Pet Sitting Personal Attention or Madame Running Prostitution Business!
This connection actually entered my always-questioning mind some time ago, but recently a client brought something to my attention causing me to investigate this type of service. Being naïve, thinking pet sitters gave “personal attention” to their charges you can understand how shocked I was when I put paw and paw together and realized these businesses do not offer personal attention for your pet at all. Not really.
If you consider hiring what may be unskilled, minimum hourly wage individuals, just because they love dogs, supposedly are qualified and passed background checks, then you’re just as naïve as me, if you think this constitutes personal attention then you and I surely don’t think about our pets in the same way.
In fact, some of these pet sitting services are growing franchises and/or large personally managed businesses operating as pet sitters, but actually, who is doing the pet sitting! You and your pets are being assigned individuals who may not even meet you personally, you are dependent on the Madame, oops, I mean pet sitting owner to “assign” individuals to your job! Your pet’s needs are being relegated to a job, performed by individuals you won’t even personally know!
Oh I know, I know, other businesses use subcontractors too, but this is a very personal business involving peoples pets, whose owners often refer to as children! I am not sure, but I do not think the human nanny business is managed in such a carefree manner and maybe even carelessly!
The care of dogs is a welfare issue, that’s why I happen to be quite knowledgeable about dog care, housing needs, socialization, behavior, training, breeding practices, raising behaviorally healthy as well as physically healthy dogs, medical issues related to behavior and how behavior and stress often cause medical problems and medical problems often cause stress, behavior problems and anxiety. The following is an excerpt from an article I wrote, the complete article is on my website www.responsibledog.net and blog https://k9psych.wordpress.com/ .
What you should consider when boarding, using a pet sitter or that swanky spa!
When boarding includes socialization privileges
A well-socialized dog could be characterized by how readily it interacts and plays with other dogs. However, dogs will be dogs! In most cases, if there are altercations, they are often minor, but one cannot be careful enough when allowing a group of dogs to interact. If you decide to board your pet in this type of environment, make sure the staff have good working knowledge how dogs communicate, meaning they can read dogs well and have the ability to handle multiple dogs while keeping every one safe.
Often these kinds of businesses include behavior assessments, however, future behavior is not always predictable, and there is always a chance that dogs may not get along with specific dogs. It’s best in these environments that numbers be limited by the effectiveness of staff, and sometimes alternating dogs in smaller groups, giving consideration to size, breed and personality can help provide safety while still providing interaction and socialization opportunity.
It is your responsibility to make sure your dog is safe so your decision should include evaluating the level of expertise concerning animal behavior when boarding your pet in these types of environments. If the staff is not sufficiently educated in normal dog or cat behavior, and specifically aggression, how to manage it, recognize it and modify it, then you should be concerned about your dog’s welfare.
Is stress a consideration during boarding?
“Stress occurs when any demand is placed upon a dog that requires the dog to change or adjust” (Lindsay, 2000). For stress to occur events or situations do not have to be unpleasant, but rather any biological or psychological demand placed on an animal is capable of producing stress. There are certain amounts of healthy stress all animals are capable of adapting to, however chronic stress may lead to stress-related conditions. This is an important consideration when making your decision on how, where and under what conditions you will board your animals.
Stress-related hormonal changes occur during separation in a number of species. Tuber and colleagues (1996) studied dogs and found a “differential glucocorticoid (cortisol and corticosterone) response” occurs during five conditions of separation.
1. Alone in a novel environment
2. With a conspecific (another dog) in a novel environment
3. Alone in a familiar environment
4. With a human in a novel environment
5. With a conspecific (another dog) in a familiar environment.
The results of their study showed dogs left alone in novel environments had the highest level of cortisol output with the lowest level occurring in home kennels with a familiar conspecific. However, dogs tested in novel environments with a human companion had significantly lower cortisol levels when compared to dogs kept in the novel environment with a conspecific. These results lend support when considering your decision concerning your dog’s welfare when kenneling or boarding.
What exactly does my dog prefer?
According to these studies, dogs prefer the company of humans even in novel (unfamiliar) environments when compared to dogs kenneled in home environments with a familiar dog! What this means, is you may need to consider your dogs stress levels when using a pet sitter who only drops by on occasion compared to a kennel alternative that not only meets your dogs need for dog socialization but also benefits from more human contact.
You should pay close attention to the study’s conclusions, the conditions offering the least amount of stress. The results do not lend credibility to pet sitting but rather in-home kenneling and/or traditional kenneling that at minimum offers some socialization but most of all more human attention and supervision.
Pet sitters suggest in their marketing materials that in-home boarding and/or other similar larger facilities do not provide enough attention or contact with your pet. This is simply a grossly over exaggerated generalized statement. This is why you need to thoroughly check out the facility you choose, not all boarding facilities are managed the same, nor do the owners of these facilities have the same knowledge level. Many offer very little other than caged conditions all or most of the day, you need to process the marketing materials you are reading more critically, do not assume anything they say as being true.
What is so odd about this practice is the cost for using pet sitters actually exceeds the cost of leaving your dog at a kennel and/or in-home boarding facility. In my opinion, these businesses are predatory type businesses; they market their services focusing on human emotions, not what is really best for dogs!
When are we going to grow up and start treating our dogs like dogs, it is the most mature thing we humans can do to help our dogs. Stop listening to people who do not know anything about normal dog behavior, stop watching television dog trainers, get off the couch and find individuals with the best qualifications that meet your dog’s specific needs. The things that should matter most to you and your dog are the following:
- Do you first know how to select the best dog for you?
- Do you know how to raise and train a puppy correctly?
- What are really the best care options for my dog/s?
- How much experience does the kennel owner have?
- How much experience does the dog trainer have?
- What credentials does the behavior specialist have?
Buying cutesy cloths, collars, bowls, beds are all luxuries, they do not make your dog any better, it makes you feel better. My dogs have these things (material objects), but most of all they have someone who truly understands what they really need!
So that you understand the seriousness of this choice, I have been rather light on you so far, I am going to include a recent example of what I am talking about. A potential client contacted me concerning some dog behavior problems. The dog ate nearly an entire bath towel causing a serious digestive problem; luckily, there was no blockage. It took over a week of antibiotics and recovery time before the dog felt normal. This occurred during the “careful” watch (?) of a pet sitter! I am sorry, but based on this dogs history, this would not have occurred under my watch, so pet owners beware who you leave your pets in the care of, it may end up costing you more than you bargained for.
Pets under my care do get individual care, they get sufficient and supervised play time, and it’s all provided by someone with a background in professional dog training and certified in dog behavior ( www.iaabc.org ). Yes, there is a difference; the difference is who is actually taking care of your pets and that individual’s qualifications.
Joyce Kesling, CDBC
Responsible Dog & Cat
Training and Behavior Solutions
In-Home Pet Boarding