Updated: Aug 23, 2019
So what actually happens when you hire a dog walker? Where do they go, what do they do? What’s it like out on the trail with a pack of dogs? These are questions I get a lot, so this month I thought I would blog about a day in the life as it were.
My day starts as many of yours do. Checking over the schedule of things to do, organizing yourself to start working and catching up on emails and text messages. Then I’m out the door, in the dog mobile and on the road! Now this is where my day is far better than any of yours! Instead of co-workers grumbling about this and that or a boss that gives the hairy eyeball as you come into work, I get greeted by the most ecstatic dogs who are always happy to see me no matter what, they don’t judge my hair or clothes and they could care less about what happened on the latest reality tv show.
I stop at 6 to 8 houses picking up smiling faces as I go. GPS collars get put on before leaving the house otherwise the dogs don’t like to wait when they know the park is inches from their paws. I know all the speeder reader spots, cell phone stake out places and curse school zones as I go. Occasionally someone forgets I’m coming and there has been a few embarrassing encounters but they are few and far between but memorable(usually the husband running around in their under wear). Once the last dog is in we are off to the park. Depending on where the dogs are located determines the park we use. I use the parks in the West Shore exclusively to save time. They are beautiful and have so many trails that we rarely run into anyone unexpectedly which is a nice bonus.
Once at the park I load up my pack with poop bags, turn the GPS handheld on and choose our hiking route. We then unload in an orderly fashion… ok sometimes it’s not so orderly but it is something we work on daily. Everyone stays on leash until we enter the safe zone in the park. Once everyone has completed a sit exercise they get to come off leash. I do this one at a time so it can take a few minutes but I find that way I get everyone’s attention before being let loose. Off leash is a privilege not a right in my world! I will then spend the next few minutes picking up poop (bless you bush pooping dogs!). Once we’re on our way I keep a vigilant eye and ear out for cyclists, horses, other hikers and dog walkers. All the dogs learn that me turning and running quickly while calling “ this way “ means move your bum off the trail in a hurry. I am always conscious of other park users.
We hike for a while, rest for a bit, stop for a play or explore new trails. All of this depends on the makeup of the group and we go at the slowest dogs pace. I have my favorite picture spots which is where we do our sit stay exercise. Most of the time I get good pictures, sometimes not so much. Most of the regulars know the spots and are already in formation waiting by the time I get my camera ready! I also take pictures of any especially cute moments but they often happen so fast you have to be there to appreciate them. We work on good play manners, listening skills and generally have a good time.
It’s not all fun and games for me though. Dogs use body language so I have to stay vigilant for changes in the body signals and nip any unwanted behavior in the bud. It’s not as simple as letting dogs run around like non dog people think. There is a skill to reading dogs. I’m by no means perfect but I love learning from each one. Their signals are often minuscule and happen so fast that if you miss one, the whole situation can turn from play to bulling to outright bad behavior in the blink of an eye. You get to know most dogs and what they like and don’t like very quickly.
When we are almost back to the van everyone gets leashed up and we practice loose leash walking for about the last 10 min or so of the hike. Sometimes earlier depending on the swamp situation or who ended up in a permanent time out. The main goal of this is to walk nicely as a group and do it without tripping Auntie up with all the leashes!
GPS collars off and back into the van we go one at a time where they have water and the latest swamp victims (or eager participants) get toweled off. Windows down and A/C on if it’s summer. Heater on if its winter while auntie runs back to the gate to grab all the poop bags. Then it’s homeward bound for the dogs. They get toweled off, head scratches and a see you soon once they’re home.
I repeat this once or twice a day five days a week. On average I clock 8-10 km a day. Some days are better than others as in any job but by in large I have the best job ever and the dogs all love their time on their off leash group adventure!
If you want to join one of our off leash group adventure hikes give us a call and we are happy to meet with you! Dog parents are always welcome to check out our hikes.