Sensitive dogs have beautiful, intelligent natures and they are frequently misunderstood. They are more sensitive to stimuli such as sounds and they pick up on emotions more readily. They are easily stressed by factors that most other dogs are resilient to. They generally want to interact with humans and other dogs but are easily overwhelmed.
Sensitive dogs are particularly vulnerable to developing fear and anxiety issues if they have fearful experiences, especially during their early development. Many sensitive dogs develop a fear of strangers, particularly men. Reactive dogs are typically sensitive and easily go into fight, flight or freeze mode when they are afraid.
Before I became a professional pet sitter in Australia in 2011, I didn't realise how politically divided the pet world is. One area is philosophies in dog training. Dog trainers have polarised views and some will attack each other, much like anyone with strong political or religious beliefs.
I have made several revisions of this blog post to be less biased after feedback from professional trainers and to reflect my development in critical thinking over this topic.
Starting a professional pet sitting business is relatively easy and inexpensive. A pet sitting business also has low overheads. To be a professional pet sitter, you need a smartphone (an inexpensive prepaid one is fine but one that takes good photos is preferable), a computer (preferably a laptop if you also do overnight stays), a printer, access to the internet and a reliable car (as well as backup transport if your car breaks down). If you already have these things, you can use them for business purposes.
A professional pet sitter also needs a website (there are affordable options for a website) and liability insurance which covers property, the public and pets. This blog post is especially relevant to pet sitters in Australia and New Zealand.
The cues 'sit' and 'down' are very versatile and useful to teach to family dogs so your dog has basic house manners and also for safety (eg for 'sit' before crossing roads, 'down' for travelling safety in the car).
A quick, easy, safe and friendly way to teach a family dog the cues 'sit' and 'down' is to use positive reinforcement. This is my variation of a lure-reward method which gets quick results with minimal frustration. It's easy for novices and also fun and helps you bond with your dog. No special equipment such as clickers are required and it works effectively on 2-month-old puppies as well as older dogs. A 5-minute training session a few times a day is all that is needed. A puppy will typically learn quicker than an older dog.
There are different philosophies and methods to teach and train a dog. Traditional 'old school' trainers use aversive-based training often with pain and intimidation to punish behaviour in an attempt to control. Modern trainers are focused on building a relationship of trust and use rewards-based training and avoid inflicting pain or using fear.
Teaching or training your dog builds a relationship of trust and mutual respect and helps minimise behavioural problems. Behavioural problems are the number one reason dogs are surrendered to shelters and often put down.
Your family dog doesn't need to go to formal obedience class to teach your dog basic house manners, but you do be invested in learning how to teach your dog safely and effectively without using pain and intimidation. If you do choose a professional trainer or behavourist, use caution as many use outdated methods that inflict significant harm. As a pet parent, you can learn to teach your family dog. Teaching your dog from a puppy is much easier than trying to teach an older dog with ingrained habits. But a dog of any age can be taught with patience and kind methods.
Just like being a parent of a human child, being a pet parent can be confusing with all the conflicting advice and polarised opinions out there. Raising a pet has much in common with parenting or teaching a young child. As a pet parent, you are responsible for educating yourself on how to best care for your pet. You are your pet's primary teacher as well as carer, guardian and advocate.
Many pet owners are not aware that dog training is an unregulated industry. This means anyone can set themselves up as a dog trainer, whisperer, behaviour consultant etc. And anyone can set themselves up to certify dog trainers. This also goes for pet sitters, dog groomers, doggie daycares, boarding kennels - the pet industry is not regulated.
This means anyone can call themselves a dog trainer or animal behaviour expert, charge a fee and use methods which may inflict physical and emotional harm on your pet. Some methods may also increase harm to humans and other animals, resulting in trauma and increased aggression (resulting in serious injury, even fatalities).
Burnout is one of the biggest hazards for a professional pet sitter, especially the owner of a microbusiness with 0-2 employees. A microbusiness owner is typically working in their business as well as on their business and may do everything themselves including marketing, meeting clients, scheduling visits, receiving payments, paying bills, managing accounts for taxes, managing staff (if they have any) as well as caring for pets. Pet sitting requests come in all year round including weekends and public holidays with higher seasonal demands.
The biggest contributor to burnout is ongoing stress. Here are some suggestions to reduce stress and avoid burnout.
Burnout is one of the main reasons professional pet sitting businesses fold within 3 years. Pet sitters are typically people who have caretaking personalities and desire to provide a quality pet sitting service.
These are admirable qualities but often people with these characteristics take on too much and end up burning the candle at both ends providing a service all year round, being eager to please people and not taking care of themselves.
With burnout, the joy and passion gets extinguished because of stress. Exceeding one's capacity for stress can result in significant chronic health problems including depression and anxiety.
Xanthe founded an award-winning pet sitting business in QLD, Australia in 2011. After selling the business, she returned to Taupo, New Zealand.
The content on this blog is intended for informational purposes only. Opinions expressed on this blog are based on Xanthe's research and personal experience and should not be taken as a substitute for legal, business, veterinarian or animal behaviourist or animal training advice from a qualified professional. Content is copyright. Please share a link if you like a post - do not copy sections. Pet Purpose only endorses cruelty-free, modern, science-based animal training methods and advocates for animal welfare.
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