What with career and family responsibilities, travel, and a long list of other commitments, most of us lead busy lives that take us away from our animals for hours and sometimes days at a time.
Juggling a hectic schedule while trying to make sure your dog or cat gets the attention and love he needs just adds to the stress. But rest easy. A growing number of businesses and services are springing up to cater to the needs of busy animal guardians. These pet services are run by fellow animal lovers who have your dog or cat’s well being at heart, and who know it’s just not possible to always be there for your companion
To many people who work long days and have no one at home to look after their pooches, doggie daycares are the best thing to happen in a long time. They’re an excellent option for sociable dogs who thrive on being with other people and animals. Most facilities are quite flexible, and allow you to drop off and pick up your dog when it suits your schedule.
It’s important to choose the right daycare. Make sure the center is properly and safely run. Different facilities also have different requirements; some insist that dogs be annually vaccinated, for example, so you may have to shop around to find the most suitable place.
Your dog will need time to adapt to the daycare environment. You can’t just drop him off one morning without any preparation and leave him there. Most centers will want to know something about your dog before accepting him – for example, what are his traits, quirks and health issues, and how does he get along with other dogs and people? You might be invited to bring your dog in a few times to get used to the setting before you actually leave him there. Some daycares also offer boarding services for when you have to travel. This is a big advantage because your dog will already be familiar with the environment and the people, and will feel less anxious at being left there for a few days. Just make sure the center has someone on site 24/7 and that the dogs aren’t left alone overnight.
Daycare doesn’t work for all dogs. Some get stressed or aggressive when put in a noisy, busy environment with a lot of others, and/ or may simply feel happier and more secure in their familiar surroundings at home. This is where a dog walker can help. Dog walkers are ideal for dogs who don’t mind being home alone during the day, but who need someone to take them out for exercise and, of course, to go to the bathroom at regular intervals.
This is especially important if you have a breed that needs a lot of physical activity and/ or mental stimulation. These dogs can become destructive and stressed if left alone in the house for long periods with nothing to do. A lot of “badly behaved” dogs that end up at shelters wouldn’t be there if their guardians had simply found a way to provide them with more attention and stimulation.
If you need to be away for a few days, or just want someone to stay with your animal now and then while you’re at work, a pet sitter is another good option. Some pet sitters (though not all) will stay in your home the entire time and make sure your animal gets the same care and company he’d get if you were there yourself. Others will come in several times a day for 30 to 45 minutes to visit and care for the animal and make sure everything’s all right.
Pet sitters are the perfect solution for cats, who are usually most comfortable in their own home environment and don’t always take well to being boarded. Pet sitters also frequently double as house sitters and will water plants, collect your mail and so on, giving you the peace of mind of knowing both your beloved companion and your home will stay safe and secure while you’re away.
Many pet sitters offer dog walking services, and vice versa. Both often do additional tasks, such as giving medications, scooping litter or picking up dog poop, driving animals to vet appointments, or just spending quality time with them.
Remember that dog walkers and pet sitters will need to have access to your home while you’re not there. This means hiring someone you know you can trust 100%. Word of mouth is a good way to find a walker or sitter you know will be reliable and responsible. Ask your local shelter or vet if they can recommend someone, and be sure to hire an insured, bonded individual. Pet Sitters International (petsit.com) and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (petsitters.org) are excellent places to start when looking for a pro.
All dogs and cats benefit from regular grooming. It keeps their skin and coats healthy, helps increase circulation and makes them feel better, physically and emotionally. Few of us have the time to brush our animals every day (although it’s good for both of you to make time for a grooming session once in awhile!) but a regular appointment with a professional groomer will ensure your companion continues to look and feel his best when you don’t have time to do it yourself.
How often your animal goes to the groomer depends on his breed and coat length. Long-haired animals need a lot more attention than those with short coats. Left unattended, a long-haired coat may soon get dirty, matted and tangled. Hairballs can become a problem in long-haired cats, and may even be an issue in some shorthairs if they aren’t brushed at least occasionally.
If you want natural care for your animal, look for a grooming salon that uses gentle, non-toxic products. Many shampoos and other grooming products contain harsh chemicals that can be hard on sensitive skin.
A mobile vet or one who makes house calls can be a real boon for several reasons. Most animals, especially cats, hate going to the vet, so having a doctor who will come to the house for basic checkups and procedures minimizes everyone’s stress levels. It also means you don’t have to take extra time out of your day to drive your animal to the clinic and sit in the waiting room – an important consideration for those whose days are scheduled down to the last minute. It does mean, though, that someone needs to be at home when the vet comes to call!
Here’s a word of warning…if you find yourself spending less and less time with your animal because there’s too much else to do, you need to take a deep breath and re-evaluate your lifestyle. While pet services like sitters, dog walkers, groomers and other animal professionals are a godsend, they shouldn’t take your place as your dog or cat’s primary caregivers. Remember – the main reason we share our lives with animals is because they give us joy, friendship and unconditional love. So it’s good for you, as well as your companion, to relax and spend time with him whenever you can!