On today's episode of Pet Lover Geek, powered by PetHub, Lorien talks with Amy Burkert, founder of GoPetFriendly.com, about some of the essential tips for traveling with your dogs this summer. In honor of Lost Pet Prevention Month, Lorien is talking with pet industry experts throughout July about the basics of lost pet prevention and recovery techniques and resources. PetHub started Lost Pet Prevention Month in 2014 to drive deeper conversations around all of the ways pet parents can prevent a pet from becoming lost, as well as how to get them home quickly if they go AWOL (Absent WithOut a Leash).
Lorien Clemens [00:00:01] Welcome to Pet Lover Geek, powered by PetHub. Pet lovers, today we are going to continue the conversation about lost pet prevention and recovery in honor of Lost Pet Prevention Month. As a lifelong pet parent myself, I know I've let a lot of the basics slide in the day to day hustle and bustle. But boy, have I woken up lately. And that's what we're talking about this month.
We're going to have conversations with industry experts about the best tips and tricks when it comes to lost pet prevention and recovery. Those basic things that you just need to do.
I'm really excited for today's guest; Kristen Levine is going to fill us in on some of the best and basic products that will help make lost pet prevention and recovery simple and easy. As people who've listened to my show know, Kristen speaks everything pet and she loves to help pet parents through her Pet Living platform. With over 30 years in the industry, Kristen has done it all, including founding Fetching Communications in 2003 and Pet Anxiety Awareness Month in 2017. Pet Living is one of the best resources on the internet for information and product recommendations for pet parents.
Kristen, can't wait to talk with you about the hottest products that are out there for lost pet prevention and recovery. Welcome to the show!
Kristen Levine [00:01:19] Thanks so much for having me, Lorien. Great to be back!
Lorien Clemens [00:01:27] So I can't start this conversation without asking you to talk a little bit about your incredible background and your career in the pet industry. I mean, you've seen the industry from such a unique perspective, everything from, you know, working in the shelters and running PR for shelters and vets. And then creating your own PR agency and working with a lot of different vet brands. So I would love you could tell me a little bit about that background and share that with our listeners.
Kristen Levine [00:01:53] Sure, I'd be happy to. So, I entered the pet industry -- my first job was being the PR director for the SPCA of Tampa Bay. And it's funny because I had just moved to Florida and the way I was introduced to the SPCA was through my husband. And I was really just looking for a way to meet people and volunteer. I was working part time, so, you know, just looking for something that I could do to get back to the community and to meet people. So I was introduced to the executive director there and I volunteered for about a week, and then suddenly a PR position became available there and I applied for it. Got the job, and 15 years later -- you know, I spent fifteen years there. So it was a really incredible experience on so many levels. Very fulfilling career for sure, because I was promoting pet adoption, of course, responsible pet care, the importance of spaying and neutering your pets.
Then I started my PR agency called Fetching Communications in about 2003 serving exclusively at the pet and the veterinary market. So over the last 17 years, we've gotten to work with hundreds of pet brands, veterinary brands, nonprofit organizations, colleges. It's just it's just been incredible. And about five years ago, I started the Pet Living blog, and I'm really enjoying that work because it's giving me an opportunity to work again to educate pet parents and to help put pets and people together and make their lives better.
Lorien Clemens [00:03:32] What you guys and your team does a Pet Living -- you're constantly looking for the best tools, the best pet products that are out there for pet parents to nurture their pet's live. And I love it. So today, let's focus on some of those products that can really help make a pet parent's life easier when it comes to: A) keeping their pet safe at home; and then, B) if they do get lost, getting them home quickly and safely, if they happen to sneak out the door.
So let's start let's start with the stuff that, you know, you assume everybody knows. But this is about going back to the basics, because lately we've all gotten lazy and complacent. And so let's start with that basic leash and collar. I mean, because, believe me, I talk to people all the time and I'm like, what do you mean you don't understand the different types of leashes and collars? Of course there's different types. And they all have different reasons for using them. And I would love it if you can kind of talk about what it takes for a pet parent to get the proper leash on collar -- and not just for dogs. But what do they need to know when they are thinking about what's the best, most safe leash and collar combination I can get?
