As I walked around the neighborhood recently, two little terriers came came running out of their front door toward me barking and then they abruptly stopped about 5 feet shy of the sidewalk I was on. It was as if they were tethered to invisible leashes because there was nothing visibly stopping them from going further.
Or was there?
A quick glance at their collars and the tiny “shock” device on them and I knew their owners had an “invisible fence” installed. I was able to continue walking with ease knowing that the terriers were not going to go any further toward me. Most definitely they got a few shocks in the training period and I am sure it took no time at all for them to figure out that harassing me was not worth the punishment wrapped around their neck.
Let me say I have mixed feelings about the use of shock collars. For the purpose of an invisible fence it makes sense, at least initially in the training period. An invisible fence can improve the quality of life for dogs and make for a safer environment. I am against shock bark collars because there are far more humane training methods such as this.
I have had a few clients with invisible fence systems on their properties, usually it is clients with larger yards or those with no fences at all. One of my clients eventually took the shock collars off of their dogs because the initial training was so efficient that after time the dogs naturally stayed within the “invisible fence” line on their own accord.
Another client of mine recently had an incident where one of their dogs dug under their back fence directly into their neighbor's yard and attacked their two dogs. She said both of the neighbor’s dogs were bitten and needed medical attention. Hundreds of dollars later, it was lucky that the two dogs were able to overcome their injuries. Then there is the damaged fence and neighborly relationship to mend. I couldn’t help but think that an invisible fence could have prevented the entire scenario. If they placed the underground line 3-5 feet from the back fence, all of the dogs would be safe, including the fence & landscaping!
I promise I am not getting paid to endorse invisible fence; I simply wanted to share with you a great tool that makes my life easier as a pet sitter and could possibly make yours easier too if you have escape artist dogs, aggressive dogs or dogs that are just zealous about checking out every passerby, nook and cranny! This tool could keep them safe, others safe, and keep you sane!
Check out some options:
Click here to find a local installer of the original professional system. (A few of my clients use this system).
PetSafe Wireless Pet Containment System on Amazon DIY (circular ½ acre) Amazon-affiliate link
SportDOG In-Ground Fence System (1,000 feet of wire) Amazon-affiliate link
There are more options than just these. Browse around Amazon or the internet, you are bound to find a solution that will meet your budget and your needs!
Recently I stumbled on a New York Times article about Brian Ferrell, a house sitter in Hollywood. The article mentioned some of the perks of housesitting and of course some of the shenanigans that ensued. Considering Brian’s antics, I clearly take house sitting a wee bit more seriously than he does. Or perhaps I am just more subdued.
Like Brian, I have had my share of book-worthy anecdotes, “learning experiences” and glorious perks in my years as a house and pet sitter. From the awful to the embarrassing, to the unbelievable, I am happy to have survived my earlier “amateur” years in this business.
Maybe not yet in Hollywood, but I too have had the pleasure of staying in some fantastic homes during the past several years. It sounds glamorous and it is. “If you have any laundry or ironing that needs to be done the cleaning staff come on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays.” said one client as she showed me their laundry room. I pet sat for them for years and never once had the cleaning staff do my laundry. I’ve been doing my laundry since birth basically and I was afraid I’d morph into a spoiled diva without the proper “grounding” that only doing laundry can provide. At least I keep telling myself that. Ha.
The closest I came to pet sitting for a celebrity was when I pet sat a few times for a local news anchor before she moved out of state. I still remember the day I met her at her house - it was strange to meet her in person; I thought she would be taller. During my stays I couldn’t quite get used to being greeted by the huge mirror in her hall - it made me grateful that I didn’t have to care that much about my daily appearance like she did. At the end of one stay I packed up and left and I inadvertently locked her out the day she returned from her trip just hours before she was supposed to be on the nightly news. She finally did get into her house in time and there is more to that story but you’ll have to read the book.
The main thing though is the pets - are they well adjusted? Cool? Calm? Spastic? Friendly? Vicious? Anxious? I’d be lying if I said I prefer only the wealthy or high profile clients I get. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. There is something to be said for cool pets and cozy homes. As much as I’d like to believe that all animals are amazing no matter what, it is just not true. I have had some difficult animals to care for over the years and it is usually the dealbreaker in the client relationship.
