Students Saving Lives was started by Debbie Kendrick, Vice President of Animal Behavior College, in 2004. Our mission is to train dogs in shelters in hopes of helping them become more adoptable and less likely to be returned to a shelter in their life. Obedience training for dogs is a key component to a happy and fruitful life.
At ABC we ask each student in the dog training certification program to volunteer ten hours at a local animal shelter or rescue to train shelter dogs. Since its inception in 2004, the Students Saving Lives program has collectively donated over 100,000 hours of time to training dogs in shelters.
We are passionate about helping dogs and cats find their forever homes. Please adopt a pet don’t buy one. Find out more about Animal Behavior College’s Dog Training program at www.animalbehaviorcollege.com
Veterans With PTSD Finding New Purpose in Life With Service Dogs
Many soldiers who make it home from war bring the war home with them. Each day in the United States, 22 veterans take their own lives, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The debilitating effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) lead many veterans into a lonely battle with themselves, facing flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, hypersensitivity, anger, sleeplessness and depression.
This debilitating disorder affects 30 percent of post-9/11 veterans, the VA reports. And despite the alarming effects of PTSD, the American Psychological Association reports that more than two-thirds of these veterans never seek treatment. The negative stigma associated with mental illness makes soldiers hesitant to seek help for fear of appearing weak or vulnerable.
Nonprofit organizations like War Dogs Making It Home and Soldier’s Best Friend provide a cutting-edge approach to help these men and women. These organizations pair homeless dogs facing euthanasia with suffering soldiers seeking reasons to live in a beautiful, dual effort to save lives.
How Service Dogs Benefit Veterans
About 2.7 million healthy, adoptable pets are put down in this country each year, the Humane Society of the United States reports. Rather than waiting for a service dog to become available for home placement, the struggling veterans in these programs actively take part in the rescue and training of their dog. In most situations, the dogs are pre-trained to handle PTSD symptoms and know how to interrupt attacks of panic, stress and hyper-vigilance.
Weekly training continues once the vets are paired with their dogs. Oftentimes, these courses take place in a group setting among other soldiers dealing with PTSD, providing a safe and welcoming environment.
Why Service Dog Training Works
Unlike traditional service dog programs, organizations that pair shelter dogs with veterans are often offered at little to no cost, creating a financially approachable means of therapy. These programs offer an alternative to standard therapy and medication, and veterans tend to look at the process as a means of helping animals in need rather than seeking help for themselves—thus decreasing the fear of seeming week or vulnerable. Veterans feel a sense of accomplishment, knowing they’ve played an active role in saving a life.
How You Can Help
Spouses and family members are essential to a successful recovery. Follow these tips to increase the success of a service dog program.
- Get involved. Show your support by taking part in the training process. Help your spouse by staying up to date with the training methods being used. As an added incentive, military spouses often qualify for free tuition at Animal Behavior College.
- Keep your pet healthy. Your new service dog is not just a pet, it’s an integral part of your spouse’s healing process. Keep your new family member healthy by ensuring proper nutrition. Sites like Dog Food Advisor keep you up-to-date on food recalls, reviews and quality ratings.
- Make your home pet-friendly. Don’t let the added responsibility of a service animal infringe on your independence. Make this a positive experience for you, your pet and your soldier by adding a pet door for easy access to the outdoors. Electronic dog doors offered by PetSafe are equipped with self-opening technology activated through a smart-key attached to your pet’s collar. Keep unwanted critters out while giving your service dog the freedom to come and go independently.Another great resource for enjoyable pet products can be found here. You may also find that hiring a certified dog trainer can benefit the quality of your pet’s home life.Other Resources:
Train A Dog Save A Warrior (TADSAW)
Big Paws Canine Foundation
At Animal Behavior College it is important to us to attend trade shows throughout the U.S. for many different reasons. Each show has specific industry experts and professionals that we love to connect with. Many times trade shows provide a great opportunity to build relations with new Mentor Trainers and be introduced to program instructional techniques that we can incorporate into the ever growing curriculum’s for the ABC Certifications. Trade shows are also a wonderful chance for industry career professionals to purchase Continuing Education Programs at a wonderful discount, up to 50% off.
