Problems with your key and getting in your home is one of the biggest problems for professional pet sitters. Follow these tips and key issues will vanish!
Four silver keys on keychain

The Key

Have a key storage lockbox and use it regularly.

Weather-proof your lockbox by keeping it away from water and use WD-40 to keep water out. Test your lockbox quarterly, at the least. If the key inside doesn’t work – congratulations!: you’ve found a problem. Get a new copy made at a hardware store, immediately. Test your new key before replacing it in your lockbox. Don’t forget to write down your lockbox combination.

Get the key for every lock.

Many door locks, especially in the older homes of historic Capitol Hill, are “decorative” and not in use. However, don’t depend on keeping a door, doorknob or bolt permanently unlocked because you don’t have the key. At some point–likely at the worst time–someone will accidentally set the lock. Replace it now.

Don’t hide-a-key.

A key placed anywhere but a key storage lockbox is a security threat to you and your home. A flower pot, mailbox, mat or windowsill is NOT a safe location for your key. Get a lockbox. If you’re concerned about lockbox security, Wirecutter has recommendations (https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-lock-box/). For a no-cost solution, move your lockbox to an inconspicuous (but still accessible) location, such as behind a bush or greenery. Just make sure to avoid poison oak or ivy!

Use key toppers if you have more than one key.

To avoid fumbling and fiddling with a ring of keys, make sure all keys are individually differentiated. Textured and colored key toppers are an inexpensive and effective way to mark each one. Keys are also available with decorative designs now, too.

The Locks

Lubricate your locks.

In our humid subtropical climate, it’s not uncommon for door locks to stick. Specialty lubricants including graphite and WD-40 can help keep your tumblers and key turning smoothly.

Check your door.

Does your wooden exterior door get especially persnickety in the summer? Wood is more prone to swelling in high temperatures, leading to tight seal between the door and door frame. Your carpenter or handyman can fix that. You’ll spend less time coaxing your door to open and close and you won’t have to worry about returning home to an unsecured door that failed to close.

Replace locks.

If lock problems persist, it may be time for a replacement. Though replacing a failing lock is mildly inconvenient, it’s much easier and expensive than a last-minute call to an emergency locksmith.

Make your next pet sitting visit starts out the right way by solving potential key issues in advance. Follow our recommendations and your pet sitter will thank you. Plus you’ll never get locked out again!

Call to action: Planning a vacation without your pets? Schedule your pet sitting visits now and have one less thing to worry about!

Our cancellation policy varies slightly for your dog walking and other services. Read the what and why about our dog walking cancellation policy below!

The Pack

Saving Grace specializes in group walks and we can attest to the benefits. The enrichment and socialization of walking in a group benefits your dog far beyond just the time spent outside. With a maximum of four dogs, each pack is thoughtfully balanced, weighing each dog’s temperament, walking habits, health and other factors. When there’s a late cancellation, group harmony is disrupted.

The Route

As fun and easy as dog walking may seem, our walkers require at least 20 minutes daily of pre-walk planning. In advance of your walk, your walker reads your dog’s profile, makes notes, organizes keys and sketches a basic walking route. The route coordinates your location and that of nearby pack members. Planning the route is done the night before, allowing your walker to dedicate walk time to focusing on your dog and his friends, not reviewing Google Maps.

The Keys

For your safety and security, Saving Grace dog walkers travel with only the keys for the dogs on their schedule for the day. Other keys stay inside in a secure location, lessening the likelihood of a losing a key. A late cancellation means that your walker is unnecessarily carrying your key instead of keeping it safely secured.

Fluffy white samoyed puppy lying down

Communicating the Change

When a late cancellation comes in, our scheduler needs to notify your walker. If your walker is walking dogs and not reachable, the office needs to make multiple attempts to communicate the change or risk an surprise visit to your home.

Saving Grace aims to provide the best dog walking services available and to do that, we need to have an exceptional dog walking and scheduling team. Not compensating your walker and our schedulers for their time makes it harder to retain and attract top-tier staff.

We’d like to advise our dog walkers to ignore ALL ringing phones, incoming messages and emails until they’re finished with walks. However, due to the possibility of last-minute cancellations, our walkers have to be aware of phone notifications. Even if it only takes a minute to check and respond, that’s a minute when they can’t be 100% focused on walking with your dogs.

