Dog-Walking 101 (4 Things Professional Dog-Walkers Need to Know)
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 already did—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.
4 Things All Dog-Walkers Need to Know
- How to greet a new dog.
- Dog aggression signs.
- Leashes and proper holding.
- The golden rule.
1. 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 and 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.
2. 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 a person enters the room (especially someone large or male-bodied), makes direct eye contact with the dog, and pats it 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.
3. Leashes and Proper Holding
There's a big difference between walking two dogs and walking ten. These leash-handling tips and tricks will help keep both you and your pups safe.
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
4. 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 who ignores the dog poop and leaves it for a public service worker or a homeowner 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.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2016 Ellyn Beale