For both pet owners and pet-care professionals, pet travel safety is an increasingly important issue. According to the AAA/Kurgo Pet Passenger Safety Study, nearly 56% of people transport their dog in their car at least once per month.
So, we checked in with our friends at Kurgo®, the leading manufacturer of pet travel safety products, for tips that will help keep your pets (and your clients’ pets) safe while traveling this summer.
Pet Travel Safety Tips for You & Your Dog:
Whether it’s taking dogs to parks or transporting dogs to and from your clients, you probably drive your clients’ pets and your own pets around in the car quite a bit.
In order to ensure the safety of your charges, there are some basic safety tips you should follow:
1. Leash your dog before opening the car door. Every year hundreds of pets are lost or injured as they dart out of cars uncontrolled. Be sure to collar, ID tag, and leash your dog before opening the car door. When in a strange and busy environment, pets can be frightened and run off into traffic or to places that are difficult to find. Have control of your dog(s) at all times.
2. Keep heads, arms, & legs inside the car. Many dogs love to put their head out of the window or ride in the back of a truck. But if it isn’t safe for children, then it isn’t safe for a pet.
Not only are there risks of being hit by other traffic or roadside objects, the ASPCA reports that dogs can also get debris in their eyes and lungs leading to illness. Some dogs have also been known to jump out of car windows while driving or stopped, running into traffic or getting lost.
3. Keep pets out of the front seat. Increasingly, accidents are being caused by distracted driving. 30% of people admit to being distracted by their dog while driving, according to the AAA/Kurgo Study.
Pets should never be in the front seat of the car while driving and they definitely should not be on your lap. Pets should be in the back seat or the cargo area. If you have a hard time keeping pets in the back seat, there are a number of products that can contain them. For example, there are several types of backseat barriers that fit between the two front seats to keep pets in the backseat. Innovative products, such as the Auto Grass, sit on a car console and deter Fido from taking a step forward and into the front seat.
4. Restrain pets for safety. Another way to keep dogs out of the front seat is to restrain them. There are a number of different options for doing this. Some people prefer to crate their pet, but make sure that crate is secure by using a pet carrier restraint attached to the car’s seatbelt system.
If your pet needs a little more freedom, you can use a dog harness and seat belt tether to give them lead to sit or lay down but still protect them in case of a crash. If you know Fido just will not stand for that, you can also connect a dog harness to a zipline that goes the width of the backseat which allows them to walk back and forth. This is not as safe as a seat belt tether, but it will keep them out of the front seat.
5. Keep your dog hydrated. Make sure your pets have plenty of water to drink in the car or stop frequently to re-hydrate. Many dogs pant excessively in the car making hydration even more essential. A dog travel bowl is handy to have for trips.
6. Never leave your dog alone. Hopefully, it goes without saying that dogs should never be left alone in a car regardless of the weather. The obvious danger is heat. On an 85-degree day, within 10 minutes the car inside temperature can rise to 120, even with the windows cracked open. The other danger is that your pet will attract thieves.
Take 30% Off all the Dog Travel Gear you Need for Summer
Kurgo is offering The PSI Blog readers a 30% Off Coupon for any of their Dog Travel Products through August 15, 2014. Just use coupon code: PSISUMMER30 on the Kurgo site to receive your special discount.
Terms & Conditions: Expires 8/15/14. One use per household. Cannot be combined with other discounts or promotions. Must use coupon at time of check out. Coupon cannot be applied to past orders. Valid on in-stock product only. Discount applies to product only, not taxes or shipping.
Update: We are updating this blog post as we hear about more scams targeting pet sitters. Keep reading for the recent scams fellow pet sitters have received and shared with us.
For the last few years, Pet Sitters International has reported on internet scams targeting pet sitters. PSI members described suspicious e-mails soliciting their services. Unfortunately, this beast is rearing its ugly head again and PSI wants you to be aware!
While the most recent scam we’ve learned of does not seem to be targeting pet sitters on the PSI Pet Sitter Locator (but on a similar site), we want you all to be aware. The new wave of scams reported to us this month involve the same old scheme but with different players.
A pet sitter shares her experience with an e-mail scammer
Thanks to pet sitter Stacey Evans, owner of The Pet Concierge in Maine, for sharing the information she received from a new scammer using the name “Jeffrey Martins” and e-mailing from a Hotmail address.
Here’s the first e-mail she received:
On Fri, May 23, 2014 at 10:21 AM, Jeffrey Martin wrote:
My name is Jeffrey Martins and i contacted you because i am in need of a caring, kind and patient pet sitter for my Pet dog Blitzen,i got your information on the Petsit LLC website.... blitzen is a Golden retriever, very calm,playful and always happy.. he is good around other dogs....
Please contact me back if you think you are interested in take care of blitzen
Of course, she replied to him to offer additional information about the services she offered and invited him to read her client testimonials and send more specific details about the dates he needed service, etc.
