The pet service industry is incredibly busy. According to a recent survey by the ASPCA, 23 million households in the U.S. acquired a pet during the COVID-19 crisis. That means one in five households have acquired a cat or dog. The trend to purchase or adopt a pet does not seem to be abating. The latest trend is the closing of animal emergency hospitals that were once open 24 hours. Groomers are firing clients and dog trainers are not returning phone calls. What can a responsible pet parent do to ensure services for their pet?
Be Kind – The people in the dog service industry are overwhelmed with work. A record number of households have acquired dogs during the pandemic. The pet care industry – Veterinarians, Groomers, Dog Trainers, etc., have enough work to sustain their business for years to come. Yelling or threatening them will not get you what you want. They no longer need your business – let that wash over you for a moment. Remember the old adage, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” when you are polite, people will remember that.
Be Patient – You are not the only person with a pet. The pet industry is busier than the deli counter at the grocery store on a Sunday afternoon (pre-pandemic!). Be prepared to wait for services. At some point, demand will be met by new people joining the pet industry. Until then, you will have to take a number and wait your turn.
Build Relationships – Perhaps you do not need a vet, an emergency vet, groomer or dog trainer at this moment but you will. The most important relationship will be the one with have with your primary vet. Cultivate a strong relationship with them. This means, you will bring your puppy/dog to them for the appropriate vaccinations and yearly health checks (more if you have a puppy). Don’t delay services because you think your dog will get better. Take the time now to book your appointments and don’t cancel them!
To build a relationship with your primary vet, book regular wellness checks with them. Every dog should be seen yearly by a primary vet. Puppies should be brought in more often as well as senior pets. If your vet or their staff asks you to wear a mask, then do so. These folks are trying to keep their entire staff healthy so they can continue providing services. If you are not allowed into the building, write down your questions and hand them to the tech so they can get the answers for you. Many vets are booking wellness visits at least a month out from the time you contact them. Ask your vet for the name of the emergency hospital they recommend. Have all area Vet Emergency Hospital numbers written down and stored in your pet emergency kit (or in your cell phone). Call ahead before you drive to an emergency hospital. Many of the animal ERs are so overwhelmed with clients they have to turn away emergencies. Wait times can be up to 6 hours to be seen. Try not to panic. Yelling at the receptionist or vet techs will not help your situation. Be prepared to be sent to a different hospital. Have current copies of your pets’ vaccination records in an envelope so that you can grab them and bring them with you. Always be kind and patient when speaking to the veterinarians and staff – this is how you build relationships.
If you have a dog that requires grooming – do not wait until they are matted or their nails are long before you contact the groomer. You must be responsible for the husbandry of your pet. This means brushing your dog daily to remove mats and dirt and clipping or filing nails on a regular basis. Listen to your groomer by following their advice and bring your dog to be groomed every 6 weeks. Book your appointment before you leave. Do not cancel appointments at the last minute and expect to get another one immediately. Groomers are inundated with grooming clients. Maintain your dog’s coat and you will retain your groomer.
Dog trainers love dogs and they enjoy instructing humans to train their dog. The biggest frustration for trainers is being contacted about a catastrophe and the potential client expecting an immediate resolution. For example, Rex has nipped/growled or attacked another human or dog and the potential client wants to relay the entire situation to the trainer but they don’t have the time or money to pay for lessons or train the dog and they want the problem fixed immediately. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand that can be waved that will change an animal’s behavior. Qualified trainers will tell you the only thing that will work is daily training and management of the situation. Ethical trainers will tell you that serious behavior issues are not resolved in a one-hour session, nor will they guarantee results. To build a relationship with your trainer, follow the training plan set out for you and do your weekly homework. If you want to minimize potential behavior issues with your dog, you must start training with them as soon as you bring your puppy home. Contact a certified trainer the moment you suspect trouble. Do not allow a behavior problem to fester.
Be Careful with your Pet – Dogs DO NOT know better. Sometimes we humans take risks with them. You have invited a perpetual toddler to live with you for the next 10 – 15 years. Leaving an uncovered trash barrel filled with chicken bones is unwise. Having chewable items like shoes, socks and children’s toys on the floor invites them to be chewed. Letting your dog run off-leash into leashed dogs and their humans is a risk. Protect your pet by minimizing emergency vet visits. Ask yourself, do I have control of this situation? The cheapest piece of safety equipment that you own is a leash. Leash your dog, keep him by your side. Use exercise pens and gates to keep your dog safe in the home. Set yourself and your dog up for success.
Remember to tell your dog care professionals how much you appreciate them. Being a proactive pet parent will help you maintain pet services for your dog.
Tracey C0sta, CPDT-KA, CNWI
People trainer for the dogs. Always learning and observing. It never grows old.