Archive for the 'Business' category

Winter Storm Warning! Blizzard Warning!

Feb 08 2013 Published by under Business, commentary, Gear, Safety

North_American_blizzard_2010_Feb_6_0531_UTCAs the North East braces for one of the biggest storms it has seen in years, I feel it is always a good time to remember that our furry friends are not invincible to the elements. O.k. maybe the northern breeds like Huskies and Malamutes can take it, but most other breeds cannot.

I hope you have already  let your clients know when and if you will be cancelling service. If you haven’t heard from a client yet, be sure to call them and confirm. Many I suspect are already calling you to cancel.

If you absolutely MUST go out, be sure to be prepared with all-wheel drive, chains, a sleeping bag or very warm blanket in your car, a space blanket, energy bars, a full tank of gas, jumper cables, and LOTS of warm clothes!

If you can’t go out prepared, don’t go out at all! This storm is looking pretty bad.

Also, I hope you spelled out in your agreements your inclement weather policy 😀

Stay safe, warm, and happy!

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Professional Dog Walkers and Pet Owners To Take Precautions Against Lyme Disease

Jun 22 2011 Published by under Business, Health, Safety

Eileen Antell & Timber

Eileen Antell and her dog Timber

Summer is finally here, along with all of it’s anticipated goodies: radiant heat, buzzing bugs, summer crowds, ice cream and hot dogs! Yes, I mean the hot dogs you walk! I’m sure you know all about the dog days of summer, but in case you need a refresher on keeping your client’s dogs safe, I found an article on a great website that is veterinarian endorsed. Check it out, ten tips how to keep your pet safe in the summer heat.



Remember to ask your client if they are using a tick preventative this year. It is their choice to do so. If they have applied something like Frontline, do your part for the environment and try to keep the dogs out of small streams and ponds, lest you contaminate the water for local wildlife (like fish and frogs). If they have a bug repelling collar or scarf, make sure you don’t leave on your walk without it.

If they have not applied a pesticide on their dog, I think that is admirable! You never know what is causing cancer or seizures in our beloved pets these days. Help these particular clients succeed in preventing tick bites the natural way, by keeping their dog on a leash and staying centered on the trail. Avoid the tall grass along trail and sidewalk borders (because these are popular elimination and sniffing spots for all dogs big and small, the foliage on these sidelines are like bus depots for ticks, where they get dropped off and picked up all season long). Before you deposit the dog back in the house, look him over for any obvious ticks that have not yet penetrated their coats. Check around the face, behind the ears, the neck, the chest, each leg, and between the toes. Brush the dog lightly with your fingers or with a brush if it’s handy. It is very difficult to spot a tick on a black dog, so focus on prevention by avoiding wooded areas and tall grass, and check him carefully upon returning.

Lyme disease (carried by deer ticks) is a real concern. An eye opening documentary that I highly recommend for everyone (and for their dogs, for they contract the disease and experience symptoms just as we humans do) is named, Under Our Skin (2008). Netflix has it streaming. WebVet also has a great article that describes Lyme Disease symptoms.

Before your walk, apply insect repellent to your ankles and tuck your pants in your socks. Ticks are easy to spot on white socks and light colored pants.. After your walk, check yourself for ticks as well. Check your shoes, ankles, legs, and pants. When you get home, check your warm shady spots where ticks quickly head to: armpits, chest, back, neck hairline, and groin. If you find a tick, pick it off with your fingers. If it has bitten you and is attached, pull it off with it’s head intact and save the tick in a jar for identification. Be sure to call your doctor, s/he may want to see you, or the tick for treatment and/or testing. If the bite develops a bulls eye rash around it, take yourself and your tick to see a doctor immediately!

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The fine art of tactful criticism

May 10 2011 Published by under Business, Health, Self-Motivation

Saying things you might say to friend can quickly sour an otherwise congenial business relationship. People who are paying you to be around rarely want to employ your criticism. And so this was the conundrum I found myself in.

I had a client who owned a morbidly obese dog. I found it difficult to deal with this because I felt that the “love” my client had for her dog was really killing him. Make no mistake the physical health of this dog was in my mind borderline abusive. Not malicious, not evil, but still abuse through neglect to use common sense. What was so obvious to me seemed not to have entered her mind. The fact that my client was also quite obese made it even more difficult to address. For her food was love and she slathered it on.

