Badges are a Valuable Business Tool

Snaggle Foot | Published:

Pet parents are searching for peace of mind.

Administering medications to pets is one of the most important services that you can offer as a Snaggle Foot Pet Care Specialist.  Often, the burden of having a pet that has a chronic illness, or requires a lot of extra medical care, leaves pet parents feeling stressed, depressed, anxious, and alone.  Similar to caring for a human family member, caring for a sick pet takes its toll.  Vacations are often skipped and work hours are shortened to accommodate for the extra care needs.  This “caregiver burden” is amplified by the lack of support services available to pet parents. 

It’s hard for pet parents to trust that anyone would take care of their sick pet the way that they would.  With medications being delivered on-time, right dosages being administered, and safe techniques being used to minimize any stress or harm.  News reports feature unreliable and unsafe situations that even healthy pets experience on a regular basis.  So, who can be trusted? 

That’s where you come in…

Where the “other guys” simply check a box stating that they are “comfortable” administering medications to pets, our Snaggle Foot Pet Care Specialists are trained and certified in this specific skill.  No other pet care company offers a medication administration certificate!  By leveraging Snaggle Foot Academy in your marketing and communications plans, you can become the trusted partner in that pet’s comprehensive care plan!

"Certification marks have the greatest impact on consumer trust levels, period."

PRICEWATERHOUSE COOPERS

Establish trust through Snaggle Foot Academy online education.

Most of you have been providing this important service to your Snaggle Foot pet clients for many years -in fact- that’s why we created this badge.  Snaggle Foot Academy provides you with the tools and resources to not only raise the bar in pet care, but to set it!

Step One: Complete The Training

Ensure that each member on your team is enrolled in Snaggle Foot Academy and that you, and your entire team, have earned your "Administering Medications to Pets" Badge.

Step Two: Allow Pet Parents to Find You

Update your Pet Care Specialist's profiles with the specific badge credentials on your SnaggleFoot.com location page. Without taking this important step, how will prospective pet parents know that they can look to you as a trusted partner to join their care team? Why not differentiate yourself from the competition?

Step Three: Promote Your Services

Leverage social media, email newsletters, printed materials, and marketing communication to promote this important service to new, existing, and old clients.

Step Four: Request A Review

If you have a happy pet parent, don't be shy about asking for an online review.  Provide them with an easy link to where you want the review to go, and then consider thanking them with a personalized message, card, or even a percent off of an upcoming service.

0
Percent of Snaggle Footers have already started their badge... is your team on that list?

Take the first step!

Team members can be added any time.
Questions?  Want help creating a learning plan?  We are here for you! 
Contact Jana Rewey Huffman at jana.huffman@snagglefoot.com

Local Business Hashtag Strategy

Snaggle Foot | Published:

What in the #hashtag?!

We’ve all heard that hashtags are an important tool in social media strategy, but understanding how to use them effectively to grow your local business can be a challenge.  The truth is, if you’re hashtag fluent, you can reach a much larger share of local customers.  And, if used incorrectly, you could be wasting time and resources.

The great news is that it’s not that difficult to master!

Step One: Consider the Platform

Instagram Tip:

If you are leveraging the social media content provided by Snaggle Foot Corporate, you can customize this content to make it work even harder for you by adding a few hashtags that are specific to your local audience. You can do this by adding the hashtags right to the caption, or you can comment on your post with the added hashtags. Both options will allow you to reach a larger and more targeted audience locally.

Step Two: Start Following Hashtags

A great way to determine what hashtags you should be using, is to start following them yourself.  This also allows you to keep up with industry trends, follow competitors (without actually following competitors), and gain valuable insights about your audience.  Look at the other pet service companies in your market.  What hashtags are they using?  What hashtags are other local businesses in your area using?  

An added bonus is that your social media feed will be flooded with photos and videos of cute animals.  #Winning

Step Three: Select Your Hashtags

Hashtags that work for big national brands, don’t always work for small businesses.  Here are a few considerations to ensure you are reaching the right audience. 

Match up your content with your hashtags.

It’s important to ensure that each hashtag directly relates back to the photo or video that you are sharing.  For example, if you use the hashtag #doglover when you’re featuring a photo of one of your favorite feline clients, it will be far less effective.  That’s not the type of content that people are looking for when they search that hashtag.

Instagram Tip:

It might be tempting to simply copy and paste the same hashtags for every post on Instagram, but don't do it! Instagram's official community guidelines state that "repetitive posting of comments or content" is not allowed. They will actually penalize you for continually repeating the same hashtags. There are free hashtag generator apps, like Hashtag Expert, that you can download to make life a little easier for you.

Vary the types of hashtags you use. 

Social media hashtags typically fall into 4 categories: brand, subject matter, trends, and community.  By selecting hashtags that blend these categories, you diversify the audience you are reaching.  Here are a few examples.

  • Brand: #SnaggleFoot, #OutrageouslyProfessional
  • Subject Matter: #CatLovers, #DogMom, #BirdSitting
  • Trends: #DogsOfInstagram, #DogoftheDay
  • Community: #DogsOfAnnArbor, #CatsOfDallas

 

Evaluate the hashtag audience size.

Not all hashtags are created equally.  The number of followers for a specific hashtag will vary drastically.  The more general the hashtag, typically the more followers there will be.  But that doesn’t mean that they are the best ones to use.  If a hashtag has millions of followers, it will be harder for your small business to stand out.  But, you also want to make sure that the hashtags you are selecting are ones that people are at least searching for. 

Select a hashtag for this photo based on audience size.

Below are three perfectly acceptable hashtags to use based on the subject matter. However, your post is much more likely to reach the intended audience when using one of the last two options. Think: bigger fish, smaller pond.

Step Four: Have Fun With It!

Hashtags open the door for more people in your community to find out about you, your business, and your amazing team!  Rest assured, there is usually no “right” answer when it comes to social media… the same thing holds true to the use of hashtags.  Have some fun with it, follow a few new hashtags, and reach an even larger audience!

