One of the hardest parts of planning a trip is finding senior pet care when your dog or cat can’t go with you. Options include hiring a professional pet sitter to come to your home once or twice a day, boarding your pet at a pet sitter’s home, leaving pets at a boarding or veterinary clinic, or pet sitting with a trusted neighbor or friend. All have pros and cons. What to consider.
Pet sitters are not legally required to have any certification – anyone can print business cards and offer pet sitting services. But professional pet sitters meet qualifications set by national associations such as the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (petsitters.org), Pet Sitters International (petsit.com) or Trusted House Sitters (trustedhousesitters.com). These organizations may require members to carry liability insurance, bond, have up-to-date pet first aid skills, or take a certification course either by themselves or by organizations like Fear Free Pets (fearfreepets.com/fear-free). -review of pet-sitter-certification-program). Some pet sitters are registered, licensed, or certified veterinary technicians or have certifications in dog training or animal behavior.
Having a pet sitter come once or twice a day or have a pet board with a sitter depends on the individual animal’s personality and the owner’s concerns. Cats usually prefer to stay in their familiar home and like to have someone come in to pick up the litter box, feed them, and offer them some playtime before they leave.
Some dogs’ needs can be met with daily visits, but many people prefer to have their dogs in a situation where someone is with them most of the time, including overnight. Pet sitters can stay with your home or pets. Learn how a pet sitter can ensure harmony and safety if they care for animals other than your own.
Some birds, such as cats, may prefer to stay indoors, but others are more sociable. Larry, our late African parrot, enjoyed the attention given to him while at the special veterinary clinic where he was cared for. Bird stores that carry feathered pets may require certain health tests before accepting your bird as a customer.
Many boarding kennels these days resemble spas with splash pools, agility or other dog sports, and supervised playgroups. They may have pet cameras so you can check on your pet, luxury suites, and your vet at home or on call 24/7. Some offer massage or other therapeutic treatments. Pet-friendly music and aromatherapy can lull them to sleep at bedtime.
Boarding areas for both dogs and cats should separate the cat and dog areas well so that the cats do not hear barking noises and are not frightened.
Get recommendations from friends, your vet, or your dog’s groomer, and go beyond Yelp or Google reviews. Choose a facility that has staff with training or care certifications like those described above, or credentials like Fear Free boarding and childcare certification. Visit a boarding kennel first and ask for a tour, says veterinary behaviorist Debbie Horwitz. “You should be given one. If not, don’t go there.”
Even if you don’t choose to board your pets on a regular basis, Horwitz recommends that all pets should be comfortable boarding in the event of a disaster or unexpected hospitalization. “You never know when you’re going to need it,” he says. Pets do not need to stay overnight to gain boarding experience. “A day’s stay is also useful.”
What about the care of friends, family or neighbors? It can be cheap and convenient — especially if you take turns caring for each other’s pets — but friendships and family relationships can be strained if something happens to a pet while you’re gone. Make sure they know and agree to all your safety and care rules, and if something goes wrong, consider whether saving a little money is worth losing a friendship.
Stop cutting her tracks
Q: When my kids run, my dog runs after them and snaps at their heels. How can I stop this behavior?
Answer: Dogs think it’s a fun game, and dogs think it’s more fun when kids scream and try to run. This can cause them to get stronger, snap harder or more often, or jump up to grab your arm.
Early intervention is important. To stop biting, you need to avoid this while teaching your dog a new movement to perform, such as heel walking, going down, spinning or rolling.
To prevent the behavior, keep your dog indoors if children are playing outside. This may be a good time to start teaching the alternative behavior, as he won’t be distracted from them. Work on a hook, indoors or outdoors, in an area with few distractions. If heeling is a behavior you are training, start at a slow pace, gradually building it up to a brisk walk and then a slow jog or even jogging if your vet is okay with this type of activity for your dog.
As your dog gets better at the alternative behavior, slowly add distractions, such as someone walking by or the sound of children outdoors. Then up the ante with distractions like a person running or jumping up and down. When these distractions aren’t distracting him, move to an area he would normally chase, such as the backyard, and exercise there.
During training, reward your dog with treats, toys, and praise for new behavior and staying by your side. When your dog becomes overly excited and tries to run and bite, freeze in place. Return your exercise to a point where it was successful and work again. – Mikkel Becker
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Winning cat books are now available
• The Cat Writers Association recently announced the winners of its annual writing contest. Among the award-winning books were Eileen Watkins’ Claw and Disorder, in which cat sitter Cassie McGlone must solve the mysterious death of a cat-loving congregation member, and Cat Behavior Consultant Laura Cassiday’s The Complete Guide to Adopting a Cat. She uses her background working at the Maryland SPCA, as well as information from other shelter and rescue professionals, to help adopters choose the perfect cat and integrate their new friend into their home. In Kitty Sweet Tooth, a children’s book by Abby Denson and illustrated by Utomaru, the sweet-loving purple cat opens a theater. Bold line art and vibrant illustrations complement the clever and entertaining text. Library Journal calls it “the sweet flavor of a story.” Twin winners “ABC Cats: The Alpha-Cat Book” and “123 Cats: The Cat Counting Book” by Leslea Newman and Isabella Kung will delight young children in learning their alphabet and numbers. School Library Journal describes them as “subtle cat fun.”
• Subaru’s “Feel the Wait” ad helps evoke the emotions of shelter pets waiting to be adopted, and shines a light on senior and physically challenged dogs who wait longer than others to find a home. Help spread the love for special needs pets by promoting adoption or adopting them yourself.
• Dogs never live long enough, but Celine Halioua, founder and CEO of veterinary medicine company Loyal, hopes to develop drugs to delay aging in dogs and extend their healthy lifespans. If it works, he would like to create similar drugs for humans. An article in Wired looks at the prospects: wired.com/story/the-search-for-a-pill-for-dog-and-human-longevity. — Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton, and Mikkel Becker