Monday, May 2, 2011

City Dog: Dogwalkers

 I only learned about dogwalkers after seeing episodes of Mad About You. It was a foreign concept to me that you actually needed to pay another person to take your dog outside.
Flash forward several years, and I've realized how important dogwalkers have become in our lives; even between the two of us, I'm not sure if we could successfully have dogs in the city without a dependable walker.
 Though dogs take a lot of responsibility, we enjoy our pooches and we don't like to look at it as "work". We're involved in a lot of things, and it can become burdensome knowing we have to come home by a certain time to feed and walk the dogs, then deciding who has to make this sacrifice.
We have our dogwalker scheduled twice a week for "dinner-time walks", but we can also give her a call if something comes up during the week. This is important for us so we can have a couple of days a week where we know we can stay at school later to finish work, go to the gym after school, or meet people out without having to stop home. It just makes everyone happier.
At the same time, I think having someone else walk the dogs is important for their socialization. On the walks, she enforces the same "Spring Training Rules" so the pooches realize they need to listen to other humans besides us. It's nice for them to get extra attention, and Mr. B anxiously awaits her arrival by watching for her out the window.
I do have to say it is difficult finding someone you trust with your dog. My friend used to go through a well-reputed dogwalking service; she later found out one guy used to smoke and talk on the phone while he was supposed to be walking her dog. Another walker through the service actually used my friend's computer and Internet to check her Facebook account. I have also seen dogwalkers out on the streets that take groups of dogs to the dogpark and just sit and read a book while the dogs "play". I witnessed 2 of the dogs he was supposed to be watching get into a fight where one dog ended up with a huge bloody gash on its forehead.
We prefer individual walkers, over services, and it's important to make sure they are bonded and insured. I found my first walker as a referral from our dog store. She was just starting her dogwalking business, but I liked that she was a former vet tech she I felt very comfortable with her. Our current dogwalker was a referral from some friends; she had been walking their dogs for years. Our pooches absolutely love her, and Mr. B especially treasures the big stuffed bones she gave them as gifts.
Our dogwalker has definitely made our lives easier, though I know many families get along great without them. I'm curious if having a dogwalker is a city thing because we don't have yards and our dogs are so dependent on the timing of our walks, and it's hard to find reliable neighbors to help out in the city. What does everyone else do if you can't make it home to let your dogs out when they need to go?

29 comments:

Maisie's Mom said...

unless I worked from home, I could not live without my dog walker. but I am most appreciative of the fact that I can board Maisie at his house when I go out of town, he has three dogs of his own (including a former NLOL pittie like us) and Maisie has the BEST time there. she cries in the car when we drive away after I pick her up!

http://maisieme.blogspot.com/

loveandaleash said...

our dog walker comes every day around lunchtime. we live on the perimeter of the city, so from the time i leave the house until when i get home is about 10 hours. i'm sure the dogs would be ok for this time, but then again, i also know that those last few hours would not be fun for them.

we got very lucky finding a walker who lives in our neighborhood, just a block and a half away. she walks many of the neighborhood dogs.
as a young person i hate being agist, but we do like that our walker is a real adult-- probably in her late 40s -- so we don't have to worry about any of the dog-walking service concerns about very young walkers who don't take their jobs seriously.
as a bonus, we can call her with a few hours' notice and have her come for a second walk in the evening if we choose to stay out after work instead of coming home. it's a real blessing!

Maggie said...

Even though I work from home, I rely on a dog walker who has saved me more times than I can count. I have her scheduled for a regular weekly visit, which allows me to work from a coffee shop or the library one day a week. That way, we stay on her radar so if something comes up, she can run over to feed the boys or let Cooper out or whatever we need. Plus, the dogs LOVE her. If we bump into her around town, they go nuts, which is a huge relief for me!

Stella Louise said...

Not just a city thing! I am a responsible pet sitter/dog walker in my 20s :) and I work in the suburbs.

Kate@TwentySixToLife said...

We don't have a dog walker. Sometimes it can be more work to make sure we get home to them in a reasonable amount of time, but it's something we're used to. If one of us has to stay late or go to work early, the other one tries to compensate for that by adjusting their hours.

I'm trying to think of a time when we really absolutely couldn't get home for them, but so far it hasn't happened. We've considered getting a walker a few times, but we've heard so many stories of unreliable people that we just don't feel comfortable with having a stranger in our house with our dogs. Maybe that will change eventually though because I do know there are dog walkers out there. I think we're also pretty lucky though that if worse came to worse we do have family and friends that could take them out for us.

