At a first glance, dog-walking looks like an easy occupation. It’s something that students do on a part-time basis to earn some extra money, or something that you outsource to your gardener or domestic assistant.
Hitch the dogs to a lead, take them roun
d the block a few times and that counts as a walk, right? Or put them in the car, take them to the nearest park and let the dogs run around whilst your part-time student sits on his/her phone scrolling through Instagram?
In reality, dog-walking is an occupation that, like any other career, requires training, skills, understanding and a full commitment to the task at hand. If you hire a dog-walker that is not a professional, you run the risk of putting the lives of your dog/s at risk every time they are taken for a walk.
On every dog walk, there are numerous risks that could arise at any given moment. It is a professional dog-walker’s responsibility to always be alert and aware, to minimize and where possible, eliminate these risks.
That open-gate where somebody is reversing out of their drive-way? Is there a dog in the garden? Could that dog escape and engage with your dog, leading to a possible fight?
Is your dog a powerful and energetic dog? Does your dog-walker have the physical strength and wherewithal to keep your dog under control? If your dog sees a rabbit, or a cat, or another dog and lunges for it (perhaps onto a busy road), is your dog-walker paying enough attention to counter the sudden pull on the lead? Or will s/he be taken by surprise and not have a solid hold on the lead, thus letting your dog go?
Does your dog-walker understand animal behaviour? Are they able to read and interpret the subtle signs that your dog is emitting, signaling nervousness, fear or aggression? Or are they blithely unaware of the intricacies of dog behaviour?
Does your dog-walker know how to break up a dog fight, in the unfortunate possibility that this may occur? What would happen if your dog was attacked by another dog during a walk? Equally possible is that your dog could also attack another dog. Would your walker have the necessary knowledge, clarity of mind and equipment to break up the fight and minimize any injuries?
This was the serious situation that Power Paws encountered last week during a routine dog walk. Our two founders, Ondine and Davina, were walking two pitbulls in a suburban neighbourhood, when a large Rottweiler cross-breed dog appeared on the street and attacked one of the pitbulls.
The Rottweiler-cross went straight for the throat of Bruce, the pitbull, who, true to his gentle nature, did not attempt to fight back. With knowledge of how to break-up dog fights, Ondine and Davina, with the help of a passer-by, were able to keep Kindra (Bruce’s sister) safely away from the fight and were able to use a break-stick to open the Rottweiler-cross’ jaws and get him off Bruce.
The Rottweiler-cross was taken to the SPCA by the passer-by, Amy, and Davina and Ondine rushed Bruce to the vet for an assessment of his injuries. Kindra, Davina and Ondine were all unscathed. Bruce escaped with minimal injuries, and considering the size and viciousness of the dog that attacked him, this bears testament to the professionalism and expertise of Power Paws.
If Davina and Ondine were not professionals, being alert to threats and carrying break-sticks, harnesses and leads, the situation could have been much, much worse.
Consider for a moment your own dog/s and who is walking he, she or them. Does that person have the necessary equipment to break up a dog-fight? Do they have a cell-phone with airtime to call for help if necessary? Or will you be getting a “Please call me” SMS?
Does your dog walker have any dog related qualifications?
Do they have a car (with petrol in the tank?) to transport your dog/s to the vet if necessary?
These are all important factors that need to be considered when you give somebody the responsibility of walking your dogs. Your dogs are part of your family and need to be looked after with as much care, attention and love as you would a small child or toddler.
We’ve seen dog-walkers paying more attention to their cellphones than the dogs in their care. We’ve seen dog-walkers getting too close to other dog-walkers, not respecting the safe space that all dogs need. We’ve seen dog-walkers walking dogs that they’ve clearly got no control over, with dogs going in all sorts of directions, dangerously close to busy roads.
You wouldn’t risk the lives of your children with a care-taker who isn’t a professional; why would you risk the lives of your beloved dogs?