We know that life throws some curveballs. That’s why you can cancel walks until 5 p.m. the previous business day. This gives your walker and the schedulers enough time to adjust. Canceling any later leads to stress, extra work and sometimes even missed messages—and that’s not good for anyone!

Need to cancel or add a walk? Easily update your schedule online.

And P.S., if you get an unexpected telework day, why not keep your scheduled walk? You’ll get some alone time and your pup will get to catch up with pals. It’s a win-win!

Dogs still need to go out, even when Jack Frost is nipping at your nose. What about the salt and his paws? Is it nipping at toes? What if she licks the salt? Is the road or frozen yard too cold on his paws? Do not fret pet lovers!

Saving Grace Petcare has done the legwork for you (get it, leg work? Because we walk dogs, *wink*). Here’s the info you need to let Bebe enjoy her snowtrek safely.

Paw Care

You probably know that rock salt and ice melt products can irritate your dog’s paws. Try to avoid large accumulations of road salt, and wipe off or wash Fido’s paws as soon you get home.

If your dog’s feet look a little rough and dry, that’s normal! Just like us, our dogs get dry, cracked feet in winter. It’s time for Pet-i-cure day! Actually, it’s more like a few minutes.

Vaseline, the genius care product that it is, works just as well on your pup’s tootsies as your own. Take a small dab and rub it into their paws before the walk and after you’ve cleaned the paw post-walk.

If you have a few minutes to spare, check the fur length around your dog’s toes, and give her nails a trim. The hair catches and stores the salt irritating your pet, then your dog licks it off. When a dog’s nails are long, her toes are spread out exposing more of her paw to the chemicals. Again, your dog will be getting in there, trying to stop the iching. Not good, because…

Tricolored corgi standing in snow

Rock Salt and Antifreeze are TOXIC to Dogs

If your dog consumes a significant amount of salt, get to the vet. Just a lick while you’re walking along is no biggie, but a lot can cause vomiting, lethargy, convulsions, and kidney disease.

During this time of year, people use antifreeze on their vehicles, but it can drip into the puddles of melted ice. Antifreeze smells and tastes sweet, making it a dangerous temptation for your pooch. Consumption of even a small amount can cause drunken-like behavior, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, coma, and even death. Get to the vet quickly if you suspect antifreeze poisoning, and try to keep your pup’s face out of the puddles.

Icy and Frozen Ground

We might need slippers and boots to survive winter, but Mother Nature gifted our best friends with temperature regulating feet. When warm blood arrives in their paws via the arteries, heat is transferred to the closely associated networks of veins inside the paw, warming up the blood before it goes back to the torso. Called a counter-current heat exchange system, arctic foxes, Antarctic penguins, and dolphins also use this strategy to keep their extremities warm without sacrificing core warmth.

Dogs’ heredities vary, affecting their hair length, height and personality. Paws, therefore, may vary among dogs. Keep in mind your dog’s size, breed, and familiarity with the cold.

When it comes to inclement weather, you know your pet, so consider their individual needs and abilities. When in doubt, take a shorter walk and spend more time drying off and playing inside. Winter can be fun with the right attitude and prep work!

More questions about your dog’s winter safety? We’ve got the answers.

Hate the cold? We’ll take your dog out for you! Contact Saving Grace Petcare today.

With the cold snap, you may be asking how cold is too cold for a dog walk. We have answers!

Taking proper precautions such as a putting a coat on your dog and limiting time outside lessens the likelihood of hypothermia and other cold-weather dangers.

When the temperature drops below 45°, some dogs need help staying warm. Many already have enough fur to get out and play without extra gear. There are exceptions to this rule, however, so consider your pet’s size, background, and hair length.

Black dog with winter gear

For example, if your dog weighs less than 22 pounds or is shorter than 16 inches at the shoulder, then he should have a coat. And we’re not just saying that ‘cause they rock them so hard. Smaller dogs have a harder time retaining body heat.

If your dog is short-haired, then he’ll definitely appreciate an extra layer on cold days. Breeds from warmer climates, such as Chihuahuas, also need coats on wintry days. Remember to take the clothes off indoors (and only use when necessary), because doggos do overheat easily.

When To Say “No”

As temperatures drop, there comes a point when it’s no longer safe for your dog to be outside for almost any period of the time. This chart shows the temperature ranges where your dog is at risk, based on size. You’ll also need to consider your dog’s age and overall health. Two dogs may be the same size, but the cold will have a harsher effect on a senior dog compared to a 1-year-old pup.