Questions about your local social media hashtag strategies?  We are here for you!  
Contact Jana Rewey Huffman at jana.huffman@snagglefoot.com

What Happens If Pets Eat Cicadas?

Cicada

As Brood X emerges from its 17-year gestation period, pet owners may be concerned if their pet swallows these bugs.

It’s a momentous occasion that happens once every two decades—the re-emergence of cicadas. After a 17-year hiatus, Brood X has a new generation of cicadas coming out of the ground and, inadvertently, tempting dogs with their crispy, crunchy shells. Given the curious nature of cats and dogs, it’s only natural that they swat, nose and even bite the unidentified creatures. But what happens when pet owners hear that dreaded swallow?

As it turns out, nothing. While it’s not a healthy habit to encourage, pet owners shouldn’t be concerned if their animal eats the occasional cicada or two. In fact, veterinarians explained to the New York Times that the only concern is overindulgence and upset stomachs, which come in the forms of lethargy, diarrhea and vomiting. While cicadas do carry a fungus, it only impacts the bugs—not the entities that eat them.

The panic surrounding pets and cicadas is a rare event, given the longevity of the bugs’ gestation period. When that concern is factored in with the increased emotional bond pets and pet parents forged over the past 16 months, it’s only natural for owners to worry.

Cicada consumption is more of a concern for dog owners than cat owners, given the increased time dogs spend outside. Outdoor cat parents shouldn’t be concerned, either; the veterinarians interviewed by the NYT explained that cats are more inclined to go after static prey, not those that are moving.

For pet parents who are still wary about walking their dogs during this infestation, it’s recommended to get out before dawn or after dusk.

New Survey Reveals What Pet Owners Will Miss Most When Returning to Work

black and white dog

Ahead of National Take Your Dog to Work Day, this survey looks at pet parents’ greatest concerns about returning to the office.

A new survey conducted by Wellness Natural Pet Food found that 33 percent of working pet parents say that being with their pet is what they miss most upon returning to the office, beating out other conveniences like sleeping in late (28 percent), working from the couch (24 percent) and dressing comfortably (15 percent).

Given the option, more than half (53 percent) of working pet parents would rather continue working from home with their pet than to go back to the office without them.

After spending so much time at home, 21 percent of working pet parents said that leaving their pet at home alone is what makes them most nervous about returning to work, and 78 percent think there should be pet-friendly policies at their work place. The survey also revealed that 73 percent of working pet parents feel having pets at work will make it a fun place to be when they do return to the office, 22 percent say that the ability to bring their pet to work is the most important pet-friendly policy for them, and 29 percent say they are more compassionate in the workplace because they are a pet parent.

“As pet parents return to work, it will be a transition for both humans and pets, and an even bigger adjustment for the millions of families who added a pet for the first time,” said Dr. Danielle Bernal, global veterinarian with Wellness Natural Pet Food. “This Take Your Dog to Work Day, we’re urging employers to think about and listen to the needs of their pet parent employees, and recognize the many ways that pets make us better people, and workers.”

New US pet ownership study confirms pandemic-led growth

Couple with their dog

Pet ownership in 2020 rose to 70% of US households, and Millennials were the largest cohort of pet owners, per APPA’s new survey.

In 2020, pet ownership in the U.S. rose from 67% of households to an all-time high of 70%, wrote Steve King, president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association (APPA), in a preview of the association’s soon-to-be-released “2021-2022 APPA National Pet Owners Survey.”

“Pets have played a central role in comforting Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic,” King wrote in an article for Pet Business. That resulted in increased spending on pet food and supplies in 2020, he added; 35% of pet owners surveyed said they spent more on their pets in the previous 12 months than in the preceding year. Gen Z and millennial pet owners led the higher spending, with 49-50% reporting they had spent more on their pets.

Millennials were also revealed to be the largest cohort of pet owners at 32 percent, followed closely by Baby Boomers at 27 percent, and Gen X at 24 percent.

Other key findings from the 2021-2022 study include:

  • Pet spending increased during the past year, with 35 percent of pet owners stating they spent more on their pet/pet supplies in the last 12 months than in the preceding year.
  • 14 percent of total respondents (pet owners and non-pet owners) obtained a new pet during the pandemic. Additionally, at least one in four new pet owners shared their recent pet acquisition – ranging from dogs to reptiles to horses – was influenced by the pandemic.
  • Pet owners’ online shopping increased by almost 20 percent. Before the pandemic, 60 percent of pet owners usually purchased pet products in person at brick-and-mortar stores. During the pandemic, in-person shopping dropped to 41 percent.
  • 51 percent of pet owners are willing to pay more for ethically sourced pet products and eco-friendly pet products.
  • Pet insurance purchases amongst both dog and cat owners have also increased, nearly doubling amongst cat owners in particular.

“For more than 30 years, APPA has been collecting and reporting consumer insight data through our National Pet Owners Survey, and each year we aim to enhance this industry resource,” said Steve King, APPA president and CEO. “The newest edition of the survey is the most comprehensive yet and we look forward to arming our members and the broader pet care community with the information needed to make strategic, informed business decisions that will help advance our already burgeoning industry.

The Surprising Cost of Parenting a Pet

By Carley Lintz

Pet Business | Published:

 

Adopting a pet is an almost surefire way to add joy to your life,

but it does come at a cost—at least for your wallet.

According to a new survey from TD Ameritrade, 33% of Americans have or have considered fostering/adopting a pet due to social distancing guidelines. When broken down by generation, the rate was highest among millennials at 50% compared to Gen X at 33% and Baby Boomers at 25%.

However, many pet owners quickly realized that pet ownership isn’t a cheap endeavor. In fact, almost half of surveyed dog owners (47%) said that having a pet is more expensive than they initially anticipated, spending an average of $1,201 annually.

Cat owners were similarly surprised with 41% reporting that their pet is more costly than expected, even though they only spent half as much as dog owners at $687 a year.

