I Could Be A Surgeon

puppetAlong with the most recent shipment of dog supplies was a flyer for a new service for pet owners. A website has been created as a portal to connect pet owners in need of overnight care for their dogs, with people who would provide the service in their home. No doubt there are people who have been happily connected with a caregiver for their dog. I decided to have a look at the folks who were listing their services, for a fee, to pet owners. It was rare to find a person who had any professional training in the dog care field though I did find a vet tech, guide dog puppy raiser, and even a CDPT.

Little was mentioned regarding how they managed or trained dogs. If you have a dog in your care, regardless of whether or not you call yourself a trainer, you are training that dog. How are behavioral challenges managed and dealt with? How many pack-leader wannabees are alpha-rolling a client’s dog without explaining that they’ll do it? There are home boarders who routinely put shock collars on their charges. A pet owner should know this, and understand the implications of it.

I have offered in-home dog boarding for 8 years. Unless I knew what to look for it is often easy to miss indications of stress in dogs. A dog has no way of knowing that the home they are being boarded in is not their new, forever home. They find themselves having to navigate new relationships with people and dogs and sort out what is ok, and what is not, to do. Most dogs sail along at this. But I have suggested to some owners that their dog would be happier and safer in a kennel, rather than in my home. Some dogs are not likely to find the multi-dog social scene fun and enjoyable after living for years on their own. Also not great candidates are dogs who do not have a reliable recall or are inclined to look for ways to escape into the big wide world, should they get lucky and find a door or gate they can bolt through. Owners may have sorted out how to cope with these behaviors, but a dog in a new “home” with new “owners” may not behave as they might be expected to.

The following are descriptions service providers gave about themselves, pulled from the website. Most of these were found in the beginning of the description, if not the opening line. The assumption that seems to be being made is that having lived with dogs or liking dogs, is the main qualification a pet owner should look for in someone who is going to be providing round the clock care for their dog, possibly for weeks at a time. Otherwise why feature it so prominently and often?

I have had dogs my whole life and I love spending time with them. I have also volunteered at the local humane society as a dog care assistant for just over a year so I am experienced with all types of dogs.

I have had pets and have worked with animals my whole life and have owned serval animals including: dogs, cats, horses, cows, bunnies & fish. I have also worked at a veterinary office as well as helped care for many family & friends animals while they were away or at work.

I have a 3 yr old miniature schnauzer and have pet sat for many families. I have been doing this for about 20 years.

My husband works a 9 to 5 job and I stay home and care for dogs! I love my job and look forward to getting a few more regular visitors for daycare and boarding to help cover our bills.

I’ve been around dogs my whole life and I adore them.

Taking care of animal is not our source of income, it’s our Hobby!

I love dogs for the unconditionally loving creatures they are, and promise to love your dog (s) as I do my own.

Your dog will be in expert hands and given lots of exercise and cuddle time while staying with us!

I’ve taken care of dogs off and on but that was before sites like this.

We are both mature,reliable dog people who love what we do.

I have been caring for dogs for most of my life.

I appreciate that pet owners want their dogs to have “a good time” while they are away. The thought of leaving my dogs in a kennel for days at a time is odious to me as well. I can’t help hoping that people remember the caveat “buyer beware” before they leave their dog with a stranger whose resume consists primarily of the skills listed above. I have lived with a body for over 5 decades. I know a lot about my body and really like bodies. If that’s all that mattered I could be a surgeon. And I could use a little extra cash.

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25 comments so far

  1. Megan on

    As a dog daycare owner (and we do boarding, too), I really appreciate this post. I hope that all pet owners do their research because pet care is not a regulated industry. ANYONE can advertise themselves as a petsitter. Hair stylists are licensed here in NYS, but pet care facilities are not.

    Our facility is designed for dogs–there are no accessible outlets, chemicals, cleaning agents, or food temptations. Our staff are all trained in pet CPR and first aid, and they are trained to look for stress signals in our clients, as well as signals of good play. I don’t think most home care places can say this.

    • fearfuldogs on

      It is especially frustrating for people who do put the time, effort, energy and money into treating what they do with respect, to see others behaving as though anyone with a pulse could do the job.

      • Natasha on

        Just like classroom teachers!

  2. Natasha on

    Me too! Very good!

    • Debbie Jacobs on

      Let’s start a website!

      • Natasha on

        Problem is, one of the examples you gave looks a lot like mine… Maybe I SHOULD be a surgeon.

