Dog Walkers the Newest Threat for Dogs and Owners!
Here I go again! It seems I’m always the bearer of bad news, stuff dog owners don’t want to hear. The problem is someone has to say these things or nobody will learn from all the mistakes we make! We learn from mistakes. This is a truth! If you’re really smart, you’ll avoid repeating them, this is why mistakes are important part of life.
Here’s my point. I’ve been hearing some really bad stories about dog walkers and pet sitters causing problems for those poor dogs put in their charge.
I realize it’s not an owners fault, some of the time. Often owners feel like taking care of dogs doesn’t really take that much education or skills. And sometimes they’re right. There’s easy dogs and difficult dogs. And if you’ve found yourself feeling like you’ve got a difficult dog, then you need an expert, not an amateur. And this is exactly what dog walkers are, sorry but, it’s the truth. We all start somewhere and end up somewhere else, if we really want to excel at something. This usually requires us to study our lessons and keep learning. We can’t stop learning because we live in an ever evolving environment, so we have to be able to adapt.
It wasn’t too long ago a veterinary behaviorist shared disturbing story. In this case, the small dog, her patient, was dog/dog reactive. The owner had been asked not to have the dog walked, this included pet sitter. The pet sitter apparently decided, on his own, to walk the dog. Somehow, the dog escaped, ran up to larger dog, who bit half the small dogs ear off! Oh my! In this case, I’m paraphrasing here, the little dog likely ran up yapping/barking, charging like a crazy dog, appearing out of control. The larger dog concerned for its own welfare did the next best thing it could, stop the charging dog. Emphasis on charging, because this is normally what these reactors do. I have no idea how the pet sitter responded.
We never advise owners to not walk their dogs, in these instances/cases, because we’re mean, we do it for very specific reasons. One of those reasons is to protect these dogs and their owners.
It was at this moment, reading this account, I became concerned who exactly is walking and taking care of our dogs. It seems, based on other reports, this is not an isolated incident but rather common. In fact, now that I’m more aware I’m beginning to talk to owners/clients about this. Well, lo and behold, a long-term client shares an equally disturbing story about family who allows their out of control GSD to run freely, who’s attacked other dogs, including this clients dog. This GSD has gotten away from a dog walker to do these things! That community was scheduling a meeting to discuss the problem. Unfortunately, they were getting little help from Animal Control. I guess someone, meaning a person, has to get seriously hurt for something to be done. Here again, I’m simply citing what I’ve been told. It seems to me (no brainer), we’ve got large GSD or similar, running loose, known assertive/unfriendly behavior toward other dogs, even people, would be risky situation. Call me an alarmist but what are dog owners supposed to do, wait until their dog, child, another person is mauled or worse to hold these owners responsible!? Dogs allowed to run at large should be cited, it’s the only way to keep irresponsible dog owners under control! I’m not referring to an accidental case, a dog getting loose, this happens, it’s an accident. Let’s hope these dogs aren’t going to kill anyone!
I’m going to end this with one final (thought) example. It’s imperative for anyone handling reactive dogs to remain calm. If you are unable to remain calm and you think you’re helping by rushing in, screaming/yelling because you perceive something as dangerous, when it’s not (really) the best thing you can do is either learn how to behave around dogs or stop taking owners dogs out in public. Your behavior is what is dangerous, not the dogs. I say this because I met one of these dog walkers today. She was obnoxious, unwilling to listen, even when I tried to help.
In fact, the other woman with her reminded me we had met previously. When I first encountered her, she had a runaway dog and I tried to help. On this day, she was interested again, receptive, asking me about equipment. Big difference between the two people. Another point, sorry, but this dog walker was also using retractable leads. I know, I know, owners love using these things, but rarely would a professional dog trainer be seen using one! And most definitely we would never recommend using with “dangerous” dogs! It’s important to point out that professional dog trainers wouldn’t be caught dead using one. However, if you have any respect for veterinarians, especially veterinarians who specialize in behavior, you’d know they’ve published statements concerning their use and do not recommend. So if you’re using a dog walker who is and/or hasn’t told you this, well this just further explains my point!
I’m adding more to this story, I didn’t realize the dogs, with these two dog walkers were both 13 years old. The obnoxious dog walker described both dogs as “dangerous”. I dispute that because neither of them reacted aggressively toward me or my dog. But here’s the worst of the story. Shortly after this confrontation, i observed the unpleasant person walking ahead of the other person. She was literally dragging one of these dogs, who by now was seriously limping, barely able to walk. A few yards behind was the other dogs walker, she was walking the other 13 y.o., who was also limping. When i noticed this, knowing she was more friendly, i walked over to inquire about the dogs condition. That’s when i was told they were old, both 13 years old. At least this woman had the sense to stop, sit down and let that dog rest. Seems the other lady had to drag the other dog, along with another one all the way to the front of the park to another parking lot! Why didn’t she leave the other dog behind too?! Who knows, only she can answer that question and considering her attitude earlier, i kinda doubt she would have told me!
I seriously doubt the dogs owners are aware of this, again, why i’m taking my time to write this. I realize it’s not nice to speak badly of others, but unfortunately dog walkers are not being supervised by the dogs owners, so it’s important for them to fully trust they have their dogs best interest in mind as well as their owners, their customers!
And if your dog walker is unable to take constructive advice that could help her in situations she encounters, you need to find someone else. This person recognized me as a dog trainer. Most people appreciate when i give free advice, especially when it might help them and their dogs. Fortunately for them, they recognize my well-trained dog, even when/if she might make a mistake, they’re dogs for heavens sake! Give them a break! And i’m not one willing to strap shock collars on dogs to get what i want! No, i’m willing to work with them so they can learn how to behave socially.
Beware whom you choose to take care of your dogs. It takes a lot more than just love to do it right.
And don’t get me started on your vet tech or veterinarian (gasp) who suggests you need to be more “alpha”! Don’t walk, run from someone who tells you this! There are far better ways to explain how to train dogs without the idea we need more force! And it’s always preferred to watch for acceptable behavior and reward that than focusing on what dogs are doing wrong!
If you’re in need of dog walker, pet sitter, dog trainer, dog behavior specialist and living in Sarasota Florida, call me. I’m likely not going to be as cheap, I would hope you’re not over-paying for the kind of quality suggested here. Your pets will be in better hands than what we are seeing out there.
Oh, and hey, we’re not perfect and neither are our dogs. However, our dogs and our mistakes are few and most of us use them to learn from and improve. That’s what we do, we’re trying hard to professionalize this industry and not remain in the dark ages!