Dog Walking 101
If you haven't heard, dog walking is the new hip profession. Getting paid to get exercise around beautiful cities and hang out with dogs? Um, yes! Sign me up. I mean — I already did sign up, which is why I'm here.
For four months I worked with dogs full time, and the things I learned were invaluable to me. Upon realizing how easy it was becoming for just anyone to get a job walking dogs, I became a bit worried about those that are uneducated in proper pup ways taking to the streets. If you're considering giving it a go (either working for an existing service or trying it out yourself), I strongly encourage you to make sure you are familiarized with the following information.
Are you thinking about becoming a dog-walker part or full time?
Essential Things to Know when Becoming a Dog-Walker
1. How to greet a new dog
2. Dog aggression signs
3. Leashes & proper holding
4. The golden rule
How to Greet a New Dog:
- On his terms: Be still and let the dog approach you -- let him interact with you on his terms.
- Kneel & turn: Don't bend over the dog -- kneel down and turn your body slightly to the side. This shows the dog respect that he will appreciate and he will likely warm up to you much more quickly.
- No reaching: Do not reach your hand out for him to smell. He has an amazing nose and can smell you just fine from where you are kneeling. Only offer your hand for licking if his comfortableness with you is clear -- otherwise it may look to him like you're reaching for his face.
- Treat him!: If you have access to owner-approved* treats, give him one to make him more friendly towards you. *It needs to be owner approved first because many dogs have allergies.
- The Under Chin Scratch: If he gives you clear signals that he's comfortable with you, feel free to scratch under his chin -- dogs largely prefer this over the top of the head, which can feel threatening to them.
Dog aggression signs:
- Raised hackles (erectile hairs along the back of the dog — they rise when it is angry or alarmed)
- Stiffening of the body
- Maintaining eye contact
- Bearing teeth
If any of these signs occur, back off immediately. Remember that dog aggression is born from anxiety and fear. We may mean to be friendly, but when one enters the room, (especially large or male bodied people), make direct eye contact with them, and pat them on the head, it can come off as a clear sign of dominance, or even aggression to the dog. Let the dog become cool with you on its own terms and remember that it is a living breathing being with feelings and anxieties of its own.
Leashes and Proper Holding:
- Avoid retractable leashes: While they do shout "convenience," countless animals and humans have gotten severely injured and have even died from these popular contraptions. The retraction is so strong and the wire is so thin that it can slice fingers, hands, and doggie limbs right off. Many states are trying to ban them — in the meantime, it is best to bring your own standard issue leash.
- No wrist action: Many people think that standard leashes were made to wrap around your wrist. This is incorrect, and unfortunately, can severely inhibit your range of motion and ability to quickly respond to situations. Standard loop leashes were made to insert the thumb through the loop, and hold the remainder of the leash material gripped in your palm —lengthening the loop to shorten the leash if necessary.
- Keep it at your core: This tip is especially important if you're walking more than one dog at a time — keeping the loop of the leash at your core will give you the strength of all of your body weight against the dog(s) instead of just your limited arm strength. Not even a pack of dogs can yank you around if the dogs are controlled by your core.
How to Properly Hold a Dog's Leash
The Golden Rule:
Or should I say — the brown rule.
Always pick up their poop!
If that means bringing your own extra doggie baggies to make sure that you'll have something to clean it up with, so be it. It's part of the job description to deal with their messes. Don't be one of those walkers that ignores the dog poop and leaves it for a public service worker or a home owner to deal with — it's just not fair!
If you remember these things, you will be well on your way to start your dog-walking journey.
It's a lovely one to emBARK upon.