power of one can be just as amazing. A recent investor, Jason Feldman of Chicago Pet-Friendly Real Estate, asked that the FetchFind Monthly Pro subscription he received as a perk be donated to a new business or animal rescue organization. (Because that’s how Jason rolls; if you don’t know him, you should. He’s a real mensch.)

For investors who are already in the pet space, this is pretty valuable perk (and a great way to onboard and educate your employees.) But if you or your friends/colleagues aren’t in the pet industry or super-interested in the online education, the FetchFind Monthly Pro subscription is a transferrable asset, and a wonderful way to give back to local businesses and the animal rescue community.

If you’d like to become part of the future of quality pet care, join us as an investor.  We’d love to welcome you to the FetchFind family.

If you can’t invest right now, please consider helping us to spread the word by sharing the link: https://republic.co/fetchfind.

With great appreciation and love,

JM Sig copy

Jamie Migdal
CEO, FetchFind

The joys and challenges of dog walking for a living

bridge-construction-189036_1280

By Veronica Boutelle, dog*tec Dog Walking Academy co-founder and San Francisco Dog Walking Academy instructor

Gazing outside from behind the dreary landscape of our desks, few are the people who can say they’ve never given a thought to a career change that involved working outside–river guide, perhaps, or a rancher or deckhand on a luxury liner. For many dog lovers, those rosy-tinged, outdoorsy dreams concern dog walking. A life of easy days, surrounded by nature and happy pooches—but in reality, there’s much more to the job.

dog*tec runs a certification program for dog walkers, called the Dog Walking Academy, and over the years we have seen people from every thinkable vocation—lawyers and computer programmers, sales reps and accountants, nurses and writers, ex-military personnel and classical musicians—give up their previous, often very successful, careers to walk other people’s dogs. And yes, if you love dogs and worship the outdoors, if you yearn to be your own boss and don’t mind being your own office manager, marketing exec, and customer service representative to boot, dog walking just might be for you. That said, if it seems as easy as slapping a leash on a few dogs and going for a stroll you’ll likely be surprised.

In today’s densely populated, greatly regulated, and litigious world, in which people’s pets are integral to the family like never before, good, safe dog walking demands technical skill, physical stamina, and in-depth knowledge of everything from dog behavior and pack management to canine first aid and trail etiquette.

There are advantages, of course. The freedom, for one thing—a dog walker starts her day at whatever time suits her and doesn’t have to dress up for work. 

For another, there’s the daily shower of love. In each house on his route, a dog walker is greeted by his charges with an enthusiasm quite unequaled by anything known in the corporate world. And for the type of person best suited for dog walking, the time on the sidewalk or trail—or at the beach or dog park—is what makes it all worthwhile. Aside from the obvious physical and mental health benefits of fresh air, exercise, and being in a tranquil natural setting for hours every day, some walkers talk of the sheer pleasure of watching dogs sniff and romp. For anyone with an interest in dog behavior, dog walking is fertile study ground, whether it’s a single leashed dog navigating a busy street or unconstrained play and group interaction on a trail far from the city center.

That, however, bring us to what dog walkers often rank as the worst part of the job: the driving. The grind of going from house to house to collect dogs is fine at the outset, but it wears you down over time—how many happy taxi drivers have you met in your life? Most dog walkers keep the driving to a minimum by choosing clients within a limited geographical area and timing their driving cycles to avoid heavy traffic. Still, if you’re considering dog walking as a career, expect to spend at least as much time in the car as on the sidewalk or trail.

If traffic is impossible to control, so is the weather, and as with any outdoor work, bad weather brings its own set of trials for dog walkers. Soaked, muddy dogs have to be cleaned up before they can be let back into their homes, so count toweling off and possibly hosing down each dog plus washing loads of dirty towels as part of the job, too. And finally there’s the loneliness inherent in a job that comprises minimal human contact.

These are the pros and cons most people juggle when they consider dog walking. Freedom, exercise, and doggie love are the major pluses, and too much driving, occasional bad weather, and scant human contact are the minuses. That, however, is not all there is to dog walking. First of all, it is a business like any other and as such it involves paperwork, customer service, marketing, accounting, and so on, all of which the walker has to find time for outside of the hours he or she spends walking and driving. Secondly, it is a common misconception that dog walking is easy. It might be, if you are walking two arthritic dachshunds that you know well, but that won’t pay the rent. Or even buy the movie tickets.

No doubt this fallacy stems from the humble beginnings of dog walking. Once upon the 1950s and 60s we simply paid the kid down the street a dollar to get Fido out for us. As we have packed into tighter urban spaces, the risks involved in little Jimmy walking Fido no longer allow for that solution, but pet owners have even less time to walk Fido, who needs regular, vigorous exercise over and above what he can get in our smaller and smaller backyards. Hence the birth of professional dog walking. And a professional is what it takes to safely navigate dogs through densely populated areas and heavily used natural spaces.

As Mik Moeller, a Dog Walking Academy founder and instructor, puts it, “To manage and train a group of dogs–or even a single one– is much more difficult than people realize. Nobody is surprised that training a sled dog pack requires expert knowledge and skill. I don’t know why anyone thinks dog walking is different.”

