Updated: Aug 18, 2019
Beep, Beep, Beep... The alarm chirps in with that annoying but purposeful sound calling me to lift my head off the pillow and start another day on this beautiful spinning rock we all share. I say in a half asleep, half fed up way "Ok google, stop" to shut down the alarm and try and lift myself out of bed.
Before I can move, Herbie,our youngest Yorkshire terrier is up with such a happy demeanor saying "morning dad" with a lick and that built in body clock saying "BREAKFAST TIME"!!
Rocky & Stardust, our other two Yorkies eventually join in the morning routine, but with a much slower start off the blocks to their son. The day begins.
So many people say to me when they see what I do for a living, "oh how lovely, I wish I could do that!". Well you can.
In this blog I'm going to write about what it's like to be a professional dog walker.
So my day begins like all other dog owners, we all have breakfast, watch a bit of Good morning Britain, get ourselves ready for the day and then out the door for work.
As I go to walk out the door, Rocky my boy, gives me the eyes, the sort of eyes that puss in boots did to Shrek in the movie, big round saucer eyes saying "please take me with you".
So on goes Rocky's harness and I pick him up to take him out to the car. My other two don't really worry about coming out for the day as there is nearly always someone home and they get a quieter walk later.
The first thing I do after clicking Rocky into his seat belt on the front seat is to look at my diary and check I have the right equipment with me for the day ahead. Most important item being my big blue thermos barrel of water with a tap on it, this lasts all day for the dogs rehydration needs, especially in our warm summers.
Looking at my diary on my phone lets me think about what route to take as I do the morning pick up and where I'm going to walk them that day.
I do a double check on whether I have my clients bunch of keys to access their houses, enough leads? treats? car ready for the dogs of the day? sandwich and drink?
Right, ready to go! I set off normally with 5 live playing on the radio & head off to collect Trippy.
After dealing with the ever increasing traffic of our town and the serial roadworks that seem to crop up in literally ever road, I arrive at Trippy's house. He is always laying on an armchair in the front room, looking over his shoulder for my car to pull up on the drive. He stays there watching until I am half way up the path, then he jumps down and runs to the front door, normally with a big cuddly toy in his mouth to greet me.
Trippy is a foxhair golden retriever, he is the happiest beautiful boy and always ready for a fuss. He can be a little barky, especially if he is excited or wants a treat but he loves his walks and if I ever stand still having a chat with someone, he soon lets me know he is bored and time to keep moving!
The retriever breed is not surprisingly the 5th most popular breed in the world, due to his intelligence, soft and playful ways, he is a gentle breed and is a fantastic dog around pets and children alike. Trippy was born in India and came to live here in the UK with his owners a few years ago, I feel so happy I got to work with this affectionate lovable chap.
So Trippy gets in the back seat, I use dog seat belts or a carabiner clip to secure leads and the seating place for the dogs. As each dog gets into the car , my Rocky has to welcome them, he stands on the arm rest and gives them a little kiss and wag of the tail to say "hi".
We are then back on the road to the next client.
Flynn a big strong but super lovable English bull Terrier is my next pick up. Flynn is a super lively very big dog, when I arrive at his house and go in I am welcomed in such a loving way, one of my ways of meeting dogs is by keeping calm and assertive, this then sends the right energy to the dog and hopeful calms them too, this is even more important when I work with larger dogs, as excitement with them can mean being knocked over or "chomped" as they mouth you for affection. Flynn is a big bundle of love, as with all the bull breeds they seem to be totally misunderstood and judged very quickly, the press hasn't helped in any way with this, demonising specific breeds and pigeonholing them all because of some sad cases that make the news. Well I can say Flynn is the ultimate role model, he is loved at the park by people and dogs alike and is often called the "policeman of the park" because he steps in and calms any situations that may get out of hand!
I gently lift this hulk of a dog into the boot area of my car, give him a kiss on top of his head and then he sits there very happily looking out of the back window as the world goes about it's business.
I'm now driving back into Colchester, the radio is talking about Brexit unsurprisingly, so I flick over to another station and have music playing, the dogs are my best audience as I sing along with some tunes, they have never howled, so I must sound Okay!!!