The way I finally managed to bring it up was after she mentioned it herself. I forget how the subject of her dog’s obesity came up but I took the opportunity to say something about my concern that it could be her thyroid. Thyroid deficiency results in obesity and it’s a tactful way of saying, “something must be wrong, because no dog should be as fat as he was.” It offered plausible deniability; that I could bring up my concern without the obvious implication that it was the result of over-feeding and general lack of self-control—in other words, her fault. It allowed us to discuss the issue without it being about blame, self recrimination, or offended feelings.

Sometimes it’s a fine line we walk in this business. You become very personal with your clients and they with you because of the type of work you do. I don’t doubt it is similar to the type of relationship a nanny has with the family s/he serves. On the other hand, friendship and business mix about as well as oil and water.

I’d love to hear how others have or would handle such a situation?

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Grim outlook as Amazon’s market-share grows overnight

Feb 27 2011 Published by under Business, My Books, Publishing

Border’s Books files chapter 11

Foreword Magazine, the leading publishing trade magazine in the US, recently asked me to comment on the Border’s Chapter 11 announcement. They wanted to know what I thought about it and if I might have the opinion of someone who would say “good riddance” because of their deleterious effects on the small indie book stores. The following is my response.

I would never say good riddance to a company which sold or offered our products to consumers. Yes, that’s a very personal and selfish standpoint as a publisher. However it doesn’t even take into effect my more general distress with hearing about a once successful company collapsing under the weight of an economy which seems poised for catastrophic failure. Nobody I know is having a great time of it. If you have a job or a company you are making due with less and less every day. Competition is fierce and everyone is pushed to the edge.

The fact is this bankruptcy is the result of Amazon starving them out of business, just as Border’s and Barnes and Noble starved the small local stores out of business. It’s the evolution of this industry and it is changing quickly.

The real issue here is what is going to happen when B&N finally gives up? When there is no longer a “big box” store one can reliably visit and expect to find a good selection of books? A wide selection is precisely the reason why the big chains were successful to begin with, that and the discounts they were able to get through volume and pass along to the consumer—that was until Amazon came on the scene!

Will there be a resurgence of the small book stores? I doubt it. Most likely B&N will eventually reduce their retail “brick and mortar” presence to only the most profitable stores and then devote serious energy to compete online but they are way, way behind now. Like any “Johny Come Lately” they can only hope to gain less than 40% of the online retail market. It’s been proven time and time again with Coke / Pepsi, McDonald’s / Burger King, Toyota / Nissan, you get the idea…

Less competition means Amazon will be able to dictate what authors and publishers can earn. The effects of an ‘Amazon only’ book buying option for many indie publishers is already being felt. While Amazon has opened the market to a lot of small indie publishers like myself, nibbling at our offerings and allowing us to survive, they could at any moment take our hand off! There has been some push-back yes, and Amazon, being wary of bad publicity, has moved to quell fears by changing things like their commission on e-books. Though I think that move was once again a calculated play to starve competition, gain control of market share, and subsequently assert ownership of the e-book market—they have a big head-start.

Sadly, Border’s Chapter 11 filing isn’t good news for the publishing industry.

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How to Safely Pick Up Dogs and/or Transport Them

Oct 04 2010 Published by under Business, Dog Training

I was recently asked by a new dog walking business owner, how one goes about safely gathering a group of dogs together for a walk, and also about how to safely transport them, should it be necessary. Great question!

How To Safely Gather a Group of Dogs

How you gather your group depends a lot on where you live and whether or not the dogs are walking distance from each other. If it requires driving from house to house to gather them for a “Boot Camp” or a “Dog Safari” skip to the next section below. If they are walking distance, I would just pick them up one at a time, adding to your group as you go from door to door. Try to hook a circuit so the first picked up is the first dropped off (first in, first out). This goes back to what I talk about in The Dog Walker’s Startup Guide (the importance of planning your walks ahead of time).

