February 2, 2015 – You’ve been in the business for awhile…or perhaps lived with dogs all your life…so the temptation to loosen-up on listening to your client’s requests might be overwhelming sometimes. Maybe it’s time to rebel and let the dog or cat have a little fun for a change! Don’t. Listen. To. That. Voice.

When your client’s instructions are ignored, you could be in for a lot more trouble than a stern talking-to.

Recording Client Instructions

First off – try to get client instructions in writing. Written notes on your paperwork during the meet-and-greet is great because the client will be sign those sheets. Emails are good too. Texts, not as much since they tend to be transient. And verbal instructions might be fine at the moment you’re having a chat, but always follow-up with an email recapping the important points of the conversation. Your client will be happy too. If something goes wrong – and you’ve paid strict attention to your notes – you can run through the situation with the client not from a blame perspective but to find a cause and solution.

Following Client Instructions

We have a tendency to forget points during meetings, so you’ll be relying on your notes. If you do a meet and greet Monday evening and see the dog on Friday, or the following week…will you remember he can’t eat chicken? Or this brand of biscuit is okay but not that one? Which brand is filling your pockets when you walk through the door? When you see several dogs a week, the little things start to blur after awhile unless you refresh.

Glance through the notes as often as you must to familiarize yourself with each animal, and then do it again from time-to-time.

Instructions to Watch For

Here is a sample of the things you’ll watch for and should ask about during your meetings and even afterwards as new circumstances arise or you have different responsibilities (such as a sudden overnight schedule or if the animal is recovering from surgery.)

  • Foods – This is probably the instruction of most importance and the most often broken. What foods is the animal critically allergic to, or sensitive to for stomach problems, itching, nausea, diarrhea, hives or other ailments. One of the dogs we look after cannot eat meat protein. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find treats without meat or milk? We never stray from the treats they provide. You don’t know how severe a reaction they could have…and you don’t want to.
  • Exercise – Some dogs CANNOT be run for a at least a half  hour after eating or it could cause bloat. Others can collapse if they run too much at any time. Some should not run at all because a sudden twist will aggravate the ACL (ligament in the knee) and you’ll be into very expensive surgery.
  • Out Walking – Although we generally don’t allow people to come up to the dogs we walk, and certainly not to approach with their dogs, because we can’t predict the reaction – some sitters figure they can handle it, even if the client tells them to avoid other dogs. This is a huge neglect of your duties. Whether it’s because the client is worried about their dog attacking, or if he had a bad experience from another dog years ago, or if he has an immune deficiency where they’re keeping him away from germs…your job is to keep him away from other dogs! You might not have been told the real reason.

We recently heard of a sitter who took both the dogs from one household out so they could enjoy a longer walk, rather than do two short walks as the client requested. (And as her pet sitting company requested as well.) She gave it a try anyway and found the dogs to be mostly fine together though it was difficult to manage the one while holding the other when he saw something interesting. One day the stronger one broke free and went to attack a dog (on leash) out with his owner. The dog was bitten but not seriously injured but the person called the client to complain. Luckily there was no law suit threatened and the dog was okay. The company was again advised not to take the dogs out together and again the sitter thought she could manage it a few months later…and the bigger dog’s leash snapped this time. He went after the same little dog out for a walk. This time the sitter was hurt trying to hold him back. Again the person didn’t sue (miraculously)…but it took four months for the sitter’s wrist to heal. The client no longer worked with that company. This was a very lucky situation for the contract sitter and her company. The little dog could have been killed. The escaped dog could have gone after the person or been hit by a car, and the sitter could have been hurt more seriously and still sued for it.

Ramifications of Ignoring Client Requests

When the client says, “Don’t do this…” Don’t be a dunce. Listen to him and do as he says. Aside from potential harm to either the dog, cat, or human; if the animal needs emergency medical care, or if you are sued because of your neglect, your pet sitters insurance will most likely NOT pay. You might look at the clause that talks about paying due to an accident caused by pet sitter neglect…but this is very different to willfully doing something the client told you not to do.

Be smart. We want to make the animals we care for happy and to feel special with us. Give them an extra one or three of the treats they are allowed to have. Play an extra game with them. Give them one more hug. They’ll love you for it just the same.

Today is the 32nd day of the year and we had a quieter day in our pet sitters business because of a snow storm. Schools were closed and kids were home. It was bitterly cold with the wind so we didn’t mind. We looked after the ones we had and did the chores we can’t get to on busy days…all ready for the wave of dogs to come!

Until next time…have fun out there!