Pet Parentís Consumer Checklist
How to pick a pet-friendly business with confidence
With so many pet businesses and service dotting the landscape these days, itís hard to know which one is the right one for you and your pet. Follow our handy tips to help you decide when to say yay, when to say nay, and when to just do it yourself.
Daycare and Pet Sitting
When youíre searching for a reliable daycare or in-home sitter for your pet consider the following:
- Screening and security should be top on your list of things to do when looking for a pet sitter. Start by getting references from friends, neighbors, and co-workers.
- Interview the pet sitter before you hire her. And use this time to check on things like whether she is on time and asks lots thoughtful questions about your pet.
- Ask the pet sitter if she knows pet first aid and CPR. It is up to you whether such knowledge is a requirement for the position.
- Ask if the pet sitter is a pet parent herself, or if sheís ever been one. Nobody knows how to take care of your furry loved ones quite like other pet parents.†Make sure visits can be at least 15 minutes.
- Be sure the pet sitter is bonded if she is part of a business with other staff members. She should also be†certifiedĖĖThe National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) offers a certification program where pet sitters can take a course in such topics as animal care and health issues.
- When it comes to a daycare, seek out a place that screens all animals for both health concerns and temperament.
- Look for a facility whose employees are good with both people and dogs.
- Make sure the daycare has more than one room. Itís not always a good idea to put really big dogs in the same room with the tiny ones.
- Make sure staff are in the room (or at the very least, within close hearing distance) with your pet 100 percent of the time they are at daycare.
- Check on any licenses the daycare has. While this varies from state to state, if the daycare also boards animals it should have a kennel license.
- Run a check on a daycare or pet sitter with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints reported.
Consider looking elsewhere if you observe any of the following:
- They donít want to meet your pet or they donít seem to interact with him or get down on the ground to play.
- During the interview, you do more talking than they do. Shyness aside, a good pet sitter or daycare provider asks lots of questions about your pet, his habits, allergies, etc.
- They donít have adequate staff to deal with the amount of dogs in their care.
- Staff seem overwhelmed by the dogs and arenít interacting with them.
- Both big and small dogs are kept in one room.
- They donít keep an adequate amount of bowls filled with water in each room.
Good sitters and daycare options are readily available, but if youíre in a bind try the following:
- Find a reliable neighbor who might come in and feed your pet, or even take her for a walk.
- Speak to your vet; sometimes vet technicians are looking for ways to supplement their income and wonít mind looking in on your pet while youíre gone.
- If feeding is an issue while youíre gone for the day you can buy an automatic feeder with a timer that opens the top to allow your pet access to his food.
The following are points to watch for when youíre looking for a reliable groomer:
- Make sure they ask if your pet has any allergies, or if theyíre sensitive on any parts of their body.
- Take your dog to a salon where you can actually see the area where the pets are groomed. It should include a large open area and windows for viewing; nothing should be done behind closed doors.
- Choose a grooming salon that has a supervised drying area. Your pet should never be left unattended because this is where injuries are most likely to occur.
- A good groomer, just like a great hairdresser, always keeps up with current styles, and is trained in all breeds and mixed-breeds.
Avoid groomers that exhibit the following characteristics:
- You take a look around the salon and see that itís not neat and clean.
- Head to the door if the groomer doesnít seem to be listening to you and ignores your instructions on how you want your pet to look.
- Avoid any grooming salon that seems to have an assembly line feel to it.
While the grooming salon is an ideal resource for keeping your pet looking neat and clean there are a couple of things you can do to maintain your petís appearance on your own:
- Give him a daily brush. Smaller dogs have silky hair that can get easily tangled so itís a must to brush them frequently. Brush the whole body, not just the top. The biggest plus to giving your pet a regular brush is it distributes the oils evenly and produces a shiny coat.
- Use a self-service doggie wash so you donít end up spending hours cleaning up your bathroom, and remember, brushing is better than bathing. Too much bathing can dry out an animalís skin.
- Nail trimming can be a piece of cake if youíre patient. Cut just a little bit at a time, and reward your pet after each groom and trim.
Many qualities go into to making a good trainer, but the most important are:
- Using humane training techniques. Make sure you ask about her training philosophy to determine if she uses positive reinforcement, which is a reward based method of training and tends to yield more desirable results than punishment training.
- Ask for references. A reputable trainer will have no problem giving you names and numbers to call.
- Make sure sheís a member of a reputable dog training association. For example, The Association of Pet Dog Trainers promotes humane and positive dog training methods.
Move on to the next trainer if:
- You only get to talk to the dog training facilityís sales person and not the person who will actually be training your dog.
- The facility wonít give you a tour of the building and you donít get to see the area where your dog will be trained.
- The trainer talks to you in a rude or condescending way.
- The trainer wonít let you choose an appropriate humane training collar.
- The facility does not have a refund policy or satisfaction guaranteed.
Sometimes immediate training is beyond a personís financial means. In the meantime, consider basic at-home training to get your pooch started on the path to good manners:
- Always train your dog on a leash or line so you will be able to reinforce commands. As your dog becomes more reliable, you can remove the leash.
- Remember the 3D formula for training: duration, distractions, and distance. You build time first (5 minute sit/stay), then add distractions before adding distance from your dog.
Next: Pet Stores and Boutiques
Pet Stores and Boutiques
While there are some great places to buy pet supplies, more reliable stores have the following characteristics:
- Do not sell puppies/dog or kittens/cats (adoptable pets only)
- Knowledgeable staff.
- They sell a variety of products.
- Keep up-to-date on industry news, such as the recent pet food recall.
- They will special order a product for you.
Move on if:
- The staff doesnít know anything about the products theyíre selling and canít answer your questions.
- The store doesnít look clean.
- The store sells dogs and cats. A good boutique will sponsor adoption days, but if itís selling large animals, walk away.
- The small animals for sale (such as hamsters, gerbils, reptiles, or fish) are kept in unsanitary conditions.
If youíd rather shop at home and take your time browsing, ask your favorite retailer if they have a websiteĖĖchances are, you can get everything you need right from the comfort of your couch.
*A special thanks to our sources: Genenieve Thiers, founder and CEO of Sittercity, Amy Nichols owner of D.C.-based Dogtopia, Lou Kurtz, owner of Country Canine Cuts in Newton, Pennsylvania, and Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer and founder of Jim Burwellís Petiquette in Houston, Texas.
By Susan Palmquist for TAILS