Then, she received this e-mail:
On Thu, May 29, 2014 at 9:57 AM, Jeffrey Martin wrote:
Thank you for your response concerning the Pet sitting/Dog walking job,My name is Jefferey Martins ,am married with a daughter named (July) and my Wife Elizabeth then our Pet dog(blitzen),We are a devoted christian family coming in to the United states am planning a vacation to the states with families and our adorable dog for few period of time in USA from Ontario Canada,so we have located it and decided to have our family work on all we need before moving into your neighborhood ,we have a very adorable dog (Blitzen) ,he is cute and adorable(Golden Retriever) he is very friendly and playful.he is also very much comfortable with other dogs and cat too he enjoys being indoors with US. Going for walks is Blitzen's very favorite activity. he plays well with other dogs too. Blitzen is house trained and crate trained... I would be needing the service of a caring with positive personality to take good care of Blitzen because i want him to have a wonderful stay and will like to make provision for you to take good care of him for us.More so,I will be making arrangements in renting an apartment close to you but it depends on your location as i will be needing your services,I need you to take care of Blitzen around the hours of 2 - 6 pm from Mondays through Fridays or anytime you are convenient with,you just have to let me know your time schedule as for us to fix a time that won't be a problem or inconvenience your other daily activities ,You would only be needed for 20 hrs per week at your convenience and will like you to get back to me with your available hours.
We will be arriving in The states(7th of June 2014), which means if you accept to work with blitzen you can begin to work with us on the 8th or the 9th of June..I will be needing your service for up to 2 months or more, and willing to offer you $400.00 per week with benefits as compensation for a trustworthy and honest candidate.Also i will like to know if you can also help us run little errands before our arrival too.. if you agree with us, our location will not be far from you which are the reason why we want to secure a pet sitter before our Agent get us a house the Keys and the description of the house will be mailed to you as soon as possible. We have a financier that is based in the states and will be handling the payment and as well as our other expenses, so he will be the one that will be taking care of your payment, I will instruct him to pay for the first week before our arrival so as to secure your service. As soon as we reach a concrete agreement, I can instruct our financier to process a cashier’s check to you for the payment i will be waiting to read from you with Your schedule and other questions which you have to ask us..
Will be waiting to read from you
Jeffery Martins and Family
A few more e-mail exchanges took place and she shared her contact information, including business address with him at his request. Subsequently, she received a cashier’s check that was to be payment for the services he requested.
Here’s Stacey’s account of what happened next:
“He said he was sending me a check for $400 (one week) so I could get started helping to get the house ready. The cashier's check was sent via Fedex for several months' work and the dollar amount wasn't a round figure. I wondered if this had to do with an exchange rate. Nevertheless, I'd become quite suspicious and started my research last night. The paper was perforated and looked secure. The check was issued from USBank in MN and mailed from NY. I called US Bank and tried to validate the check. They said they couldn't say anything either way with the information I provided.
I sent Mr. Martin an email last night stating US Bank cannot validate the availability of funds for that check and asking if he would he mind a different form of payment such as a money order. I also asked him for the name of the realtor as a local reference. Needless to say, I haven't received a reply.
I went to my credit union today and through their investigation, concluded it was a forgery.”
Another e-mail scam: "Bella Needs Care"
Another scam PSI-member pet sitters have brought to our attention starts with an e-mail with the subject line: "Bella needs care."
Here's the e-mail she received:
I just saw your post as a pet caregiver on www.petsit.com and I'm hoping to talk with you more about it. How many years of professional pet sitting experience have you accumulated while working with Pets? Can I contract your services for my pet, a Samoyed dog by the name Bella? I shall be needing services starting from August 4th and would stretch till September 3rd. I'm flexible with start time but preferably between 10AM-11AM, when i will be off to work. At least a minimum of 1hrs daily, (MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAYS).
Services include walking, feeding and general care. You will be caring for her at my rented suite. Can you tell me your exact location (i.e the closest Major Intersection to your home) so I can calculate how close it will be to my rented suite and also to make further arrangements for the task. I look forward to reading from you soon.
This scammer, like the others we've heard about, will eventually ask for your contact information and will send a (fake) cashier's check for you to deposit.
Protecting your pet-sitting business from scammers
If you receive a suspicious e-mail, the FBI encourages you to file a complaint at www.IC3.gov. While you’re there, be sure to read up on tips to help you avoid being scammed, such as the following:
Counterfeit Cashier's Check
- Inspect the cashier's check.
- Ensure the amount of the check matches in figures and words.
- Check to see that the account number is not shiny in appearance.
- Be watchful that the drawer's signature is not traced.
- Official checks are generally perforated on at least one side.
- Inspect the check for additions, deletions or other alterations.
- Contact the financial institution on which the check was drawn to ensure legitimacy.
- Obtain the bank's telephone number from a reliable source, not from the check itself.
- Be cautious when dealing with individuals outside of your own country.
We might add that the old adage “if something sounds too good to be true it probably is” definitely applies here. New pet sitters may be particularly susceptible to this type of scam and dismiss warning signs if they are in a rush to get clients. At the very least, make sure all checks clear before you spend the funds!
If something doesn’t sound right, the best thing to do is follow your instincts and simply delete the e-mail. Remember, it’s far better to spend your time on good clients than to waste your time and money on fishy ones!
You can view PSI’s previous article on pet-sitting scams here for descriptions of other scam e-mails pet sitters have received. You can also learn more about online scams on the FBI website.
Advertising your pet-sitting business is an ongoing task. As clients relocate and more pet-care options enter your area, marketing your business is necessary for continued growth.
Download PSI’s free e-book: The Top 5 Advertising Methods Used by Professional Pet Sitters.