Kristen Levine [00:04:45] So you're right. There's a such variety out there to choose from. And lot of folks don't realize that there are a lot of really, you know, I guess you could call it innovative leashes and collars. But I think talking about basics, obviously you want something that's quality and you want something that's comfortable for your pet because the bottom line is that your pet needs to be wearing it all the time, except maybe at bath time. Right? So 24/7, you want to make sure whatever collar you select for your dog or cat is, you know, comfortable for them. If it's a smaller pet like a cat, or we just adopted a Chihuahua-Terrier Mix and it was really hard to find a collar, you know, that I liked - the way it looked anyway - and was small enough for her because I wanted it to be lightweight enough not for her to feel encumbered, unencumbered.
Lorien Clemens [00:05:40] Or tip over because it's so heavy.
Kristen Levine [00:05:42] I know, once you put the tag on... boop! But yeah, I always look for quality. I like the snaps - or not the snaps but the buckle, I guess. What do you call that? The buckle?
Lorien Clemens [00:05:56] The fastener.
Kristen Levine [00:05:57] The fastener, right. A lot of them are plastic and that's okay, but I want to make sure that it's secure and it's not going to break. So obviously you also want one that, you know, you can put your tag on - we'll talk about tags in a little bit. And then when it comes to leashes, just a quality leash, I use nylon leashes. Nothing fancy, but I do like this one feature and it's the double looped or handled leash. So a standard leash is a six foot leash, which I think is the best length for pretty much any dog because it gives them enough freedom but it also gives you enough control. They can't get too far away from you. But the double handed leashes have the the one at the end of the six foot leash and then one closer to where it fastens to the collar in case you want to, you know, bring your pet closer to you and have a little bit more control.
Lorien Clemens [00:06:55] I have one of those and I love it. And it's key, especially when you're walking your dog out in public and you need to keep them close to you. I mean, we run the trails, we hike the trails all the time, and we don't usually see other humans out there or other wildlife. But when we do, I love that quick handle that's close to the collar because it gets immediate control and lets the dog know, oh, I've got to pay attention now.
Kristen Levine [00:07:19] Exactly. Exactly. Or if you have a reactive dog, like my dog Chili is a reactive dog. We're always working with him on it. He's gotten a lot better. But when we see another dog coming, I definitely, you know, choke up, as they say, like on a bat. You got to choke up on the leash. And I'm not talking about choking the dog. I'm talking about, like, you know, bringing your pet closer to you. Also some of those double handled leashes come with padded handles, which makes it even more comfortable. So those are my those are my favorite features for collars and leashes.
Lorien Clemens [00:07:53] Let's talk a little bit more, too, about the collars and even harnesses, like some of those really innovative designs that are out there that can be really great for, specifically, dogs that like to run or pull or that kind of thing.
Kristen Levine [00:08:10] So my favorite -- I found this particular harness option because of Chili's reactiveness and I would have trouble getting control of him. And so I found the Freedom No-Pull Harness. And what it does -- and it is also reflective, so that's another bonus for walking at nighttime. But it fastens to your dog in the front under their neck and also on top of their back because it's a harness. It has a leash that comes with the harness. And then you can have two handed control of your dog. So you're controlling them kind of from their back and from their front. Really, really helpful for dogs that are really strong and pull, or dogs that see a squirrel and want to take off, or dogs like Chili who are reactive. As we worked with him in the training, he's gotten much easier to control. So now I use the double handled leash for him.
Lorien Clemens [00:09:03] That's awesome. Yeah, I love the Freedom No-Pull; I think it's a fantastic product. I'd love if you could kind of chat about -- and I'l lead into this for you. A few years back, one of my favorite cartoonists, Matt Inman, who does the Oatmeal, had this campaign that he did about putting cats that were indoor-only cats into orange collars. So if you saw them outdoors, you knew that they were convicts that have broken out. And he called it the "Kitty Convict Project", and I thought it was brilliant. But it kind of goes to what I would love for you to talk about: the fact that, you know, you don't need to have a boring collar. In fact, sometimes having a not-boring collar can actually be a safety device.