Along with the temperature, wind, and precipitation (freezing rain, snow or sleet) need to be factored in to your decision about taking your dog out. If in doubt, it’s best to overestimate the conditions instead of assuming your dog will be okay and then discovering otherwise, mid-walk. At Saving Grace, we’re overly cautious in cold weather and it’s highly unusual for any of our dogs to develop hypothermia during their short walk or bio break.

Take Care of You Too

We want doggies and humans to enjoy walks together and to be safe! Make sure you’re bundled up as well. A warm coat, hat and gloves are a given, while a scarf around the lower part of your face makes all the difference against sharp winds and biting cold. And there are wonderful performance fabrics for layering and outerwear–both warm and lightweight.

REI has some excellent tips for keeping warm while in the great outdoors. Number eight will be easy as you’ll always have a happy volunteers to present a warm belly.

In short, your dog loves spending time with you outside, and winter is no exception. With careful preparation, you and your best bud can enjoy the magic of winter while staying safe and warm.

Does your dog want to make new friends while you’re away at work this winter?
See if our Pack Walks might be a good fit.*

* Doggie snowball fights optional.

You should never overpay for any service, dog walks included. But how much should you be paying? And why?

For your child, you may opt for an experienced babysitter over a cheaper, less-experienced alternative. Why? Because quality and value matter and you want the best bang for your buck.

The same applies to the canine in your life. The cost of your furbaby’s walk is directly correlated to your location, your dog’s specific needs, the time of day, the frequency of visits and the quality of the service provider.

Below is our breakdown of rates and options for weekday, mid-day dog walks on Capitol Hill.

Dog Leo and Henry in Yard

When To Say “No”

Here in Washington, DC, a dog walk will run you anywhere from $12 to $30 for the standard 20-30 minute, mid-day solo jaunt. The lower-end may use walkers with little to no training or experience, often without insurance or bond to cover your pet. You can sign up for these walks on Craigslist, social media, etc. Be sure to thoroughly interview and vet your potential walker and verify their insurance.

The mid-price point usually encompasses walkers on websites like Rover and Wag!, local agencies, and more-experienced independent walkers. Rover and Wag! do not provide walkers with liability insurance, so in the event of an accident, the individual walker is responsible. If the walker is unable to pay for losses/damages, then Rover (or Wag!) may cover owners under their guarantee. Individual walkers listed on those sites might carry their own insurance, so be sure to ask during your interviews.

Local agencies are most likely to have their employees insured and bonded; this information may be available on the company website. Again, ask questions and do your research to find a qualified match. Companies utilizing employees, such as Saving Grace, have the highest levels of staff training and oversight. Additionally they likely have a team of managers and back up walkers to ensure that your pup never misses a walk.

Pack or Group Walks?

One question to ask when considering a dog walking service is, “Will group walks work for my pup?” Many agencies and independent walkers provide this option. Since dogs are social by nature, this cost-splitting strategy usually makes for happy humans and doggies.

Pack walk rates typically range between $19 and $25 for 20 minutes for three or more dogs. When considering pack walks, you must know (and communicate) your dog’s level of socialization and any behavior concerns. Dogs in pack walks don’t need to be perfect, but they should be non-reactive in most scenarios. If pack walks aren’t right for your dog, that’s okay—there’s nothing wrong with that. Like us, dogs have their own personalities and some prefer the stability of a controlled 1:1 environment with their walker.

If you are considering pack walks, pick an insured and bonded agency or walker that limits groups to three to five dogs. This allows your dog to make new friends, while staying safe. The more dogs walking together, the greater the potential for group stress or conflict. With up to five well-matched dogs, an experienced walker can maintain the group dynamics while still keeping an eye on each individual dog.

Finding the Right Fit Is Key

Finally, no matter what dog walking service and provider you choose, take time to find the right fit. Always check reviews, do interviews and ask your friends. Cost matters, but make sure it’s coupled with quality, experience, and value. You and your dog will be happier knowing he’s in trusted hands while you’re away.

Are you interested in the peace of mind that dog walks with Saving Grace can provide? We’d love to hear from you!

Monday, October 8 is Columbus Day and Saving Grace will be OPEN. Regularly scheduled mid-day walks are happening as usual.

If you have schedule changes around this holiday, please log in to your Leash Time account and let us know. If you have more than three days of changes to make just email Tracy or Mollie and they can adjust the schedule for you.

