So you got yourself a dog walker! Congratulations. And thank you for not only for being proactive about your dog's well-being but also for allowing people like me to pay rent without having to go to a "real" job (like you have).
I have yet to meet a dog walker who hates her job, and most of us really just want to provide a good service that will keep your dog happy, and in turn, make your life a little bit easier. While we don't need much -- dog, keys and money -- here are a few things that would make this entire operation run a whole lot smoother.
1. We need flexibility.
You need to keep in mind the "people" we work with are not, in fact, people at all, but dogs who lack the capacity to understand even the most vague concept of time, consideration or timely arrivals and departures, and it is pretty much IMPOSSIBLE for us to guarantee an exact time to schedule your visit.
As important as consistency is in maintaining the most productive visit (and least pee accidents inside), we just need a little bit of a window to show up and help make that happen. This window not only allows us to commute efficiently but also to fill our day with more walks, and more walks means more money, and money equals happiness. (I don't care what anyone says.) Please understand that we really want to meet your needs, we just need a little flexibility to do so.
2. When canceling walks, give us notice!
I personally do not charge a cancellation fee but many other walkers do and for good reason: If we book you, we cannot book anyone else. For us self-employed walkers who often take on clients in entirely different neighborhoods, we sometimes have to travel great distances just to get to your dog, and if we step off the train or out of our car only to read a text stating that you don't need us anymore, well, I'll just say thank goodness for the food trucks on every corner or some of us (ME) would seriously blow a gasket. Please give us 24-hours notice so that we may plan our day or be willing to pay up.
3. If adding walks please remember we do have lives.
Many non-traditionally employed people do other work. There are a lot of musicians, writers, comedians and photographers coming into your homes and walking your dogs every day. And we sometimes need time to dedicate to those other jobs as they keep us from going insane. We want to help, and we will when it's practical, but we just cannot always be there when you need us. Also, we're tired, so please understand.
4. Holidays and vacations aren't just for you.
We like those too! I usually take two one-week vacations a year and have always found a trustworthy walker to replace me while I am away. If your walker doesn't offer this coverage (which they should, especially if they're in business for themselves) I suggest you ask if they can refer you to anyone for that week.
If you go away for a little vacation or for a "relaxing" holiday and would like us to pet sit overnight, please ask ways in advance (like at least a month). While I have opted not to go home for holidays in the past, I likely would not cancel existing plans to stay with a client's dog. Canceling plans on mom is a nightmare -- an apology I would have to keep issuing for the next six to 18 months.
5. A lot of us aren't certified dog trainers.
The majority of dog walkers I know, myself included, are more than happy to reinforce any commands that you, your dog, your dog's trainer and whomever else is in the mix may be working on. That being said, that is about as far as we are able to go in terms of making behavioral changes in your dearly beloved. It isn't that we don't want to, it's just that many of us just are not certified or qualified to do so. And the last thing anyone wants is misinformation, especially when we are talking about teaching new behaviors to a potentially powerful animal. Sitting at corners and waiting for an elevator is absolutely reasonable, but if your dog is experiencing dog aggression on leash or separation anxiety please, please PLEASE seek specialized help. I promise it will be worth it, and your dog (and walker) will be happier too!
6. Teach us your language.
You say "tomato," I say "leave it." Do you want your dog to stay "off" any incoming guests or would you rather them stay "down?" Commands, reinforcements, praise and release words are all really helpful things to know -- not only for us but for your little sidekick too. Just like in any other functional relationship, clear, direct communication is key, because unless your dog is a writer, he does not need to know two words for the same command. (I mean, neither do we, that's what a thesaurus is for.)
7. Please leave a towel.
When it rains dogs turn into walking mops. We do not feel great about leaving a wet, dirty mop to run in tight circles all over your apartment, like how dogs always do anytime they get any amount of water on them (still mind boggling).
8. Please let us use your bathroom.
'Cuz we work on the street, we don't have the luxury of just walking down the office from our cubicle to use the restroom. And although I have seriously considered squatting in a dark corner of a dog park on more than a few occasions, I have yet to find the gumption (<-- thesaurus!) to do so. Please let us pee inside.
Welp, that about covers it! If you feel you need more from your walker, please just inquire. You never know what someone is willing and able to provide, and we want to help out as much as we can. When we cannot provide a certain service or care for your buddy, please look into a certified trainer or behaviorist in your area because safety first. Now go stock your bathroom with lovely scented lotions we can use while you're at work.
This post was written by Krissy Howard for This Dog's Life.
Krissy Howard is a dog walker/writer living in Queens, NY. She creates humorous content for her blog thankyourodserling and her work has appeared on The Hairpin, xoJane, and a few other places on the Internet
Photo Credit: Monique Toro