I started my working life in admin, working for companies such as 3M and Carphone Warehouse. My dogs were home alone all day as that’s what everyone did. I saw a need for something more for dogs of working families and so my business www.leadondogwalking.co.uk was born.
At the time it was a new service that was being offered and I was lucky to be near to Windsor Forest so the walks that I could do were enchanting to say the least. Walking at Windsor Great Park with the castle in the background was truely amazing.
The service I wanted to offer was walking the dogs for at least an hour and not at local parks etc but places that would not only be fulfilling for the dogs but also for me.
I was insured for walking upto 6 dogs and this was the usual number that I went out with. Although having dogs all my life and working with horses I did not have any formal qualifications in anything resembling animal care, however I had a passion for making sure that the dogs were stimulated during the day when their owners were out.
I loved taking all the younger dogs as a group and them going mad in the forest together. Taking lots of photos and posting them online for the owners to see. At the time this was acceptable as where I walked you rarely saw other people We even took on a dog whose previous walker brought all the other dogs to the clients garden and let the dogs do their thing there, not walking the dogs at all.
There were literally only 3 dog walkers in the area, we all knew each other, we knew the other dogs and we worked together to make sure we all had space. Over the years there seemed to be more and more dog walkers. Some had the same idea as myself, whilst others packed as many dogs into their vans as possible and just let them out for 5 mins for a toilet break. We even took on one dog that had a previous dog walker who it was discovered let the other dogs out in the owners garden to run around and not walk them at all!! There were some truly unbelievable stories.
With more and more walkers appearing whether owners or dog walkers, walking large groups was becoming less and less enjoyable and more and more hazardous. SO it became much more enjoyable walking the smaller groups of upto 4 dogs. This was not a regular occurance though.
I then started studying for a career working with dogs and it became clear that with some dogs it was not appropriate to walk in groups. Not necessarily due to aggression but sometimes over stimulation and many other factors. Luckily there was another Dog Walker who specifically walked smaller groups and even individual dogs if needed. I was professional enough to pass the dogs in my groups that I thought would be better in this environment. It wasnt that I couldnt do this myself but my Dog Walking business was geared up to group walking.
I decided to evolve my business due to the dogs that I walked and still with the thought that we needed to enhance our dogs lives more, with interactive toys, better food and building better relationships with them. So I have continued my studying and also started www.leadondogshop.co.uk with this in mind – now moving to Weymouth where I offer fun positive training classes.
Many of you may know that I adopted a little Staffie mix called Spud a couple of years ago and he loved his life of dog walking, and then a year later after losing Lexi my Dobermann, I rescued Harry at 11 weeks. He to enjoyed the Dog Walking, although I was in the process of relocating to Weymouth. I was also busily studying and attending as many courses as possible on Dog Behaviour and training. During this time Spud continued to walk with my best friend who also walks groups of dogs, however I believed that Harry would be better to walk on smaller walks so I asked Anita from The Dogs Business to walk him. This worked out brilliantly as Anita’s husband walked him and Harry loved him dearly. What this did to help Harry was not only to be walked by a man, he was very much a mummies boy but also he got one to one training in mixing with other dogs and adapting to different environments.
After moving to Weymouth and working once again Full Time in the shop I needed to find a dog walker for Harry as he is extremely lively. I spent many a night on Facebook looking at dog walkers and also going online to check out websites. Although there were many dog walkers on there that offered group walks and looked fine, I was aware that as I did sometimes more than 6 dogs were walked in a group, not ideal for Harry and also did I know that although looking good did they actually do their hours walks.
So my tips for choosing a dog walker are:-
- Figure out exactly what your dogs needs are and how this can be met? Do they need an hours walk or 2 x 30 minutes walk or just a visit?
- Research every dog walker out there, dont just look at their webpage put look at facebook and take your time – originally I would of recommended referrals but does this person truly know what happens on their dogs walks.
- If you see a Dog Walker out, talk to them. Get to know a couple of dog walkers.
- Try to go out for a couple of walks with your Dog Walker before trusting them with your dog.
- Once in a while check up on your Dog Walker. At the end of the day our dogs are our babies and in an unregulated industry even the best dog walkers can have off days, weeks, months so continued monitoring is essential.
- Ensure that your dog walker believes in Positive Dog Training, using treats and not telling your dog off. If there is a training issue they need to address this with you for you to decide what to do about it.
- Continue to check numbers – as a Dog Walker, keeping control of 6 dogs is hard enough let alone more.
- Also I know you think your dog is great with group walking but is he just great because he is managing or is he truly happy on a group walk. Would your Dog Walker be experienced enough to let you know if he is not – sometimes as I mentioned I had to give up some of the dogs as I knew that my group walking was just not appropriate for that particular dog.
- Check the vehicle your dogs will be taken in. How long will your dog be in the vehicle.
- Check insurance documents carefully.
And also do look at some activities that your dog can do at home whilst you are not there to take the guilt and pressure off of you whilst you are away.
Harry’s Dog Walker Outcome was that I was lucky enough to stumble upon a great person who comes to collect Harry, however does not put him in his car but walks him from wherever he collects him from. He gives him a good 1 hour walk which I know is happening as he leaves me at one time and returns an hour later – even if he did not walk for 1 hour but sat on a bench watching the cars go by this was fine for my adolescent doberman as it is all learning for him. Chris gives me all the tales of Harry happily playing with other dogs and Harry gets not only road work, but great socialisation without me being around.
Spud on the other hand if he had a Dog Walker would be great in a large group as that is what enhances his life. I am currently looking into this for him.
I hope this helps you chose a dog walker that is right for your dog and you of course.