After completing your certification consider one of the 6 great, Continuing Education courses offered by Animal Behavior College:
Continuing Education Courses offered by Animal Behavior College
Training Shelter Dogs
This Continuing Education Program (CEP) will teach you how to approach shelters and their staff, appropriately and professionally, to assist in identifying dogs with the potential to be adopted. You will be able to consult and advise them on defensive handling and safety, understanding shelter stress points and assessing canine behavior. This CEP will also teach you to demonstrate building drive in shelter dogs, pet health and consideration, labeling training goals and challenges, circumventing behavioral issues, training dogs for a family setting. You will be given the skills to:
- Identify shy or fearful conditions
- How to properly work with aggressive dogs
- Charting and keeping records
- Facilitating an assisting in adoptions
- Act with ethical and professional conduct
This course will provide certified trainers with the knowledge and skills needed to start a shelter training program. You will have the ability to rate dogs’ social skills, how they handle tolerance, barrier aggression, food aggression, and resource guarded thresholds. These skills combined with the Assess a Pet & ASPCA Meet Your Match Safer tools, will enable you the trainer to become an ASPCA Tester for Shelters throughout the U.S.
The Art of Selling Private Lessons
Private in-home lessons are quickly becoming the most popular among professional trainers in the dog training industry. In this Continuing Education course you will learn how to out-sell your competition and develop successful training lessons every time. Your knowledge of how to obtain clientele and conduct efficient private lesson will assist you in maximizing your potential income as a dog trainer. This course will cover imperative topics such as:
- Sales techniques and tips
- Understanding communication styles
- Diverse types of lesson plans and training packages
- Developing your class routine
- How to teach off-leash behaviors
- Client compliance
The Training Shelter Dogs CEP will maximize your effectiveness as a professional certified dog trainer. Training Shelter Dogs also includes advanced tips for marketing yourself and your business locally in your community. This Continuing Education Program will provide you with an increased proficiency and aptitude in administering effective private lessons within a client’s home, at a local park or at your own facility.
Pet Sitting & Dog Walking
The Pet Sitting & Dog Walking CEP discusses how to properly work with and care for pets with fur, feathers, scales, and more. Topics range from identifying and understanding body language, canine, feline and avian behavior, basic nutrition an hygiene, creating mental and physical stimulation, building relationships with animals and the people who love them, personal and home owner safety, maintaining consistent scheduling, walking dogs calmly on a leash, building your clientele, sample client forms, insurance and more! Pet Sitting & Dog Walking are sought after skills that provide differentiation to any established pet trainer’s business.
Cat Management & Training
Many households have both a cat and a dog or multiples of them. Since cats out number dogs throughout the United States, learning how to manage and correct cat behaviors can be a profitable venture for pet training professionals. This course will teach you the proper socialization techniques for developing a healthy feline-to-trainer relationships, as well as feline-to-feline and feline-to-canine interactions. You will learn how to read and interpret feline body language and vocalizations. This course also teaches how to teach basic behavior training cues (i.e. sit, stay, come) and how to address problem cat behaviors like: scratching, spraying, and howling. This course will provide the trainer with the ability to teach cats “fun” behaviors, such as roll over, tightrope walk, hoop jumping, and more. having the skills to train cats is a big advantage for dog trainers and veterinarians. By completing this course you will gain invaluable knowledge necessary to help your client pet owners solve unruly cat behaviors and issues.
Pet Nutrition and Diet
This Continuing Education Program discusses basic nutrition, the regulations governing commercial pet foods, and the nutritional needs for both cats and dogs. In this course you will be taught to read pet food labels including the importance of:
- Protective nutrients
You will also learn about the different types of diets (i.e. dry food, canned food, raw foods, and supplements) and how food can play a huge role in a pet’s behavior. After the competition of this CEP you will know how to educate your clients on providing their animals with the best nutrition based decisions for their pet’s age, weight, and health condition.
