Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Guest Article - 9 Things I’ve Learned from Being a Dog Walker

Having been a dog walker for about 2 years I wanted to share my experience because it has taught me many things, challenged me, helped me grow, taught me invaluable skills, and made me more self-aware. I’ve used the lessons that I’ve learned far outside of dog parks. Professional dog walking involves many things beyond scooping up the poop, scratching bellies, and taking brisk walks in the sunshine. There are good days and bad days and it’s all part of the experience. Some days are easy and humorous and some days are sad and heartbreaking. Toronto is a great place for people and dogs and people with dogs! Although, I’m sure every dog owner wishes for more off leash trails and dog designated areas in their neighborhood. The things I’ve learned aren’t exhaustive and there are plenty more to come! But if you are still reading I hope you will enjoy what I’ve got so far:

  1. To be a dog walker you must really enjoy being outdoors. Bad weather is not for everyone. Clear sunny days make you feel like you hit weather jackpot. But summer only lasts for a couple of months in Toronto and fall, winter, and spring bring the nasties. I.e. snow storms, freezing temperatures that hurt your skin, slush, mud, non stop rainfalls, etc.

  2. Being taken for a walk in the middle of the day is like the moment you board the plane to go on a tropic vacation for dogs. They are always happy to see you, can’t wait to get into car, meet other dogs, and get to the park to run around. Dogs just don’t have the “I don’t feel like a walk today” attitude which can make you enjoy working with dogs more so than with people! Although, other behaviours can be more challenging to deal with.

  3. Getting a dog to listen to you and do what you are asking them to can be hard or not! Every dog has a unique personality. Some learn the recall very quick and others take more time. Taking the time to understand each dog’s unique needs and their response to different commands, response to being around other dogs, and what they value helps build strong communication with them. Strong communication, positive reinforcement, and creating clear and consistent expectations really help create a common ground for communicating and understanding one another.

  4. Dogs do not necessarily take on personalities of their owners. Don’t judge a dog by its owner. Or vice versa. Actually, don’t judge at all!

  5. Certain behaviours can be very challenging but they also create an opportunity to develop skills and to tackle reactions and emotions that arise. Practicing and growing patience is one of the invaluable skill here.

  6. Many people will have their own take on the “right way” to manage people and dog situations. Have a conversation, share your thoughts, ask questions. At the end of the day, let go. That’s what dogs would tell you to do if they could talk.

  7. Some days are great but others you spend being stuck in traffic, complaining about construction permits, and just not being in the mood to face up to challenging human and dog behaviours. Days like these come and go.

  8. Yes, dogs do need to be walked. Getting outdoors is important for physical and mental health. Being out and playing with other dogs allows them to get daily exercise, energy, socialize with others and be less grumpy or restless!

  9. You and your dog don’t speak the same language yet it doesn’t stop you from being best buds. Great companionship isn’t rooted in words alone.

Mila xx

Posted on June 14, 2015

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