Two Grad Students and a Pittie said...

we think a dgowalker is definitely a city thing. because our apartment is one of the few "large and pitbull friendly" buildings in our area, our neighbors even quit their job to start their own dogwalking business which we think it totally awesome. we actually dont use a dogwalker right now, we purposely stayed in the apartment building when we moved because its so close to Dental Student's hospital. I always walk havi an hour in the am, and he uses his lunch break for a quick walk and then i walk her when i come home for another hour with one of her puppy friends. this arrangement obvs wont work in 2 years when we both have jobs, and well def hire our neighbors!

Kerri said...

I've been considering getting a dog walker, but haven't made the leap just yet. We have overlapping shifts, so our pooch isn't usually home alone more than 5 hours. But on the rare occasion when one of us is out of town, the routine gets thrown off, and I feel bad leaving the poor little guy alone all day. The tricky bit will be, as you mentioned, finding someone you trust with your dog.

Stella Louise said...

Pet Sitters International (PSI) has a section on their site where you can find a pet sitter.

http://www.petsit.com/locate/

Make sure the sitter you are considering is insured and if they have employees they should also be bonded. Ask a lot of question, ask to see proof of insurance/bond and ask for references.

Patty said...

I commute about an hour each way to my job. So by the time I get home, especially in the winter, it is pitch black outside. So I rely pretty heavily on our doggy daycare service.

I have been using them for almost two years now. They are fantastic! They pick her up, she spends one day off leash hiking and another at their daycare facility.

The best part, Sophie LOVES them. She anxiously waits at the door and they indulge her love of fetching. A win win for us.

Daisy Dog said...

I work 4 long days (12 hours) and don't like to leave the dogs in the yard for long periods of time, so I have a lunchtime walker come those days. They get out for a walk, get their potty break and everyone is happier. Sometimes I will do a second walk when I get home, but because we have a yard i don't always. Then I walk them over the 3 days I have off. I love my walker and have been using her for over 4 years, she and her dog are part of the family.

Coleen H. said...

I actually used to be employed AS a dog-walker, by a somewhat large "company." Even so, we still walked only one family's dog(s) at a time. We were all bonded and insured.
Now that I've moved on a desk job, I started using the same service that had employed me. My dogs LOVE their walker. On one or two occasions, I've been home when she's arrived. They give her a more enthusiastic greeting than they give their own owners!

Benny and Lily said...

W call ours a babysitter. She comes every day. Mom still gets a teeny nervous even though we trust her.
Benny & Lily
Pee S
We played with a pitbull at our wagathon. (yesterday's post)

Kari in WeHo said...

We use a dogwalker when both of us will be gone for a while. It makes our lives so much easier!

Kari
http://dogisgodinreverse.com

KellyK said...

It's definitely not just a city thing. I live in a suburban/rural-ish area and there are several dog-walking services around here.

Currently, we don't use a dog-walker, since we stagger our work times a little bit and our dog isn't ever home for more than 9 hours. She's also a fairly laid-back dog and is happy with a long walk in the morning and a couple short ones in the evening, with trips to the dog park every week or so.

We have looked into it, but what's stopped us so far is that she's pretty shy, so we'd have to be home for the first few walks and walk her with the dogwalker to see how she gets used to the new person.

Usually, if we're going to be gone longer than a workday, we get friends to check on our dogs.

brooke said...

We've never used a dog walker. I've seen many at the dog parks with their herd of dogs. There's one girl I've seen who seems very responsible, she even comes to the park with bags and goes around the park picking up other dog's poo before she settles into keeping an eye out on her group.
I've thought about a dog walker (in fact there's a groupon now for a local one that Im considering) but I'm also paranoid of strangers coming into my house. Like your stories of them not doing their job and surfing the internet, I also worry about them stealing stuff. hahaha.
We're lucky since we do live in a condo, and know our neighbors, if we do need to stay at work late or either of us can't get home, we can usually call them to pop in to take Darwin out.
We're also lucky we live fairly close to work and can zip home to take her out even if we plan on staying out for dinner.

Corbin said...

I don't have one, but I do have an in home pet sitter for when mom and dad go away and I can't stay with Emmett... Mom is an in home pet sitter, so she knows how importnt it is to have someone stay at the house while you're not home... much less stressful for the dog. But mom was real nervous when she left me with the pet sitter, even though it's someone she's known for a very long time and she knows is responsible. I told her not to worry, because I have LOTS of fun with her :o)
-Corbin

Zona said...

We live in a rural area and LOVE our pet sitter! She comes to let us play outside when mom and papa have long hours (rare these days) and will come watch us if they go away to far away places. Isn't it great to have someone you trust taking care of your pups??

Wags,
Zona

poodleandpitbull said...