The Pet Massage CEP gives pet groomers, dog trainers and veterinary staff the skills to calm each pet they interact with. The ability to soothe and calm dogs and cats through touch improves the human-animal relationship and promotes trust bonding. Pet groomers have the benefit of having a calm animal on their grooming table which allows them to move swiftly through the process of grooming without the problems that heavy-handed groomers experience. Veterinary assistants are able to minimize discomfort and pain, while helping pets recover from injuries and soothe the aches of the elderly. Dog trainers will have the ability to create a more positive training experience, because they will have an enhanced knowledge of canine anatomy and acute awareness of touch points. Pet massage is a growing occupation. The completion of this Continuing Education Program can also open the door to operating a profitable pet massage business. This CEP will cover information on:
- General anatomy
- Principals and concepts of a pet massage
- Setting up your work space
- Preparing to administer a pet massage
- How to develop a pet massage business
The Pet Massage CEP course also includes step-by-step instructions that will guide you through the details of a pet massage session, (for many animals of different species and size).
ABC enjoys meeting with our students, graduates and mentors at the trade shows. This is a wonderful opportunity to meet, greet, and obtain feedback on the programs from our students and Mentor Trainers. In February 2014, Animal Behavior College will be attending the Western Veterinary Conference and the Groom & Kennel Expo.
*All CEP programs will be offered at a 50% discount to those attendees who purchase a Continuing Education Program at the shows.
10 Dog Breed Myths
Revealing the truth behind these common misconceptions.
By Audrey Pavia
Urban legend isn’t limited only to stories about Bigfoot and Pop Rocks. A number of dog breeds have also fallen victim to rumors that have spread like wildfire through the years. Here’s a look at 10 myths about dog breeds and the truth behind the rumors.
It’s hard to know how this rumor started. It could be because of the Irish Setter’s puppyish, clown-like nature. Not serious and stoic like some sporting breeds, the Irish Setter likes to goof around. The truth is that Irish Setters are intelligent dogs bred to work closely with hunters out in the field.
Not surprisingly, people think that because Greyhounds are famous for their talents on the racetrack, they need a lot of exercise. The truth is that Greyhounds are actually couch potatoes who prefer to cuddle up on the sofa than run around digging up the backyard. Although they love long walks, Greyhounds actually make great house dogs.
Although Rottweilers were bred to be guard dogs, they are also very trainable and affectionate. They are not mean by nature, as some people believe, and like any dog, make wonderful companions if they are properly trained and socialized. Although a Rottweiler will give off a ferocious bark when protecting his territory, a well-socialized Rottweiler will greet strangers with a wagging tail once his owner lets him know guests are welcome.
Some people are under the impression that Pugs just want to lay around the house all day. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Although by no means hyper, Pugs are active and happy members of the family, and are often underfoot, looking for the next adventure. Even though they aren’t bred for jogging alongside their human companions, they still enjoy running around the yard chasing a ball or another dog.
Pit Bulls suffer from very bad press, and one of the stories often repeated by those who don’t know better is that these dogs can lock on to a human or other dog during a fight. In truth, Pit Bulls have the same mechanics in their jaws as other dog breeds.
Although dogs such as Siberian Huskies, Chow Chows and American Eskimos might look uncomfortable in the summertime with their long coats, nature has provided them with fur that allows the heat to escape from their bodies when the weather is warm.
As a general rule, this is actually true: Smaller breeds tend to live longer than larger breeds. While a Saint Bernard might only make it to 7 years, a Chihuahua can live to be 14 or more.
Although Shelties might look like small Collies, they are actually a completely separate breed. The American Kennel Club recognizes the Sheltie and the Collie as two distinctly different dogs, both with inborn instincts to herd livestock.
Jack Russell Terriers are busy dogs with a lot of energy, but they aren’t hyperactive. While they do need lots of exercise, more than anything, Jack Russells need something to occupy their minds. Interactive toys and playtime with their human companions usually fit the bill.
As odd as this may sound, it’s actually true; Labs do have webs between their toes. This feature was bred into the Lab to help him swim, as the breed was originally created to retriever downed waterfowl. Labs can also use their tails as rudders when they are swimming.
About the Author: Audrey Pavia is an award-winning freelance writer and author of “The Labrador Retriever Handbook.” She is a former staff editor of Dog Fancy, Dog World and The AKC Gazette magazines. To learn more about her work, visit www.audreypavia.com.
It’s Pet Dental Health Month
Pet Bad breathe isn’t the only thing that improves with proper oral care.
By Lisa King
The condition of your dog’s teeth and gums affects not only whether his breath is stinky or not; poor dental health can influence his quality of life and even his life expectancy. Although cavities are relatively rare in dogs, they can suffer from plaque and tartar buildup, gingivitis and periodontal disease just like people. These in turn can cause painful gums, loose teeth and bone loss.