Halloween is also fast approaching along with the annual Howl-o-Ween at Lincoln Park. If you are dressing your pup up for the occasion we’d love to see a photo! Send your pics to Tracy at caphill@savinggracepets.com and she’ll post to our Instagram feed!

We are already booking up for the end-of-year holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year. We love to reserve the best spots for our long-time clients so if you know your plans, please be in touch to book pet sitting. If you are traveling, we want to be there for your furry friends to keep them safe and comfortable while you are away!

As always, we can be reached at caphill@savinggracepets.com and at 202-544-9247. Just leave a message and it will be transcribed into an email where we’ll see it and get right back to you.

Grace

Hello Dear Clients–

Grace Notes has been on a little summer hiatus but we wanted to check in with you, our valued current clients, and to welcome all of our new clients. We are so happy to have you all with us.

New Vet on the Hill Tracy and I recently stopped in to meet our newest Hill vet, Dr. Dan Teich, at District Veterinary Clinic across from Eastern Market. It’s a beautiful office! We immediately noticed the spacious waiting room and the comfortable exam rooms specifically designed to help your pet feel calm and at ease. Take a moment to pop down yourself and check it out. The friendly staff welcomes visitors and you can’t beat the location!

Cat Sitting Did you know that Saving Grace performs almost 700 cat sitting visits per month in the summer? We love our feline clients and have a team of true cat lovers eager to provide care for your pet while you are away. We are always looking for new “cat people” to join us. If you have a flexible schedule and a deep affection for finicky felines, we’d love to talk to you about becoming part of our staff. Shoot us an email if you think you might be a good fit.

New Software Transitioning to a new scheduling and billing system has been on our front burner for over a year and we’re just about there. We anticipate making the transition this fall. This is an much anticipated change for us and, though there will be inevitable bumps, we’re especially looking forward to the ease of use for clients, clearer invoicing, and more robust communication options which will allow three way messages among clients, sitters and managers. Stay tuned!

Labor Day It’s been a long, hot, rainy summer and it’s coming to a close. Saving Grace is CLOSED for mid-day dog walks on Monday, September 3rd. If you have pet sitting scheduled we will be there to care for your pets while you are enjoying some late summer relaxation. And, if you are still in need of pet care, we have a few cat sitting and boarding spots still available. Contact us about your scheduling needs now and cross one thing off your to-do list!

Enjoy these dog days. The Washington Post says weather bliss is about to descend on DC. Here’s hoping!

Grace

Puppy playing in sand with tennis ball

We know it’s hard to see your favorite dog walker or pet sitter leave.

When a team member lets us know they’ll be leaving, we’re sad. At the same time, we’re excited about their next adventure and glad that we were able to spend time with them. You and your pets are special — we remember all the sloppy kisses, head bunts and paw shakes and they leave a forever impression.

After almost 20 years working with amazing pet sitters and dog walkers, here’s what we’ve found:

Our walkers and pet sitters:

  • Have the biggest hearts, so they’re often the first to offer to take care of family and friends – even when it means upending their own lives.
  • Are adventurous and open to traveling across the globe to explore and try out new opportunities.
  • Love learning. We’ve said good bye to new and returning students going off to study nursing, education, computer programming and more. We’ve had multiple PhDs on board over the years!
  • Are filled with the entrepreneurial spirit. From accounting to photography, writing and painting, our team is quite talented and we’re always so happy when others realize this too!

Our walkers and pet sitters also have families of the two- and four-legged variety. Sometimes they choose to focus on their home life; and sometimes, life just happens and a member of our team needs to take a step back and recharge.

Whether a team member departs after 10 months or 10 years, we miss them greatly and we know that they take away wonderful and life-long memories of their time with your pet. You can trust that your new pet sitter or dog walker has been thoroughly vetted, extensively interviewed and trained before they’re allowed to come into your home. And no matter which team member is taking care of your pet, we’ll always try to love them just like you do!

P.S. If you’re happy with your walker or your petsitter, please let them and us know. And if things aren’t going just right, we want to hear about that too.

Being a dog walker can be a lot of fun, especially in good weather. But despite the weather, there are a few characteristics that the best dog walkers share – rain or shine.

Adaptable

On any average day, many things will happen: schedules will change, accidents will occur, construction will make a few dogs fret. The best dog walker starts with a schedule and a plan, builds in cushions and takes changes calmly and in stride.

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