Your pet is a member of your family. You want someone who will care for your pet with respect, compassion and care. When choosing a pet care professional here are some considerations and questions to ask.
Choosing a dog walker or pet sitter
Insurance – It’s imperative that dog walkers have insurance including public liability insurance. If they are walking your dog off lead then they will need to get your signed permission to do so.
Qualifications – what qualifications does the walker/sitter have or do they simply like pets? They should be trained in pet first aid as a minimum. Do they know about positive reinforcement training and know not to use any aversive methods such as shouting at your dog if they do something undesirable?
Transport – how is your dog transported to and from the walk? They have to be suitably restrained. They must be in a crate. If a seat belt is used this must be attached to their harness not collar in case they have to do an emergency stop.
Booking system – does the company have a convenient accessible system where your pet’s details are kept that all staff members can access if the regular pet carer can’t care for your pet due to illness/holiday? Booking systems should have vet, emergency contact, and medication details amongst other information.
Where will your keys be kept – they need to be in a locked device separate from your address details. They shouldn’t be stored in the car!
Keeping in touch – how often and how will the sitter keep in touch with you? Will they send photos and videos? Is there a dedicated Watsapp group so you can keep in contact. Sometimes things happen on walks – they may have a disagreement with another dog or hurt their paw– how will you be updated on this?
The initial consultation – questions – are they asking the following important questions when you first meet them
- What’s your dog’s recall like?
- Does your dog have any possessiveness over certain items?
- Does your pet have any favourite toys?
- Does your dog pick up rubbish on walks?
- Does your cat have any hiding places?
Choosing a boarding cattery or kennels
Insurance – they needed to be licensed by the council to ensure they’re regulated so ask for their certificate and rating. Scroll down for regulations here.
Pets – If the boarding establishment cares for feline and canines it’s important to ask if the dogs and cats kept separately? The noise of dogs can be very scary and stressful for some cats and dogs too.
Questions – questions you should ask should be how are the dogs exercised, cats played with and what about dogs that don’t get on with other dogs? Another question to ask is whether there is a safety corridor so the cats can’t escape when people are going in to the pen. Also how many dogs and cats are cared for at one time and how many staff per pet?
Keeping in touch – how will they contact you to let you know how your pet is? Will they send you photos and video’s via email, and text or phone you?
Emergency moments – What happens in an emergency with your pet? Do they have dedicated staff to deal with this while the other one’s care for the other pets? Do they have any links with mobile vets at all?
Disease prevention – what if kennel cough occurs or an outbreak of disease starts in the cattery? How are the pets kept safe?
Intake procedure – are all dogs and cats vaccination records checked and kept in one place and easily accessible?
What if my flight is delayed? – Are they flexible with collection times? It’s important to ask if you collect your pet out of hours or if you will you need to wait to see them until the morning and pay for another visit.
Choosing a Dog Trainer
Insurance – Again, it’s imperative that dog trainers have insurance including public liability insurance.
Qualifications – unfortunately the training and behaviour industry is currently unregulated meaning any Tom Dick or Harry or (Tara, Denise or Harriet!) can call themselves a dog trainer. It’s so important to use a qualified trainer who is a member of a force free association.
Training Methods – you want to make sure modern, scientifically proven methods are used. Ask what happens if your dog gets it right – this should be reinforced with praise, food or a toy. If your dog gets the exercise you’re working on wrong then the reinforcement should be withheld. Any one suggesting you use pain or force (such as hitting, tapping, restraining including rolling and pinning) should be avoided at all costs– these will cause long term psychological damage to your pet and can lead to aggression.
Choosing a Vet
Layout of practice – is there a separate waiting area for cats and dogs? Is there a side room where you can talk to the vet or receptionist in private? Are their plug in diffusers such as feliway or pet remedy to keep your pet calmer?
Out of hours service – is your vet open out of hours? Do they provide a 24 hour service and in the event your pet was too unwell to travel can they come to your home to visit?
Where is my pet kept? – After their operation or procedure are different species of pets kept separately? Is there a chance for dogs to roam on a green area to go to the bathroom? Can the cat have reign of a room safely to play and stretch? Is their litter tray kept separate from their food and water and is there a hidey – hole (covered bed) for them to relax and feel safe and are there elevated spaces too?
Examining your pet – have you spoke to your vet about your dog needing muzzle training and doing this early while they’re still young? Are they using low stress handling techniques with cats –and using the no scruff method? Is handling kept to a minimum? For example are there dangly toys above weighing scales which will entice your cat to step on the scales and thus giving them more control and thus less stress?