Maybe you always keep business cards handy and you’ve participated in all of the recent local pet fairs and festivals, but you just aren’t getting as many new clients as you’d like. Or, maybe you have grown so dependent upon word-of-mouth promotions that you want to try some new avenues for promoting your business but you aren’t sure where to start.
The best marketing ideas often come from fellow pet sitters, so PSI recently posed this question on its Facebook page:
“Pet sitters, share your marketing ideas below. Is there a specific marketing idea that's worked really well for your business (event participation, your business website, an e-newsletter, etc.)?”
We’ve compiled the most common suggestions provided by PSI pet sitters to provide the list below.
Ten marketing ideas you can try this summer (or any time this year) for your pet-sitting business:
1. Word of mouth (client referrals). Time and again pet sitters tell (and PSI’s State of the Industry finds the statistics to prove it) that word of mouth is the top form of advertising they use. A happy client will share your information with co-workers, family and friends in need of pet-care services. Consider boosting client referrals by offering some type of referral reward system. One pet sitter shared that she offers a $10 referral bonus each time a client refers a new client that books pet-sitting services. She said she always sees a boost in referrals near her current clients’ vacation times, as they look to apply these savings to their upcoming visits.
2. Referrals. Many pet sitters noted that they are able to gain new pet-sitting clients through referrals from veterinarians and other pet-care professionals, such as trainers and groomers.
Referrals won’t likely happen overnight, however, unless you already have an existing relationship with your local veterinarians, trainers and groomers. If you haven’t networked with these pet professionals before, schedule a time to drop by and introduce yourself and your pet-sitting business. Remember to bring your pet-sitter presentation book with you.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t simply ask the veterinarian (or trainer, groomer, etc.) to share your brochures or business cards with their clients and offer nothing in return. One pet sitter explained she and a local pet salon worked together to offer clients a special rate when using the pet sitter’s pet taxi service to transport pets to their pet salon appointments. Both she and the pet salon owner benefitted from the co-promotion.
3. Social Media. Multiple pet sitters responding to our Facebook post raved about the positive impact using social media had on their pet-sitting businesses. More than half of PSI pet sitters report using social media for their pet-sitting businesses. PSI’s survey found that, overwhelmingly, Facebook is the social media site of choice for pet sitters. If you don’t have a Facebook page for your pet-sitting business, consider setting up a page—it’s quick and free to create. If you are already on Facebook, take a close look at your company’s social media strategy and see if you are using social media to its fullest potential. Be sure to check out these six tips to improve your pet-sitting service’s social media presence.
4. Vehicle signage. If you are like many pet sitters, you spend a lot of time driving in your vehicle. Many pet sitters have found success letting their vehicle advertise for them by using magnetic vehicle signage. The great thing about magnetic signs for your vehicle is that they can be easily removed when you are on actual pet sits to protect your clients’ privacy. One pet sitter explained she kept her magnetic signage on her vehicle when going to meet and greets so she was easily identifiable by the pet owners when she arrived to meet them for the first time, but removed the signage when she performed the actual pet-sitting assignment.
Keep your signage on your vehicle when you are running errands or attending local events. One pet sitter described how when she would go to the grocery store in a local shopping center, she would park her vehicle (with magnetic signage) a few stores down in front of a local pet store then walk to the grocery store. She said that she had returned to her car many times to find pet owners standing behind her vehicle writing down the contact information from her vehicle signage.
Some pet sitters also use vehicle business card holders and brochure holders. Waterproof business card and brochure holders can be easily attached to your vehicle window any time you park your car—and give pet owners an opportunity to grab a brochure or business card to learn more about your pet-sitting business even when you are not around to meet them.
5. Website. In today’s Internet-driven world, a website is a must for your pet-sitting business. If you don’t have one, start working on a plan to establish an online presence for your pet-sitting business. In the meantime, you can create a Facebook page (which will show up in online search results). One pet sitter responding on Facebook said that when she started pet sitting, the first thing she did was create her website—and more than 90% of her clients said they found her online.
If you are just getting started with your online presence, be sure to check out these five tips for creating your pet-sitting business website.
6. Online listings. In addition to your website, make sure your company’s information is also posted and up-to-date in other places around the Web. If your pet-sitting business is listed on PSI’s Pet Sitter Locator, make sure your information is accurate. There are also many local online directories and review sites to consider, such as Yelp, Yahoo Local and Google Places. Many pet sitters also promote their pet-sitting services on other free sites like Craigslist.
You can also find a plethora of online pet-sitter directories that have popped up on the Internet in recent years. Posting on these sites can be a way to increase your online presence and attract new clients, but you want to do your research before posting your business information on any online pet-sitter directory.
7. Press releases. Press releases are still one of the best ways to promote your business. Local media coverage is low cost, can be highly targeted, uses the credibility of neutral third-party endorsements, builds image and can generate leads. Check out this previous blog post with tips for getting your pet-sitting business featured by local news outlets. Make sure your press release is timely and relevant. You could write a press release on the projected increase in summer travel and offer tips for traveling pet owners, or you could share a press release that offers tips on keeping pets safe in the summer months. PSI members can download a customizable press release template, “Surviving the Dog Days of Summer,” in the Members’ area of petsit.com.
