A question I get asked a lot, is what makes someone hire a dog walker? Can't they just walk their dog in the morning and when they get home from work? And the simple answer is yes, they absolutely could. But hiring a professional dog walker goes far beyond just stretching the dogs legs, and as we all know, life isn't always so simple. What happens when you get held up at work in that meeting you didn't want to go to in the first place, or your mum can't pop in to let the dog outside because she's at a yoga retreat or when you've asked so many favours from your sister in law that it's starting to feel like you should be paying her! A good dog walker will enhance the exercise routine a dog already has with its owner and provide mental stimulation as well as physical, while gaining the social skills that are essential to being a well rounded dog. Not only this, professional dog walkers have tons of experience working and usually living with dogs, we've usually seen it all. We're not just here for full time workers or long holidays, experience shows dogs who have the opportunities to explore and fulfil their needs are happier, better behaved dogs and who doesn't want that for their pet?!
So let's talk about socialisation. No I'm not talking about that obligation we feel towards the office Christmas party, I'm talking about your dogs need for healthy relationships with their own kind. It's amazing what we've achieved with domesticating dogs and how we've adapted breeds over the years (I'm not saying all of that is positive) to suit our needs, but sometimes as humans we forget our dogs needs. Lets break it down, a dog is an animal. A type of animal that, given the choice, would live in a pack. Dogs are born into packs, their family of litter mates and mother, a mother who is the head of the pack and sets the rules and boundaries and teaches them how to behave to each other and to her, giving a good basis for their understanding of how to live in a pack. Side note, no matter how small the pack, it is still a pack, a mother with 1 baby is still a pack, a mother with 10 babies is still a pack, that poor girl might just have to work a little harder! So up until 8 weeks of age they have the guidance of their mother (and a decent breeder if you're lucky) and then we take them home and shower them with love and affection. Great! Except, whats happened to that pack? Well, simple put, you and your family have become that puppy's pack. I won't go into pack leader stuff here, luckily for you there will be another blog just on this, you're welcome. And the human interaction begins and our puppies learn to be part of our family. But what about how to interact with other dogs? Puppies learn more in their first 16 weeks on earth than they do for the rest of their lives and this window is absolutely critical to their socialisation. During this time they need to be introduced positively to so many things like the hoover, next door neighbours cat, rides in the car, the scary vet who pokes them with sharp things. But what about other dogs? More often than not I meet people who think a 30 second meet on a lead with an over excited dog at the park is ticking the socialisation box and as their puppy grows and starts to show signs of fear towards their counterparts they wonder why their dog doesn't know how to behave appropriately when in their company. So I'm going to use a little analogy her, a metaphor if you like, one maybe only the women amongst us may resonate with but go with me. Ladies how often do you go for a smear test? For the average woman over 25 its once every 3 years, and up until that point, never! Lets imagine that first 25 years of your life, is your dogs life up to the age of 14 weeks (because the vet told you not to take your dog out). Now imagine how you feel sitting in that doctors office waiting for your name to be called for that first smear (and with test rates at a 10 year low, for every time after that it seems) and the anxiety you feel when you make nervous small talk and apologise about the state of your garden while the nurse smiles and lubes up the plastic prongs and no matter how lovely that nurse is, because lets face it they are so lovely, you still don't feel comfortable. For the male readers among us, you're welcome for the visual, but this stuff is important to you too, so stay with me. Now imagine you're that little puppy at 14 weeks old out on a walk for the first time and everything is new to you, the cars are their smear test, the loud children are their smear test, the bigger dog pulling on their lead towards them is their smear test. And then the next time they go for a walk, maybe the next day, they don't see another dog, or they meet a dog that perhaps isn't very calm themselves, and then the next walk they don't see a dog and then suddenly its been 3 days when they haven't interacted with someone of their own kind and actually they start to think maybe they're something to be afraid of, because after all, my human family is my pack now and I only see other dogs in tiny bursts and then off we go again. And all of sudden its 3 years later and we're sat in that doctors office again feeling the same pit of dread we felt the first time because even though we know it saves lives we just don't do it often enough and actually we think next time I won't bother, I'll be fine, and rather than face it we start avoiding it and feeling anxious every time a letter comes from the doctor! Men are you still there...? And that's where socialisation often goes wrong, new puppies are not given enough opportunities to socialise with their own kind from an early age and start to exhibit signs of fear towards dogs, whether it be avoidance, over excitement or aggression. A dog needs positive interactions on a daily basis with other dogs to be well rounded, so go to your local puppy party, take them out in a bag from day one, meet up with friends with dogs (side note, a puppy should only interact with fully vaccinated, calm and well rounded dogs), use a dog walker and ask for advice, its what we're here for.
And breath! Bet you didn't see that weird tangent coming ey?
Smear test analogies aside, using a professional dog walker is so much more than just exercise and opportunities for bowel movements, although both super important. We provide daily opportunities to do what dogs do best, run around with other dogs, play, socialise, bum sniff and bark. A lot of behavioural problems can be reduced with a good exercise regime too, how many times have you come home from work to find the skirting board has been chewed or the bins been emptied onto the kitchen floor again? Destructive behaviours can usually be attributed to boredom and lack of boundaries. If your dog isn't getting the stimulation they need, they will find it themselves which is why a 20 minute on lead walk round the block in the morning isn't usually enough, dog walkers can give your dog the outlet to use their noses and brains as well as their legs, which is just as important, if not more important, than how far can they walk in 30 minutes. A good dog walker will work carefully with all their dogs to ensure the dogs they walk together are well suited and play appropriately, a job thats much easier when a dog is socialised from an early age.
So if my smear test metaphor wasn't enough for you to understand why having a dog walker on board from day one was enough, send me a message and I'll give you some more uncomfortable reasons why dog walkers are a great asset and not just if you work full time!