Animal Training and Pet Sitting Module 7

Being Professional With Clients

7.1 Getting off to a good start

7.2 The information you need to ask

7.3 Microchipping and other forms of ID

7.4 Arranging entry/security details

7.5 What clients are likely to ask

7.6 Outlining your business T&Cs

7.7 Agreeing costs

7.1 Getting off to a good start

First impressions are important, especially when it comes to caring for someone’s loved ones. Here are a few handy tips that will help you present yourself as not only a pet lover but a professional caregiver:

  • Good hygiene
    • Style your hair, apply appropriate make-up and trim your beard (if applicable!)
    • Presenting yourself nicely shows that you care about your wellbeing and possibly the wellbeing of others.
  • Appropriate clothing
    • For the first meeting with the client and animals, wear something appropriate. If you prefer to wear clothing that won’t be messed up by pet hair, claws or anal glands – select a nice, well-fitting set of scrubs – pants and top.
    • Remember: You’re not walking your dog first thing in the morning, so leave your pajamas at home!
  • Appropriate footwear
    • Closed-toed shoes, such as sneakers or clogs, can be professional-looking, match well and will protect your feet from injury. Nails are sharp and even the most polite large dog will be stepping on your feet from time to time!
  • Be on time
    • Your clients expect you to be on time when taking care of their pets. It is crucial for some pets on medication to have their medications at certain times. Show off your punctuality by being on-time or a little early for your first meeting with every new client.

7.2 The information you need to ask

Check-lists are a good thing to have when meeting new clients. They ensure that you don’t forget anything and you can keep it for your business records. This check-list can be printed and ready for you to grab each time you go to meet a new client.

  • Meeting place
    • It is best to meet a new client at their home and with their pets. You can get a sense of how the pets will act around you and you can scope out their set-up and general area. This will give you an opportunity to ask important questions about where important equipment is stored, such as food and medications.
  • New Client Form
    • Have a pre-printed New Client Form ready for your client to fill out. Important information should include:
      • Owner’s name, address, email, phone number, employer, driver’s license or ID number
      • Pet’s name, breed, sex, age and species
      • Any health problems, medications and dosing
      • Regular veterinarian’s contact information
      • Current Rabies tag number and/or certificate number
      • Microchip number and company and/or tattoo information
      • Consider taking a photo of each pet with your smartphone for your records
  • Food and water
    • Find out what the pets are eating and where it is stored in the home.
    • Write down specifically how much each pet eats and how many times per day.
    • Ask about any specific food preparation instructions.
  • Medications
    • What medications? What are the medications for (what disease or problem?)
    • How often are they given?
    • Are they given with food or without? Can you give them with cheese or a treat?
    • Is it easy or difficult to give the pet the medication?
  • Exercise and Potty Habits
    • How often should the dog be walked? Any favorite walking paths?
  • Litter box maintenance
    • It is best to clean the litter box daily, no matter what the owner does when you are not there.
    • Ask that the litter box be completely clean with fresh litter on the first day that you take over care.
  • Emergency Contact Information
    • Phone numbers, email addresses, hotel name, location and phone. Names/numbers of neighbors, friends.
    • Veterinarian contact information and local 24 hour or after-hours emergency veterinary hospital
  • Quirks and Habits
    • Some pets have funny quirks or behaviors that may be bothersome. Some are dangerous, such as food aggression or aggression towards other dogs. Knowing about these behaviors firsthand from the owner can help you to be prepared. Certain behaviors may prevent you from providing services altogether.
  • Leashes and other equipment
    • Ask to have the leashes, collars and other equipment for walking dogs left in a central location in the home, such as in the kitchen.
    • Ask where the crates and bedding are located.

7.3 Microchipping and other forms of ID

Permanent and non-permanent forms of identification (ID) are best for all pets.

Examples of permanent identification include:

  • Microchips – a small transponder the size of a grain of rice, inserted under the skin between the shoulder blades
  • Tattoos – can be on the abdomen, inner thigh or ear flap

Ask the owner for the microchip information (company and number) and specific details about any tattoo that is present. If the pet becomes lost during your care, you can notify the company that the pet is missing, as many will send out alerts to local veterinary offices, SPCA, Humane Associations, municipal animal control and animal shelters.