The top two spending categories for both animals were food and veterinary visits/vaccinations. When it comes to medical care, the average maximum dog owners reportedly will spend is $3,307 if their pup got sick. Cat owners capped their spending at just below $2,000.

According to the report, other categories pet parents are willing to splurge on include holiday gifts (66% of dog owners and 58% of cat owners), Halloween costumes (46% of dog owners and 34% of cat owners) and birthday parties (42% of dog owners and 34% of cat owners).

First U.S. Dog to Test Positive for COVID-19 Dies

First U.S. Dog to Test Positive for COVID-19 Dies

By Hannah Miller

Published: 08.04.2020

The first dog to test positive for COVID-19 in the United States passed away on July 11, according to an exclusive news report from National Geographic. Buddy, a seven-year-old German Shepherd from Staten Island, N.Y., was confirmed to have the virus in May and also suffered from lymphoma.

The canine likely caught the virus from his owner, Robert Mahoney. He started showing symptoms in April as he began struggling to breathe and had thick mucus in his nose. He also exhibited weight loss and lethargy. On the day he was euthanized, he was vomiting blood.

It’s unclear whether Buddy’s death was from the virus or lymphoma—the cancer was only diagnosed when additional blood work was performed on the day he died. It’s unclear whether pre-existing conditions like cancer can increase coronavirus complications in dogs the way they do for humans.

The Mahoney family felt that public health officials weren’t that interested in learning from Buddy’s illness or his death. They had limited conversations with the New York City Health Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and had already cremated Buddy by the time the Department of Health asked for a necropsy.

At least 24 animals have tested positive for the coronavirus in the U.S., according to data compiled by the USDA. The animals include lions, tigers, dogs and cats. The Mahoneys’ other dog, a German Shepherd puppy named Duke, tested negative for the virus, but had antibodies, indicating that he had been infected at some point.

There is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Organization for Animal Health. However, studying animals that have been infected and learning about how the disease impacts them could be helpful for learning more about the virus and how to keep pets safe.

The Pet Industry Remains Durable During the Pandemic

The Pet Industry Remains Durable During the Pandemic

By Kelly Lindenau

Pet Business | Published: 08.01.2020

In a world that’s been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing’s for sure—the pet industry has made the most of the grim situation and, once again, demonstrated its durability.

It’s business, but not as usual. If you plopped someone from seven months ago into the middle of a retail store today, they’d be completely lost. Cashiers are partitioned away by thick plexiglass walls, stickers and markings adorn the floors to encourage social distancing and masks are liberally handed out to provide a critical layer of protection.

It’s a scene that’s foreign even to the people who’ve lived through the COVID-19 pandemic, and yet it’s the country’s new normal for the foreseeable future. Though it seems like ages ago, it’s only been a few months since the U.S. locked down indefinitely and brought everyone’s lives to a screeching halt. While the stay-at-home order produced a variety of visceral responses—retailer Nancy Guinn, president/owner of Virginia-based Dog Krazy, remembers “waking up and just bursting into tears” upon hearing the news, as she had just signed two leases on new properties the week before—the lockdown ultimately highlighted the resilient nature of the pet industry.

“It showed who’s doing this as a hobby and who’s in this to succeed,” says Guinn. “Pet stores were deemed essential, yet so many closed and stayed home. I understand fear, but you have to find a way to continue through anything that is thrown at you.”

From that attitude, a picture of adaptability and determination was painted. In such unpredictable, turbulent times, it’s easy to succumb to the negativity surrounding society, but the pet industry proved that, once again, it can make the most of a bad situation.

“I believe our resiliency and growth throughout is a sign of the positive impact it has had,” says Michael Baker, president of pet specialty distributor Pet Food Experts. “As an industry, we banded together, and I think the need to quickly adapt to the changes caused by the pandemic made us all better business owners.”

Silver Linings

While most industries—namely dining and entertainment—were faced with devastating losses, pet businesses were given the green light to remain open at their discretion. Retailers across the country were amazed at how quickly and effectively their sales team, customers and support services stepped up to become sources of dependability.

“I’ve learned how valuable having a banker, CPA and attorney are, but most importantly, I saw what an incredible team we have at all our stores,” says Guinn. “We saw which employees were here to get us through this time; we saw our customers continue to support us through the trials of going mainly online.”

Though some brick-and-mortar locations found themselves with the relatively easy role of expanding or updating their existing e-commerce offerings, others were given the urgent task of creating a comprehensive online presence—a difficult feat, even for tech-savvy individuals. Luckily, all that hard work was an investment that will pay dividends well into the future.

“Consumers will continue to seek out the most safe and convenient options to shop, like online ordering, curbside pickup and delivery services,” says Baker, noting that retailers who offered those three services performed 25 percent better than those who didn’t. “These behaviors may wane a bit once the threat of COVID-19 is no longer imminent, but I think the routine will be ingrained in all of us and we will continue to be conscious and careful for years to come.”

Al Puntillo, chief merchandising officer for Mud Bay, adds that even as the country cycles through the phases of reopening, those contact-free shopping options won’t be going anywhere, meaning retailers need to offer “the best of both worlds” by creating a cohesive in-store experience and e-commerce option.

What a Great Dog! Training Facility (WAGD) in Frisco, Texas, struck this balance quickly—it wasn’t allowed to offer in-house training, but it didn’t want to miss out on that aspect of business entirely.

“We were able to develop and implement an e-learning program that can extend beyond COVID, not to mention [one that] is established in case of another interruption in service,” says Kenna Sloan, director of business services/co-owner of WAGD. “Since we were able to reopen in-person services, we’ve been able to transition our online learning to a new educational platform and create a product that can compete in [outside markets].”

Sloan notes that with this online training alternative, many pet parents who come in for in-store training are opting to parallel in-person sessions with video training as a supplement to their pet’s development (and WAGD’s wallet).

While some stores have been offering variations of these services for some time now, others have entered uncharted waters. With no real road map to follow, retailers need to be able to work together and collaborate with each other, which experts believe can be accomplished through a retail association—an idea strongly championed by Puntillo.

