Pet Sitting Tips and Tricks

I stumbled into a myriad of situations I wish I had known about before beginning pet sitting. Some of these seem like common sense in hindsight, but let’s just say I didn’t realize HOW IMPORTANT they were until later.

Most dogs get what I call “first-night-itis” even when they know you and have visited before. Common symptoms are marking in your house, pacing, and not eating or sleeping well. I’m talking about symptoms exhibited (mostly) by the dog here.

If someone wants you to keep their dog for more than a month of overnights, only do this if you really know the owners. Many dogs are abandoned this way.

Dogs enjoy being willful and crafty with their daily pill snubbing, even if medicine is camouflaged with an inexorable dollop of peanut butter. I have yet to meet a dog that can resist peer pressure, however, so dole out a couple rounds of treats to their buddies. Dogs can’t stand this and WILL EAT the next treat you give them.

Don’t let folks drop off a high-energy dog at 8pm if the dog has been in the crate all day. I had this happen once. Once.

You will discover some owners make the decision to skip monthly flea and tick medication or their Bordetella (kennel cough) vaccine. They won’t tell you of course, so have a talk with them when you get a chance.

Keep your bulk food containers locked and out of reach. Trust me on this one.

Dogs can find a weakness in a fence well before you do. Then they scratch and dig at it like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape. Keep an eye on those sneaky devils.

Sometimes a teenager, grandma, or cleaning crew is at a client’s house when you arrive to walk the dog. This can be awkward, depending on a couple of factors, so just be polite, use your key, and hopefully they will figure things out quickly. Keep in mind that NC grandmas, more often than not, are packing heat.

It is VERY difficult to clear a week or two on your schedule for vacations. The opportunity cost to clear two weeks of sitting can be between $1,200-$1,800.

Nitro on the way to his surprise birthday bash

The two priorities with day campers are harmony and noise, and having a good rapport with your neighbors should not be underestimated. This is easier said than done, as it will take time and patience to optimize, and maintain, the energy balance with your charges.

It is 100x easier to get a dog out your front door when the other dogs are distracted or in the back yard. When a parent is suddenly ringing your doorbell, however, you now have a Chinese fire drill and the escapee risk index just increased by a factor of 4. Encourage owners to give you a heads up before pickup/drop-off.

Preventing fights is an art. I use my voice, noise, and distraction. Staying engaged and removing sources of conflict helps, and I’ve learned dogs become fascinated when you speak gibberish to them. The best fight stopper around is going to be your water hose.

Before you know it, you’re going to have a lot of similar looking spare keys to your clients’ homes. Buy some colored stickers to label your keys.

Staying cordial and sociable at the parks and neighborhoods you walk dogs in takes a lot of energy. Particularly when the dog is unruly and the bambinos in the area begin closing in. Just smile a lot and make sure everyone can see your t-shirt and car magnets.

“Puppy proofing” your house is a continuous undertaking. One benumbing example is the dog that walks behind the TV and nearly knocks it over. Keep your counters clear, and plants way out of reach, because dogs will jump on counters and desks when you aren’t watching.

Having a business number means you will receive more spam and robo-calls than normal. I pay an extra couple of bucks a month to have enhanced caller-ID so I can (usually) tell the difference between a user line and a spam line. Verizon callers are identified by name even if they aren’t in your contacts.

My largest tax deduction was for mileage. Driving around town each year was about 8,000 miles or $4,000. I used Excel to document this, but now there are phone apps for mileage tracking. Keep a record of your mileage log in case of audit, even if you know it by heart. Mileage deduction rates change annually, but they are around $0.50 per mile.

Keeping your house and car clean for more than a day or two is impossible. Wait to clean after a rain day, and spread wood chips in your back yard to minimize mud prints. My mulch bill is easily $40/month.

The Pet Sitter Logo Quandary
There is a cross section of pet sitters in the universe that refuse to wear or otherwise display their pet sitter logo when they go to houses because “thieves casing neighborhoods will know the owner isn’t home.” Draw your own conclusion here, but my take on this is that the sitters that say this aren’t taking into account:

-Owners may be home when I walk their dog
-Burglars don’t like dogs
-Neighborhood watch is watching
-The house language (blinds, piled newspapers, lights)
-Other members of the household
-Alarms, motion sensitive lighting, and surveillance cameras
-The world doesn’t revolve around pet sitters

The pet sitter logo reveals a very small part of the picture. However, if you do start walking the dog down the street, and Harry and Marv jump out of the Oh-Kay plumbing van, call 911, or just let grandma take care of them.

Featured photo – Nitro!

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