Periodontal disease can be very serious; bacteria and toxins from diseased gums can enter the dog’s blood stream and be carried to the organs. The brain, heart, liver and kidneys are the most likely organs to be affected. These toxins and bacteria can cause inflammation and infections in the organs, leading to permanent organ damage or even death.
It’s your responsibility as a dog owner to keep your pet healthy by caring for his teeth to prevent these painful and dangerous conditions. Ideally, this means brushing them every day.
This might sound like a tall order if your dog is not used to it. The trick is to get him accustomed to brushing. If he’s a puppy it will be easier, but an older dog can also be taught to tolerate tooth-brushing. Start by massaging the outside of his mouth for 30 seconds or so a couple of times a day. When he’s used to this, try massaging his teeth and gums. Let him lick a little doggie toothpaste off your finger.Never use human toothpaste.
When he will accept this type of touching calmly, get him a doggie toothbrush, either one that looks like a smaller human toothbrush or one that fits over your finger. Apply toothpaste and move the brush in small circular motions, lifting up his lip as you work around his mouth. If he gets impatient, you can skip cleaning the inside surface—most of the tartar buildup is on the outside of the teeth.
Another tool in your dental arsenal is the chew toy. Hard rubber, rawhide and rope chew toys help keep your dog’s teeth clean and his jaws strong, as well as relieving stress. You can also purchase dental treats that are designed to clean tartar off a dog’s teeth and dental rinses that you can put in your dog’s water. But as with people, there’s no substitute for regular brushing.
A well-balanced dry food is less likely to cause tartar buildup than wet food, and human food is worst of all when it comes to your dog’s dental health, so keep table-scrap treats to a minimum.
It is important that your veterinarian checks your dog’s teeth regularly. She will need to handle issues such as cysts under the tongue or tumors in the mouth. Between vet visits, be on the lookout for bad breath, increased drooling, loose teeth and swollen or inflamed gums (the tissue is red instead of pink). An apparent loss of appetite can be caused by painful teeth or gums. Any of these can indicate that your dog has a dental problem and should see the vet.
If you haven’t been taking care of your dog’s dental health or if he is simply an older dog, he might have developed tooth or gum disease. If so, it’s time for a professional deep cleaning. Your vet will need to anesthetize your dog so she can do a thorough job, including cleaning under the gum line. She will also X-ray your dog’s mouth to ensure the roots of his teeth are healthy. This procedure can cost hundreds of dollars, but it can make your dog pain-free and add years to his life.
The best approach to maintaining your dog’s dental health is prevention. Start as early as you can to brush his teeth and check the condition of his teeth and gums. Provide him with a good diet and plenty of chew toys and dental treats. Take him in for regular vet visits. A dog with a healthy mouth is a happier, healthier dog.
About the Author: Lisa King is a freelance writer living in Southern California. She is the former managing editor of Pet Product News International, Dogs USA, and Natural Dog magazines. Lisa is also the author of the well-received murder mystery novel “Death in a Wine Dark Sea.”
Living in an Electronic World
How to automate your home for pets.
By Stacy Mantle
There is no better evidence of our arrival in the golden age of computing than the introduction of electronics in the pet industry. Home automation is the name of the game in 2014 and it seems as though everyone is entering this field.
While I would never advocate spending less time with pets, those of you who must deal with long days at the office or a particularly bad rush hour will be relieved to know your pets are comfortable, fed and secure in the comfort of your home as they wait your arrival. Here is a look at a few of my favorite new electronic products available for pets and people.
Two of my favorites are the Samsung Pet Cam and the Motorola Scout 1500 Digital Wireless Video Pet Monitor. Both offer infrared monitoring for anytime viewingand can be used from your phone, computeror tablet. The Motorola Scout allows you to control the camera with nearly perfect 360® vision. The Samsung has slightly better night vision, but doesn’t allow you to move the camera around remotely. Both are excellent selections for any home monitoring. The apps are free and easy to download and use.
Automated Pet Feeders
You want to make sure your pets are fed at the proper time each day, but occasionally traffic or work makes that impossible. Your pets wont’ have to wait anymore; now you can control feeding time with your phone.