8. E-mail your current clients. Your current clients offer your best opportunity to increase your revenues this summer. While social media sites like Facebook and Twitter offer an easy way to connect with your current clients, don’t forget about the power of e-mail marketing. Send an e-Newsletter out to current clients reminding them to book early for their summer pet-sitting needs. Some pet sitters even offer a special discount for clients who book early. This e-Newsletter is also a good time to encourage your current clients to spread the word about your pet-sitting business to their friends and family who may also be in need of pet-sitting services this summer. If you offer any type of referral discount or incentive, be sure to mention it in this e-mail.
9. Ramp up your local advertising. Now is the time to post your pet-sitting business cards, flyers and brochures everywhere you can think of. Be sure to keep a supply of business cards or flyers with you so that you can post them any time you see a bulletin board—at the local grocery stores, pet stores, post office, etc. Contact your local travel agency to see if you could make your brochures available in their office. Local realtors are a good connection to have as well, as they can distribute information about your pet-sitting services to new home buyers year-round.
10. Creative marketing. As you approach the summer months, it’s important to increase the marketing efforts you’ve already been using that are working for you from business cards and flyers to social media promotion. It is also a good time to think outside the box and try new marketing tactics that you may not have considered before. Consider buying advertising in a local school’s yearbook or in a local sports league’s program guide. Both often offer inexpensive advertising options. Is there a spring or summer outdoor concert series in your community? See if there are sponsorship opportunities. If there is a local family friendly restaurant you frequent, see if you can make coloring sheets available (with your company information included) for the staff to pass out to patrons with children. Depending on where you live and the activities available, there are countless ways for you to reach out to local pet owners through free or low-cost promotions.
More Marketing Ideas for Your Pet-Sitting Business
Need more marketing ideas for your pet-sitting business? PSI has just released its latest free e-book: The Top 5 Advertising Methods Used by Professional Pet Sitters.
Are there any unique marketing ideas that have worked for your pet-sitting business? Share your ideas in the comments section below.
May 18-24, 2014, is National Dog Bite Prevention Week.
Did you know that 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)? Almost one in five of these who are bitten require medical attention—and half of these are children.
The CDC also reports that adults with two or more dogs in the home are five times more likely to be bitten than those without dogs.
Dog bites and their impact on professional pet-sitting businesses.
As a professional pet sitter, would your business be able to afford to take a client’s dog on a $90,000 walk in the park? Insurance and bonding are two expenses that no one wants to think about, pay for or use, but are both essential to every pet-sitting business. Given today’s litigious society, you should not go unprotected.
The reality is that accidents can and do happen every day. Professional pet sitters have very unique liability exposures that are often overlooked. From a liability standpoint, professional pet sitters are responsible for both the pets and property in their care, as well as any property damage or bodily injury that could potentially happen to a third party.
David Pearsall, director of sales and marketing for Business Insurers of the Carolinas (BIC), the company that underwrites the majority of bonding and liability insurance policies for members of Pet Sitters International, said that dog bites are not the most frequent insurance claim he receives, but are often very costly.
“We typically see anywhere between 15-25 dog-bite claims (bites to humans other than sitter, their employees or ICs) annually,” Pearsall said. “But all though we don’t see as many of these claims, they do have a higher payout than more traditional care, custody and control claims like injuries to pets and property damage.”
Pearsall shared a few examples of dog-bite claims that BIC has received:
- A dog bit a small child on the face at a park. Total paid $90,000.
- Jogger bit on hand and stomach while running by a pet sitter walking a dog. Total paid $46,368.
- While an insured pet sitter was walking several dogs on a sidewalk, one of the dogs bit a jogger. Total paid $15,379.
- Dog ran wrong way and was grabbed by a stranger to return to pet sitter. Stranger was bit on the face, requiring stitches. Total paid $5,591.
- A dog in a pet sitter’s care bit another dog, which required medical attention. Total paid $902.
Pearsall said that dog-bite claims range anywhere from $2,500 to $100,000+ (with the average being around $30,000) and typically occur in parks or public places.
“Most dog bites occur while the pet sitter is walking or playing with their clients’ dogs,” Pearsall said. Joggers, bicyclists, small children and strangers trying to break up fights between dogs are also common dog-bite victims.”
What if you get bitten by a dog?
One dog-bite claim your pet-sitter insurance could definitely not cover: If you are bit by a dog while pet sitting. What’s more, this type of on-the-job injury is also not likely to be covered by your personal medical insurance.
PSI Preferred Provider Business Insurers of the Carolinas (BIC) offers workers’ compensation and occupational accident insurance, and these types of coverage are the best way to protect you and your business against injuries to you and your employees or ICs.
Previously, only workers’ compensation insurance would cover injuries incurred by you and your independent contractors while on the job. However, the cost of worker’s comp can be cost prohibitive for the independent pet-sitting business owner or IC.
PSI pet sitters now have access to Occupational Accident Insurance (OAI) through Business Insurers of the Carolinas. The OAI rate for PSI members is one-third to one-half the rate of a typical workers’ comp insurance policy and covers pet sitters against injuries (including, but not limited to dog bites, slips and falls) that occur while pet sitting, traveling to a pet’s or client’s destination and performing any contracted pet-care service. For more information, contact Business Insurers of the Carolinas.