“Our vision for the Independent and Neighborhood Pet Retail Association is a group centered around sharing information and building community between independent retailers,” he says. “COVID-19 is a great example of a time when retailers need those things more than ever. Being able to hear from other retailers how they have handled signage, store hours, staff safety [and] hazard pay, as well as provide resources for retailers who need help, really highlights the need for a group fully focused on the needs of independent retailers.”

For those retailers who have been able to adjust to the new way of retailing brought on by the pandemic, the payoff has been significant. While it might seem like a matter of common sense that sales would drop dramatically as lay-offs and furloughs happened by the thousands, that’s not necessarily what happened in pet stores across the country. As people quickly stocked up on the necessities, the needs of their pets were included in that rush—after all, pets of all kinds require food, treats and other basics. In addition, sales have been driven by a surprising boost in pet ownership.

“There were a significant number of people in our community who fostered or adopted during the first weeks of the shutdown,” Laura Gangloff, co-owner of Delaware-based Riverfront Pets with her husband, Clinton. “It’s not a huge sample size, but pet ownership around here has definitely increased. Our community has become a little tighter. We know each other better and rely on each other a little more.”

Lindsy Argenti, marketing manager for Coastal Pet Products, explains that she’s optimistic the uptick in pet ownership will be permanent and, while COVID-19-level demand will probably taper out, sales for pet retailers should continue to thrive.

The Bad with the Good

All of this isn’t to say that the pet industry is bulletproof—the spread of COVID-19 has created a serious situation, and many retailers have watched as their friends and colleagues boarded up their stores and walked away from their lives’ passion due to circumstances out of their control.

“The purchasing habits of our neighbors fell into fairly consistent patterns until mid-March,” explains Gangloff. “Now, the weekly and month to month numbers are all over the place—it makes planning very difficult. People have fewer places to go, so our neighbors will visit, but not necessarily buy.”

At the same time, many customers have gone online to stock up on their pet essentials without leaving home. Although they might have ordered from a local, trusted retailer who just built an online presence, even that has had a downside, as it still means less traffic in stores and competing with major players like Chewy and Amazon on their own turf.

“The brick-and-mortar stores have to find ways, now more than ever, to differentiate from online retailers,” advises Sloan. Though it can be a costly venture up front, retailers need to seriously consider taking the leap into offering additional pet-related services to give themselves an edge that can’t be replicated on a computer or smart phone.

While not all services are pandemic-proof—“training and walking services virtually disappeared,” notes Gangloff—Riverfront Pets was one of the few pet groomers open in the area, which helped that aspect of the business stay afloat.

The New Normal

As consumers emerge from their self-isolation into a new reality—staying six feet apart, wearing masks, sanitizing frequently—the in-store shopping experience isn’t what is used to be. While they’re all necessary steps, it takes away from the personal experience pet stores typically provide. It’s hard to create a friendly neighborhood atmosphere during this time.

“The combination of exponential demand and a necessary reduction in efficiency due to social distancing and cleaning requirements has really challenged us to operate in new ways,” explains Argenti.

As the ability to provide educational, friendly face-to-face interactions with customers are one of the most important parts of building relationships for brick-and-mortar retailers, figuring out how to provide this experience has to be a major focus.

Puntillo explains that for its part, Mud Bay is utilizing friendly, clear signage both in store and out to help educate customers on the contactless pick-up programs that are being offered, as well as reminders about the CDC guidelines for preventative measures.

“To keep things more personal, we are still offering treat samples with displays,” says Sloan. “The samples are now in individual little bags, versus just a bowl to reach in. We are even more aware of greeting each customer and stepping out to help them with products from a safe distance.”

Of course, the postponement of SuperZoo—one of the annual trade shows that unites the pet industry—was a devastating blow, as retailers lost an opportunity to diversify their store’s portfolio, meet their manufacturer partners face-to-face, and network with their peers. However, that loss will only drive manufacturers to promote their discounts and products through other avenues.

“I think sales reps will be working harder to show us new merchandise,” says Guinn, because at the end of the day, manufacturers still need to sell their products, and retailers still need up-to-date inventory. Argenti confirms this, explaining that Coastal Pet—along with a litany of other distributors—are “100 percent committed” to its retail partners.

Additionally, many trade shows and other industry events are workshopping ideas on how to host online trade shows in an attempt to virtually bring the industry together. Once perfected, this medium can be offered as an alternative to retailers who can’t afford all of the costs associated with attending trade shows in person, paving the way for hybrid models.

Back to the U.S.

Though the distrust in overseas manufacturing has been simmering since the infamous pet food recall in 2007, the COVID-19 pandemic might just be the final catalyst that pulls most manufacturing back to the U.S. After all, U.S.-based manufacturers already rely on local sourcing and production methods, just as retailers have already been priortizing American-made products.

“Most of our inventory is U.S.-made and -sourced, so we didn’t have any problems other than getting freezers for our new locations,” says Guinn. “I personally will pay more for U.S.-made and -sourced, and most our customers feel the same.”

Gangloff believes it’s “too soon” to discuss this topic, and recommends focusing on the day-to-day problems. At a minimum, though, retailers should be wary of where their consumable products are coming from, as there’s still some uncertainty and red flags around foreign manufacturers.

“We do avoid any food, treats or edible chews that are manufactured in China,” says Sloan. “With toys and other training gear, it’s hard to beat the cost of manufacturing overseas. We plan to watch consumer behavior to tell if there is a value added to products that are made in the U.S.”

No matter what the future brings (or where it’s manufactured), pet retailers are left with a shared experience and the confidence that no matter what happens, no matter how scary the world gets, the passion of the pet industry is unmatched.

“This business is my heart, and I’ll never let it fail,” says Guinn, echoing the thoughts of thousands of pet retailers. “You can’t give up—you have to pivot and find a way to make it work. This has been a learning experience, and we are thankful for it.”  PB

Worried about a difficult conversation?

Worried about a difficult conversation?

Here’s advice from a hostage negotiator.