Tattoos are less common than microchips but some certain breeds may sport one from their breeder.

Non-permanent identification includes:

  • Tags
  • Collars
  • Harnesses

Ideally, the tag on a pet’s collar should contain vital information such as the pet’s full name, owner’s name, phone number and email address.

Take note if the pet does not have a collar available. Ask the owner to provide one, as this is an extra security precaution and also may help you in controlling the pet.

Many cats, especially indoor-only cats, do not wear collars and it may cause more harm than good to introduce a collar to a cat that is not used to one while the owners are away.

7.4 Arranging entry/security details

It is best when you meet the client for the first time to be ready to collect keys and other security information.

Have your client “sign over” the keys in the contract. Make a note of date and time the keys/codes were turned over to you and have your client sign and date in the contract.

If there is a security code for the building and/or home, write down the codes on the New Client Form. You can also make a note of it in your smartphone to have with you at all times.

Always have the owner’s contact information with you in case you cannot get inside of the home or if you suspect that something is wrong.

Find out from the owner what sort of protocol they would like you to follow in the event of a break-in or emergency in the home. Remember, any time you feel threatened or unsafe in a home or situation, contact local security, the local police or authorities immediately.

7.5 What clients are likely to ask

When you go to meet a new client, remember, this is not just a “meet and play with the dogs” – it is a serious job interview. Your clients will have questions of their own. Here are some questions you are likely to get from a new client:

  • How long have you been a pet caregiver?
  • Do you have a resume or CV?
  • Do you have a list of references?
  • Do you have additional information about services you offer?
  • Are you comfortable handling cats or large dogs?
  • Are you comfortable giving ‘xyz’ medications?
  • Are you insured?
  • What qualifications do you have?
  • How early can you be here to let the dogs out?
  • Can you water our plants while we are away?
  • Can you clean the pool every morning?
  • Do you provide taxi service to the veterinarian?
  • The pets are used to being out during the night, are you okay with them sleeping with you?
  • Do you have a business card or pamphlet I can give my friends?
  • Will you brush my cat every day?
  • My dog hates having his nails trimmed. Can you do that for us?

The sky is the limit when it comes to questions from clients. Think on your toes and be honest. If you don’t know the answer, find out and get back to them.

It is also okay to say no if you are not comfortable with what they are asking. Keep in mind a price list in your head if you plan on charging extra for specific services (such as nail trims and pool maintenance). Most pet sitters will water the plants for free.

You may need to change your approach to a job or to your business model based on questions your clients ask!

7.6 Outlining your business T&Cs

Business Terms and Conditions should reflect what you want in the business and also explain fully to the client what your responsibilities are as a caregiver. It can also outline what you expect out of your client.

Things to include in your T&Cs:

  • Contract for services
  • Specific services that are offered, prices and a brief description
  • Vaccination policy – all vaccines current and appropriate for age of pet is strongly recommended
  • Spay/neuter policy – let clients know if you will care for intact animals
  • Right to turn away pets or clients for safety or sanitary reasons
  • Behavior Policy
  • Breed Bans or Restrictions
  • Bite Policy
  • “Mother Nature” Policy and Inclement Weather
  • Key Policy
  • Cancellation Policy
  • Advance booking
  • Cancellation fees
  • Multiple date discounts
  • Long-term care policies
  • Sick leave of sitter and coverage
  • Refunds
  • Methods of Payment
  • License and Bonding Information – every pet sitter and dog walker should have

7.7 Agreeing costs

Costs should always be agreed upon in the contract, terms and conditions. Fee schedules should be established depending on what you are doing. Some people don’t mind “haggling” over the cost for care, while others find it more professional to stick to a set of pre-existing costs in a price list.

Many clients will happily pay what you ask for in your price list. Be sure to be very specific in the explanation of what the fee includes. Be sure to keep an updated price list on your website!

Well Done!