I became a Dog Walker full time just over six months ago, and I love my job.
I’m the owner of my own business and get to work with dogs all day to name just a few of the positives. However I see a lot of adverts suggesting that Dog Walking or even Pet Sitting is an easy way to earn a few extra pounds during the week with very little effort. There is a lot more to running your own Pet Care business than simply ‘walking a dog.’
Before I even start walking a new client’s dog, I go through an initial meet and greet, I get to talk to the owners of the animals and ask questions about their pets and their personalities. I have several forms that have to be filled out giving me behavioral and medical details about each animal and contact information in case of emergencies. If I think this meeting has gone well, and that everyone is happy, then services can begin!
The first time I go to the dogs house when the owner isn’t present is when I can get a feel for how the dog is going to act on our walks together. Some dogs quite rightly are unsure when I first enter the house and thus need a bit of extra time to warm up to me, this usually doesn’t take too long when they realize I have treats and take them for walks. Other dogs may get very excited, loud and jump up even from the first meeting.
Once I leave the house with the dogs, the first time in particular, it’s important to me to make assessments about anything the dog seems to particularly like or even dislike. Sometimes, as with any business, new customers may not be completely forth coming with information; some owners may suggest that their dogs are great with other dogs, or are fantastic at loose lead walking, or have no behavioural issues at all and this on some occasions is not the truth. This makes my job slightly harder, for example to be told a dog walks perfectly well down the road ignoring all traffic and then to find them lunging at the end of a lead whenever a cyclist passes, or cowering whenever they see anything bigger than a car. As a dog walker studying canine behaviour, I would be happy to work with a dog on these issues it is just important to be told these details up front.
Each animal that I work with is different, and this is something that I also have to remember when out and about. Some of the dogs I walk are dog reactive, others aren’t keen on traffic, each has a different preference for toys and treats, some aren’t allowed off lead and others even have allergies. It is my job to remember what works for each individual. More importantly I am completely responsible for that animal when it is in my care, this includes making sure they don’t run off and have good recall, that they don’t eat anything they shouldn’t AND letting an owner know if I notice anything unusual for example excess head shaking as a sign of an ear infection, or even them drinking and going to the toilet more than usual too!
Anyone who runs their own business will probably know about out of hours calls, texts, and emails.
To begin with, I answered every message and call as it came in regardless of the time but have more recently come up with a set number of hours in which I will answer anything work related. I have numerous slots during the day in which I have to arrange who gets walked when. Some of the dogs in my care are dog reactive or very nervous around other dogs and so they need single 1-2-1 walks. Once I have a fair idea of a dog’s personality and how they behave around others, I can start to pair up dogs from different households that I think will work well together. I can have a whole day’s walking planned and have last minute requests in the morning, that I hate to turn away, which results in lots of juggling.
Then of course comes the unpredictable Great British Weather that I walk in, as with anyone that works outdoors will know it can be pouring down in the morning and really warm and sunny in the afternoon, resulting in the carrying of lots of layers of various waterproof clothing!
Finally comes the general consequences of working with animals. This includes the numerous bruises from being jumped on, run into and from various tripping up over sticks, rocks, and uneven terrain, and the aching arms after taking out a dog that particularly likes to pull. That’s without mentioning going home covered in mud and trying to remain just a little bit clean as you towel dry each dog off after they’ve decided to trek through every puddle going!
I love my job and have learned so much over the past six months, but it is so much more than just taking a dog out for a quick walk.
Jayde Davey M.ISAP CTDI
Jayde Davey M.ISAP CTDI – I am an aspiring dog trainer, supporting positive reinforcement methods. I currently am studying an Advanced Diploma in Canine Behaviour Management and have just passed my test to become a Certified Trick Dog Instructor. I have my own blogsite with connected social media and I also run a Facebook Dog Trick group where I help people to teach their dog lots of fun tricks. I am a member of ISAP or the International Society for Animal Professionals and also have a diploma in small animal care. I own a deaf Dalmatian called Logan who I do most of my training with; he knows lots of tricks like take my socks off, fetch my a tissue and wipe your feet but I also regularly work with a miniature poodle, a cocker spaniel, a jack Russell and a border collie. I one day hope to become a professional dog trainer.
Blog site: www.blogthatdog.com