Many walkers start out with just their outdoor dreams, a love of dogs, and the experience of walking their own pets, and soon realize the job is also about dog training and being responsible for the safety of someone else’s beloved companion. It’s about interacting with other sidewalk and trail users (some of whom are not dog lovers) in a responsible fashion and having the appropriate licenses and insurance, knowing when and how to say no to a client whose dog would fit badly into your particular group or service, knowing what to do if a fight breaks out on the trail or an unleashed dog rushes you on the street, structuring your route to cut down on driving time and gasoline consumption, and so on.

Despite the challenges, most dog walkers think they have the best job in the world. As one Dog Walking Academy graduate said, “My worst day on the trail is better than the best day in my old job.”

It is pointed out too rarely what a great contribution dog walkers make to the quality of life of the dogs they serve. Instead of being home alone all day, these dogs are given crucial exercise and social interactions, which isn’t just healthy, it keeps dogs safe and in permanent homes, too. Studies show that many dogs given up or returned to shelters are there because of normal expressions of boredom or lack of exercise: barking, chewing, excess energy, and so on. Dogs are doing their level best to fit into our twenty-first century lifestyles, the least we can do in return is to take their physical and mental health seriously. That means entrusting your pet to a professional.

If You Want to Walk Dogs

•    Get educated and certified. Learn dog body language, walk management techniques, building a strong recall, fight prevention and protocols, canine first aid, group composition, business practices, etc.

•    Start a legitimate business—get your business license and other necessary paperwork, obtain professional insurance, and research the rules for walking in your area.

•    Talk to other certified professional walkers to learn of their experiences and ask to join them for some hands-on experience.

This article was originally published on the dog*tec blog

********

veronicaboutelleVeronica Boutelle is the founder of dog*tec, the dog pro industry’s leading business consultancy, through which she has been helping dog professionals create their dream businesses since 2003. She is the author of How to Run a Dog Business: Putting Your Career Where Your Heart Is and The Business of Dog Walking: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love, and the coauthor of Minding Your Dog Business: A Practical Guide to Business Success for Dog Professionals, and writes for many industry journals, including a regular business column for the Association of Professional Dog Trainer’s Chronicle of the Dog. Veronica is a sought after speaker at conferences and dog training schools across the country and internationally. She is former Director of Behavior & Training at the San Francisco SPCA.

“Can you fix my dog?”

datingBy Bill Mayeroff

When people learned I was studying to become a dog trainer, they normally responded in one of two ways:

“Oh, so you’re, like, teaching dogs to sit and stuff? That’s easy. Why do you need to study it?”

“That’s awesome! Hey, so my dog does [insert undesirable behavior]. Can you tell me how to fix it?”

Neither of those responses is malicious, even if they’re annoying. They’re just the result of a lack of knowledge. People don’t realize that dog trainers have worked and studied hard to get where they are. 

Let me give you an idea of how hard I and my classmates worked. During our time studying at FetchFind Academy, we spent a grand total of 120 hours – three hours a week over a total of 40 weeks – in the classroom. On top of that, there were thousands of pages of reading/other homework. There were the externships and outside observations; I’m not even going to try and calculate the total number of hours that entailed. There were tests and quizzes, along with the associated studying. There were video projects to create and papers to write. 

Long story short – we worked our butts off. And we’re still working. We’re building careers, we’re always trying to improve our skills and become the best trainers we can be. 

But people don’t always see training as a “real” career and as a result, they think that it’s perfectly acceptable to ask us to come up with a training program for their dog with little to no information and without offering any form of compensation. 

It happens almost as soon as people learn you’ve started training or even that you’re studying to become a trainer. And people will use any avenue they can to try and get free training advice out of you. 

Here’s a story for you. Being the busy, single guy I am, I use a few different dating apps to attempt to have some sort of romantic life. When I put on my profiles that I train dogs, the number of messages I got drastically increased. But it wasn’t people interested in dating me. Rather, it was people who wanted me to “fix” their dogs and not charge them. 

I know it sounds weird, but it’s true. One person even sent me a message that said simply “I need help training my puppy!” She didn’t respond when I said I was happy to try but needed more information and then told her my rate. Most people, in fact, just disappeared when I made any mention of more information or compensation.

Such requests are tough for me (and I imagine for other trainers, as well). I love training dogs and I want to be able to help as many dogs as I can. Plus, I love TALKING about training. So I’m always inclined to try to help. 

But one of the most important things I was taught at FetchFind is that I’m a professional, my time is valuable and I deserve compensation for it. I have to keep that, along with the fact that most people don’t realize how much work I and my fellow FetchFind alums put in, in mind when I get requests for free advice. 

Above all, I need to make sure I always have some of my business cards on hand.

********

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. He recently graduated from FetchFind Academy and is a Junior Trainer at AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. Bill also blogs about his two favorite things – dogs and beer – at Pints and Pups. 