My next stop is for Walter a Cockerpoo. Walter is chocolate brown with tight curly hair and the most beautiful face. He is a calm yet assertive boy who knows what he wants, and uses his eyes to win any heart over.
He waits for me at the front door and his owner says he just knows the time. I walk him out to the car and he knows exactly where he sits! Up front with Rocky, harnessed in squished together. I'm sure Rocky loves the softness of Walter and snuggles right into him, after giving him a kiss and waggy tail welcome of course.
Quite often Teddy a grey fluffy chinese powderpuff cross comes out with us too, he is a calm sweethearted dog who loves nothing more than floppy cuddles or sitting leaning on someone he takes to. He too loves being up front with me, so on those days we compromise and one has the journey out and the other the journey back!
Next stop is Chester, a Cocker spaniel, he is the happy go lucky type and is just full of love and affection, as I pull up at his house I can see his outline through the glass door and he is just sitting there statuesque knowing any second now I will be there to collect him.
He always greets me with such joy and the trademark wagging tail of a Cocker. This boy loves a tennis ball more than Andy Murray and will run and play for hours. He is so intelligent, if he loses his ball on the walk, I say "go find" and he will use his nose and memory to retrace where he left it. He is very vocal when it comes to playing and shouts at me "throw the ball" or "woof woof" in his native tongue.
Next is another Cockerpoo called Mabel. She is white/cream colouring and today is the only girl in the pack, not that matters,She uses her womanhood to keep the boys in place! she is another one who just loves to run and play with a ball and fetches perfectly. She always looks so happy. These dogs teach me a lesson everyday that the simple things in life are important.
Chester and Mabel are in the back middle seats along with Trippy. Flynn is in the open boot area and Rocky and Walter upfront. They all know their place in the car, they all know each other well now and most importantly, they all know I am their leader who loves them and commands their respect and calmness on the journey to and at the park. These different dogs from different backgrounds come together to be a pack under my leadership and get along fantastically, If you love dog behaviour as much as I do, it's a beautiful thing to behold.
Pick up can take up to an hour or more, so by the time we arrive at the chosen destination for the day, they are all getting excited at what is to come. Today we are at Copford Pen, a local dog park, fully enclosed in for safety and a brilliant place for all the dogs to meet up and have fun with their own species.
I get each dog out the car on lead and then we make our way to the park. It is not easy walking a pack of excited dogs and takes skill, strength and leadership for this to work properly without being pulled down the path. My friend Susie is a perfect reflection of what a calm assertive dog walker is. She too is a professional dog walker (little paws pet services) and commands her pack with such a natural way it is a pleasure to watch. She too has a good sized pack of dogs, all from different households and they love her so much,they just follow her. She wouldn't know it or admit to it but she is a natural dog whisperer.
So after going through the gate, I have the biggest smile as I let them off leash and see them blast into the park, running, barking, jumping and just so happy. I have already scanned the park to see if it's safe for my group to join the dogs already in there, most of the time they know each other and are happy for the meet up and social time, but occasionally there may be a timid owner and dog who need different handling and don't like the dogs running up to them( I know it's a dog park right, but it happens).
I only charge for an hour walk but often look at my watch and realise we have been out for way longer, I love seeing them releasing their energy and as the time at the park comes to an end, Flynn is totally drained and when he gets back into the boot just doesn't move!
The pack are all put back onto their leads before leaving the park, they walk alongside me with a much lower level of energy and are happy & content. The most important part of a dogs day is walkies, it stimulates the brain, it burns out the energy pent up from living in 4 walls and they love their social life. If we trust our dogs around other dogs, they can become so happy and balanced. The park is a great way to meet like minded people too and have good dog conversations and learn and hear about different breeds needs etc.. as well as making friends.
As I pull away from the park, the silence in the car is amusing to me, and quite honestly I love it. They have all had a drink and settled down in their places again, I can hear the panting and breathing of content, exhausted dogs happily looking out the window or laying down for a rest. I know I have done a good job when the dogs are this happy.
