Pet Expert: Maybe You’re Doing it Wrong

Robert Berkelhammer, author of Pet Caregivers and Families, offers his professional advice for pet owners of dogs, cats and birds.
Robert Berkelhammer, author of Pet Caregivers and Families, offers his professional advice for pet owners of dogs, cats and birds.

By Mary Markos

Published May 05, 2016, issue of May 05, 2016.

Your pets are digging holes in the yard. They jump on the furniture and cover it with fur. They sleep in your bed. This means your pets are in control and you’re a failure of a master. Could that be the message of a new book from animal expert Robert Berkelhammer called Pet Caregivers and Families?

Berkelhammer has worked in pet care since 2007, has been the Daily Assistant Manager of a Dog Behavior Modification Playgroup from 2011-2016, and he is a pet sitter, dog walker, cat and bird visitor. Berkelhammer also works at Personal Comforts Pet Care in Marblehead, at which he visits the pets of people mostly native to Marblehead and Swampscott while the owners are at work or on vacation.

A principal question Berkelhammer poses for the reader of his book, meant for perspective or current pet owners, is “Are we the right pet family for a rescue dog, cat, bird, or are we a better pet family with a non-rescue dog, cat, or bird?”

The eight chapter long book discusses, in his opinion, what the healthy pet-family relationship looks like. According to Berkelhammer, major life transitions can derail the pet-family relationship, such as separation, divorce, substance abuse, or major medical issues. Berkelhammer says he wrote the book for “pet owners looking for long-term success with their dog, cat, or bird.” Furthermore, he emphasizes the importance of pet care companies, such as dog walkers, dog parks, pet sitters, and pet visitors.

The book contains a substantial focus on pet owners taking more responsibility for their pets. Organization, according to Berkelhammer, makes pet care more manageable and gives the pet owner more authority and more healthy control. On his website, robertberkelhammer.com, Berkelhammer has provided a 16-page free download Pet Care Contract.

Pet Caregivers and Families
Robert Berkelhammer
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2015
Pet Caregivers and Families Robert Berkelhammer Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2015

The contract, according to Berkelhammer, is meant to organize pet family adults, their mature children, and contracted pet professionals. “What the pet owner can do is write out all the strategies and protocols for their dog, cat, or bird,” which includes what commands they know, whether or not they are a rescue animal, if they exhibit eccentric behavior, how much food they eat, proof that their shots are up to date, and more.

Berkelhammer strongly suggests dog parks for behavioral improvement. “When a dog enters a dog park, a lot of dogs come to the gate area, another person should come to the gate and act as a moving fence to make the transition coming in less anxious.” However, he also believes that dog parks should be segregated into two different areas based on play-style.

Berkelhammer suggests that “there should be one play area for dogs that playfully run, wrestle, bite and in another area would be for slower, older dogs, dogs with medical conditions or anxiety.” If dog parks have the resources to have two separate fenced areas in a dog park for two different play styles, Berkelhammer believes that park will be more successful.

“I encourage people to read my book and see what’s possible when you’re able to set limits on dogs.” According to Berkelhammer, dogs are similar to kids in that they need love, affection, exercise, discipline and limit setting. He claims that if the limit setting is effective and kind, the pet will like it. “Otherwise you have chaos and negative situations that develop.”



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