Dog Training

5 Lessons I Learned As a Dog Walker

5 Lessons I Learned As a Dog Walker
Written by grineanis

I started walking and training dogs in 2004, and in October I retired from dog walking.

In my (unscientific) estimate, I did 18,000 walks, not including walking my dog ​​two to three times a day and I walked roughly 300 to 500 dogs.

Fabulous. No wonder I’m tired.

At first, I thought walking the dogs would be an easy job. I soon found out that it wasn’t. One of my first clients was a Shar-pei named Zoe, who was a friendly cuddly when I met her at her parents’ company but turned into a wrinkly biting machine when I first met her alone.

On my first day, I spent a good 30 minutes trying to make friends with Zoe through a cracked door with turkey sausage and many words of love. We eventually made friends, but that first 30-minute ride I scheduled took an hour and a half or more, including driving.

Zoe was my first challenge, but it won’t be the last. This was the first of many lessons my canine clients taught me. It turns out that while I knew a lot about dog training, I still had a lot to learn from dog walking.

Lesson 1: Dogs can be very different from their pet parents

I walked two dogs on Cougar Mountain for ten years. The most common anecdote for me was that I was walking two large dogs on a trail near their home on Cougar Mountain when a wolf pup happened all the way in front of us.

I saw a coyote two seconds before the dogs thought it would return as quickly to the thick jungle as most wildebeest I see, and I would continue on my way. Imagine my shock when it kept coming! It was a cute little thing, bouncing its head back and forth as the two dogs snarled and lunged.

“At any moment, he’s going to run,” I thought as I struggled to keep my balance and cling to the dogs. No, keep coming. Eventually, I lost my balance and slid down the trail at what I think is a severe ballerina spot, breaking my leg. I think that was enough at last to scare him.

Magically, I still owned the dogs, but then had to bring me two highly re-motivated dogs into their home with what I thought at the time were a sprained ankle. I somehow managed and spent the next eight weeks in walking shoes, still walking dogs, albeit much slower.

Lesson 2: Whatever happens, hang on to the dog

I must say that many of my canine clients have been reactive. These are dogs who find it difficult to meet other dogs while on a leash. The problem can range from avoidance to outright aggressive displays. My favorite of the chronic crew was Ren, the 110-pound Kuvasz.

The story that goes with Rin is that I was walking past a neighbor’s house finding it difficult to cross the fence that contained three dogs. The trio was snarling and barking as my supervisor attempted to break through the fence to commit some form of dog killing.

The dog owner’s son-in-law, an Olympic weightlifter, came rushing to control her dogs and said, “Wow, you’re strong.” I came the rest of the way home with a bit of pride that day.

See, reactive dogs are just trying to communicate fear or anxiety the only way they know how often to react to certain stimuli or situations. Those dogs were behind a fence but divorced or undisciplined dogs were the worst part of my job.

There is nothing more terrifying than watching someone’s pride and joy and seeing an unleashed dog put pressure on you. I became a master at avoidance, throwing myself into the bushes, hiding behind parked cars and dodging cars on busy streets trying to avoid an ugly sight.

I’ve had bites, angry looks and been told to keep this “aggressive” dog at home a few times, but these dogs have the same right to exercise as non-reactive dogs. I understood that some of these pups were not evil but fearful and proactively trying to protect themselves while others stood behind the door when Jane was handed a ‘polite salute’.

Therefore, do not judge or yawn if you come across a dog that is squirming while the person on the other end of the chain is trying to avoid you. Help them.

Lesson 3: Interactive dogs are not bad dogs

Working with my canine clients, I broke my legs, lost all of my upper teeth on one side, got bitten maybe 20 times, had 3 or 4 fights, and were often covered in various canine bodily fluids.

When I started in 2004 I was just going to walk dogs to earn some extra money while I was building my dog ​​training business, but I was hooked and enjoyed it most of the training side of my job. The pay was low, the job was time consuming, annoying and sometimes painful, but I found that I could get a lot of work done in my head while walking.

However, as with many others, I thought a job would be an easy way to make money. But it’s hard to wake up every day, no matter how you sleep, how you feel or what the weather looks like and know that you have to walk for 5-6 hours in a row.

Fortunately for me, I liked him more than I didn’t, but you have to really love dogs to do that.

Lesson 4: Walking dogs as a job is more difficult than you think

In the 17 years I walked with dogs. I lost a lot of clients. Some have just moved or changed circumstances, but I’ve had at least one dog that dies annually. It’s shocking to lose your personal pet every 12 to 15 years, and it’s also hard to lose an animal you see every day to death even when it’s not technically your pet.

Last year I was called home for a brief walk with a dog I had previously walked for a long time. His people retired and no longer needed me but called me when they both needed to get away. The last time I saw him, he was a strong teen, but now he’s big and fading.

We made one last ride, and I fed him one last cookie, knowing it wouldn’t be long before I wasn’t called again. Less than a month later, I got word that Parker had died. He was one of my first puppy groomers, and as it turned out, one of my last.

Lesson 5: If I walk a dog for any length of time, my dog ​​has become too.

As painful as that was, and many other things, it was the best job ever. My clients have always been happy to see me with a shaken, wet nose while they happily await their daily adventure in the outdoors.

Dedicated to the memory of Parker, Hadley, Barney, Tina, Cosmo, Ted, Tango, Nora, Arnie, Gizmo, Mo, Whimsy and Coco.

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