I'm a NYC dogwalker. It's definitely a big thing here. And I cringe when I see the guys with 6-10 dogs a piece. Most of my clients have me come everyday for either a 30 min walk or a full hour. I also specialize in training on walks, so I have training clients as well. It's a pretty awesome job, especially since I get to work for myself and make meaningful relationships with people and dogs and really help them out.

jet said...

there's not much of a dog walking market here - there are a few people that do it, but doggie daycare is much bigger...

the majority of people who have dogs here still have yards, even small ones.

my dogs stay inside all day but I know they can hold out til 6.30, which is the latest I'd get home from work...

you make some good points about dog walking though, I think it would be great to find someone who runs a dog walking/sitting service :)

For the Love of Dog said...

I personally cannot find a dog walker because I live in a ver small town and it's too far away for most dog walkers to come out too. I definitely looked into them though because I do work long hours. It helps that I have a giant breed dog who only goes to the bathroom two, maybe three times a day even when I'm home! I recently started my own blog at lifewithadane.blogspot.com. I would love you to come and check it out! I love your blog and check it often. I think your blog is wonderful for the breed and a very good example of what responsible pet ownership can lead to!

Mr. Pip said...

We have never used a dog walker with Pip. B works close to home so he can always pop home. Plus my mom lives 5 minutes away so she stops by sometimes. If we leave the city, things will be more difficult.

Our tenants have a black lab and they have a dog walker that comes a couple of days a week. She also goes to doggy daycare a few days a week.

houndstooth said...

We're lucky in that one of us can drop in and get the dogs if that need comes up. We used to have a friend nearby who'd drop in and take care of them for us, but she can't do that anymore, so we just make sure we can get there.

Susan Campisi said...

I used to have a dog walker but then started taking Tommy to doggie daycare so he could get lots of off-leash time. But it's inconvenient to get there so it makes my commute longer. Now that I'm in a house with a yard (yay!), he gets more exercise so I'll probably use a dog walker again. I hope I can find someone I trust.

hermyrsaf said...

My dog-walker is wonderful! I live in the 'burbs and have a good-sized yard but no dog door. There's BSL where I live (city boundary changed after I bought my home) so my VERY social bully can't be in my 6-ft wood fenced yard. And I wouldn't want a dog door because I don't trust the neighborhood kids not to leave the gate open, or tease the dogs. Since I have a long commute & foster senior dogs, a dog-walker is essential. Bonded & insured is a must. Some people question the expense, but I can live without digital cable and fancy phones and daily lattes (even in Seattle). Mine get a 30 min walk weekdays, which works as they're low energy ; some of my fosters aren't up to much walking so get a potty break in the yard. The dogs love her and she's been terrific with the frequent changes of pack; usually I have 2 fosters, some adoptable but as they're seniors more often the change in pack is due to death.
I do share the concerns about poorly supervised packs at dog parks. The dog park I go to have a sensible rule, 3 dogs per adult.

Bailey said...

We looked into a dog walker when DH and I were both working out of the home. We found a wonderful doggy daycare that worked better for us and was actually more reasonably priced. She also will do overnights when we need them. When we are really pinched for emergencies, we have a friend in the neighborhood who will let the dogs out in the backyard. There are certain advantages to a city that really is a suburb.

As Patty said the dogs can't wait to go. We teasingly call it puppy camp because they have so much fun playing. They come home exhausted.

As Maggie stated, now that I work from home we still use doggy daycare once a week. This keeps us in a regular slot when we need to schedule more days/overnights.

RED said...

We do not have a dog walker. Luckily Zeus does well with two serious walks per day and one of us is always able to get home after work at a decent hour to get him out. In the super rare times that we both need to do something after work together (zoning meeting, etc) we have friends in the neighborhood we can ask, and if it's an overnight - my sister will almost always come up to our house and stay with Zeus. He LOVES her more then me (I swear) so it works out great for us. It would be nice to have a dogwalker sometimes though, but Zeus is not good with being re-crated after a walk (which is why I stopped coming home at lunch- it seemed to upset him more then it was worth) so I don't know how that would work for us.

ForPetsSake said...

Given that Nyxie, in particular, is "special needs", we don't have a dog walker. We have a pet sitter that sits when we have the very rare vacation. Other than that, I come home at lunch and we are always home for evening walk and night walk. You could call us "home-bodies". And I miss the kiddos too much to not come home straight away. You could call me a "sucker", too ;)

BirdRoughsIt said...

I AM a dogwalker, which makes it even harder for me to trust anyone *else* to walk my dog when I am out of town and leaving her with my wife, or if I can't take her with me for some reason. I have seen a lot of truly terrible dog walker behavior, and it's hard to check on someone when the whole idea is that you only need them when you won't be there.

I think the best thing to do is get personal references and, if you can, scope out dog parks on days when you can: you'll meet dog walkers there and get to see them interact with the dogs.

Finally, unless you're working with a dog walking business, it shouldn't really matter whether the dog walker is bonded: that only protects the company from employees, and whether or not they are bonded should have no effect on you, the client. They should DEFINITELY be insured, though.

Thanks for writing this!

wewalkdogs said...
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