Caring for pets, especially dogs, is a big commitment, but the rewards are immense. With the pandemic slowly winding down and with people going back to work, dogs and other pets will start to experience back-to-work anxiety. In this episode, Hayley Foster sits down for a conversation with Leslie Stern, the owner of Leslie’s Leashes, to talk about pet care during these times of transitions. Leslie and Hayley discuss the ins and outs of becoming a pet family and what to expect with your dog. Tune in and learn more tips in caring for your dog.
Listen to the podcast here:
Back To Work Anxiety For Dogs With Leslie Stern
Leslie's Leashes, welcome to the show. I'm super excited that you are here to talk to me about all things pets. I like to make these informative and educational. I'm sure you've got some value bombs to drop on people who have basically all turned to pet owners during these crazy times. It's like the pet pandemic. Everyone was home. Everyone got a freaking dog and now no one knows what to do with them when they start going back to work. We're going to have some great conversations. I'm super excited that you're here. Let's jump right in. Give me a quick background on your business, how long you've been in business and enter a little intro with what's your why?
I have been in the business for years. I fell into it because one of my friends was a dog walker and she moved out of town and she asked me to take over her business, which I happily did because I've been an animal lover my entire life. I always had pets in my house, always had animals. It happened organically and naturally and I think that's the best way things happen.
It was a huge learning curve to get things started but thankfully, I live in a community with a lot of animal lovers and pet families, even pre-pandemic. There was just a need and I happily filled that need. It was a great marriage of being passionate about something and filling a need in the community. It's been wonderful and I enjoy waking up every day, seeing what's going to happen and what animals I'll see on that day.
As we went through this pandemic and I have to say, my kids think I hate them because every single one of my surrounding neighbors got a dog during the pandemic and we got a bearded dragon. They're super angry and every time a new dog walked by, they'd be like, "You just don't love us." I'm like, "I do love you, which is why I did not get a dog because they'd be yelling at you all the time and I don't want to be a yelling mom, nor do I want to be yelling at a dog and nor do I have time in my day for a dog."
Kudos to everybody that did. I know there are a lot of happy kids in town. A lot of sleepy parents because having a dog is like having a baby at first. I know it's a much shorter time span of sleepless nights. A funny question is like, "What to expect when you're expecting?" Can you give us some tips for families that are expecting pets and then we'll get into tips for those families that have pets that need a little bit of advice for how to handle this?
Your stories are very common. I hear it all the time. There are people who, maybe one family member wants a pet and somebody else in the family doesn't want a pet. I've had a lot of pre-consultations with families and walk them through the ins and outs of being a pet family or a pet parent. I do feel it's a big commitment and it is a lifestyle that one has to get used to and you are caring for another creature. The better knowledge you have about what to expect is great. I've dealt with families where one person even might be phobic about getting an animal.
I've talked them through it. Some people, I'm very proud of them who've overcome whatever fears they have and are now the dog or the cat is their absolute favorite family member. Sometimes the people that resist the longest are the ones that fall the hardest in love with the animal. If you are thinking of getting a pet, I'll focus a little bit more on dogs because they are a little more maintenance or involve a lot more attention than cats.
People constantly say the cat's attendant, they're not necessarily their parent because the cats are pretty self-sufficient. I'll focus more on dogs. I don't mean to exclude all the other wonderful pets out there. I've owned hedgehogs and fish as well and I know you've owned guinea pigs and a bearded dragon. There are a lot of other wonderful things and a lot more specialized pet care for those.
I don't want to ignore that or slight that but the majority of our clients are dog owners. The best thing to do is to come to a consensus as a family before you rescue or get a dog from a breeder. Go over your needs. What personality is the animal you're looking for? Do you want an animal that's laid back? Do you want an animal that's a lapdog?
Do you want a dog that's going to jog with you? Do you want a dog that is very outgoing or one that's a little more reserved? There are so many possibilities but that's a good conversation just to have with the family members in general. Also, getting into the nitty-gritty about who is going to have the responsibility, who's going to share the responsibility and just be very clear about those expectations beforehand.
