Dog Walking, Dog Boarding & Pet Sitting, Oh My!
What’s wrong with Dogvacay, Rover, Thumbtack and most other dog boarding, dog walking, pet sitting and doggie daycare services? 1-3
There are some great dog walkers/handlers and responsible, knowledgeable dog boarding individuals out there, but the majority are downright scary and disgraceful.4 How is a pet parent supposed to make an informed, intelligent decision in an unregulated, unlicensed, uncertified world where no one is looking out for you or your dog’s best interests? You have to do all of the legwork and due diligence; however, this post will help you decipher what to look for in your next dog walker or dog boarding company.
Let’s pretend you had a child that only spoke English, but you lived abroad in Japan. Schools were not conducted in English, nor was English taught or understood. How would your child be understood or communicate their most basic needs? Not only would it be very frustrating for them but it would likely be very dangerous as well. Imagine if your child was bullied, picked on, scared or fearful? The environment could become downright miserable, psychologically and physiologically damaging. Would you trust these people and the environment they are in to be the stewards of your child’s wellbeing?
Unlike the above example, your dog doesn’t have an advocate on-premises or a voice. And while schools and teachers are highly regulated, educated, licensed, supervised, insured and competitive, doggie daycares, dog boarding, and dog walkers are typically not any of the above. In fact, they are typically the opposite! There are zero, zilch, zip, nil, naught, no (you get the idea) mandatory regulations, licenses, customary rules, practices or procedures, protocols, and/or minimum education or proficiency tests anywhere in the pet field! Crazy huh!? So if your dog walker or dog boarding facility doesn’t understand ethology, (the science of behavior), canine cognition…etc. how in the world can you get any assurance that it is safe to send your dog to this dog boarder or dog walker? Sadly, you can’t!
It would be like going to your neighbor when you are having a heart attack because they are healthy, love the idea of medicine, and have watched Dr. Phil on television so they assumed they could take care of your ailment. The minimum standard you would look for is a board-certified doctor of medicine and then from that starting point, you would likely get several opinions from other recommended board certified doctors.
So what’s a Person to Look For?
Behavior, Behavior, Behavior. Besides a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB), Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (ACAAB) or a Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist, there are only a couple of independent organizations where individuals with enough experience, references, industry-specific education, and professionalism that follow a strict code of ethics and humane hierarchy of behavior modification intervention exists. One of which is the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). I joined the IAABC because they upheld the highest ethical standards, required the most in-depth knowledge of ethology, applied behavior analysis, cognitive ethology and experience and were the most aligned with my morals and ethics. The IAABC certifies qualified individuals as a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC). Because dogs primarily communicate with their behavior, this is the minimum certification you should look for before hiring a dog walker, pet sitter or when boarding your dog. Without this certification, you are placing your dog in a potentially life-threatening environment with a person who likely means well but is not educated or knowledgeable enough in the aforementioned to prevent, detect and/or supervise your dog in a healthy or safe environment.
If you look for the lowest cost provider that is what will you get. The axiom, if you think a professional is expensive wait until you hire an amateur, holds true in any field.