Kristen Levine [00:09:49] Exactly. And having a fun looking collar is good for two reasons. Number one, it's fun! You can match them up to your pet's personality. Olivia, my cat, wears a zebra-print collar, but the other reason it's important and practical is because back in my shelter days I saw all the dogs and cats that would come in with, you know, a lot of them might look very similar brown dog, black cat and if they had a collar - which unfortunately was not very often - they might just have a black collar, a brown collar or something. Just kind of basic and standard, which is fine functionally, but they're a lot more memorable if they have a memorable looking collar. So if somebody calls a shelter and says, you know, "my lab mix ran off and I'm looking for him -- he's solid black and he's wearing a pink neon collar." You know, people are going to be much quicker to remember "oh, yes, we we did see him. He has been brought to the shelter" or something like that. So that's why I like fun collars, because they're fun to pick out and they look nice on your pet and they're much more memorable.
Lorien Clemens [00:11:04] You already brought up 2 Hounds Designs; they have really high-quality collars with incredibly cute and witty designs. You can also even look at Lupine has a wonderful array of really beautiful - for any kind of personality - and again, really high quality collars, including martingale collars that, you know, can help make your pet memorable when they're when they're found.
Kristen Levine [00:11:29] Yeah. And I think it's Yellow Dog that has all the licensing for the NFL collars; so your favorite football team or baseball team or hockey team, you know, you can really just, you know, infuse some of your own personality into your dog's collar and make them more recognizable if someone were to find your pet or if they were to end up at an animal shelter.
Lorien Clemens [00:11:51] Right. And I know, too -- I subscribe to every single Facebook page for lost animals in my community, and whenever I see something that has like a specific collar or harness or whatever called out, then when I see like a Collie walking around, like, "does that one have a Superman collar on? Because there's a Superman collar on a missing Collie." You know, so I think it helps the finder actually keep an eye out for them. So I love that because it's one that people don't often think about. But it's a really basic thing that you can do.
Let's talk about traveling with your pet because that's one of the places where, you know, you have to take them to the veterinarian or you want to take them to the park or what have you or even on vacation. And we don't often think about the really basic needs for safety on just getting the animal to the car, in the car, on the trip, out of the car to whatever place for coat. There's actually a lot of little aspects of that that we need to remember. So let's talk about travel crates, car seat harnesses, and how these can be beneficial to keeping the pets safe. So I would love if you could share a little bit about that.
Kristen Levine [00:13:03] Absolutely. It is so important to have your pet secured in your vehicle. Just like we buckle up, our pets need to be buckled up in a way' whether it's in a crate if they're a smaller pet like a cat or a smaller dog, obviously you can use a hard-sided airline kennel. I like hard sided because if, God forbid, you were to get into an accident the hard-sided crate is going to be more protective of your pet than a soft one. Now the soft ones are more comfy and there are some really great soft-sided travel crates. But, I don't know, if you're looking for full on safety, I'd go with the hard side. But you also want to make sure it's comfortable inside for your pet because depending on how long they're going to be in there you want to make sure that they're really comfy.
Lorien Clemens [00:13:56] Yeah, there are also like the harnesses to actually lock them into the seat themselves if you don't use a carrier, which I personally use a carrier - I think it's the safest - but if you don't use a carrier.
Kristen Levine [00:14:09] Right, a larger dog or just if you prefer a harness -- it's best to have them in the back seat or even in the cargo area of the car, if you if you have an SUV. And there are lots of companies, some of my favorites, like Kurgo and Sleepy Pod make really great quality harnesses that are comfortable for your dog. They're padded so they're nice and comfy, but they have a way to buckle into the seatbelt system so that your pet is comfortable. And it's also really important that your pet can lie down and sit up while wearing that harness. They shouldn't feel restricted in a harness.