Many times it does fall to a single family member but at least you have that communication going and you have those expectations. It's just a wonderful experience adopting an animal. Puppies, for sure, are almost like having a baby. I say almost. I have had human children as well so I know what that's like.
They have small bladders and they really need to go out quite frequently. One thing I tell people when they're trying to housebreak their animals is to find out what I call the PPP. I can't say that anymore because of all the loans but the PPP stands for the Pee and Poop Pattern. To find out and just to get them on a schedule like you'd have a child.
Getting out, playing, engaging and eventually, training, which is another way of engaging with the animal and bonding with the animal. A lot of people think it's a chore but it is a wonderful opportunity to bond with your puppy. The more involvement, the better, the happier it will be. At the end of the day, an exhausted dog is a happy dog and a happy parent. Those are just little tidbits.
That's because they'll leave you alone and that's a great nugget right there. At the end of the day, an exhausted dog is a happy dog. We'll get to the people that are going back to work but talk a little bit about the difference because you and I have worked together for several years. It's important for people to understand the difference between asking your neighbor to walk your dog or hiring a dog walking company to hire your dog.
This is a big topic, especially within the world of pet professionals and there is a huge network out there of people. As Hillary Clinton said, "It takes a village, not only with children but with animals as well." It is wonderful that if you have somebody that you can trust to help out with your animal whether it's a family member, a neighbor, whoever.
Choosing that person, it's much more than just reliability because animals can be very unpredictable. Even the best trainer in the world will admit they don't know what's going on in a dog's mind 100% of the time or in an animal's mind. Especially with dog-walking, which is a large part of my business, I've encountered many situations where there are little children who may not even weigh more than the dog itself walking the dog and this might be the best-behaved dog in the universe. The child cannot control the dog and it can be very dangerous. I don't want to just pinhole at children but even adults. I've seen adults with their dogs and they say, "Don't worry. My dog is friendly," and the dog I might be walking might not be friendly. It can get into a very dangerous situation is my point.
Even well-meaning, well-trained adults can get into trouble. If you hire a pet professional, this is somebody who's been trained, who has the experience, who like myself has probably trained also in CPR and first aid for animals. They have awareness and that focus about, "Here I am with an animal, this is what I'm supposed to be doing with the animal," as opposed to somebody who might casually be just out for a nice Sunday stroll.
It's really important as well that even pet owners sometimes are caught off guard. I have a friend that I saw, she wrote her whole story on Instagram. She was walking her dog, the dog saw something out of the corner of its eye and went for it. She, for whatever reason, didn't let go and she ended up three days in the hospital. She skinned half her body. She was a mess. It was a dog that she's owned forever but it took off on her and she wasn't prepared to let go of the leash for whatever reason.
That's why professionals like myself have insurance for those situations and there are a ton of those situations. I don't think people realize it but there are.
Let's get to the subject of people are going back to work and there's a lot of pandemic puppies out there. If you're local, you can call Leslie and get in touch with her. Give us some tips for those people that are going back to work. I'm imagining that parents are going to have to transition their puppies for separation anxiety. Is that a real thing?
It's a real thing. I see it in my own dogs as well because they've had so much together time. The silver lining of this pandemic is that people have been able to spend and bond with pets that now is going to shift as people return to work or retreat to their offices more and more maybe if they have a home office.
Anything that throws off a routine, dogs or cats, it throws the animal off. When the schedule's off and the animals a little out of sorts, they get scared and anxious. Slowly transitioning and slowly changing the schedule is a good idea. If you are planning on going to work, you would maybe extend the amount of time.
Even if you're not going to work, maybe you're just going out to do errands. Extend the time to leave your dog alone and see what happens. You might want to gate off a certain area if your dog is anxious about chewing things up. If you're nervous about destruction, maybe playing with that and seeing how it works and just doing a little trial but it is difficult.
