Pet Sitter

A Day In The Life Of ... A Pet Sitter

I’ve been a pet sitter now for nearly 4 years, running Emma4Walkies as a sole trader and I love it. Most of my work is walking dogs, I also care for pets in their own homes by dropping in to feed pets or house sitting by staying overnight. I get to work with dogs and a variety of pets, as well as walking in some lovely parts of Somerset. Some people might think pet sitting is money for old rope. However, hopefully after reading this you may not think it’s not such a walk in the park after all (pardon the pun). I’ve even heard someone say it’s just walking a dog what’s professional about that?

My typical weekday starts with collecting the dogs for the first walk of the day. Now, this takes longer than you first think. I collect 4 dogs from different homes, transporting them in my van. My van has 4 crates in it, each dog gets its own crate, to avoid in-transit conflicts and distracting me while I drive. By the time 4 dogs have been collected, half an hour later I’m ready to drive to the nearest suitable place to walk the group. I say suitable as it depends what dogs I have on board. If they have high prey-drive then there’s no point going to the wild woods. They get an hour’s walk enjoying each other’s company, sniffing and playing. I’m always encouraging the dogs to stay in a frame of mind that makes them easier to control; it makes the walk so much more enjoyable too. I try not to over-excite them by throwing balls constantly for the whole hour (see link here to an article that explains why). A calm dog is a content and more controllable one.

My main priority, especially when walking dogs in public areas, is for their fun times to be in a controlled pack, as well as being considerate to other user groups of public spaces. After the walk they are loaded back into the van and are all dropped off back home, drained of some of their energy and content they’ve been out in the fresh air having fun with their pals. I then start collecting the dogs for the next walk….

 

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Prior to taking any dog out on the walk or starting a pet feeding or house sitting assignment, all my clients will be registered with E4W. This involves filling in a form to get important information like who their vets and emergency contacts are etc. I then go to their homes and meet them and their pets. If I will be walking their dogs, they take their dog with me and my dog for an assessment walk. (Bosley acts as my stooge dog as well as business partner and dog model) This enables me to assess if the dog is suitable for walks with E4W. I will not take dogs that pull excessively or have poor recall. This can distract me from looking after the whole pack if I’m correcting a pulling dog or trying to call back a dog that’s run off. Also I’d soon wear out if I regularly walked excessive pullers and my arms would by trailing the floor too!

I chose to be a registered pet sitter with the National Association of Registered Petsitters, (the one with the snoopy like dog logo and not to be confused with another organisation). Why NARP? I like its ethics of putting the pets first and it’s a non-profit organisation so does not have a flashy website. I also like the fact that NARP vets all new members by asking for proof of their animal care experience, 2 written references and meeting them in person to see if they are suitable to be a pet sitter. Members must also abide by the strict code of conduct which includes among other things a restriction to walking a maximum of 4 dogs in total at once. If a member home boards, only having dogs from the same household staying overnight as well as making sure they are licenced by the local authority, this is a legal requirement for any pet sitter who is a home boarder. (I have chosen to house sit dogs in their own homes rather the home board) The best way to find a NARP registered pet sitter is to visit the NARP website and follow the link that says "if you need a Petsitter " and subscribe. This is a free service. Any problems call the operators on 0845 230 8544 and ask them to send the Register by email.

It’s true anyone can set up as a pet sitter, but are they dog or pet savvy and do they have common sense? How do you choose one to look after your pets? They might tick all the boxes on paper with insurances, police checks and even talk the talk etc., but have no idea how to care for pets or handle a group of dogs who are from different households or be risk aware. Then again they might tick all the right boxes, have common sense and be dog savvy. Whoever you choose to help with your pets, you have to be happy and confident that they will look after your pet as you would.

Check that they don’t take risks when walking your dog that you would not take, for example, encouraging dogs to swim in rivers that are swollen after heavy rain. Ask to see their insurance certificate, proof of police check and registration. When you meet a pet sitter do quiz/interview them to see if they are actually aware of obvious risks, or are all just talk instead. After all, they are looking after one of your family members. Do they actually walk your dog? This may sound silly, but I have heard of one pet sitter somewhere in the UK loading over 10 dogs all loose into the back of a van, so risking in-transit conflicts. Then open the van doors and let the dogs’ poo all over a public green space. Next, they are loading them all back in the van 10 minutes later and not picking up the dog poo.

I’m so glad I had a career change to look after other people’s pets, being there for their pets when they cannot. At times it can be a challenge if the dogs are trying to play up when you are walking them in public. You have to have eyes in the back of your head and be alert all the time. You have to go out and walk dogs whatever the weather, but this isn’t a challenge for me as I’ve worked outdoors all my adult life. I just don my wet weather gear and get out there. To me being out there in the fresh Somerset air in the middle of some wildwoods in the springtime covered in a carpet of bluebells, with dogs that respect me and each other has to be the best part of my job.

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