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
ABC Veterinary Assistant Program
Student of the Month
Edith Theadora Haralampous
Edith Theadora Haralampous or “Thea” is an ABC Veterinary Assistant Student from Cleveland, Ga. Growing up on a farm, Thea was lucky enough to be exposed to a lot of different animals. That is where her passion for animals started. When she was younger, her cousin and his wife started an animal rescue operation and Thea worked with them every day after school and on the weekends. This is where she learned a lot about the care of animals and it definitely boosted her longing to help them. While in the program, Thea completed her 90-hour externship at Animal Medical Care where she was hired on for a full time position as a vet assistant due to her knowledge and wonderful work. Thea is now being trained as a veterinary technician. Continue reading
ABC Grooming Instruction Program Canadian Student of the Month– January 2014
Tania Langrehr, who lives in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, was hired by her mentor at Animazing Pet Spa and is now working full time as a dog groomer. Although grooming was not her first choice for a career, she always new she wanted to work with animals. Tania is perfecting her skills and hopes to one day own her own grooming shop. Continue reading
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. =)
Dog Obedience Instruction Program
Canadian Student of the Month
As a young girl, ABC Graduate Stephanie McSweenie always wanted to become either a veterinarian or a zookeeper. However, because she could not stand to see animals in pain, even though she would be helping them, she decided to become a dog trainer. While she and her friend were looking online for colleges to attend after high school, they came across Animal Behavior College. It wasn’t until after Stephanie applied at a local doggie daycare that she made her final decision. Her soon-to-be-boss had an ABC Graduate Certificate on the wall in the lobby. She currently lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and, will be starting as a full-time trainer for Posh Pooch Hotel & Daycare in February. Continue reading
ABC Grooming Instruction Program Student of the Month
Jennifer Antonacci lives in Hoboken, N.J., and came to ABC by way of the financial sector. After working as a vice president recruiter on Wall Street for several years, she decided to change her career path and become a certified dog groomer. Jennifer’s dogs—Charlie, a chocolate lab mix, and Sweet Pea, a Chihuahua mix—are both rescues. They inspired her to become a groomer and help other shelter dogs. Jennifer continues to work at her mentor’s shop and perfects her skills every day. Continue reading
ABC Dog Training Program
Student of the Month
Sandy Nelson Alexander
ABC student, Sandy Alexander of Worchester, Mass., has always had a passion for dogs. While she loves cats, too, she is allergic to them. Sandy worked for 20 years as a restaurant manager while raising her daughter. When her daughter has moved out and on her own, Sandy thought, “Now it’s ‘my’ time,” although she didn’t really know which direction she wanted to go. One day, Sandy saw an ad for Animal Behavior College on Facebook; curious, she clicked on it. After looking through the website, she made a phone call and signed up for the Dog Obedience Program. Continue reading
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.