Pet sitters, share these dog-bite prevention tips with your clients.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), children are the most common dog-bite victims by far, and are far more likely to be severely injured. Senior citizens are the second most common victims.
If you or your clients have small children, please be sure to share these dog bite prevention safety tips from the CDC with them:
- Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
- Do not run from a dog or scream.
- Remain motionless when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
- If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and be still.
- Do not play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
- Immediately report stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior to an adult.
- Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
- Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
- Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
- If bitten, immediately report the bite to an adult.
For more information on dog bite prevention, please visit the CDC Web site.
For more information on insurance and bonding, please visit Business Insurers of the Carolinas. Business Insurers has been providing General Liability specifically designed for pet sitter associations since 1995. Their coverage includes the broadest Care, Custody and Control coverage for the pets and property in your care whether at your client’s home, in transit or at your home.
April is Pet First Aid Awareness Month—and it’s the perfect time for pet-sitting professionals and pet owners to brush up on tips to keep their pets healthy, happy and safe.
Dr. Emily Pointer, DVM, at Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City, said that the most important aspect pet owners should take away from National Pet First Aid Awareness Month is how critical it is to be prepared.
“An emergency situation can be handled much faster and more appropriately if an owner has resources like a first aid kit and list of important phone numbers (veterinarian, emergency animal hospital and poison control) easily accessible,” Dr. Pointer said.
Just like people, most pet accidents happen in or nearby the home. Examples of the most common pet accidents include:
- toxic ingestion,
- dog bites,
- high rise syndrome,
- ripped toenails,
- foreign body ingestions with gastrointestinal problems,
- eye emergencies,
- broken bones,
- trouble giving birth and
- being hit by a car.
One way to be prepared is to have a pet first aid kit on hand.
An article in the March/April 2014 issue of Pet Sitter’s WORLD magazine offers these suggestions for your Pet First Aid Kit, provided by Pet Poison Helpline®.
First aid kit contents:
- Hydrogen peroxide 3% (within the expiration date)
- An oral dosing syringe or turkey baster (for administering hydrogen peroxide)
- Teaspoon/tablespoon set (to calculate the appropriate amount of hydrogen peroxide to give)
- Liquid hand dish washing detergent (i.e., Dawn, Palmolive)
- Rubber gloves
- Triple antibiotic ointment with NO other combination ingredients—NOT for use in CATS!)
- Vitamin E oil
- Diphenhydramine tablets 25 mg (with NO other combination ingredients)
- Ophthalmic saline solution or artificial tears
- Can of tuna packed in water or tasty canned pet food
- Sweet electrolyte-containing beverage
- Corn syrup
- Vegetable oil
Remember, before you attempt anything with your new pet first aid kit, it is always important to speak with a poison control specialist before you try any therapies at home. You will never want to administer the hydrogen peroxide to a pet without checking with a veterinary professional first. In some situations, it is not appropriate to induce vomiting at home.
You should also never administer over-the-counter human medications to pets without first speaking to a toxicologist or veterinary professional.
One helpful resource is the Pet Poison Helpline: 1 (800) 213-6680 or www.petpoisonhelpline.com.
According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), 25 percent more pets would survive if just one pet first aid technique were applied prior to getting emergency veterinary care.
After you’ve administered first aid, it is still extremely important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Many emergencies cannot be managed—even in the initial period—with simple pet first aid procedures.
Call your veterinarian (or, if pet sitting, the client’s veterinarian), an emergency veterinary center or poison control immediately—and remember, above all, to STAY CALM.
Because toxic ingestion (pet poisons) is such a common pet accident, it’s also important to be familiar with the most common pet toxins. Learn more in this article, “What Are You Doing to Prevent Pet Poisoning?”
Members of Pet Sitters International have access to resources to keep the pets in their care healthy, happy and safe year-round. To learn more about starting your own pet-sitting business, download this free resources from PSI: 5 Must-Do Steps for Starting a Successful Pet-Sitting Business.
To find your local PSI pet sitter, visit the PSI Pet Sitter Locator. You can also find the Ultimate Pet First Aid Kit at The Pet Sitter Shop.
Professional pet sitters rely on word of mouth to sustain their pet-sitting businesses. A great website, high-quality marketing materials and impressive credentials can go a long way in contributing to a successful business—but at the end of the day, your company’s reputation determines whether pet owners will pick up the phone to call you (or send you an e-mail) to schedule a pet-sitting visit.
It will take time to build a great reputation for your pet-sitting business. Each client interaction, pet-sitting assignment, networking event and media mention contributes to your company’s overall reputation. But, while it takes a long time to establish yourself as THE pet sitter to use, your pet-sitting reputation can be tarnished by a simple mistake.
While it’s easy to think “this would never happen to me,” even experienced pet sitters can slip up, particularly when they are overworked or burned out.