As far as what to do with them as you go door to door to pick up the next dog—it really depends on the situation. If the dogs I am bringing to the door are nice and polite, I would just bring them inside with me (provided the dog whose house I’m entering knows the dogs and will not be territorial about this intrusion—this is something only you can evaluate) and if you’re the least bit in doubt about it try one of the other ideas I mention next. You can also hook them to a banister at the door, duck in and leash up the next one, and pop back out and continue on your way. Again, evaluate if this option is safe and that the dogs aren’t going to freak out if left outside for a moment or two. If your client has a fenced yard you could bring the first dogs into the yard (shut the gate) and then go inside to get the next. Mostly you’ll just learn as you go along, you’ll figure out the best way, so don’t get too worried about it! Sometimes there just won’t be a good way to do it and you’ll just suffer with a less-than-ideal situation. Other times you might not be able to do it under certain circumstances. It does happen to be one of the trickier parts of the job!

Here is a little trick I learned: if you have to leave some dogs tied outside you might consider dropping a big handful of kibble on the ground before you go inside. This will occupy the dogs and give you a chance to duck in and out to hook up the next one.

Remember it will be much easier to check on the dog’s water bowls and the like after the walk so wait until you’re dropping them off to do that kind of business. Same goes for note writing. You’ll be able to bring the dogs inside with you because they will be agreeable to each other at this point (or should be). Just make sure they don’t run roughshod all over your client’s home! After a while the dogs will get used to the system as long as you are consistent.

How To Safely Transport Two or More Dogs

If you’re not walking door to door then you’re stuck driving a group to a destination (which is how most dog walkers must do it).

Safety is very important so you definitely need an automobile that’s big enough to comfortably and safely hold the number of dogs you’ll need to transport. You’ll also want to be sure you have a strong partition between you and them, (a strong canine containment barrier) so the dogs can’t jump in front with you! Doggy seat-belts, which I’ve used with up to two dogs at a time, work pretty well by keeping the dogs in their own space. Also, as I mentioned in the book, you don’t want to mix dog sizes without making sure the smaller dogs are protected from the larger ones. You may have to crate the smaller dogs and seat-belt the larger dogs.

I’m sorry there isn’t a definitive answer! Because the situations and vehicles vary a great deal, you’ll have to evaluate your situation and decide how you want to proceed. Just make sure you can drive safely, that the dogs aren’t going to injure themselves, or you, and that they are reasonably protected in case of an accident. As you probably suspect, loose dogs in a vehicle can be a recipe for disaster! So please think carefully about how you’re going to manage this sticky issue. Also, inquire from your automobile insurer and pet sitting insurer about this issue, you may need to upgrade to a commercial vehicle insurance policy if transporting dogs becomes a regular part of your business.

Although I have not heard of any specific liability issues resulting from an accident involving a car-load of dogs and a dog walker, I’m sure it can and will happen. One thing I am certain about, you don’t want to be responsible for a tragic accident because you had 5 dogs inside a Subaru and couldn’t see the road—because that’s exactly how the police will see it when they arrive on the scene.

The safest and most profitable way to transport dogs would be in a van with the seats removed. I might install multiple crates or kennel-like cages which are bolted or tied in place. You can safely and confidently transport a larger group and enjoy the peace-of-mind that comes with knowing that you are doing everything possible to ensure the safety of you, your employees, and the dogs. Also, a company van is tax-deductible and acts as a moving billboard, which is another upside. Taking these steps will demonstrate your commitment to your business and a commitment to the safety and the well being of your clients pets.

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The US recession and news about joblessness are ranking high in the minds of college students/grads

Aug 17 2010 Published by under Business

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Dog Walking vs. Pet Sitting

Aug 01 2010 Published by under Business

Pet SitterMany pet sitters will offer dog walking as part of their pet sitting services. However, unlike dog walking, a pet sitter’s focus is not solely on dog-care, but on the care of many different types of animals. This takes the focus away from unique and interesting dog-related activities and adventures that could be planned by someone whose focus is solely on running a dog walking business. Thus taking emphasis away from your single largest demographic, that being dog owners.

Having a pet sitting business requires a much greater time investment and overall responsibility than dog walking and unfortunately for the same or even less money! If you’re like most business owners you want to maximize your income while lowering your overhead. Whether that overhead is time, money, or both. Dog walking fits the bill!

“But I like the idea of working with many different animals, I think it would be fun.”