I remember years ago I had one client whose dog, Scooby, a labrador-mixed breed would get anxious when the owner was away and he would have terrible diarrhea the first few days of my stays. Several trips of theirs and several days spent chiseling Scooby’s diarrhea off of their tile/rugs/carpet I finally decided that $35 per night (or any amount for that matter) was just not going to cut it. I felt really bad for Scooby and bad for his owner but surely there had to be a better solution.
There are many ways pet sitting is surprising, exciting, rewarding and also challenging. No matter if you are in Hollywood or Austin or Albuquerque there are adventures to be had and great stories to be told. And they were…
What are the top options for pet care in Austin?
When exploring options for pet care when you travel, the top choices are sending your dog to a boarding kennel or hiring a pet sitter.
How do you know which option is best for your dog?
Lets examine the pros and cons of each...
Dog Boarding in Austin Pros:
Cost – the rate for basic care for one dog ranges from $40 per night to $100 depending on the boarding kennel. That said, most kennels require you to pay extra for longer play time, larger kennel space, walks, special food or supplements and medications.
Socialization – hanging with other dogs can be fun for your dog. This is a plus for highly social dogs, or dogs who prefer dog company over human company.
Vacation – some time away from home could be good. If you think about it, a boarding kennel is like summer camp or spring break for your dog – they’ll get a change of scenery for several days while you are on vacation.
Dog Boarding in Austin Cons:
Cost – unless your pet is a simple, anything-goes kind of dog, odds are you will be paying a lot of money for “extra care” such as particular food, adequate exercise breaks, large boarding room, walks, camera monitoring, etc. Kennels may seem reasonably priced at first glance, but when you really look at all of the needs of your pet, those service costs can quickly surpass the cost of a pet sitter.
Separation Anxiety – a chaotic kennel environment can exacerbate behavior issues or separation anxiety symptoms. Dogs will boycott food, feel stressed and act out which can lead to potential problems or illness.
Vaccinations – most boarding facilities require proof of current vaccinations and current flea/tick and heartworm treatments.
Onsite Staff – many kennels are not staffed by someone overnight. This is not ideal for pets who may be receiving medical care or who are used to sleeping near humans.
Kennel Cough and parasites – dogs are prone to illness and disease when confined for periods of time with other dogs, and possibly unsanitary conditions.
Risk of Injury – no matter how careful a facility is about behavior assessment or evaluations, the fact is dogs are pack animals that will try to establish dominance when in a group. This can lead to outbursts of aggression from minor scrapes and muscle strains to life threatening bites.
Feeding Schedule – most boarding kennels feed at specific times. This policy can be detrimental to dogs who are sensitive to changes in routine or who require supplements or other snacks outside of strict meal times.
So, what about a pet sitter?
Austin Dog Sitter Pros:
Personalized care – dogs (and cats) will be getting a lot more people interaction than they would in a kennel. A relationship is formed between pet and pet sitter which can ease separation anxiety, build trust and make it easy to monitor eating and bowel habits (and unusual animal behavior) more readily.
Price – a good pet sitter sets an all-inclusive price. That means if your pet gets special meals or treats a few times a day, it’s not an extra charge. A good pet sitter understands that these things are included in the overall rate and is a part of good dog care. Beware of pet sitters who want to nickel and dime – they are businesses foremost and not true animal caretakers. Pet sitting in households with multiple pets is often cheaper than using a boarding kennel.
No Place Like Home – allowing pets to stay in their home provides them with the familiar and comforting smells and surroundings they are accustomed to. Many older dogs prefer this type of familiar environment versus the rowdy summer camp feel of a boarding kennel.
House Care – a bonus of having a pet sitter is they will take your trash to/from the curb, collect your mail, shipments and newspapers, remove flyers & business cards from the front door (a tell-tale sign alerting others that you aren’t home), water foliage, rotate blinds/lights, and be a constant at your property.