The Wireless Whiskers automatic feeder monitors the diets and feeding levels of up to eight pets. Each animal wears a small chip and the feeding doors automatically open or close, depending on the animal’s individual feeding requirements.
Automated Pet Doors
PetSafe is known for its excellent use of technology, and its automated pet doors are some of the best we’ve seen. This custom pet door essentially gives your pets the decision to come in or go out. Using RFID technology, the door reads the special chip on your pet’s collar and allows him to enter at will. This is especially valuable for dogs who “steal” food from other pets (or raid litterboxes). By installing an extra door flap in your cat’s room, you can offer full access to your cat while keeping your dog out of the room. The SmartKey™ can detect up to five programmed SmartKeys and operates in two locked or unlocked modes.
Remote Potty Training
Train ‘n Praise is another new product from PetSafe. Using a special treat dispenser and moisture-detecting “pee pad”,the automatic dispenser offers your pet a treat when it senses moisture on the pad—the moisture is trapped in the lowest layer. The remote training device protects your floors and rewards your dog for using the pad correctly.
Nearly anything in the home can be automated these days and as they become more advanced, so do pet products. A home’s ambient temperature can be controlled from your phone, energy consumption can be monitored, lights can be turned on and off, doors can be remotely locked or unlocked.
Security companies are now offering extra coverage for homes and special features for pets. Take some time to explore the many features available for even the oldest of homes. You’ll probably be surprised to learn what your smart phone is capable of doing!
About the Author: Stacy Mantle is the founder of PetsWeekly.com and the bestselling author of “Shepherd’s Moon.” Learn more great tips for living with animals by visiting PetsWeekly.com or get to know a little more about the author at www.StacyMantle.com
For the Love of Cats
Valentine’s Day gift ideas for your favorite feline companion(s).
By Sandy Robins
There’s no question that our pets get to celebrate the holidays throughout the year, too. However, the next one up on the calendar, Valentine’s Day, is actually a difficult one for cats to celebrate by copycatting tradition people gifts because felines neither appreciate red roses nor chocolate, which is a big toxic no-no.
So what to do?
Cats are not that easy to shop for on Valentine’s Day in terms of themed merchandise. That said, you simply can’t go wrong with anything catnip, such as a plush mouse that can be filled and refreshed with dried catnip or a fresh catnip plant.
Kitty Cat Garden
Live plants should be placed in a bright position such as on the kitchen counter. Cats love to nibble on greens and a planter with different types of seeds—such as Pioneer Pet’s KittyGarden—makes a great gift, especially in multi-cat households. The wooden planter has four separate sections for 100 percent organic oats, wheat, rye and barley seeds. They begin sprouting in four to six days. And if you keep harvesting fresh greens for your cat, it can yield quite a crop.
A small, sealed aquarium of exotic fish or even a single betta fish, as long as it’s in a sealed, sturdy bowl, makes a nice decorative feature in a room and will provide endless hours of feline entertainment.
Super Cat Paper
Cats love crumpled paper and paper bags. So the feline paper items from Supercat—available in pet specialty stores and online—make great gifts for cats. Not only do they enjoy the sounds of the crinkly paper, but the products are infused with catnip to increase their enthusiasm!
Nothing says love quite like treats. This is a time to splurge and head for the pet store and purchase a variety of different flavors. However, it’s really important to know whether your cat likes her treats soft and chewy or crisp and crunchy. Some cats really enjoy treats that are crunchy on the outside with a soft center.
For cat lovers and pet parents, a nice coffee mug is always a welcome gift. If you simply Google “cat + coffee mug” a slew of fun designs will pop up. Even Grumpy Cat has her own mug, channeling Garfield and protesting that she hates Mondays …
The website Cafepress.com has a slew of fun cat-themed merchandise, including magnets, aprons, jewelry,, mouse pads and iPad covers. You name it there’s a variety of slogan and paw prints on everything imaginable. The craft site Etsy.com is another great place to explore.
For The Love of Cats
I can’t let this Valentine’s Day opportunity slip by without mentioning my cat book, which is aptly named “For The Love of Cats.” It’s a coffee-table collectible with beautiful illustrations by the talented Mark Anderson. The book is an alphabetical collection of fun rhymes and interesting feline factoids that cover everything from why the ancient Egyptians loved cats to the many “features” cat’s whiskers have. It’s available at www.SandyRobinsOnLine.Com.
