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SECRETS OF BEING A DOG WALKER
SECRETS YOUR DOG WALKER WANTS YOU TO KNOW … AND A COUPLE THEY PROBABLY DON’T.
By Laura Stampler
As of December 2018, research from IBISWorld shows that dog walking has officially become a $1 billion business in America with approximately 52,000 people working in the field. (Or, more appropriately, dog park.) And even though pet owners with busy schedules appreciate the crucial role a dog walker plays in their fur babies’ everyday lives, they might not know a lot about the people taking care of their dogs.
While you shouldn’t worry that your dog walker is keeping serious secrets — they love your pooch and want to be transparent as possible — there’s a lot of insight to be gained from the people who hang out with your dog during the day. From serenading canines in the park to holding advanced degrees, from poop bag annoyances to tip etiquette, dog walkers told us some secrets that they’d like their clients to know… and a couple more they probably wouldn’t.
YOUR DOG WALKER MIGHT GIVE YOUR DOG A NEW NAME
Does your bulldog Spike have the personality of a Fiona? If so, a dog walker from Norfolk, Connecticut told us that she might change it! “If I think you’ve given your dog a name that doesn’t suit them, I will rename them something more appropriate with how I see their personalities,” she said. “For example, one dog I renamed PJ and another I renamed Mr. Buttons.”
DOG WALKERS HAVE FULL ON CONVERSATIONS—AND EVEN MAKE UP SONGS—FOR YOUR POOCH
“Not only do I talk to your dog, but I make up silly songs about them,” said Kasey. “I especially love to modify Christmas songs to sing to dogs.” Kasey was happy to give us an example: “One dog in particular that I walk, Dodger, gets his own rendition of Jingle Bells as, “Dodging through the snow, in a one dog open sleigh. Over the fields we go, barking all the way. Bark, bark, bark!” (The song doesn’t stop there, but you get the general idea.)
THEY MIGHT EVEN GIVE YOUR ANXIOUS PUP SOME FREE “ENERGY HEALING”
Kelly has been a pet sitter and dog walker for a decade everywhere from Paris to Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur to Gibraltar. And if she starts to build a relationship with a pet who has experienced past trauma, Kelly confessed, “I sometimes do energy work on these dogs in my care to help relieve separation anxiety and other behavioral issues. I fully understand that ‘bad’ behavior may be a sign of a medical issue that veterinarians should address. But, sometimes, ongoing issues (such as extreme fear of thunder or other loud noises) can be calmed through energy work.”
Although Kelly’s energy healing is non-intrusive and isn’t used in place of veterinary treatment, she usually never tells her clients since “it is kind of ‘woo-woo.’”
BUT THEY DON’T ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOUR DOG DURING WALKS
In fact, Elena revealed, “If we meet another dog on our walk, I will share some of your dog’s treats with them.”
SOME HATE CARRYING POOP BAGS AS MUCH AS YOU DO
One anonymous dog walker confessed that sometimes, “if I’m feeling lazy, I won’t clean up after your dog in the woods. I’ll cover their business over with leaves. I hate that I do that, but I hate having to carry around a bag of their poop for miles even more.”
(Note: Although many people think that dog waste is biodegradable, the Environmental Protection Agency says it’s a public health risk. According to the Herald Tribune, the EPA “classified pet waste as a toxic pollutant in the same category as chemical and oil spills.”)
BEING A DOG WALKER IS MUCH MORE COMPETITIVE THAN YOU THINK
Between the tests, interviews, and background checks some companies require in their applications, the Wall Street Journal reports that nabbing a job at a large dog walker agency is “just like getting into Harvard.”
AND EVEN IF IT ISN’T REQUIRED, LOTS OF WALKERS TAKE CLASSES TO EXCEL AT THE JOB
“From earning certifications to taking advantage of continuing education (and even attending national conferences!), today’s professional dog walkers take the steps necessary to offer the highest level of care and safety on their dog walks,” said Beth Stultz, the Vice President of marketing and operations at Pet Sitters International. After working with pet sitters and dog walkers for 25 years, Beth told us that “pet parents also often have no idea of the care, concern and thoughtfulness professional pet-care providers bring to their work!”
ALTHOUGH THERE’S MORE TO THEM THAN WALKING DOGS
Although many people earn a full-time living walking dogs, others do it as an enjoyable and flexible side hustle. (And who wouldn’t want their side hustle to involve puppies?) The person walking your dog around the block could be an opera singer, a writer, or putting themselves through school.