Austin Dog Sitter Cons:
Illness or 24/7 Care – most pet sitters are not able to provide 24/7 care (yes, we have a life to attend to as well). We are also not medical professionals. If your dog has recently been ill or has a chronic serious illness, choosing a veterinarian boarding kennel that is staffed 24 hours to monitor your dog’s health, or hiring a Vet tech to pet sit for you might be a smarter choice.
Cost – pet sitters can get very expensive. In Austin, the cost is anywhere from $60 per night to $110 and beyond depending on how many pets you have. Typically, people with multiple dogs or cats benefit most from the use of a pet sitter. Services like Rover.com can be a good alternative to a professional pet sitter – but be sure to do a meet and greet and screen carefully!
Many pet sitters dismiss boarding kennels completely. I’ll admit that I used a boarding kennel for my late MinPin Jiminey Cricket years ago when I went away on a weekend ski trip. I carefully screened the kennel beforehand. It worked out fine (seemingly), but that was the only time I used a kennel. I think younger, healthy, non-aggressive, extroverted dogs do best in kennels, and even then I wouldn’t recommend using a kennel for longer than a week at the most, and ideally just for a weekend at a time.
Ultimately, you know what is best for your pets’ needs. Take time to make the right decision for yourself, your pet and your budget.
Have you had good or bad experiences with boarding kennels or pet sitters, or do you have an Austin boarding kennel you love or hate? Feel free to put your two-cents below in the comments.
Years ago I dated someone who worked at an insurance company. This was back when I was working in a corporate office and pet sitting was just a side hustle. When I told him that I stay in people’s homes with their pets, he immediately asked if I had ever been bitten by a dog. I told him that I had (only one bite at that point in time). He was emphatic when he explained that millions of dollars per year is spent on homeowner’s insurance claims for dog bites. He said it is one of their most frequent payouts.
(UPDATED March 2021: more reviews added below)
Original Post: April 2017
I have been reliving my earlier days as a pet sitter over the last few months because I am in the process of finishing a book about my pet sitting adventures, and well, my misadventures too. I’ve been doing a lot of cringing as I remember some of the “learning experiences” I had while pet sitting. It is interesting to look back and see how far I’ve come both personally and professionally over the last 15 years.
This week I decided to take the opportunity to compile all of the positive reviews I’ve received from clients both past and present. I felt like I needed to dig up some warm-fuzzies to remind myself of the reasons I am good at what I do! That said, nobody wants to read a boring book about how great of a pet sitter I am, so I figured I’d compile all the sweet sentiments I’ve received throughout the years in this post just to remind myself (and ya’ll) how I got on that tiny list and stayed there! (see photo above)
The comments below are clipped from past and present google, trusted housesitters, nextdoor, rover, and facebook. Enjoy!
Fantastic job! Yvonne updated us with great walks and photos. She took immaculate care of our four animals as well as home. We would love to have her again anytime. One of the best sitters we have had thus far. - Daniel A.
Custom Critter Sitters is amazing! We had to take a trip when our puppy was just 10 weeks and couldn't take him with us. Yvonne came and stayed at our house and took care of our pup and home while we were away. From the initial phone call, I got a great vibe from Yvonne and then during the meet-and-greet, I knew our pup would be in gentle, loving hands. She sent me pictures every day, and I'm pretty sure they played the whole time we were gone. I couldn't have asked for a better pet sitter! - Jocelyn E.
Yvonne was available to stay with my standard poodle, Georgia, at the last minute when we had other plans fall through. She even adjusted her work schedule to accommodate our plans as we had a very early flight and knew that Georgia would need a potty break fairly early in the day. Yvonne stayed in our home for the weekend and even took Georgia to her favorite dog park for an outing. We got photos and updates throughout the weekend, which was a relief, as this was our first time leaving her with anyone that wasn't family. I highly recommend Yvonne for dog sitting--she is responsible, responsive, and obviously has a way with animals. - April M.