While gifts are fun, there is no substitute for spending quality time with your favorite feline (or canine) and dispensing lots of extra hugs and kisses on Valentine’s Day. With love in the air, this is undoubtedly the best way to show your feelings to your pets.
About the Author: Sandy Robins is the 2013 winner of the “Excellence in Journalism and Outstanding Contribution to the Pet Industry Award.” Her work appears on many of the country’s leading pet platforms, such as MSNBC.com, MSN.com and TODAYShow.com. She is a regular contributor and columnist in multiple national and international publications, including Cat Fancy, as well as the author of the award-winning books “Fabulous Felines: Health and Beauty Secrets for the Pampered Cat” and “For The Love of Cats.” Learn more about Sandy on her website or Facebook page. #welovecats
I was recently reading an article on Dogster.com that spoke about tail docking and ear cropping. This article posses the question, is it cruel to crop ears and dock tails of animals?
As I read through the article there were some valid points made as to why it is cruel, and also why people shouldn’t allow these things to happen. More specifically the article touches on the fact that many breeders fear they will sell less of their dogs, if not adhering to the common practices and traits of the dog breed that they sell.
What is wrong with this picture?
Is it ignorant of people to consider tail docking a cruel act, when in fact the breeders are creating dogs that are not needed, as millions get euthanized for the lack of space in shelters? 30% of dogs in shelters are pure breeds.
I personally think a bigger concern than docking tails, should be…
Why do breeders continue breeding dogs, when there are so many who are killed everyday?
In this article the author has cited information based on opinion from a so called expert breeder, who is the second generation in breeding. After thirty years in the dog breeding business, one would think it is time to stop breeding animals and consider alternative means to making a living or livelihood.
This nation, and this industry, cannot continue to bare more dogs being bred for the vanity of “potential buyers.” If breeding continues, then so will euthanization of so many unwanted pets. We as a people who love animals, especially dogs, cannot expect to see the epidemic of animals being put down daily to ever reach a slow or progressive movement in the right direction as long as breeders continue breeding and ignorant people continue buying dogs from breeders.
Why do breeders continue breeding dogs?
#Adoptdontbuy – Please Adopt Your Pets, Don’t Buy Them. =)
Forever Pet Services
By Rebecca K. O’Connor
Awarded NAPPS 2014
Business of the Year
Heather Branch moved from the East Coast to California to chase her acting dreams. She soon became a familiar voice in Los Angeles. For six years she worked as a traffic reporter, delivering early morning and late afternoon radio reports on the state of the rush time commute. Then she realized that she wanted something different.
It was a hectic life, and although her early dreams had been focused on the acting industry, she found herself asking what really made her happy. She says, “When I came home from work every day, my dog Izzy was so excited to see me. I thought I wanted more of this in my life.” So she enrolled at Animal Behavior College to become certified as a dog obedience trainer and as a vet assistant. She quickly became certain this was the right course for her life.
Heather mentored with a dog trainer and interned at a vet office, but she was mainly interested in pet sitting. A pet sitter she found through NAPPS for her own animals was absolutely wonderful and Heather wanted to emulate her. Worried about stepping on toes, she called Debra Turk of All 4 Your Paws and asked about the business. Debra offered to let Heather work for her to get her feet wet and see if it was the right fit for her. Heather says, “She had been pet sitting for ten years and was wonderful. Having her teach me was amazing!”
The Beginnings of Best Friends Forever
There was no doubt that Heather loved the work and she knew the right thing for her was to start her own business. After two years of working for All 4 Your Paws, Debra suggested that Heather buy her business and they merge. This would allow Debra to focus on some other things in her life while still caring for some longtime clients. Heather jumped at the chance.
In January 2011, Heather set up her own LLC for Best Friends Forever Pet Services focusing on the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, California. It was a gradual year-long process to transition the company. At first the change was minimal, with Heather focusing on the business end and very little changing for clients.
After the transition was complete, Best Friends Forever had a grand opening party to rebrand the business. She rented a room at the local animal shelter and had a raffle to benefit the shelter. It was also a celebration. There is no doubt the merging was a success. The business grew 130% between 2011 and 2013.