DOG WALKERS LOVE YOUR POOCH SO MUCH, THEY’D PROBABLY WALK YOURS FOR FREE
People don’t become dog walkers unless they have a real passion for dogs. “The fact that we get paid to do something we love brings us a lot of joy and satisfaction,” an East Coast dog walker told us.
BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULDN’T PAY THEM! (AND SOME PET OWNERS TRY NOT TO…)
“It’s a real business and should be treated like one,” said Rochelle Migliore, who runs her own professional dog walking company called See Spot Run Pet Care, Inc. “It’s hard on a small business when invoices are paid late.”
And although tips aren’t mandatory, they are certainly appreciated. “Especially when it’s a small company you know that money will be recirculated in your community,” said Rochelle. “Your dog walker can use that to for a little self-care or even to buy some cute extras they’ve been eyeing for your dog.”
A LITTLE APPRECIATION FOR YOUR DOG WALKER GOES A LONG WAY
Although cash tips are great, a dog walker said that “leaving a note acknowledging their dedication is awesome!” Rochelle, who has been a professional dog walker since 2004 in San Jose, California, also suggested that leaving testimonials and reviews.” We don’t have the big budgets that large companies have for expensive ads and commercials so we rely on word of mouth referrals,” she said. “If you’re happy with the service you’re receiving from your dog walker, leave a review on Yelp or Facebook or better yet ask them how you can help spread the word for them.”
PLEASE DON’T GHOST YOUR DOG WALKER!
“We love all the dogs we walk and get really bonded to them,” said Rochelle. “It’s heartbreaking when someone moves away and devastating when a dog we walk passes away.”
Although this is a painful part of life, please let your dog walker know if they won’t be hanging out with your dog anymore. Just because ghosting a bad first (or fourteenth) date has become an unfortunate social norm doesn’t mean you should think that’s an acceptable option tor your dog walker.
TREATING AND PREVENTING DENTAL DISEASE IN CATS AND DOGS
The treatment of dental disease in cats and dogs involves a thorough dental cleaning. X-rays may be needed to determine the severity of the disease. Your veterinarian or a veterinary dentist will make recommendations based on your pet’s overall health and the health of your pet’s teeth, and provide you with options to consider. When you go to the dentist, you know that what’s being done is meant to help you and keep your mouth healthy. Your dentist uses techniques to minimize pain and discomfort and can ask you how you are feeling, so you accept the procedures and do your best to keep still. Your pet does not understand the benefit of dental procedures, and it reacts by moving, trying to escape, or even biting. Anesthesia makes it possible to perform the dental procedures with less stress and pain for your pet. In addition, anesthesia allows for a better cleaning because your pet is not moving around and risking injury from the dental equipment. If x-rays are needed, your pet needs to be very still in order to get good images, and this is unlikely without heavy sedation or anesthesia. Although anesthesia will always have risks, it’s safer now than ever and continues to improve so that the risks are very low and are far outweighed by the benefits. Most pets can go home the same day of the procedure, although they might seem a little groggy for the rest of the day.
Prevention of the most common oral disease in pets consists of frequent removal of the dental plaque and tartar that forms on teeth. Regularly brushing your pet’s teeth is the single most effective thing you can do to keep their teeth healthy between dental cleanings and may reduce the frequency or even eliminate the need for periodic dental cleaning by your veterinarian. Daily brushing is best, but it’s not always possible, so brushing several times a week can be effective. Most dogs accept brushing, but cats can be a bit more resistant – patience and training are important.
There are many pet products marketed with claims that they improve dental health, but not all of them are effective. Chlorhexidine oral rinse is the most effective anti-plaque antiseptic. Chlorhexidine binds to the oral tissues and tooth surfaces and is gradually released into the oral cavity. It is safe for pets and rarely causes problems, though it does have a bitter taste if palatability enhancers suitable for dogs are not included. Some dogs may object to the taste of products containing chlorhexidine while others accept it with no difficulty. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) has listed numerous products that have earned the VOHC Seal of Acceptance in dentifrice products.
It behooves pet owners to pay close attention to the oral health of their pets, both from the standpoint of the health and well-being of the pet and the cost for maintaining a healthy pet. The best source of information is your animal hospital for a dental checkup at least once per year. A comprehensive oral examination can eliminate gum disease, malformed teeth that causes pain and discomfort to the animal, oral cancers that can be removed if caught in time, and many other possible conditions that are detrimental to the health of your family pet. Although you may see advertisement to the contrary, general anesthesia is usually necessary for a complete and thorough oral examination by your veterinarian. The plaque that accumulates below the gum line is the culprit in periodontal disease and it can only be properly diagnosed and treated while the dog or cat is under general anesthesia.