This is a lifestyle choice. Working with animals is fun and rewarding. I was very into the idea of pet sitting when I started out. I thought the variety of animals, clients, and schedule would be great but it turned out to be very difficult, and I soon found that I was working 7 days a week and couldn’t take a vacation of my own! Pet sitting offers a huge variety of work which is both it’s blessing and it’s curse.

“What would be better: a pet sitting business or dog walking if I eventually want to become a dog trainer?”

Most of the players in the dog training world these days started out in a related dog-care field, many of them having been dog walkers!

“I became a dog walker,” [Cesar Millan] says. “I’d take out 30 dogs, all walking behind me, and people would stop and stare as I’d go through Beverly Hills with rottweilers and pit bulls. I’d take them for four-hour walks and charge $10, and their owners were amazed when I’d bring back calm, contented dogs.” –Telegraph, UK (Mar 2008)

If you eventually want to become a professional dog trainer what better way to learn about dog behavior and gain professional dog handling experience than walking dogs? Dog walking beats pet sitting in this area hands down! The experience you’ll gain handling dogs in public will give you the hands-on knowledge, observation skills, and confidence you’ll need to become a great trainer!

Sorry to anyone who has seen this post before. I was forced to republish it as I have had a lot of questions lately about this topic and I wanted to get it out via RSS to those who may have missed it!

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Planning Your Vacation and Maintaining Your Client-Base

Mar 26 2010 Published by under Business

It might seem a bit premature to be thinking about vacation already, especially if you only just started your business, but now is the time to be thinking about it. Do you have someone to fill in for you while you’re away? If not, it’s time to start looking. I can tell you from experience when you leave your clients to their own devices, you’ll be missing a few when you return with that tan! Sure, some clients are loyal to a fault, but most will not hesitate to hire the next guy or gal that offers them a little more for their money. Especially in this economy, with price-cutting becoming the de facto modus operandi for culling new business.

You just can’t afford to let your clients wander. You’ve been warned, it’s time to find some back-up and get that vacation time planned now.

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Freedom of Information or not?

Mar 09 2010 Published by under Business, Marketing

Folks have been reporting mixed success when requesting the list of licensed dog owners from their city/town. It seems to be a growing problem. I found this story recently regarding a dog walker who is requesting this list and encountering resistance. Check it out.

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Business Friendships = Business Income

Feb 19 2010 Published by under Business, Marketing

In my book, The Dog Walker’s Startup Guide I discuss ways to increase marketing through business partnerships. This is a great way to improve your visibility and reach; while also increasing your business’ trust factor by associating with other local well known businesses. Trading clientele between others in the same industry is hardly new, it’s called referrals. One look at the home improvement sector and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Contractors refer work to plumbers, electricians, masons, structural engineers, etc.

A dog walking business is no different. Groomers, pet stores, veterinarians, shelters, and others regularly get inquiries about dog walking and dog sitting services. Your goal is to get on those lists and preferably at the top of them! How do you do this?

Many businesses, like pet stores will allow you to place your name on a bulletin board in their store, and many vets offer this service too, but this simply gets you a little visibility, it lacks the pizazz of being specifically recommended.

Getting the recommendation of your fellow business owners isn’t very hard if you offer them something in return, and show them what you’re worth. Some options include offering your services to your local vets for discounted walks for the sick and/or healing. You may also purchase your dog-related gifts from your locally owned pet food store and reminding them who you are and that you’re in a related business—ask them to consider recommending your services. You might also offer to pass out specific coupons to your clientele from related businesses which could be useful to dog owners. When your clientele bring the coupons in and do some shopping the store owner will realize you’re helping him/her out and will do the same for you.

Working at a shelter is just a good thing morally speaking but it can have huge beneficial effects on your business as well. Why not consider doing what Cheryl Staab, of DogCentric Inc. did and volunteer your services free of charge for a few hours a day at your local shelter in return for being the exclusive dog walking / sitting service they recommend to their dog’s adopters? It seems to be working out very well for Cheryl! You can read more about this story in the Wall Street Journal by clicking here.

There are a lot more ideas than this but I hope you can see that there is a lot of potential for making friends and increasing your business at the same time. Word-of-mouth is alpha in the dog walking service industry!

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