 

By Elizabeth Bernstein | The Wall Street Journal
June 14, 2020 9:00 am ET

Bracing yourself for a tough talk?

There are so many to have right now. Tensions over racial issues, politics and the coronavirus pandemic are provoking arguments within families and between friends: Spouses are arguing about money; siblings are fighting about how to keep parents safe from the virus; some people are confronting relatives about race. Many conversations have the potential to become heated, especially as chronic stress is keeping our fight-or-flight systems activated, making us more likely to react.

Christopher Voss is a former hostage negotiator for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and CEO and founder of the Black Swan Group, which trains companies and individuals to negotiate. He has decades of experience guiding people through conversations that are high tension and high stakes. Mr. Voss is the author of “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It” and once did a video series for a website run by Dow Jones, which owns The Wall Street Journal.

I spoke with Mr. Voss about how to navigate a conversation where both parties are worked up and entrenched in their viewpoints. Here are edited excerpts of that interview.

How should you prepare for a difficult conversation?

Mr. Voss: We often prepare but don’t realize it. When we think about the conversation, we picture ourselves getting mad. That is preparation. And we default to our highest level of preparation. So if that is all you prepared for, that is what you are going to get.

You need to do what athletes do. They prepare by envisioning their performance, by envisioning themselves doing things right. First, you need to envision yourself taking a different tone. If you use a calm tone of voice, it will actually calm you down.

Then you want to rewire yourself for gratitude. The brain functions more effectively when you are in a positive frame of mind. And gratitude is highly positive. So tell yourself you are lucky to be in this conversation or to have this person in your life, that you will miss them when they are gone. If all else fails, remind yourself you’re lucky to be on this planet.

A few years ago, we had a colleague who was trying to cheat us. As I was preparing for the conversation, I couldn’t stop envisioning myself getting angry. Then I had this thought: “I am lucky to be in this position, because she wouldn’t be after us if we weren’t so good.” Instantly, by shifting into gratitude, I thought of all the things I needed to say to make it an effective conversation.

Should you have a goal?

Yes. You want the other person to get a hit of oxytocin. You’re going to get that by getting them to say: “That’s right.” You do this by listening and then really summarizing their perspective for them. You especially want to focus on articulating any negative thoughts they have. Don’t dispute or deny them. When the word “but” comes out of your mouth you are denying and it is time to shut up.

Once you’ve articulated their perspective for them, they feel understood. And a person who feels understood is getting a feel-good wave of chemicals in their brain. The one you are really going for is oxytocin, the bonding chemical. Once they get a hit of oxytocin, everything is going to change. They’ll feel bonded to you. And if they feel bonded, whether it’s a little or a lot, that’s to your advantage.

So your power is in making the other person feel heard?

This should be your goal. When people have arguments, they raise their voices because they don’t feel heard. Ask yourself to remember what it felt like to feel acknowledged during a disagreement. You’ll remember how great you felt. You won’t remember what happened afterwards. That means the fight didn’t continue.

Ask yourself: What is this person saying about this situation and about me right now? We usually know what people are saying. We just don’t want them to say it. Say it out loud and see how they respond.

Some people think that acknowledging how someone is upset allows them to dig in more. But it’s the opposite. As soon as you articulate the other side’s point of view, they are a little surprised. You’ve made them really curious to hear what you are going to say next. And you’ve made them feel that you are in this together.

How do you start the conversation?

You want to start out articulating their negative thoughts about you or the situation. If you’ve had an argument with someone, what do you know for sure? They probably think you’re a jerk. So open the conversation: “Right now, you probably think I’m a jerk.”

This takes a lot of courage—until you know how effective it is. When you see how well it works, you’re like: “Ooh, I’m going to do it this way every time.” It’s like a shortcut in a videogame. It accelerates a positive outcome.

This has to do with the emotional wiring in our brain. Brain science shows that every time you identify a negative emotion, that negative feeling diminishes. So if negativity is an obstacle, and just calling it out reduces it, this accelerates the process of defusing the tension. Then from there you are able to talk.

What if a normal conversation suddenly turns heated?

Remember that people elevate their voice because they feel they aren’t being heard. So you want to acknowledge: “I am being an idiot.” Use the strongest synonym you can: idiot, jerk, something stronger.

You don’t want to be sarcastic. You want to demonstrate that you understand their negative perception of the situation. This has an inoculating effect. It doesn’t matter whether you think their perception is fair or accurate.

How do you deal with your anger?

The whole process of working to make them feel heard will keep you calm. It puts you in a completely different head space and the anger circuitry in your brain will not get triggered.

What are some pitfalls to avoid?

A common derailment is trying to explain stuff to people. Explanation is a nice word for argument. When you are explaining something, the other side feels you’re telling them that they don’t understand, that they aren’t smart.

Once you’ve listened to their viewpoint and they feel heard, there’s a really good chance you won’t need to explain your point at all.

How do you move forward?

Once the person feels heard, you can put it back on them: “How do we move forward?” This makes them take a broader look at the entire landscape. The answer isn’t nearly as important as the thought process you forced them to go through. The “how” question is designed to get them to think about negative consequences. And you’re defending your line in the sand by shifting the problems back onto the person causing them, without being seen as combative.

What if the other person becomes irate?

If you use a soothing, supportive tone of voice, this will have a neurochemical impact on them that will calm them down. Your tone of voice has an impact on someone’s thinking before you finish the sentence.

Should you apologize?

An apology should always precede something negative. The apology is a bit of a warning that bad news is coming. It allows the person to prepare. And it is amazing what people can handle when they are given the slightest opportunity to be prepared, rather than blindsided.

What do you do if there’s a stalemate?

Here is the critical game-changing move: Remember that the last impression is the lasting impression. If you are struggling to get the last word in, that’s when the last word is a cheap shot. But when your last word is something positive, it seeds the possibility that the other person will think about what you said and come back and propose a resolution.

FDA Guidelines for Protecting Pets from COVID-19

Pet Business | Published:
Since the pandemic began, one question has been on every pet parent’s mind: “Can my pet catch COVID-19?”