Lorien Clemens [00:14:50] Absolutely. And a lot of these things, like Sleepy Pod is a perfect example, are safety rated. They've actually been tested with, you know, dummy dogs in car safety tests.
Kristen Levine [00:15:02] Yeah, they are by far my favorite -- Sleepy Pod, you know, premium pricing. But they're beautifully designed, and obviously, you know, the safety testing is really important, but adds to the price. But Kurgo makes, you know, if you're looking for more moderately-priced, Kurgo makes some really great products, too.
And the nice thing about the harnesses is they usually have a clip where it doubles as a walking harness, too. So once you unclip them from the seat belt, let's say you're at a rest stop area. You can just walk them in their harness. And, you know, we talked a minute ago about how important leashes and collars are; I have actually been on a road trip at a rest stop where people have their dogs off leash. And I'm thinking, are you crazy? I mean, what if your dog were to run off? Even if you feel like you have voice control of your dog normally, you just don't know what's going to happen. The last thing you want is for your pet to get away from you or lost at any time, but particularly when you're traveling because they don't recognize the area. And so it's so important to bring that handy dandy leash that you love and your collar or harness with you on all trips.
Lorien Clemens [00:16:15] That is actually a great segue into the next section that we want to talk about which is pet identification. Obviously, we talk about pet identification all day, every day. That's all we're talking about, and it's actually why we started Lost Pet Prevention Month back in 2014, because we really wanted to drive a deeper conversation about all lost pet prevention and recovery; not just microchips, which were really consuming the conversation and with good reason, but we wanted people to talk about more than just that. And particularly with travel, identification is so key and even what we do here with digital IDs. So I would love it if you could talk a little bit about how you need to have a multi-layered approach when you have a pet identificiation.
Kristen Levine [00:17:03] Yeah, and I'm kind of obsessive about this, probably because of my shelter days. And because of knowing what I know, like you do, about how many pets are lost and don't ever find their way back home.
The way I often explain this to people is, you know, you wouldn't think of checking your bag on an airplane without putting an ID tag on your suitcase. Right? I mean, you just wouldn't do that. So why would you not take the time to put an ID on your pet, because you don't know at what point your pet might get away from you. Obviously, I think the that the PetHub tag is far and away the number one -- if you only had one form of identification on your pet, that is the one I would have because of the extensive profile that is available with multiple contact points should somebody find your pet.
But what we do -- Chili, for example, has a microchip. Actually, all my pets have microchips. Microchips are a great, I like to say, kind of a backup form of ID because it's invisible to a person who might find your pet. The only way a microchip can be scanned is if your pet ends up at a veterinary office or at an animal shelter where they have the scanners to actually scan for the chip. So visible identification is key.
You can also get nylon collars that you can embroider a phone number onto. So Chili has worn that for many years -- where he had his PetHub tag, with his embroidered collar, with his microchip. So he had three three forms of identification. And, you know, like you said, a layered approach is always best because if for some reason your pet were to get out of their collar or if, you know, the buckle were to break when somebody tried to catch your pet and the collar came off in the process. That's where the microchip is going to come in handy.
Lorien Clemens [00:19:13] Yeah, totally. And if you live in a place where pet licensing is something that that happens, it's also great because it proves ownership. It's like "this pet belongs to this human being", which can be really important when you're talking about lost pet recovery.
I would love it if you could talk about other digital things that are out there because obviously here we are geeky. We like to talk about everything techie and wonderful, and there are some really cool lost pet recovery tools that are out there now. And some of them are not even things you think of as being lost pet recovery, but they're definitely tech tools that pet parents can use to help in finding the pet once they go a while.
Kristen Levine [00:19:58] Sure, sure. So, for example, lots of folks know about the Ring doorbell -- we have a ring doorbell and we also have a ring camera inside our house. I have been known to log into my Ring app and spy on my dog in the front yard just to make sure he's not getting too close to the fence. We have a fenced yard so Chili can't get out, but our newest addition, Tulip, she can squeeze underneath the fence. So sometimes if I'm working, I'll just have the app next to me so I can kind of watch them. So I don't know if a lot of people really think about that; that it could double as a way to keep an eye on your pets or if your dog has or your cat has disappeared, you might roll the tape back to see if the camera caught which way your pet went or got out of the fence or gate.