  3. rangerskat on

    We’re currently in the process of finding a pet sitter to stay in our home and care for Finna if we’re gone. Thank you for the timely reminder of what to look for and how little “I love dogs” actually tells you about how they would in fact treat the dog. I was talking to one professional pet sitter at a pet expo event recently who sounded pretty good until she started telling me how important it is that dogs “know their place.” Won’t be hiring her. Any tips on how to find a reliable pet sitter for my rehab project dog? She’s come such a long way and I don’t want to set her back by leaving her in the wrong hands.

    • Debbie Jacobs on

      I have had good luck with vet techs and people who usually work with cats. Smile and ask them what they think of Cesar Millan. Their response will tell you lots, not only about how your dog might be handled, but what they actually understand about dog behavior.

      • jet on

        good tip, I wouldn’t let my foster greyhound go to a lady who stated without prompting that she was a ‘big fan of ceasar milan’ !

      • Debbie Jacobs on

        The dogs most in need of professional care and handling are unfortunately the ones that are often the most mishandled. Good to know how someone is thinking about dog behavior.

  4. jan on

    There are a lot of things i’ve done all my life. But I’m not an expert in many of them.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Sometimes knowing what you don’t know is better than thinking you’re an expert 😉

  5. jet on

    exactly why i prefer to kennel my dogs!!!

    • Debbie Jacobs on

      As unattractive as a kennel might be, for some dogs they are the safest bet.

  6. Sam Tatters on

    There are occasionally surges in dog walkers in my area.

    With few exceptions they are female, otherwise unemployed and in need of some extra income. Not to say that means they’ll be “bad” for the dogs they walk, but it does make me wonder how they’d cope with a nervous dog, a dog who pulled on the leash, an owner who was insistent about using e.g. a harness instead of or as well as a flat collar, and more.

    Any time I see or hear anyone asking for recommendations for a dog walker, I politely point out that it is an unregulated industry, and one must take care to hire someone who will “do no harm”. As they seem sadly lacking at the moment.

    • Debbie Jacobs on

      The irony of it all is that many profess to think of their dogs as family members, not just animals that need to be fed and watered on a daily basis. Yet when it comes to caring for them or training them we don’t require a heck of a lot in regard to experience.

  7. Hazel on

    Makes me even more thankful for grandma living close by. She loves the boys and wants to learn how to make things easier for our fearful Dusty. She does things just so he will be okay – wears heavier skirts as the light weight skirts sway and scare him, changes to her sneakers instead of the high heels she wears to church. Dusty couldn’t handle a stranger coming in and I don’t think he would do very well at a kennel either. This little fearful fur ball has taught me more in 3 years than I ever learned in my 53 years of living with dogs.

    • Debbie Jacobs on

      What a compassionate woman. How lucky for both you and Dusty.

  8. Sage on

    You are so right on target with this post. After trying to kennel Sage at several facilities (she usually ended up in the ‘office’ with the humans), I found a friend who loves her and stays at our house when we have to travel. This is the best of all worlds, but very difficult to achieve.

    • Debbie Jacobs on

      For many people the addition of a fearful dog into their lives ends up restricting what they are able to do. It’s a credit to people that they are willing to make accommodations for their dog.

  9. Shearaha on

    Things like this drive me nuts. I spent 3 years studying behavior, apprenticed under a +R trainer for 2 and am sitting for my CPDT this fall. Before all that I was/am a vet tech and have been for 5 years. 8 months ago I started sitting and walking full time. My own dog is behaviorally needy so I don’t sit in my home, but in the dogs home. The people who have no experience with reactive dogs and insist that they can handle them in their home with their own pets is ridiculous. I wouldn’t trust most of them to walk into my house, let alone leave my dog with them.

  10. Jessica on

    I’d love to hear more from you about boarding/pet sitting/etc. Our fearful dog is *terrified* of people coming into our house and not great with strangers in general. We’ve stopped traveling at all, except to places we can take him. I’m okay with it, but it worries me that we don’t have any emergency back up.

    • Debbie Jacobs on

      It’s a challenge for many people. If there is someone you trust who is willing to work with you, spending some time getting the dog DS/CC to having someone come into the house and care them is worth it. Talking to a vet about meds to make this process easier and more successful might not hurt either.

  11. Roberta on

    While thinking of taking a vacation many years ago, we went to a fairly local kennel and asked for a tour to see the facility before we would board there.
    During the tour, a dog was barking in a kennel….all of a sudden the woman showing us around turned, looked at the dog, and shouted “SHUT UP!”!!! Needless to say, we got the heck out of there and we never went back! Ugh, I’m so glad we got to see just how our dog might have/probably would have been treated!

    • fearfuldogs on

      Ugh. At least you found out. Imagine a terrified dog barking out of stress being treated this way.


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