Dog-walkers: Expect the unexpected

Dog-walkers: Expect the unexpected

Being a dog walker is a wonderful job in many ways.  You get paid to be outside, get exercise, and be with animals.  All in all it’s a pretty easy and carefree job, but there are some bumps in the road you may come across.  Here are some tips on how to handle them…

  1. Locking yourself out or losing the key

Be very careful of how people’s doors and locks work.  Some will lock automatically after you shut it. ALWAYS make sure you take your key with you when you go to walk the dog to avoid locking yourself out of the house.  If you ever do find yourself in this situation, notify the dog’s owner immediately. They may have another key hidden somewhere, or may be able to come home early to help you.  If you lose their key, always inform them as quickly as possible so they can get you a replacement. Honesty is always best, and most people understand that accidents happen.

  1. The dog getting loose

Before walking the dog, be sure his collar/harness and leash are both securely fitted.  They can loosen over time and then you risk the dog getting out of them. Make sure the clamp on the leash is fully attached and locked, as well as the buckles on the collar.  If the dog you are walking gets out of his collar, try to remain calm and ask him to sit or lie down, then casually put his leash/collar back on. Some dogs don’t even know that they have gotten loose and will not react unless you do.  

If you do find yourself in a situation where the dog has gotten loose and has taken off running, call the dog’s owner immediately. Again, honesty is the best policy and you never know if they may be able to help you. There may be a certain word or action that gets the dog to stop, or the dog may have a certain place he always runs to.  Always try to remain as calm as possible in these situations.

  1. A dog getting aggressive

If a dog you are walking seems to get aggressive, angry, or agitated — use your best instincts to diagnose the situation.  The dog may not have had any previous trouble with his owner, but may be scared of a new person or routine. Just because a dog hasn’t been aggressive yet doesn’t mean he won’t be.  

If a dog is barking or growling at you excessively, baring his teeth, making direct eye contact, or if his ears go up, back off until he has calmed down and always alert his owner to see if this behavior is normal.  Do NOT force a dog to walk or engage with you if you feel he is displaying aggressive signs and warning you to back off.

If a dog does end up getting aggressive with you, put your arms to your side, look down, and make as little noise as possible.  They call this “being a tree.” Often dogs will get bored or confused and back off. Do not run, scream, or try to fight the dog off as that may agitate him more.

  1. The dog getting sick

Dogs are like toddlers.  They put everything in their mouth.  If a dog has gotten sick under your care, notify his owner and let them know.  They may have started feeling sick before you got there but after the owner left, or they may have eaten something while on the walk.  The streets are filled with things that they want to get their mouths on and if you turn your back for even a second, a dog can eat something off the ground. Also always get the dog’s vet information when you first start walking him, in case the owner is unavailable and you have to take the dog to the vet.

  1. A dog getting into a fight

The best way to avoid this one is to not let anyone’s dog engage with other dogs.  Remember, this is somebody else’s family member in your care and it’s better safe than sorry.  It is always a safe option to cross the street if you see another dog. That being said, some people do request or allow you to have their dog engage with others.  This is one of those times when “just say no” may be the best option.

And on rare occasions, another dog may even be off leash thus leaving it unavoidable that he approaches the dog you are walking. If this does occur and a dog fight breaks out, do you best to get yourself and the dog safely out of that situation WITHOUT putting yourself in the middle.  Use your mouth! Order the dogs to stop fighting and call for help. If another person is nearby, you can each grab a dog by the hind legs and pull them apart. Most fights only last a few seconds.

  1. Breaking something in your client’s home

If you break something in your client’s house by accident, let them know and it’s always a nice offer to replace it or have them take the cost out of your paycheck.  Again, accidents happen and most people are reasonable.

  1. Unexpected traffic or car trouble

If you are running late to the time you are supposed to walk a dog due to something unavoidable like an accident or your car breaking down, let the owner know so they can make other arrangements.  Most people are able to work something out but some may want you to still come even if it’s later after things have worked themselves out.

However, it is always important to stay on top of things in terms of time, travel, etc.  If you have to walk a dog during rush hour, remember that this is when more accidents happen and always allow for it. Stay on top of your vehicle maintenance as well. Having a reliable mode of transportation is part of your job, and there can be consequences to not making that a priority.