Heather feels her success is due to that fact that she laid the foundation for her work. Rather than jumping fully in, she took the time to learn. She spent two years learning with Debra as well as putting in the work for her college certifications and for NAPPS certifications. She felt it was important to understand as much as possible about all the aspects of the job. Even though some of her schooling may not be exactly what she offers as a pet sitter, all of the information makes her a better sitter. For example, “I knew I wasn’t going to be training dogs, but I wanted to know what to do,” she explains.
She also feels that her success has a tremendous amount to do with her support system. “I knew I couldn’t do it alone and I didn’t want to do it alone,” says Heather. Having Debra made it all possible, but she has other help as well. Her husband, Scott Burt, is co-owner of Best Friends Forever while also working as an airborne traffic reporter. It isn’t unusual for Heather to hear the rush hour run down from her husband on the radio, but having a full-time job doesn’t get him out of helping. He loves pet sitting as well and often helps. “Sometimes we do jobs together, and that’s our date night,” Heather says, laughing.
Best Friends Forever has other staff as well, though, and Heather says that she is always on the lookout for potential staff, which has made building a team much easier. “The largest challenge is finding good reliable help,” says Heather. “The clients are resistant to meeting new people. They do not want to have to deal with a revolving door.”
One of Heather’s staff members was a fellow classmate she tracked down who was working as a dog trainer for Petco. After talking her into having lunch, Heather was able to convince her to work with her company as it grew. A second member of her staff is a client who became a friend, and when Heather saw potential in her as a pet sitter, she started working for Heather. Heather even has a member of her staff who was a fellow traffic reporter. When she heard Heather was getting into the pet sitting business, she asked if she and her husband could work with Heather part-time, and that has worked out really well. “Everything has gone slowly, but carefully and with observations,” says Heather. “I’m really happy to be providing jobs. We are always looking.”
Defining Your Goals
Best Friends Forever has priorities of “integrity, a spirit of service, cleanliness, continuing education, and charity.” These priorities, in addition to the business’s mission statement, help Heather stay on track. “If you are spiraling out of control you can look at your mission statement and get back to the basics,” says Heather. “If you have it in front of you and can look at it, it puts you back to why you are doing this in the first place and you can figure out where to go from there.”
NAPPS is an important component of meeting Best Friends Forever’s priorities as well. Heather says, “To me NAPPS equaled quality.” She signed up for NAPPS as soon as she started her business and utilized NAPPS resources immediately. “I learned so much even in the first tele-mentoring conference,” says Heather. “They are a must. Using NAPPS formatted paperwork and adjusting it to my needs has been incredibly helpful as well.”
Heather has also found chatting with peers incredibly helpful, whether on NAPPS Chat or in person. “You learn so much just from people chatting,” she says. “Even at the conference, I learned about dog running and lock boxes. Learning about new things coming up is important.”
Advice for New Pet Sitters
Even though Heather got into the business slowly and carefully, there are still some things she would do differently if she did it over again. “I would look into the pet sitting scheduling software. I’m still working those kinks out,” she says. “I would have started with Quickbooks as well. Now I really see the value of it.” Doing scheduling and monthly statements by hand can be incredibly time consuming and she can still find herself up until midnight working on paperwork.
From what she has learned so far, she advises those who are just getting started to lay the foundation and take their time. “Have all the paperwork ready before you open your doors,” she says. “And of course, NAPPS will help you with the paperwork and much more.” She also recommends being licensed, bonded, and insured. “Don’t do pet sitting at any price without insurance,” she says. “Make sure the insurance covers all animals. If you start taking money, you have to be insured.”
Looking at the Future
Right now Best Friends Forever has primarily suburban and city clients who often travel for work. The business caters to the upscale community in the hills as well. Clients include doctors, lawyers and a mix of other professionals. The majority of the services requested are daily dog walks, but Best Friends Forever also provides a lot of overnight sits.
Most of Heather’s clients have dogs and cats, but there are a few unusual city animals in the mix as well. “We’ve even cared for chickens,” says Heather, noting that letting them out in the morning is easy, but putting them back in at night is a little more challenging. “I have video of me herding chickens. It’s pretty funny,” she says.
Her plans are for the business to remain the same at its core, but to keep growing. However, she admits that she and Scott need to take a harder look at their work/life balance. “We need to evolve into having more of a personal life,” she says. “That is a goal of mine in the next year and that will happen by finding more good reliable help.”