“You’re doing all you can to keep your family safe during the coronavirus pandemic, but what about the furrier members of your household?” U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials said in a new pet safety video. “At this time, the risk of pets spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 in people is considered low, but it does appear that people can give the virus to animals with preliminary research showing that cats and ferrets are more likely to get the virus than dogs.”

Even though the risk of transmission between owners and their pets appears to be low, there’s still a lot scientists don’t yet know about the novel coronavirus. So, the agency recommends that people take similar precautions to protect their pets like other members of the family, including:

• Don’t allow pets to interact with people or animals outside your own household.

• Keep cats indoors as much as possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or humans.

• Keep dogs leashed on walks and maintain a distance of at least six feet from others.

• Avoid dog parks or other public places where large groups tend to gather.

At this time, the FDA does not recommend regular COVID-19 testing for pets, but if your pet gets sick or is exposed to a known case, you should talk to your veterinarian immediately.

The Indirect Threat COVID-19 Presents for Pets

Published by Pet Business:

 

With the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing, people are actively using hand sanitizers and other products to kill germs and keep from falling ill. However, this upswing in the use of cleaning chemicals has put pets at risk. Pet Poison Helpline, an animal poison control center with a 24/7 phone hotline, reported a 100% increase in calls regarding the misuse of cleaning items compared to last year.

“People are very concerned about their families during this COVID-19 crisis, and that includes their pets,” said Dr. Ahna Brutlag, senior veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline, in a statement.

In response to the increase in inquiries, Pet Poison Helpline put together a video with tips on how to help keep pets safe from cleaning chemicals.

Pet parents should first take note that cleaning chemicals aren’t just risky for cats and dogs. Birds, reptiles and other exotic species can be sensitive to toxic fumes from common household cleaners, which is why pet parents should do their best to keep animal companions out of an area that they’re cleaning. If cleaning in a small enclosed space like a bathroom, the door should be closed with a window kept open or an exhaust fan turned on.

Proper care should also be taken with cleaning supplies. A mop bucket could pose a problem as dogs or cats could be tempted to drink from it. Used paper towels or sanitizing wipes should be disposed of in a covered trash can that pets can’t access. When not being used, cleaning supply bottles should be closed and stored in a place that pets can’t reach.

If a spill does occur, pet parents should keep pets from accessing the area until it is cleaned up. Even just walking through a bleach spill can cause damage to and irritate a pet’s skin. The pet could then consume the chemical by grooming its fur. Even small amounts of bleach can cause stomach irritation and vomiting in pets. If bleach goes into a pet’s eye, water should be used to rinse it out.

Pet parents should also take care with properly using hand sanitizer. If ingested by a pet, hand sanitizer can quickly cause intoxication and vomiting, and make their blood sugar to drop enough to induce a comatose state.

When using various cleaning chemicals, pet parents should take care not to mix them. Cleaning chemicals can be corrosive, and mixing bleach with chemicals like ammonia can release chlorine and chloramine gases that can be toxic for both humans and animals.

In the event a pet is exposed to chemicals, pet parents should contact a veterinarian for assistance or a poison control hotline.

Multiple Animals Test Positive for Coronavirus

Animals Can Become Sick From COVID-19

Pet Business | By Hannah Miller

Published:

 

When it comes to COVID-19, pet parents have remained fearful that their animal companions are susceptible to the virus. The outbreak has killed more than 110,000 people in the United States, according to data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU), and news stories have swirled regarding pets testing positive for the virus as well as false alarms.

Luckily, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories(NVSL) has been tracking coronavirus infections in animals and has released a chart with all of its confirmed cases. The chart shows that four cats, one dog, and multiple lions and tigers have confirmed coronavirus infections. Most of the animals are located in New York, the state with the highest number of coronavirus cases, according to JHU.

NVSL released extensive information regarding the single canine on the list. The New York-based German Shepherd tested positive for the virus after exhibiting signs of respiratory illness. One of its owners also tested positive, and the other experienced symptoms of the virus prior to the dog displaying signs of infection. A second dog in the household showed no signs of illness, but did test positive for coronavirus antibodies, showing that it had likely been exposed. The German Shepherd is expected to make a full recovery.

In relaying information about the German Shepherd, NVSL urged pet owners not to panic and warned them against taking actions that would harm an animal’s welfare.

“We are still learning about SARS-CoV-2 in animals, but there is currently no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus,” NVSL said in a statement. “Based on the limited information available, the risk of animals spreading the virus to people is considered to be low.”

However, NVSL said people with COVID-19 can spread the virus to animals through close contact and those sick with the virus should avoid contact with pets and animals in order to protect them from potential exposure.

COVID Crisis Opportunity

5 things you must do for your business

by Yuri Mosha, edited by Sarah Donnell | Agility PR Solution | Apr 7, 2020 | Analysis, Public Relations

In journalism, any crisis is an opportunity—an opportunity to tell a story, find interesting facts, discover new heroes and finally reach wider audiences. Communication and PR should borrow the same tactics.

While many businesses find themselves in an economic crisis amid COVID-19 epidemic, it is crucial to be proactive and act as soon as possible. Keeping your head down will not help in maintaining and developing your business image. Instead of cutting work hours of PR and communications specialists in times of crises, the focus should be on developing more effective crisis communication strategy. Here are 5 reasons why:

1. Now more than ever, your clients need to know what they should do

Many businesses are now on the verge of bankruptcy. Of course, the lion’s share of bad luck landed on the businesses related to tourism. Airlines were hit the most, and tourist agencies, entertainment centers and small businesses that provided non-essential goods and services are temporarily closed. While many airlines spend their resources only on informing about cancelled flights and exchanging tickets, others chose different tactics: they offer new, safer destinations for future trips.

The virus will go away someday, and people need to have hopes and plans for the future.  Do not be afraid to promote your business in times of health crisis. Total cutdown from regular blogs, posts and even advertisements make people more anxious and doesn’t help your business grow either. For instance, if you have a gym, it is essential to inform your clients about your plan B, during- and after-crisis strategies. What will happen to their memberships? Are there any online classes to follow? If there is anything certain in these difficult times, it is that many jobs do not require immediate physical presence.