Due to our hectic jobs and, at times, very long working hours, we needed a plan A, B, & C to make sure our pups were always taken care of and in the very best hands when we can't be there. We found Yvonne completely by happen-chance (random online search), and wow do we feel like we hit the jackpot!!!! We were nervous & skeptical at first, but Yvonne was 100% professional and offered full disclosure about her experience, etc from the start. She provided a list of diverse references (I contacted all of them and they all gave absolutely glowing reviews!), the meet and greet went great, and she went above and beyond from day one in understanding what our needs are and how to carry them out so everyone had a great experience (our dogs require critical meds, one has special physical needs, they both have multi-day walking requirements, both use food puzzles, and they're basically 2 spoiled dogs with a strong tendency towards diva-ness). And, most important, it was evident from day 1 that CoCo and Casper LOVE her! They gravitate towards her and I could tell they genuinely enjoy just being around her. We've used Yvonne multiple times now and her level of professionalism and the respect/care she shows our furbabes and our home is absolutely top notch. Yvonne has made us believers that in-home care is the right option for us, and we feel so incredibly thankful for her. If you're looking for someone in Austin, no need to look any further - Yvonne is amazing and we're so incredibly grateful she calls ATX home, too!!! - Antonetta A.
Yvonne has been a fantastic pet sitter and house sitter for us for the past several years. She always gives our many animals the love & care they deserve while we are on vacations or short trips. We have 2 mini-goats & 3 chickens (yes in the middle of the city), many fish, and 2 small dogs. She takes care of all of their various feeding routines, and makes sure they have fresh water (she even washes their bowls). She probably takes better care of our animals than we do, now that we are parents of real human children. The dogs cry for her when they hear her car pull up in our driveway. That's how often we use her and how much they love her. We highly recommend her & 100% trust her in our home. - Kellie T.
Trustworthy, accommodating & friendly to both us and our pets. Yvonne ran her own house/pet sitting service in her previous hometown of Albuquerque, and she is quite the pro, able to handle everything from our elderly (15) year old lab with medications, to our "middle aged" yet still a puppy at heart lab, to our 1.5 year old Shih-Tsu that's named Dumdum for a reason. You can relax and enjoy your trip with Yvonne keeping the livestock at home well cared for. - Evan P.
I am very satisfied with Yvonne's services. She was wonderful with my 2 dogs. She came over before my trip to learn how to dress Daniel's foot. She did a great job! The house looked great when I got home. She kept me informed about the dogs. I felt very comfortable leaving the dogs with her while I was gone. I would highly recommend her. Thanks for loving my dogs, Yvonne! - Kathy L.
Yvonne was a great sitter for Onyx. She is very thorough in her interview questions to make sure she can learn as much as possible about your animal and how you prefer the animal to be cared for in your absence. Onyx was on medicine from a spine injury and Yvonne took great care in playing with Onyx and making sure she was happy without risk of more injuries and made sure she had her daily medications and walks as prescribed. Already planning to book her for another stay. - Robin H.
Yvonne is the best sitter you could ask for. Our 3 yr old baby boy Winston who we rescued a yr ago had a very hard and abusive life with his former owners. He is a very sweet and loving boy but very sensitive as well. Yvonne took care of him as if he was her own.winston loved her and Yvonne was so wonderful and sweet with him. We told her that we sometimes howl with Winston and she sent us a video while we were away of her getting down on the floor and howling with him as well as many updates and pictures of our little boy. She also went out in the yard with him when it was dark and he had to do his business because he is scared of the dark. Winston was very happy with Yvonne and we were ecstatic with her as well. Yvonne took great care of our little boy and our house. We fell in love with her from our initial interview. She is a very sweet and loving person and good luck finding anyone who loves dogs more than Yvonne. Many dog sitters say they will take good care of your dog but we have found that to be lip service as the others we used it was obvious didn't take good care of our precious little boy. If you are looking for someone who will love and treat your dog as well as you do , then look no further than Yvonne. She is the sweetest, friendliest and most loving person and your dog will lick you to the high heavens for hiring her. We will use her everytime we go away. We have tried the rest , but in Yvonne we have found the best. Thank you again Yvonne for taking such great care of our little Winston. - Shawn K.