It's also hard on the people too. I've had many people who are anxious about leaving their pets as well because pets give us so much support, affection and love. People themselves will feel anxious and animals pick up on that. It's important also to be aware of your own feelings and emotions because whether it's anxiety or whatever animals, they just know intuitively what's going on with you.
That's an important point. I was listening to Simon Sinek's podcast and he was talking about it doesn't matter who you are or how strong you are. At some point, we'll all have some form of PTSD from this pandemic. It's just a question of when it's going to hit you and how it's going to hit you. Be prepared for something like that.
I could only imagine after nurturing a puppy for the past however long it's been to then have to say goodbye to that puppy every day and the guilt, another reason why I'm such an animal lover. I really love animals. When I'm out and I forget to feed the bearded dragon, the guilt of, "You went to bed without his crickets," and he's a dragon. I feel so terrible.
I can't even imagine that guilt feeling of wanting to go on vacation but yet feeling tied to a dog, which is why I don't have a dog. I would imagine that it's a real thing and it's upsetting to a lot of people. Life has changed for all of us but is going to change some more as well as the world starts to open back up and people are vaccinated and people are going back to work. Great for you and your business, Leslie. Not so great for people's emotional states or the influx of the antidepressants out there.
We'll get there. Thankfully, I think the animals in our lives because they teach empathy, they teach so much about ourselves. They give such unconditional love that I know for me, personally, if I didn't have my animals and the clients' animals that I did see, I would have had a lot tougher time through this ordeal.
I have a question, which is a Debbie Downer. We don't know how old my mom's dog is and my mom is 78. I always say like, "I don't know who should go first, my mom or the dog." I don't know how my mom will handle losing that little pooch. People lose dogs all the time. You're setting yourself up for heartache when you get a dog because, at some point, you're going to outlive that dog. You hope to outlive the dog. What's a good tactic there for people in terms of putting your dog into your emergency plan? If God forbid something happens to my mom, should there be a note somewhere like, "The dog goes to Hayley,” or something?
First of all, the only worst part about being a dog parent or an animal parent is the fact that they don't live as long as you and you do have to deal with that processing grief at some point. The best thing you can do is have a plan of action for your animal. Whether you're young or old, whatever the situation is, have somebody who will be willing to take over guardianship of that animal.
That's the best thing you can do. People think about doing that for their children but they don't necessarily think about doing that for their animals. I volunteer at a shelter and there are often times where an animal is brought to the shelter because their owner passed away and nobody else in the family wanted to take care of them. Those situations are very heartbreaking. If you know and trust somebody, definitely ask them and put it in writing. That's a wonderful gift that you can give your pet.
Any other tips you want to share with our readers?
There are so many.
We're going to get you writing a blog again. I'm going to call it out here. Before this is up, you are going to have to prepare your pandemic pet for your return to the office. If you're reading, go to Leslie's website. This is the pressure I'm putting on her. That tip sheet is going to be there for you to download. We're going to make it happen.
Now I have to because you promised it. Therefore, it has to happen.
Thank you so much for being here and sharing your pet wisdom with all the readers, all two of them. Who knows how many people are reading this thing. Leslie, maybe I'll get some readers that are pet-friendly readers and wants some Leslie's Leashes tips. I appreciate you and your time.
I appreciate you. Thank you so much for having me.
You're very welcome.
podcast – Simon Sinek's podcast
About Leslie Stern
Leslie Stern, founder of Leslie's Leashes, feels it is extremely important for people to have animals in their lives. As an animal caregiver, it is her purpose to provide love for animals when their families can’t be there.
As the proud mother of two human children and the pet mother of twin cats, Tom and Jerry, Josie, a terrier/poodle rescue, and Benny, a Cane Corso rescue, she knows first hand the crucial role animals provide families. When not running her business, Leslie volunteers as a dog handler at the town shelter. Leslie has always had animals in her life and shares her passion and love with every animal she meets.