How to Pick a Pet-Friendly Business with Confidence

By Susan Palmquist

With so many pet businesses and services dotting the landscape these days, it’s hard to know which one is right for you and your pet. Follow our handy tips to help you decide when to say yay and when to say nay.

Daycare and Pet Sitting

When you’re searching for a reliable daycare or pet sitter consider the following:

  • Screening and security should be top on your list of things to do when looking for a pet sitter or daycare. Start by getting references from friends, neighbors, and co-workers.
  • Seek out a daycare that screens all animals for both health concerns and temperament.
  • Look for a facility whose employees are good with both people and dogs.
  • Double check that the daycare facility has more than one room. It’s not always a good idea to put big dogs in the same room with the tiny ones.
  • Make sure staff are in the room with your pet 100 percent of the time while they are at daycare.
  • Verify that the daycare is licensed, as required by the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
  • Find sitters who will spend at least 15 minutes with your pet.
  • Be sure the pet sitter is bonded if she is part of a business with other staff members.
  • Interview the pet sitter before you hire her. You can check on things like whether she is on time and whether she asks lots thoughtful questions about your pet.
  • Ask the pet sitter if she knows pet first aid and CPR.
  • Make sure the pet sitter is certified. The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS), offers a certification program where pet sitters can take a course in such topics as animal care and health issues.
  • Run a check on a daycare or pet sitter with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints reported.

Consider looking elsewhere if you observe any of the following:

  • They don’t want to meet your pet or they don’t seem to interact with her or get down on the ground to play.
  • During the interview, you do more talking than they do. Shyness aside, a good pet sitter asks lots of questions about your pet, his habits, allergies, etc.
  • They don’t have adequate staff to deal with the amount of dogs in their care.
  • Staff seem overwhelmed by the dogs and aren’t interacting with them.
  • Both big and small dogs are kept in one room.
  • They don’t keep an adequate amount of bowls filled with water in each room.

Good sitters and daycare options are readily available, but if you’re in a bind try the following:

  • Find a reliable neighbor who might come in and feed your pet, or even take her for a walk.
  • Speak to your vet; sometimes vet technicians are looking for ways to supplement their income and won’t mind looking in on your pet while you’re gone.
  • If feeding is an issue while you’re gone for the day you can buy an automatic feeder with a timer that opens the top to allow your pet access to his food.
  • Visit a website like Sittercity.com that serves as a helpful resource to people seeking at-home care for their pets.


The following are points to watch for when you’re looking for a reliable groomer:

  • Make sure they ask if your pet has any allergies, or if they’re sensitive on any parts of their body.
  • Take your dog to a salon where you can actually see the area the pets are groomed in. It should include a large open area and windows for viewing; nothing should be done behind closed doors.
  • Choose a grooming salon that has a supervised drying area. Your pet should never be left unattended because this is when injuries are most likely to occur.
  • A good groomer, just like a good hairdresser, always keeps up with current styles, and is trained in all breeds and mixed-breeds.

Avoid groomers that exhibit the following characteristics:

  • You take a look around the salon and see that it’s not neat and clean.
  • Head to the door if the groomer doesn’t seem to be listening to you and ignores your instructions on how you want your pet to look.
  • Avoid any grooming salon that seems to have an assembly line feel to it.

While the grooming salon is an ideal resource for keeping your pet looking neat and clean there are a couple of things you can do to maintain your pet’s appearance on your own:

  • Give him a daily brush. Fur can get easily tangled so it’s a must to brush them frequently. Brush the whole body, not just the top. The biggest plus to giving your pet a regular brush is it distributes the oils evenly and produces a shiny coat.
  • Use a self-service doggie wash so you don’t end up spending hours cleaning up your bathroom, and remember, brushing is better than bathing. Too much bathing can dry out an animal’s skin.
  • Nail trimming can be a piece of cake if you’re patient. Cut just a little bit at a time, and reward your pet after each groom and trim.


Many qualities go into to making a good trainer, but the most important are:

  • Using humane training techniques. Make sure you ask about her training philosophy to determine if she uses positive reinforcement or a reward based method of training.
  • Asking for references. A reputable trainer will have no problem giving you names and numbers to call.
  • Make sure he’s a member of a reputable dog training association. For example, The Association of Pet Dog Trainers promotes humane and positive dog training methods.
  • Finding a qualified trainer can take your dog from puppy to adulthood and problem solve in between.

Move on to the next trainer if:

  • You only get to talk to the dog training facility’s sales person and not the person who will actually be training your dog.
  • The facility won’t give you a tour of the building and you don’t get to see the area where your dog will be trained.
  • The trainer talks to you in a rude or condescending way.
  • The trainer won’t let you choose an appropriate humane training collar.
  • The facility does not have a refund policy or satisfaction guarantee.

Sometimes immediate training is beyond a person’s financial means. In the meantime, consider basic at-home training to get your pooch started on the path to good manners:

  • Always train your dog on a leash or line so you will be able to reinforce commands. As your dog becomes more reliable, you can remove the leash.
  • Remember the 3-D formula for training: duration, distractions, and distance. You build time first (5 minute sit/stay), then add distractions before adding distance from your dog.

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