Here’s a wonderful question I received from a pet sitter.
It addresses something we all have to deal with at one time or another in our business: Confronting a client with an observation we think is not in the pet’s best interest.
Really good question. And one that many of us face in one way or another during the course of our pet sitting career.
Whether it’s having to tell a client that their feeding habits are less than ideal, a training method is more counter-productive than productive, the dog is not getting enough exercise, or the collar is on too tight.
Nobody likes confrontation. As the person put in a position to do the confronting, we start to play the worst case scenario in our heads and anticipate the other person getting defensive, lashing out and start screaming.
Nobody wants to be on the receiving on end of that. So more often than not, we’ll bite the bullet and simply say nothing at all.
First and foremost, please understand that it is our responsibility as the professional pet sitter to provide input and feedback to the pet owner if and when we see a glaring problem.
The worst case imaginable would be to say nothing and have what could have been prevented take a turn for the worse and harm the pet.
How Do You Approach The Conversation?
So, how can discuss with your pet sitting client something you see that does not aqppear to be in the best interest of their pet?
Approach The Topic Non-Threateningly
How we approach any conversation sets the tone for the entire talk. Instead of saying something like, “I think you have the collar way too tight around your dog and it doesn’t look good.” Try an approach like, “I noticed Pooches has outgrown his collar a bit. I tried loosening it one notch but really he’ll be much better off with a whole new collar. Do you mind if I pick one up for him?”
Your client will say one of two things.
A. “Oh, I didn’t notice that. I’ll get him a collar next time I’m out.”
B. “Oh, really? OK, sure, that would be great.”
Personally, I would much prefer him to say B so I am sure the collar gets purchased in a timely manner.
What about paying for it?
If your client does not say something like “OK, pick it up and I’ll repay you for it” I would still happily spend the money for a brand new collar for the dog you love and the client you appreciate.
What About The Overweight Issue?
Now about the dog’s weight issue.
In the same tone, open up another conversation with him about what he’s feeding (IE. “Has Pooches’ diet changed in the last few months? … It looks like he’s put on a few and as you know weight gain can become stressful on a dog.”)
Add some lighthearted dialogue to ease the tension you may feel.
For example, when beginning talks about the dogs weight, lower your voice or have it away from the dog’s ears, as if he’d be offended or embarrassed by the conversation you’re about to have!
IE. “You know, I don’t want to say anything in front of Pooches about this, but has his diet changed?”
This way both you and the client can chuckle up front and he’ll become less defensive.
If it helps, you can also send him an email, or print out an article about the dangers of weight gain in the specific breed.
“Thanks! This Means A Lot.”
Last but not least, make sure to thank him for being open-minded about all this and reassure him that your job will always remain keeping his Pooches happy and healthy.
Now, your turn… If you have had to have a confrontation with a pet sitting client, please let me know how it went, how you approached it, how your client reacted, and what it is was about.
We can all use a little motivation and encouragement when it comes to confronting clients. I truly believe that in this area practice makes perfect. In other words, the more often we can talk directly and honestly with our clients, the more often we see that they actually appreciate the dialogue.