Yvonne was the perfect pet sitter for our cat! We were out of town for a little over a week and received periodic pictures and updates on how she was doing. We came home to a happy and calm cat and we had a relaxing trip knowing that Yvonne was here with her! - Amanda W.
I leave for long stretches without a care in the world. I know my beloved pets are in the best hands. She has stayed with us three times and now I wouldn't consider using anyone else. Dogs (multiple), fish, even chickens. She cared for and loves on them all. - Kelly R.
Yvonne provides the BEST service anyone can ask for. We had 3 dogs, each with the own issues (i.e. one was a frail senior, the other is scared of everything, & the other is hyper/crazy all the time) & she cared for them as we do. They were all happy to be with her, & we are just as happy. I've never had ALL 3 of my babies love someone as her, especially my scared boy. Please use Yvonne, she is truly the best. - Chris K.
Yvonne has taken care of my pets since 2014 and I trust her head and shoulders above anyone else! She has a great understanding of animals and is genuinely excited to see them! She is great with "special needs" pets who may require medicine or extra care. She also does stop by visits, which is purr-fect for my kitty when I'm out of town. When I return he is in a great mood and I am reassured that someone is also popping by to check on my place and bring the mail inside. Yvonne is a very kind, trustworthy and genuine individual. She sends me pics and updates each day, and tells me the mood of kitty too. It's nice to hear that he's being playful or hear a video of his meow while I'm away. Most importantly, animals are at ease while under her care. - Marie M.
Yvonne is first and foremost an animal lover. She WILL make sure your animal comes first! She is experienced, knowledgeable, professional, kind, and wraps it all up with a wonderful sense of humor. Look no further for your pet sitting etc. You have found your destination. - Bonnie B.
You couldn't find a more reliable and loving person to leave what's very important to you, your pet and your home. - Linda O.
Yvonne was a wonderful dog sitter for our two chihuahua fur babies! My only complaint...I think they loved her more than me! - Cynthia H.
You won't find a more reliable, caring and conscientious person than Custom Critter Sitter owner Yvonne. Your pets are in very good hands! - Chris R.
She is the best!!! A very responsible caring person who has great respect for those she is taking care of!!! - Marcus C.
I have known Yvonne for 17 years, and she is one of the most trustworthy and dependable people I've ever worked with and known. She takes excellent care of pets and houses, and you will be assured that you're leaving your furry family members in capable, caring hands. I highly recommend Yvonne Feltman as a house- and pet-sitter. - Donna R.
I was a client of Yvonne's "Abode Attendants" company in ABQ, NM. I used Abode to provide monthly checks on my vacation home while I was gone. Yvonne is very professional, thorough and trustworthy. She always provided regular status reports - with photos of any potential problems. I really lucked-out finding her! - Jeff R.
Yvonne is conscientious, loving, patient, responsible, hard working, She has very high standards and always, always goes the extra mile. She does what she says she'll do. She loves animals. She is also funny and fun. - Penny T.
Yvonne provided excellent pet and house sitting services for us over a 2 year period. She's personable, well-organized, and took good care of our two small dogs. - Trish S.
Yvonne is extremely competent and friendly. I would (and do) trust her completely in my home. She has stayed in our house for up to 2 weeks and handled everything that arose with efficiency and competence. - Mark B.
Yvonne Feltman has taken care of our pets (2 dogs and 1 cat) and home for over 2 years. She is absolutely the best, and I can give her the highest recommendation in every respect! - Charlsa B.
Yvonne is the perfect someone to love and care for your pets as you would when you're away from home. - Cory H.
Yvonne is the best pet and house sitter there is. Period. She places your pets above all else, providing them with love, care and affection - probably more than they've ever been subjected to before! She's so good she can even be trusted to look after her ex-boyfriend's ex-girlfriend's dogs. That is to say she's chill and compassionate and responsible with a good sense of humor and will take excellent care of your pets and property alike. - Aaron H.
I have known Yvonne for many years, she is 100% trustworthy and dedicated. Her attention to detail is impeccable. She has a genuine love of animals that translates into prioritizing the happiness of your pets. HIGHLY recommend!! - Mike H.