The Pet Industry and Mental Health

Having a business that involves working with animals, especially dogs and cats, is often seen as ‘the perfect job’ (usually by those who don’t actually have their own business I might add).  The most common phrase I hear from anyone who doesn’t work in the Pet Industry is “oh what a lovely job”, usually accompanied by “aww I wish I could cuddle puppies all day”.

Ok yes occasionally I’ve cuddled a puppy or kitten and in that moment I am living the dream and it IS the perfect job, but that’s only a small percentage of the life of a Professional Dog Walker or Pet Sitter or other Pet Business.

The reality is its HARD both mentally and physically and there’s a lot more to it than just cute puppies.  Let’s face it, it’s hard running any kind of business and being around animals and doing something you love doesn’t make it ‘easy’ or stress free.

It’s not just limited to those who run their own businesses either, did you know the suicide rate for Vets is four times the National Average according to a report by the BBC in 2019? It’s thought due to the stress and worry of getting a diagnosis wrong and the aggression and abuse thrown at them by pet owners.

I absolutely loved being a dog walker and pet sitter and adored the pets I saw every day, so I actually felt guilty and a bit weird because even though I loved it I also struggled mentally with certain aspects which I really wasn’t expecting. I mean it was meant to be less stressful than the 9-5 office job I’d just left!  When I mentioned to anyone that it wasn’t as easy as I’d imagined I was reminded “but you chose to do this”.  So I kept quiet thinking I was stressing over nothing.

I felt like I was the only one who was struggling because everyone else was posting happy photos on their social media, perfectly posed pictures of their dogs frolicking through lavender fields and I was like I must be crazy and a terrible person because I’m struggling here. Although lets be honest, I was only posting ‘the good stuff’ too.

The problem is nobody mentions the behind the scenes of us getting crap in our hair and sick on our trousers, or the bruises from excited dogs jumping up and the trips to A & E from being pulled over.  The anxiety when we’re stuck in traffic or sleepless nights because we’ve not received payments again and it’s so awkward having to remind people.  I once went for a spray tan and the lady thought I’d been beaten up by the amount of bruises and scratches I had on my legs, and she couldn’t believe it was just from excited dogs!

Print from Panda & Poodle

Obviously we don’t want to be moaning on our social media pages and I’m not suggesting you do, but we generally don’t talk about the struggles we go through at all for fear that we’ll look ungrateful or seem like a terrible person.

I’m willing to bet you’ve experienced at least one, multiple, if not all of the following, and these are all things that I hear time and time again from hundreds of Petpreneurs around the world.

Guilt at having to say no to a request or struggling to say no to something you can’t / don’t want to do

Feeling you have to say yes to everything because you should be grateful and helpful

Mental and physical exhaustion or severe burnout

Overwhelm from all of the hats you have to wear as a business owner

Sadness and genuine grief when a pet you’ve been working with passes away

Mentally drained because of not being able to switch off and relax

Feeling like you’re on call 24/7

Anxiety and worry when customers don’t pay on time

Feeling like a nuisance when you have to remind people about payments

Physical pain when you’re ill and can’t or don’t feel you can call in sick

Feeling greedy or charging too little 

Pressure to be as ‘perfect’ as the dog walker down the road seems to be 

Pressure to come up with new ideas on social media

Loneliness and isolation

I could go on…

I’m not saying being a dog walker or pet sitter is awful because most of the time it is enjoyable, we love being outside, we love our furry customers to bits, it’s so rewarding, and we won’t all struggle with every single one of the above issues.  But it’s important to know that the issues I’ve mentioned and any other issue you’re going through mentally right now is normal and is ok to feel.  

Doing your dream job and working with animals does not mean you have to be 100% happy and grateful ALL the time.

Obviously at the time I didn’t enjoy going through the anxiety and stress that I did in the first few years, but it does mean I’m in the perfect position now to help others who are in the same position I was in and feeling like they’re the only ones struggling.  It’s become my mission to help and support fellow Dog Walkers & Pet Sitters to run their businesses stress free and feel part of a community, not struggle through alone or give up.  

How?

By being honest about the aspects of running a Dog Walking & Pet Sitting business that I struggled with and showing you how I solved them

Helping you implement processes and create boundaries toavoid stressful situations arising 

Giving you examples of difficult situations I experienced and changes I made to avoid them happening again in future

Ideas to help you run your business stress free so that you can concentrate on the furry ones

If you want help or support with anything mentioned or you just want some reassurance that you’re ‘normal’ get in touch.  You can contact me on Instagram, Facebook or email me. I promise you there’s nothing I haven’t already heard or been through myself and trust me you are not alone. (This service is currently taking a break but may be back in some form in the future….)

Rachel x

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