2. Acts of kindness provoke interest

One recent example of adapted marketing tactics is the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma. Americans have found their new icon. Since the NCWHM in Oklahoma put Tim Send, their head of security, in charge of their Twitter account, the whole country has been praising his tweets. Some are educational, providing a glimpse into the museum’s displays, others document Tim’s hilariously wholesome attempts to get a hold of the inner workings of the Internet. But regardless of which ones you read, they perfectly portray his incredibly kind heart.

That authentic voice, complete with technology fumbles, has gone viral. The museum had 9,789 followers on March 16 and now has 285,900 and growing.

“Knowing that security would be left in the building no matter what, we had the idea of showing the Museum to the world from the perspective of Tim,” said Gina Anderson, a museum spokeswoman. “What we’ve found is an authentic voice for the Museum; what we didn’t anticipate was how much that voice would resonate with people during this difficult time.”

Tim’s tweets include attempts at hashtags — which led to the reference now used on most tweets, #HashtagTheCowboy — and selfies. (Note: follow the Twitter account @NCWHM)

3. Crisis creates opportunity

The crisis will pass, and media will return to their usual agenda—but the businesses that filled the information void will have an advantage in tomorrow’s business and information sphere. Journalists are loyal to the speakers and press officers who were available for comments and provided interesting content in times of crisis. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, any news related to the virus will gain immediate interest. If you announce a new online service that minimizes person-to-person contact, or make existing services temporarily free of charge for the most affected groups, your business’s name will be mentioned in news articles—but more importantly, for journalists and clients, your brand name will be associated with availability and customer care.

Do research and analyses of how your and other business were affected due to quarantine, how custumer behavior has changed, and there is a bigger chance than ever that your material will be published in major media outlets.

4. In times of crisis, expert opinions matter

People seek explanations, advice, and new strategies in times of emergency. They want to know what to do and how to do it with minimal loses. That is why your expert advice and recommendations in a specific field will be appreciated more than ever. For instance, CRM developers may recommend the tools and means for distance working; human resources may advise how to organize trainings to improve employees’ qualifications; credit specialists may suggest how to survive and keep your credit score high during uncertain financial times, etc.

5. Share your own experience

Every day, we receive quotes and questions about how our company’s strategy was changed and how businesses were affected amid the virus outbreak. Share your stories about how distance working was organized, what changes were made and other plans. However, it is equally important to share the challenges your company is facing. This way people feel closer to the company or brand. Your communication strategy should be built around the principle of making people’s lives as easy and comfortable as possible. The best approach is to position your business as proactive and open for communication.

Remember, virus outbreaks and emergencies will pass. Think about how can you use the situation for your and your clients’ benefit. Life after quarantine will come, and people will make plans. The challenge is to include your business in those plans.

Bad Review Graphic

There’s a right, and a wrong, way to handle negative reviews online. And while it’s tempting to tell your side of the story and let everyone know that a particular client is off-base, don’t do it. Here’s a graphic overview of the right way to handle negative reviews. Above all – remember that this is not the end of the world. 😀

(This graphic courtesy of Housecall Pro)

Mandatory New Fields in PSC

As of January 1,2020, sitters/walker without completed verification fields will no longer be able to be scheduled through PSC.

The January 1, 2020 deadline is the third – and hopefully final – step of the process we started in mid-August – a necessary change triggered by the $5 million class action law suit that was filed against Wag! Labs, Inc. on July 1, 2019 – and a process to further protect our franchise owners, Snaggle Foot, LLC as well as the brand itself.

It’s important to note: none of our Snaggle Foot procedures or policies have changed. The requirements have stayed the same. We simply made a change in documenting the requirements to help protect everybody from potential law suits.

To summarize, we can not :

Allow an individual to have keys or unsupervised access to a client’s home without having gone through the required background check and drug/alcohol check.
Allow an individual who is not is not pet CPR/pet First Aid certified to be alone with a client’s pet.
Allow an individual to work under the Snaggle Foot name without having completed the required steps.

We understand the challenges franchisees face in finding staff. However, Snaggle Foot policies and procedures are in place for a reason – one of them them is keeping all of us safe from litigation.

This shift in documentation may be seen as unfortunate or a nuisance, but it reflects changes in both the industry and our overall societal culture. Snaggle Foot has been extremely lucky to have avoided any legal claims against it in the last 10 years, but that can change. We need to follow common sense protocols to ward off potential nuisance law suits (aka claims being filed not for cause, but with the intent of out-of-court-settlements) that have the ability to cause great harm not only to individual franchise owners, but the company and brand as a whole.


If you are entered as a walker/Sitter in PSC, you do NOT need a background check on file with PSC.

The Home Office performed that check when you acquired the franchise. You also do NOT need a drug or alcohol test on file.

In order to schedule yourself, you can enter 01/01/2000 under the verification fields in your Sitter/Walker profile.

However, if you provide hands-on pet services, you still must be pet CPR/Pet First Aid certified.


As we move forward, we will continue to work on enhancements and new support features for our franchise owners – and we will work hard to include franchisees in the process of evolving. We value your perspective and your input. And we are thankful for all of you, what you do and how you do it.

Please contact me anytime with questions or concerns.

Contact Maike

SF Academy October Update

As we get closer to launching our learning center, we’ve made a small modification to the official name. As you can see from the title of this page, it is now called Snaggle Foot Academy (instead of University). This small tweak will position the learning center for future growth beyond our internal users. And while that may not happen soon, we want to make sure we are positioned correctly from the out-set.

In October, a small team traveled to Colorado to shoot video for the learning modules. Here are some out-takes from our production – these will give you an idea of what it takes to produce the high-quality content for Snaggle Foot Academy:

[rev_slider alias=”sf-academy-out-takes”]




Insta FB Removing Total Likes

You may not have heard the news: Instagram and Facebook are both experimenting with hiding away likes. Although this may initially sound shocking, anyone who’s been working closely in the social media space won’t be surprised by this move.

