6 min read

Tips for Communicating with Pet Parents


Whether it’s a sitting, boarding, drop-in, or walking service, Pet Caregivers work in a dog-eat-dog world. While few jobs are as rewarding as caring for canines and felines all day, Pet Caregivers face plenty of challenges. 

One of the trickiest parts of being a Pet Caregiver is effectively communicating with Pet Parents. Many Pet Parents treat their pets like their children, so you need to be at the top of your game to ensure Pet Parents are satisfied with your/ service. 

As fur-babies are unable to talk, building a good rapport with Pet Parents is essential to the success of your budding business. Here are a few tips for communicating with doggy daycare clients, kennel customers, and everyone in between! 

Note: these tips are just guidelines and do not constitute business advice.

Tips for your first meeting with a new client

Your first meeting with a client is your chance to make the "ultimutt" first impression and show you're the right person to care for their fur-baby. Here are a few tips for your first meeting:

Be prepared for any question

Pet Parents will normally ask lots of open questions, including, "Why did you become a Pet Caregiver?" and "Are you insured?" Anticipating answers to common questions will go a long way toward building trust.

Ask lots of questions

Having questions you want to ask will ensure you're prepared for anything. It also shows you’ll go the extra mile for their mutt. For some sample questions, check out our checklist for new Pet Caregivers.

Pay attention to detail

When asking questions, pay attention to detail. Questions like, "What's your crating policy?" and "Is your dog microchipped?" show you’re paying attention.

Set your hours

While it's good to be open to communication, you'll want to set working hours. Boundaries are important, and you won't want a Pet Parent messaging you at midnight for an update — yikes!

Be transparent about policies

To prevent awkward situations down the road, let the Pet Parent know beforehand what to do if they need to cancel or amend their booking.

Supply a homemade treat

Bake some delicious homemade treats for your canine client to show Pet Parents you'll take "pawsome" care of their pet. Of course, ask if it's okay to give their pet a treat first, and double-check for food allergies and sensitivities. 

Need some inspiration? Check out these peanut butter recipes for dogs and these Christmas cookie recipes for cats!

tips for communicating with pet parents as a dog walker

What to do if you show up to your appointment late

One of the most common and awkward situations for Pet Caregivers is running late for an appointment. Sometimes, running late is unavoidable, especially if you live in the city and traffic's bumper to bumper. Pet Caregivers through Wag! should bear in mind continual lateness will affect your Pet Parent Favorability Score. 

Here are a few tips on what to do if you're running late for an appointment. 

Make contact ASAP

Let your client know the situation as soon as possible through Wag! Chat. Pet Caregivers with Wag! should update their ETA on the app (iOS only). Otherwise, your appointment will be canceled without any payout. 

Take responsibility and be apologetic

Even if you're late due to an unforeseen circumstance, take full responsibility. Explain the situation and be apologetic. Doing so will show maturity and help prevent conflict. 

If a Pet Parent reaches out because they're running late

Occasionally, you might find the Pet Parent is running late and reaches out to change their appointment. If you’re booked through Wag!, redirect them to the app, where they can change their schedule under the "Upcoming Services" tab.

How to dispute a cancellation of services as a Pet Caregiver

So, a client of yours says they canceled their service, but it's still showing as booked on your Wag! app or vice versa — what do you do? First, it's essential to understand how cancellations work.

There's no cancellation fee for walks, drop-ins, and in-home training if a Pet Parent cancels more than 24 hours before the appointment. If they cancel within 24 hours of an appointment, they will be charged a $5 cancellation fee for walks and drop-ins, and a $10 cancellation fee for training. For boarding and sitting services, a $40 cancellation fee will apply if a sitter or boarder has already been assigned. 

If a Pet Parent needs to cancel a service, they can do so through the Schedule tab on the Wag! app. Pet Caregivers can also request a cancellation, which will free up the appointment for another Caregiver. Repeated cancellations may affect your Pet Parent Favorability and your ability to book future sessions. 

If a Pet Parent is disputing a cancellation — whether it's because they canceled or you canceled — be sympathetic. Explain the process for cancellations. Let them know that, as an independent contractor, you’re unable to deal with claims directly. Direct the client to Wag!'s Help Center and Terms of Service, where they can learn more about our cancellation policy.

Tips for making sure your pet clients' needs are met

The most important part of any Pet Caregiver's job is ensuring their clients’ needs are met. Paying attention and understanding what's being asked of you goes a long way toward ensuring a successful session. 

Before your first appointment, make a list of everything your client's Pet Parent has said about their fur-baby. This list might include: 

  • whether their pet is allowed on the furniture
  • which treats to feed them
  • how long they need to be walked for

Making notes and asking lots of questions is paramount to a pet's happiness. Much of this information will be stored in Wag! Chat for easy access.

Next, you'll want to learn how to read a pet's body language. As our pets can't speak, body language is essential for understanding a pet's mood. If you're no expert on animal body language, consider taking the Fear Free™ Pet Sitter Certification Program

This Wag!-approved program helps Pet Caregivers understand walking techniques, read body language, and calm an anxious or upset pet. You'll also learn a thing or two you can pass on to Pet Parents.

Tips on how to make your clients trust you

There are several things you can do before and during a pet care session that'll help build trust between you and your clients. Of course, being prepared and asking lots of questions will help build trust from your first meeting. 

Contact the Pet Parent through the Wag! app if you have any questions

One of the big things many Pet Caregivers get wrong is not contacting a Pet Parent to ask questions while they're away. Most Pet Parents won’t mind the odd question, especially if it wasn’t covered previously.

As canine behavioral expert Robert Cabral says,

"If there's anything you're not completely comfortable with, contact the Pet Parent — remember, the dog's safety is at stake."

As soon as you're not comfortable with something or something goes wrong, contact the Pet Parent. They'll appreciate being kept in the loop, and contacting them immediately for advice helps build trust and shows you're not trying to hide anything. Even if the dog is injured, it's better to let the Pet Parent know immediately than have to explain why you waited to tell them. 

Send detailed report cards and updates

Another excellent way of building trust is by keeping Pet Parents involved through picture and video updates. Not only will photo and video updates show your client that their fur-baby is safe and sound, but they'll also appreciate getting to see their pet while they're away. 

Once the service is over, you can send the Pet Parent a report card with a summary of the service and a super cute pic of the pup. Be as detailed as “pawssible” in your report card.

Make notes in the Wag! Pet Caregiver app

In the Pet Caregiver app, you can add notes about a pet or profile. These might include:

  • Parking is difficult to find
  • Lockbox location
  • Dog barks at first but settles down quickly

This info is shared with other Pet Caregivers to simplify future bookings. When you accept a booking, check for previous Pet Caregiver notes to ensure you have all the information you need.

Don’t lie about your pet care experience

You'll also want to be honest on your profile. Avoid claiming you have experience working with a specific condition, breed, or animal if you don’t. There's a good chance a Pet Parent will find out the truth through some intense questioning, and not knowing how to care for a certain animal may come back to bite you.

Got questions about communicating with Pet Parents? Leave a comment below!

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