Whether you are new to the pet-sitting industry or a pet sitter veteran, take time to review your company’s policies and procedures to ensure you don’t fall victim to one of these five pet-sitting mistakes that can ruin your company’s reputation:
1. Not being insured. Perhaps you are just getting started and think you cannot afford pet-sitter liability insurance yet. Or, maybe you are a long-time pet sitter, and with paperwork piled high on your desk, you forget to renew your pet-sitter liability insurance policy. Whatever the case may be, not maintaining pet-sitter liability insurance is risky business. Not only is maintaining insurance coverage a hallmark of running a professional pet-sitting service, not having insurance can cripple your pet-sitting business. Imagine a running toilet or leaky faucet overflows and damages the flooring on the upper and lower levels of a client’s home—or a client’s dog dashes past you and is seriously injured when hit by a car. Mistakes or accidents can happen to even the most experienced pet sitter—and mistakes like this have resulted in insurance claims nearing $100K. Not having insurance coverage if a situation did arise would likely result in legal action by your client and could lead to financial ruin from your company—both would lead to negative press and word of mouth that could quickly damage your pet-sitting company’s reputation.
2. Missing a visit. Over the years, we’ve heard from (and about) pet sitters who had missed a pet-sitting visit/s for a variety of reasons—accidentally writing down the wrong dates, forgetting to write down the assignment at all, overbooking and being involved in an accident or emergency situation. At the very least, missing a visit will shake your client’s trust in your reliability. At the worst, missing a visit could result in danger—and even death—for the pets. Make sure your company has safeguards in place to prevent you from missing a visit—for any reason.
Some ideas to consider:
- Only book new pet-sitting assignments during your office hours when you are at your computer or scheduling book. (It’s too easy to answer a call and accept an assignment when you’re “on the go” and then forget to write it down.)
- Have a policy in place that you will contact a client two to three days prior to the scheduled pet-sitting visit. Note that your client should contact you to confirm the assignment if they do not hear from you. This system of “checks and balances” is a standard policy for many pet sitters.
- Learn to say “no.” There are only so many hours in the day and overbooking can lead to stress for you and be detrimental to your clients’ pets –and your business reputation—if you miss a visit.
- Always have a backup plan. In the event that you are in an accident or become ill, have a back-up sitter than can complete your pet-sitting assignments for you. Also, carry a Pet Sitter Emergency Card that would alert law enforcement or medical professionals that your backup pet sitter should be contacted if you were in an accident and incapacitated.
3. Leaving a visit early (or arriving late). Make sure the expectations are clear. Your clients should know that while you may not guarantee specific times for pet-sitting visits, you will come during specific morning, midday and evening timeframes. If, for some reason, you cannot arrive at an assignment during the agreed upon time, use a backup sitter. Or, if you are only slightly late, be honest and note that in your pet-sitting visit notes. Increasingly, clients are checking the times pet sitters arrive and depart by the tracking information provided by their home’s alarm system or by indoor or outdoor cameras. It’s also important to adhere to the visit length you’ve agreed to in your pet-sitting contract. Unless you’ve specifically discussed this with the client and they’ve agreed (for example, some pet sitters offer shorter check-in visiting on busy holidays), you should never shorten a visit. It’s unfair to the client and their pets. Clients who feel as if they‘ve been “cheated” will be quick to share this information with fellow pet owners—and your company’s reputation will suffer.
4. Bringing visitors inside the home without permission. It may seem harmless—you are staying at a client’s home for an overnight sit and a spouse, partner or friend wants to stop by. Perhaps, a pet has made a big mess—or you are short for time—and ask a friend or boyfriend/girlfriend to stop by and help you; allowing anyone into a client’s home without their permission violates a client’s trust and could do definite damage to your company’s reputation. Also, if you use staff sitters, make sure clients understand that you—or anyone from your staff—may be assigned to their pet-sitting assignment. PSI recently heard from a pet owner who was distraught to see a face she did not recognize on her home’s web cam while she was away. It ended up that the man was a staff sitter for the particular pet-sitting company she hired. While he was, in fact a credible, trained, background-checked pet sitter, the client still felt violated because she had not been made aware that a stranger would have access to her home and pets. Your clients trust you with their most valuable possessions (and their pets!), make sure you do not give them a reason to doubt your trustworthiness and criticize you to other local pet owners.
5. Badmouthing clients or competitors. We’ve all had those days—a client asks what seems like an outrageous request or another local pet sitter does something you’d never do, and your first thought it post a quick update on Facebook, tweet about it or, perhaps, even mention it to another client or business associate. Think twice. While sharing pet-sitting experiences with fellow pet sitters in your local pet-sitting network or chatting about situations with other pet sitters online are great opportunities to learn from one another, always be careful when and where you share sensitive information. Be especially cautious on social media—while you may not have clients who can see your personal Facebook page or your posts in a pet-sitters only group on Facebook, it’s never 100% private. With Facebook’s frequent security changes, what you think are private posts are sometimes accessible by the public. And even if not, you never know who someone else knows. A friend on your Facebook page could know a client and report back on your negative comments. Even if your client (or the fellow pet sitter) doesn’t find out, your negative posts could cause others to question your respect of privacy or business ethics. It’s not the reputation you want for your pet-sitting business.
Are there any other reputation-ruining mistakes you would add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
If you are interested in becoming a professional pet sitter, find out how PSI can help you build and grow your pet-sitting business. You can also test drive a PSI membership free for five days.
Pet Sitters International (PSI) Celebrates 20 Years on Vimeo.
This month marks two very special events for Pet Sitters International (PSI):
- March 2-8 is the 20th annual celebration of Professional Pet Sitters Week
- March 17 marks 20 years in business for PSI.