Graduation means the real work starts now

bill-and-mo

By Bill Mayeroff

It’s over.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. On Dec. 1, 2016, I took my last FetchFind Academy exam. It was a three-hour marathon that included essay, multiple choice, true/false and short answer questions, as well as a 30-minute oral exam to demonstrate some of the training skills we’ve learned. When it was over, I was exhausted, my brain felt like a puddle of goo and I could have slept for days. But I felt good about it. I was confident and happy. I’m still both of those things.

The band Semisonic probably said it best in their 1998 hit “Closing Time”: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” My shame at using Semisonic lyrics aside, they were right. My final exam last week marks the end of an experience that began when I walked into the first Behavior Fundamentals class in October 2015. But as it marks the end of one thing, it marks the beginning of another – my life as a dog trainer.

What it means is that now is when I really have to kick my career up to 11 (any This is Spinal Tap fans here reading this?). Without classes, I have to refocus all the energy and time I spent studying (and believe me when I say I studied harder for my FetchFind classes than I ever did in high school or college) on getting my career off the ground. 

It’s not going to be easy. In fact, it’s probably going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m going to have to bust my ample butt like I have never done before. But I am confident as I have never been confident before that it’s going to be worth it. 

This is what I’m supposed to be doing. And I’m ready to start doing it full-time. 

********

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. He recently graduated from FetchFind Academy and is a part-time professional dog trainer. Bill also blogs about his two favorite things – dogs and beer – at Pints and Pups. 

********

Want to start YOUR career as a dog trainer (or just learn more about dogs)? Behavior Fundamentals is available for the entire month of December for only $49! Bonus: half of your purchase price goes to support Best Friends Animal Society. 

Dog training, expectations and me

dog-training-expectations-and-me

By Bill Mayeroff

When I started on my FetchFind Academy journey a bit over a year ago, I was pretty excited. I was going to learn everything about dogs and dog behavior and become a great dog trainer and every day of my life would be amazing because all I’d be doing would be training dogs.

I bored my friends to tears talking about it at first. But I just couldn’t stop myself. I was so excited that I had to talk about dog training all the time.

But as I went through the program, I began to wonder if I hadn’t built up dog training to mythical proportions. Was I getting too excited? Would all my initial excitement eventually lead to horrible disappointment that would cause me to (again) reevaluate what I was doing with my life? Could dog training really live up to the expectations I had built up in my head?

Well, friends, I can safely say that the answer is yes. Yes, dog training has and continues to live up to every expectation I’ve had. It’s been challenging. It’s been hard. It’s been fulfilling. It’s been amazing.

Two recent class sessions were spent with each student leading portions of a mock group class. That, folks, was as challenging as anything I’ve ever done. I had to teach a group of dogs some behaviors and talk authoritatively to them about dog behavior. I was a nervous wreck, but my teachers said it didn’t show. And when I was done, it felt fantastic.

That’s when I realized that dog training was indeed living up to the expectations I had created for it. Since I started at FetchFind, all I wanted was to be like the amazing trainers I got to see and learn from every week. I wanted to do the thing they do every day. And there I was, doing it in front of them and doing it well.

That’s a pretty cool feeling. And now that I’ve had it – and now that I have a little experience teaching a private client – I can safely say that it does not dissipate the more I do it. In fact, the more I actually train dogs, the more amazing it feels and the more I know it’s exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. 

So here I am. I finish the FetchFind Academy program in a few short weeks. It’s becoming real, guys. And for the first time in a while, I’m excited, rather than terrified, for what my near future has in store. 

********

Start your own dog training journey with Behavior Fundamentals Online!

********

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. 

3 ways to get your dream job working with pets

 

doberman woman

By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

I like to describe myself as “the luckiest person in the world”. Why is that? (you may be asking yourself). It’s because I get to work with pets (and pet people) every day of my life. If it’s your dream to work with them, too, there’s probably never been a better time to make that career shift. In 2016 the pet industry was worth over $64B, and it’s on track to be over $92B by 2019 – that’s a lot of kibble!

Here are a few good ways to test the waters before taking that leap:

Educate yourself.  With the growing popularity of online education, it’s easier than ever to get a good basic foundation in fields as diverse as canine behavior, business administration and equine husbandry. Check out resources like FetchFind, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and dog*tec.

Become a volunteer. Volunteering at a local shelter or animal advocacy group is probably the single best way to prepare yourself for a career working with animals. You’ll get lots of hand-on experience, and see if you really enjoy the work. At large shelters, you can volunteer in areas such as dog and cat care, veterinary clinic, marketing, fostering and public relations. Advocacy groups often need researchers, marketers and lawyers, so if you already have those skills you can gain valuable industry-specific experience.

Apply for an internship. If you want to take a more formal approach to learning about the pet industry from the ground up, considering applying for an internship. Many established companies, as well as small startups, offer both paid and unpaid internships in areas such as dog training, grant proposal writing, and social media. One of the great things about internships is that if you like the company, you’ve already got an “in” for a regular job. And, at the very least, you will have gained a portfolio of skills, contacts, and references that can help you later on.

How did you get your start in the pet industry? Let us know in the comments!