Another great tool is the NextDoor app. I just recently downloaded it because my husband loves it, and that is a great way for you to communicate with your immediate community, neighbors, you know, even retailers in the area. If your pet were to go missing, you could immediately get an alert out, you know, to be on the lookout for your pet with that super cool collar, right? Because time is of the essence, right? You first notice that they are not where they should be, and rt's really important to get the word out as fast as possible, as broadly as possible.
Lorien Clemens [00:21:31] We actually started our NextDoor community. There wasn't one for our neighborhood because we actually live up at 3,200 feet - we're in this little ski mountain community that's away from the main town. And there's not a lot of us here, but we see dogs all the time and cougars and bears. And so frankly, a lot of times the alerts are "Hey, put your dogs inside! There's a cougar out there!" But it's really incredible how it's helped people because we actually all know each other's dogs up here, and we all live on the acre or so, so it's pretty spread out, but even down in town, I know that a lot of folks use it and it's been a really great app.
And we just got our Ring doorbell; we haven't installed it yet, that's a weekend project for us. But a lot of it was based on starting to read more and more about how they're used for lost pet stuff. So, yeah, great tools. Anything else that you want to share? You know, other products that are out there, other things maybe that people don't think about.
Kristen Levine [00:22:39] Well, you know, two things come to mind. One is a product, but it's really not basic - it's a GPS tracker. I know we're trying to stay basic here, so I wasn't really going to get into that, but there are so many on the market now nowadays. We have a Whistle -- I think it's called a Whistle Go -- for Chili. What I don't like about Whistle Go though is the size of it. It's too big for me to put on Tulip's collar because she would fall over.
But, you know, I do like the geeky stuff too, as I'm sure you do. There are lots of them. There's the FitBark, FiSmart, LinkAKC, Garmin, if you're interested in checking those out. But getting back to basics and this is something that I'm doing currently because we just adopted Tulip and she's only four months old -- your dog needs to understand basic commands. And the most important commands are come and stay. Sit is nice and convenient, but it's not as importnat.
And we have mastered the come comman d with Tulip; she comes bolt-running to us when we call her and we, of course, always have a treat for her. And now we're working on stay. And this is important, particularly for let's say someone comes to the door and I open the door. I don't want her bolting out because I know that she can get underneath that fence if she really wants to. So, yeah, just, you know, maybe going back to basic obedience or, you know, polishing those obedience skills, those voice commands are really important. You don't want to rely on them solely, of course, but they are really important in a lot of situations.
Lorien Clemens [00:24:19] Even if they can just get your dog's attention for just a second to get them to stop so you can get a hold of them. That's really what's critically important.
Thank you so much, Kristen. I wish we had all day. Clearly you and I could chat forever, but you've got a lot of really amazing products and ideas out there and I want to make sure that everybody knows how to find you online so they can read about more incredible things that you can bring to to their attention. So please tell us, how can they connect with you to learn more?
Kristen Levine [00:24:49] Yeah, absolutely. You can find me at kristenlevine.com -- just like Adam Levine, Kristen Levine. No relation, though! You can also find me on Facebook at Kristen Levine Pet Living and on Instagram at Pet.Living
Lorien Clemens [00:25:08] Wonderful, and it's great resource, I highly recommend everybody check it out. Kristen has been sharing a lot of really great information about lost pet prevention this month and I encourage you to head over there to her website or her Facebook page or Instagram to keep learning about how to keep your pet safe and happy.
We are sharing from all of our Lost Pet Prevention Month partners all month, including Kristen's at www.lostpetpreventionmonth.com -- make sure to head over there. You'll be able to find all the interviews that we've been doing this month, plus all the really great content that we've been getting from our partners and working on with them.
I'm Lorien Clemens. You've been listening to Pet Lover Geek, powered by PetHub. Thanks for tuning in today; I can't wait to chat with next week's guest.