Tuesday, January 10, 2012

• 2012 Pet Blogger Challenge

I’m participating in the Pet Blogger Challenge, an annual event hosted by Will My Dog Hate Me and GoPetFriendly. Edie Jarolim (Will My Dog) and Amy Burkhert (GoPet) compiled a list of questions to help pet bloggers examine their practices and goals, then invited the entire pet blogging community to participate. It’s a way for us to gauge our progress, vow to do better, and thank our readers.

Q) What was your original purpose for starting a blog?
A) I started this blog in May 2011. I was getting serious about my business, Emmy the Pet Sitter, and I saw a blog as a subtle way to advertise. In the guise of informing or amusing people, I planned to mention my business. I also saw the blog as a way for current and potential customers to get to know me. Over the past nine months I’ve blogged on a wide variety of subjects. Because I don’t pet sit as often as I’d like to, I didn’t post many blogs about pet sitting.

Q) Is your current purpose the same? If not, what’s different? If so, how do you feel you’ve met your goals?
A) It is said that to be a successful blogger, one must become an expert in one subject. I ought to address topics of interest to pet sitters or to people who need pet sitters. I think that my blog could start dialogs with sitters and owners. I’d like to learn from them and pass along tips. Ultimately, it’s all about everyone improving our services to pets.

Q) Do you blog on a schedule or as the spirit moves you?
A) As the spirit moves me, and spirit is capricious. By using this method, I worry I won’t get new traffic.

Q) Are you generating income from your blog?
A) No. I like a clean web page with just my text and photos.

Q) What do you like most about blogging in general and your blog in particular?
A) I can write about what I want to! I worked for a publisher for more than 30 years and wrote copy, but always something that someone else wanted. Now I can blog about my hamster, Maggie, racing in the Petco annual hamster races. My favorite blogs were those I wrote for BlogPaws participants coming to the 2011 BlogPaws social media conference in Tysons Corner, Virginia. I knew that what I was covering was useful. My post on dog-friendly dining has 146 page views, the highest number of my 33 posts.

Q) What do you like least?
A) The pressure to write. Brainstorming topics for seems like a lot of work—and I didn’t want my blog to be work! (Obviously, it’s work. And I need to work at it.) And . . . Hello! Who are you, reader? Do you read me? Am I helpful? Blog stats don't give me a feel for readers.

Q) How do you see your blog changing/growing in 2012?
A) Online, I see the “big picture” addressed: What should a pet owner look for in a pet sitter? Should a pet sitter be insured? But I haven’t seen basic, practical tips for making the pet sitting experience a success. For example, pet owners should prepare a packet for sitters in case their pet escapes when they're not home. Pet sitters should prepare for the jarring emotional reality if a pet under their care is injured.

The Bottom Line
I love combining my writing and photography into updates for pet owners: daily blogs, journals, or videos. My primary focus is there. And I'll try to focus my blog on the topic of pet sitting. Four paws up to Edie Jarolim and Amy Burkhert for the inspiration!!

Friday, January 6, 2012

• January is Train Your Dog Month

Guess who wouldn't come to me?
The Association of Pet Dog Trainers has declared January National Train Your Dog Month. I don't own a dog, so I hesitated to say anything on the topic. But as a pet sitter, there's one thing I wish every dog owner would do:

Train your dog to "Come."

If your dog escapes I want him to come when I call. I don't want him to run into the street or scare a child. If we go to the dog park I want him to come even when he's distracted. If I let him out in your back yard and he grabs something suspicious in his mouth, I want him to drop it and come to me.

I want to keep your dog safe.

Training an adult dog or an independent breed may not be easy. Daily practice and consistency are key. It's best to involve the entire family in the training. Coming on command is one of Four Behaviors That Take Forever to Train, according to Eryka Kahunanui, owner of Kahuna's K9s, in Prince Frederick, Maryland.

"Any dog, young or old, can be taught to come on cue," says Eryka. "But if you've been using a cue such as 'come,' and it hasn't worked 100 percent of the time, you need a new cue."

She suggests using an interim command. When a dog is in the process of coming toward her, Eryka loudly calls out—three times—a shortened version of its name. (For example, for Rudy, "Roo! Roo! Roo!") When the dog arrives at Eryka's side, the payoff is huge: chicken, ham, something it loves but rarely gets. Once a dog responds to the shortened version of its name, Eryka expands the command: "Roo! Roo! Roo! By me."

"Chances are, because the dog has been successful a million times before with the interim cue, he will succeed with the new 'By me' cue," says Eryka.

So, if you want to teach your dog one thing, this pet sitter votes you teach him to come. Mmm, do I smell chicken?

Many thanks to dog trainer Eryka Kahunania for her invaluable input.