How did Professional Pet Sitters Week get started?After a corporate layoff in 1983, Patti J. Moran decided to start her own small pet-sitting business
—a service unheard of at the time. As requests for information on starting a similar business came in from around the globe, Moran’s passion for pets—and her new pet-sitting business—led her to create an international association and spearhead an entirely new industry. PSI, the professional pet-sitting organization Moran founded in 1994, is now the world’s leading educational association for pet sitters, and March 2-8 marks the 20th annual observance of Professional Pet Sitters Week™ (PPSW™). corporate layoff in 1983, Patti J. Moran decided to start her own small pet-
Introduced by PSI in 1995, PPSW is an annual observance that honors professional pet-care providers, educates the pet-owning public about the advantages of professional in-home pet care and encourages pet-loving entrepreneurs to explore professional pet sitting as a viable career.“PSI celebrates PPSW to recognize professional pet sitters who work 24/7 to offer the best possible pet-care services,” said PSI President Patti Moran. “PPSW is also a time for us to stress to pet owners the importance of using only professional pet sitters.”
What should pet owners know about using a professional pet sitter?
According to the 2013-2014 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey, pet ownership is at an all-time high. With the increase in pet ownership, Moran notes PSI has also seen an increase in the inquiries they receive regarding becoming a pet sitter and have noted an increase in the number of websites offering pet-sitter locator services.
For pet owners, this increase in pet-sitting options brings a greater responsibility to carefully screen potential pet sitters. Not every person who advertises pet-sitting services is well-trained, professional or trustworthy.
PSI offers pet owners a free pet-sitter interview checklist
, as well as tips for having a conversation with potential pet sitters about background verification, on the PSI Web site
. The site also offers a free ZIP/postal code search for U.S. and Canadian pet sitters, as well as an International pet sitter search, at http://www.petsit.com/locate
Is now a good time to become a professional pet sitter?
YES! Pet ownership is at an all-time high and the need for pet-sitting services continues to grow. If you've considered a career in pet sitting or dog walking, now is the perfect time to enter the industry. But, it's important that you have the tools and resources you need to start your business off on the right foot.The growing industry also requires professional pet sitters to focus on ways to make their businesses stand out in their local service areas. To help its member pet sitters succeed, PSI offers access to group rate pet-sitter insurance and bonding, free pet-sitters forms and marketing materials and access to industry credentials, such as the PSI Certification Program and the recently-launched PSI Locator Designation Program, which offers third-party verification of pet sitter’s clear criminal history. Interested in getting started as a professional pet sitter? Download this free e-book from PSI: Five Must-Do Steps to Starting a Successful Pet-Sitting Business.
To learn more about PPSW, pet sitting as a career or to local a professional pet sitter in your area, visit www.petsit.com
Now that we are halfway through the first month of 2014, the Pet Sitters International (PSI) staff is taking a look back at the most-read PSI blog posts of the last year. The topics range from cat-sitting rules to creating a pet-sitting service contract—and everything in between.
If you are new to The PSI Blog—or are a regular reader who wants to revisit these popular topics—check out the top ten blog posts of 2013 (ranked by the number of views last year):
10. 3 Tips for Better Cat Sitting and Why Every Other Day Visits Should Not Be an Option
9. What You Need to Know about Online Pet-Sitter Directories
8. The One Question Pet Owners Always Ask Professional Pet Sitters
7. 4 Dog-Walking Insurance Claims Totaling More than $74K
6. 4 Signs You Should Say “No” to a Pet-Sitting Assignment
5. Setting Your Pet-Sitting Fees
4. 4 Tips for Selecting and Protecting Your Pet-Sitting Business Name
3. 6 Ways to Advertise Now to Attract Summer Pet-Sitting Clients
2. 25 Low-Cost Marketing Ideas for Pet Sitters
And, the most-read PSI blog post of 2013 was:
1. 6 Items Your Pet-Sitting Contract Should Include
From setting rates and creating a service contract to advertising to new clients and deciding which assignment to turn down, professional pet sitters face many issues on a day-to-day basis.
What other topics not covered in the blog posts above would you like to see The PSI Blog address this year? Comment below to let us know.
If you are interested in learning more about PSI can help you build or grow your pet-sitting or dog-walking service, test drive a PSI membership free for five days.
As a professional pet sitter, you have a responsibility to protect your clients and their pets, as well as yourself and your business. For your own safety—and sanity—you also want to ensure that all clients clearly understand the services you will be providing, your policies and procedures and what is expected from the pet owners.
What’s the easiest way to make sure this happens? A pet-sitting contract.
Your company’s pet-sitting contract, also called a services agreement, should clearly outline the services you will provide, limitations and important information about the clients’ pet and home-care needs.
Of course, you’ll also record clients’ contact information, particularly the their phone number. You’ll want to be able to call or text them to let them know everything is going well or to get in touch with them if necessary, right?
Well…maybe…but not so fast.
It’s a new technologically-advanced world and we can consume information—including communications from friends, family and service providers—through a variety of media—not just through a phone call.
So, while it’s important to make note of your client’s phone number, don’t forget to include this one additional piece of information in your pet-sitting contract—Preferred contact method.
Why is it so important to ask for the preferred contact method?
It’s vital to know how you should get in touch with the client while he or she is away. Don’t assume that because a client lists a cell phone as the primary contact method that he or she is open to receiving calls or texts.