Why Social Media Networks Are Moving Away From Likes

Both Facebook and Instagram have been drifting away from likes for a while now. Changes to Facebook and Instagram algorithms have made it increasingly difficult to get Likes over the past year. And with the rising popularity of Instagram and Facebook stories, fewer businesses are measuring their success by Likes, since people cannot Like a story.

Besides technological advances, there are other reasons behind the move away from Likes. First, there have been multiple studies on the negative psychological effects of Likes on social media. These studies have found that the Likes feature was linked to lower self-esteem and loneliness. Some insiders at the major social media networks seem to agree – to the point where some of the original Facebook engineers say they regret creating the Like feature in the first place.

Aside from cutting down on negative psychological effects, transitioning away from Likes provides other benefits to social media companies. First, it hurts the “fake Likes” industry, where businesses can purchase more Likes or followers for their social media. Second, the move encourages businesses to start paying for more paid media, such as Facebook or Instagram ads.

The New Metrics You Need to Focus On

So how are we supposed to measure the success of our social media posts if the relevance of Likes is fading away? There are plenty of other metrics we can use which are more meaningful. Ultimately, a Like is the lowest form of engagement. It doesn’t automatically translate to your audience buying your service or even visiting your website.

Here are some of the other metrics we will start paying attention to and reporting on:

  • The number of comments on a post
  • The number of shares on a post
  • The number of URL clicks
  • How many people have bookmarked your post to come back to later
  • The post’s total audience reach
  • The number of followers that you have

With these metrics in mind, we are re-calculating the way we measure the success of social media. Likes will still stick around for at least a little while longer, since Instagram and Facebook both are in the test runs of hiding away this feature. Questions? Email me and I’ll be happy do what I can!

Email Sarah

Social Media Performance

Year-to-date, the Snaggle Foot network has seen some amazing interactions on social media. Nearly every location is now connected on CoSchedule which not only allows us to share ready-to-post content, but also allows us to provide comprehensive reports on how the network is performing, and how individual locations are performing. Take a look and you’ll begin to see the power we have as a network on social media. This is greatly enhanced when everyone uses the ready-to-post content. The repetition of sharing this content can create trends, gain visibility for the brand, and reach new people. We all benefit when we work together! Note each location came online with CoSchedule at a different time, so the performance stats of individual locations reflect that fact.

Regarding engagement rate, according to Scrunch, here are some basic industry standards (all platforms combined):

Less than 1% = low engagement rate
Between 1% and 3.5% = average/good engagement rate
Between 3.5% and 6% = high engagement rate
Above 6% = very high engagement rate

If you have questions about this data, or want additional details about your performance, please contact Sarah Donnell.

California Bill

“California Bill Makes App-Based Companies Treat Workers as Employees”

New York Times, September 11, 2019

Yikes – what a scary headline! :O

So, we dug into this for you.

You can find the article published in the New York Times here: New York Times Article

The short answer is – it does not, and will not apply to us as Snaggle Foot.

Why?

The proposed bill targets “App-based Companies” (ABC’s) only. It specifically mentions Uber and Lyft as the best known examples of app-based companies, but this bill will – without a doubt – extend to Rover and Wag! as well. In fact, the Wag! company info even states that the founders of Wag! “took the playbook from Uber to create an on-demand, app-based platform for the dog walking business.”

Snaggle Foot is a franchise company; each of our Snaggle Foot locations is independently owned and operated, carries its own insurance and bonding, and hires their own staff. Yes, we do have an app, but the app is only there to provide an easy portal for clients to access the services.

The main differentiation between an app-based company and us, a franchise company, is the business relationship and contracts we have with our clients and staff.

An app-based company has one product and one mission: to provide service seekers (aka clients) with the means to contact service suppliers (aka dog walkers, pet sitters).

Nothing more.

Just think back a few years. Not that long ago, people cruised the classifieds in the newspaper to find service provides. Then Craig’s List came along.

No matter how you found your service provider/seller, once you contacted them and used their service/purchased their item, the contract was between that person and you. If there was an issue with what you bought – did you complain to the newspaper, Craig’s List, or any other platform you used? No, you did not.  Your only option was to go after the seller or service provider you used.

An app-based company is pretty much the same. At this point, you are probably saying, “Yes, cool story when it comes to a used coffee table or awesome rims for my truck, but how does this apply to my dog walking and pet sitting business?”

It does and the key words here are contracts, values, relationships.

This is what happens when a client is looking for a pet care specialist to tend to their pet:

With an app-based company:

  • The clients visits the platform and registers by entering the required information. At some point, they agree to “Accept terms.” That means, they enter a legally binding contract between them and the app-based company.
  • The client fills out a second form as to their needs.
  • The app-based company send a list of potential service providers.
  • Once the app-based company supplies the client with a list of potential service providers, the contract between the app-based company and the client ends. They have fulfilled their obligation.

What happens next? The client contacts the individuals that were provided to them by the app-based company. This contact and whatever agreement are between the client and the individual. Essentially, the client enters into a second contract with the individual.

With Snaggle Foot:

  • The client visits the Snaggle Foot app and registers by entering the required information, as well as their service requests.
  • You, the franchise owner, or your manager, contacts the potential client to arrange a meet-and-greet.
  • At the meet-and-greet, you are prepared with client service contracts, vet release forms, a list of what you need to know as to the pets care, etc.
  • Beginning when the client enters their info into our app and until they sign off, the contract – the relationship – is between the client and Snaggle Foot.

This is the legal basis for why we do not need to worry about this particular situation. If you have questions, or would like clarification, please contact me. I’m happy to provide more detail.

Happy Dog Walking!

Message Alpha Dog

Dog Walk Report

Here is the year-over-year report of dog walks for the entire network, 2016-2019.

Counts represent all visits itemized with “dog” in the service category.

Note that 2019 is a partial year.

If you have further questions, please email Micheal.