For now, though, Heather couldn’t be happier to have moved out of the entertainment business and into the pet sitting business. “I know I’m doing something good because of the love I get from the animals every day. Nothing beats that,” she says. “They don’t care if you’re wearing business attire or makeup. They are just happy to see you.”
This article was written by Steven Appelbaum and featured in the Professional Pet Sitter – Winter Publication 2013-2014 – Published by NAPPS.
Choosing the Right Breed of Dog for Your Family
The topic of which breeds of dogs are the best breeds is always guaranteed
to stir up healthy debate. Why? Most people have breed preferences. As
a dog trainer for more than 30 years, I can say without reservation that
it is important to remember that each dog is an individual, regardless of
its breed. I have seen some breeds not normally considered suitable for
small children act as perfect pets and companions, while others that are
very commonly considered great choices for kids were absolutely not okay
around them. I do not say this to cause confusion, but to educate all readers
about the necessity of taking a few other precautions when bringing a dog
into a family with small children.
Whenever possible, you should observe the puppy’s mother and father. Are they friendly and sociable around kids? Granted, temperament is also influenced by environment, but at least some of a puppy’s disposition is inherited. This is why it pays to see how mom and dad interact as well.
As a huge proponent of rescues, I feel it is very possible that you can adopt
a wonderful dog that turns out to be a fabulous companion for your children. Getting a puppy at 8- to 10-weeks of age enables you to create the experiences that will shape his personality. Although puppy-hood can be trying, getting a young dog is the best way to ensure (as much as anyone can ensure behavior) that his personality develops into the child-loving, good-natured companion you desire.
Remember that a dog’s breed is not a guarantee of the dog’s behavior. Whether you get a puppy or an older dog, it is important to observe his or her behavior prior to adoption or purchase. Is the dog fearful or skittish? Is the dog comfortable being handled? Is he/she friendly without being insanely rambunctious? You are looking for a dog that is very comfortable around people, one that is not fazed by sudden movements or being touched or hugged.
Basically, you need a dog that will not react negatively to the types of behavior the average small child will engage in with his or her dog. Here is a very short list (by no means complete) of some excellent breeds for small children.
Labs are wonderful, friendly dogs. They are usually eager to please and
tolerant of the sort of handling little tykes so often dole out. They are sturdy too, which is important with small kids. You will need to train the dog so he or she learns to be gentle and not knock the kids over out of sheer joy and exuberance.
They are very similar to Labs, although in my experience sometimes a bit calmer. They do shed a bit more than Labs.
I will admit to being a bit biased on the topic of Bassets. I have “been owned” by them for the past few decades. That said, my preference is based on experience. Bassets are often islands of calm, which is nice when the kids are bouncing off the walls. They tolerate the roughest treatment with a shrug and tail wag. They are goofy, friendly, wonderful dogs. A downside is they sometimes have a pretty distinctive hound smell, which is not for everyone. Still, these are amazing kid-friendly dogs. One other thing: they can get bigger than a lot of people realize. Males can weigh 85-plus pounds, making them a handful.
Strange choice? Not really. These gentle giants are great kid dogs. They are calm, loving, and infinitely tolerant. The only things to understand about the breed are 1) They often don’t live very long, only 8 to 11 years, and 2) they shed—and drool. Plus, well, they are huge, which poses its own challenges. Still, if you are looking for a lot of dog that is great with kids, this can be a very wise choice.
This is a good pick for children or parents with allergies. Poodles are highly intelligent and friendly, have good temperaments, and are good with children. Standard poodles are sturdy dogs who can withstand a fair amount of rough kiddie treatment. I have always liked this breed and over the years have seen numerous families with these dogs.
You will notice I did not pick any smaller breeds — bichon frise, cocker spaniels, etc. In my experience, the average one- to four-year-old child is, by his or her very nature, too rough for smaller breeds. It is better to choose a larger dog that can deal with small children’s normal behavior than delude yourself into thinking you will be able to monitor their interaction and thus keep everyone safe. Remember there is risk for the dog as well as the child.
Again, remember that every dog is an individual and if you are introducing a dog into a home with children, you should do research before you choose the right dog for your family.