Some clients may have a cell phone, but no texting or data plan. Others have limited call minutes, but unlimited texting.
Be sure to ask and note the preference on the pet-sitting contract.
Others may have limited cell-phone access, depending on where they will be, but plan to check e-mail regularly for updates. Be sure to note this on the pet-sitting contract as well.
A picture is worth a thousand words…and cell-phone data overage charges.
Be sure to ask, too, if clients would like to receive photos of their pets via text or e-mail while they are away.
While most clients will love receiving photos, some may not have a cell phone data plan that allows for photos (or they may be charged data fees).
You may have some clients that do not want you to text photos of their pets because of their data plan restrictions, but may have other access to the internet to check photos of their pets that you post to your social media pages.
Remember, you should always get your clients’ permission before ever sharing any of their pets’ photos online. You can ask for permission to do this on your pet-sitting contract as well.
If you do share photos of your clients’ pets online, be sure to keep these safety precautions in mind.
Keep your clients’ expectations in mind.
It’s also important to understand your clients’ expectations about how often they expect to be contacted.
For new clients, especially, a text or call after the first visit to confirm that everything is okay is much appreciated. Some clients may request a call or text after each visit.
Creating your pet-sitting contract…
Remember, combined with pet-sitter liability insurance, your pet-sitting contract is your best defense against possible legal claims against your company. It is worth investing the time and money to have your pet-sitting contract reviewed by a legal advisor to ensure it meets the legal requirements in your jurisdiction.
Do you need help creating your pet-sitting service contract?
Download PSI’s free e-book, “Creating a pet-sitting service contract & other pet-sitting forms to consider.”
This free e-book from Pet Sitters International (PSI):
- explains the 7 items your pet-sitting contract should include.
- suggests other pet-sitting forms that are beneficial to your business.
Download our copy today.
Offering dog-walking services is just good business. Dog walking brings in a steady income which can help increase your pet-care business' cash flow. And with pet ownership at an all-time high (83.3 million dogs in the U.S.!), the need for dog-walking services is greater than ever!
Download PSI’s free e-book, “How You Can Create a Professional Dog-Walking Service.”
Before you start your own dog-walking service, or add dog walking to the services your pet-care business offers, Pet Sitters International offers these four tips to help you successfully offer dog-walking services:
1. Educate yourself. An understanding of canine behavior is important when walking dogs. Staying up-to-date on your pet first aid skills is important as well. You’ll also want to be knowledgeable about collars, harnesses and leashes. Dog collars come in a variety of types, and the dog owner may not always have the best one for his or her dog. Knowledge of dog collars, harnesses and leashes will help you recommend the right one for the dog and enable you to walk the dog more easily and safely. The right collar depends on the dog, the situation and the dog walker. Whatever collar you use should be approved by the dog’s owner and used correctly.
2. Set policies and stick with them. Establishing your dog-walking service requires that you set up procedures and policies in advance. Of course, you can modify your policies as needed, but it’s extremely important to have some basic guidelines established and written down ahead of time. This prevents you from having to decide upon policies on the fly when a client asks a question. If you have staff dog walkers, it is important that you make them aware of your company’s policies as well.
Policies you will want to decide upon include your business hours, dog-walking hours, your service area and how you will handle clients’ keys. You will also want to determine your cancellation policy, a policy for walking dogs in inclement weather and how you will handle dogs with behavioral issues.
3. Know the Risks. As you set your policies, you also want to be aware of the risks of specific dog-walking services. For example, you may have a client ask that her dog be walked off leash. Dogs certainly enjoy running and playing off leash, but this can present risks and liabilities. Some municipalities have leash laws that do not permit dogs to be off leash ever, while others allow dogs to be off leash in designated areas only. Many pet sitters let clients know upfront that all dogs walked will be on leash. Some dog walkers who do accommodate requests for off-leash walking have the pet owners sign a waiver.
Business Insurers of the Carolinas, PSI’s Preferred Provider for liability insurance and bonding for professional pet sitters and dog walkers in the U.S., advises professional pet-care providers to be alert when walking dogs. Some of the most costly insurance claims result from dog bites and the most frequent type of dog bite occurs when a sitter is on a walk and allows a third party to get too close to a pet.
Read about four dog-walking claims that totaled more than $74,000.
4. Make a plan to market your dog-walking services. When you start your dog-walking service you’ll want to get clients…fast! Fortunately, there are many ways to market your dog-walking services to local pet owners that cost little to nothing.
First, know your target audience. Why would someone want a midday dog walk? Pet owners with new puppies who can’t hold it until their person comes home from work can benefit from the services of a dog walker. Pet owners with adult dogs can use dog walkers to help their dogs who may be overweight and in need of additional exercise. Senior dogs often become incontinent, so a midday walk helps prevent accidents in their home. Essentially, all dogs can benefit from the extra TLC that a midday dog walk provides!
Issuing a press release to local papers announcing the opening of your dog-walking service is a great (and free!) way to garner media coverage for your new business. Depending on your budget, you can also consider taking out an ad in a local paper or community newsletter. Online marketing—from your business website to social media sites like Facebook and YouTube—offers numerous ways to get the word out to local pet owners.
You can read more marketing tips in PSI’s free e-book, “How You Can Create a Professional Dog-Walking Service.”