The pick up description happens but this time in reverse as I drop the dogs back to their homes. I know they will go inside, lay down and when their beloved family gets home will be a calm happy dog ready for cuddles and play.
My day isn't done yet though. After drop off, I source myself a cup of tea or Coffee, If I am nearby I will always use Crouch St Bakes in Crouch street, Colchester as Alice and Sophie and their team make a great Latte and all their cakes are made in store with a welcoming smile.
I am then on my way to Roe & Sox the beagles. I do an all afternoon care with these two, and have had the privilege of working with them for nearly 6 years. I arrive at their home and as they both have separation anxiety issues and have NEVER been left alone for their whole lives for more than a minute, I fill in the gap between the owners work pattern shifts. I arrive & take them out for a 20+ minute walk on leash around the local park and neighbourhood, this enables one of the owners to leave for work, and when we arrive back he is gone and no stress happens for the dogs as they are now with me.
I then dog sit them for an hour or so before we go out on a long walk locally to the fields or woods. Being beagles you always have to be aware that they can be stubborn or follow their super powerful noses with a scent from miles away. Many beagle owners are reluctant to let them off lead as they can lose them easily. Sox the beautiful boy is fabulous off leash and will not stray too far before checking back on where Roe and I are. This enables him to run and be free and burn off his energy. Roe is a quieter girl, she is quite sensitive to loud noises and was scared a few years ago by a park war re-enactment with cannons going off. She ran from her owner in fear and we have been working on her rehabilitation since to rebuild her confidence. She stays on a long flexi-lead for her own safety, for if she goes into flight mentality, I can handle her closely and restore her confidence in the walk. Sox however runs about oblivious to what is going on!
At around 5.30pm( normally closer to 5.45pm!) I take the beagles home and they run inside excited to see their other dad home from work.
I am then done for the day unless I then have to walk other dogs, my dogs or do pet feeding of reptiles, birds or cats for their evening meals.
The wonderful thing about working with animals is you never have a boring day, yes routines can be the same some weeks but the dogs always breath life into the day. Also working with and feeding other species and animals keeps it interesting. I am always reading and studying dog behaviour and at the dog park can observe theories and how dogs interact with each other and of course their owners!
It's not a job for the faint hearted, as during the day you may have to pick up dozens of poops, have wet muddy dogs in your car( I have towels and covers over everything), get covered in mud, rained on & occasional hit in the nuts by a flying happy dog( Luka, you know who you are!!) & maybe have to help them with anything from poop bum to thorns in the pad & behaviour issues but I love it and it's so rewarding.
If you were thinking of doing this for a career, I would recommend shadowing someone for the day to see if you enjoy it, take some basic dog behaviour courses from IMDT or others and even a K9 first aid course. Always have a good insurance for your business, I have used Protectivity insurance for 6 years and they are a good price and offer great cover too.
So to summarise being a professional dog walker & pet carer is a fun, challenging and rewarding career. You can earn whatever you like as putting in hard work and being skilled with more dogs pays off. It can get lonely sometimes (not for me, I love animal company!)
and you can't switch off for a moment when out with someone else's baby and family pet in your trust and care. The responsibility is huge. But alongside seeing dogs rehabilitated from behaviour issues, I LOVE IT.
I work with a number of dogs not mentioned in today's blog as they may go out with me on different occasions or less often, but a shout out to Seb the Labrador, Rolo the terrier, Black Teddy the cockerpoo, Frankie & Mollie, Harvey & Baloo the Newfounlands, Barney the Labrador, Little Star & Alfie, amazing cookie the Cockerpoo, Sizzles,Lucy and of course Lily the beautiful Labrador who retired from my services recently due to medical health, I love her so much as she worked with me from a pup and miss seeing her everyday. By the way that's another part of the job, you bond with these brilliant creatures so much and ultimately you are working for them which may stop at any time or as in Lady's case, pass away from old age( see my blog on bereavement to see what a gorgeous girl she was) that is the emotional part of the job, which you can never prepare for.
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"Don't count the days but make the days count"- Muhammad Ali
Until next time...