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Professional dog walkers - a disaster waiting to happen?

(22 Posts)
CQ Wed 19-Feb-14 11:45:29

I've just got back from walking my dogs. We are carefully working on building up their recall and socialisation, as they have ishoos. They are walked mainly on-lead and only let off individually in wide open spaces where I can clearly see there are no other dogs around.

This morning we met a couple of dog walkers who were chatting away, saw me from well off and made no attempt to recall their dogs. Between them they had 7 dogs, only one of which was on the lead. Both of mine were on-lead at that point.

I moved well off the path, got my 2 to sit and tried to do the 'watch me' command with treats which we have been working on.

But it's very difficult for them to ignore 6 strange dogs milling around them.

One of the walkers cheerily called out 'it's ok - they're no problem' to which I tensely replied 'No, but mine might be'. At which point they rather ineffectually started to call the dogs away (couldn't even remember some of their names) and of course none of the dogs took any notice whatsoever.

To my dogs' credit, there was just some low level warning growls and we all went on our way.

But it got me thinking - what if something HAD kicked off? No way they would have been able to control 7 dogs. There could have been a huge scrap and somebody would have ended up at the vet. Are dog walkers supposed to be insured for this? If one of my dogs had ended up at the vet, who pays - the owner or the dog walker? Does the insurance stipulate a maximum number that they can take at one time?

I do use a dog walker occasionally but I pay for her to walk my 2 on their own - but of course I have no way of checking this.

Maybe I'm just seeing the glass half empty side of things. Obviously most of the time these dogs have a glorious time romping around with lots of friends - but it's quite an intimidating pack to encounter with nervous dogs, and there was absolutely no control.

CQ Wed 19-Feb-14 11:47:56

SOrry - meant to say - I'm sure there are heaps of truly professional dog walkers out there who would never dream of such a thing - but I'd love to hear from you re the insurance situation etc.

moosemama Wed 19-Feb-14 11:54:33

We have a local dog-walking company and they never walk more than 3 dogs at a time - you can pay a bit more to have your dogs individually as well. I know they stick to it, because I've seen them out and about locally.

As far as I understand it, they must have insurance and if there was an incident you would claim off the dog-walker, as whilst your dog is being walked or handled by a professional carrying out a pay service, their own insurance is invalidated.

Oh and yes - I believe most dog walker insurance has upper limits for the amount of dogs being walked at any given time.

MonstersBalls Wed 19-Feb-14 11:55:34

I agree OP.

It must be very tempting though. £10 per dog, 10 dogs an hour - I know a dog walker who does this. I keep my pup well away and have long thought there's a disaster waiting to happen.

mrslaughan Wed 19-Feb-14 20:51:20

In some cases yes. Where I walk my dog and ride (separately) there are dog walkers out with 5 or 6 dogs. I often wonder how they get on when they meet a rider. In fact I was out on a hack the other day and meet a walker with 3 dogs - one was up a bank above the track, eye level with the horse and the walker had put the other two on lead, however they started pulling her towards the horses....apparently it was the first time they had seen horses, but thank god our horses are sensible with dogs, diff horses it could have been a disaster.

brunette123 Wed 19-Feb-14 20:57:04

Yes I know of a few walkers in my area who walk up to 6 dogs by simply going to an enclosed field and letting them run around so there is little actual "dog walking". They simply let 6 dogs out of their van, let them run around to wear themselves out and get £10 per dog. An hour later, they are back with a new van load. They are "professional" walkers. How they would control up to 6 dogs if anything kicked off is beyond me - it might only take one of the 6 to get aggressive and the others could join it - would add that I am a dog owner so not anti-dog. Ok they are out in all weathers but £60 an hour seems good money to me.

CQ Wed 19-Feb-14 21:16:30

It certainly is good money when they take so many at a time, isn't it?

I do wonder whether many of them actually stop to consider the 'what if?'

Snugglepiggy Wed 19-Feb-14 21:38:43

It's not as simple as £10 per dog 10 dogs per hour or 6 dogs and back again with another 6 an hour later - that's not physically possible tbh Not if you do it properly.I know.I am professional and very experienced with years of responsible dog walking and the time in between walks collecting and putting away dogs ,rubbing them down,writing notes to customers and re-filling water etc means I spend anything between 3/4 hour to 11/2 hours between walks.I have professional insurance to pay ,lots of fuel and van expense,boots and walking gear to replace,leads and treats etc so it's my no means easy money.And I take the welfare of my lovely doggy customers, my own dogs and others very seriously.
I meet owners who have 3/4 or more dogs of their own who have much less control than I do.I will walk up to 5 dogs on some walks (allowed on my insurance )but other times just 2 or 3 depending on the mix of dogs, recall etc and err in the side of caution keeping on lead new dogs or less reliable ones.And I do 'proper' walks ,not run outs in a field.Several of my customers have become friends and meet me on days off to join my walks.Just to give you the other view of things.
But I do understand your concerns OP .Only last week I was out with 4 dogs,2 off lead and 2 on including my puppy I am training.Another less established and not friendly 'professional' dog walker appeared and let 7 dogs,all big breeds,out of the back of a 4x4 (I have a caged out roomy van)and stomped off without a backward glance and it was chaos.Half the dogs were behind her and she had no idea what they were doing.A big pointer was jumping all over my puppy - fortunately a confident little thing,but still left shaken.I called out to her to get them under control but she was oblivious.I was furious,because people like give us a bad name and I can understand your concerns.

moosemama Wed 19-Feb-14 22:03:45

Snugglepiggy, is there a good, trustworthy professional body that people wanting to hire a dogwalker should be looking for - and - what questions would you advise someone to ask a potential dogwalker before signing up?

I ask because I am having some health issues and am thinking I may have no choice but to employ a dog-walker for a while in the very near future.

To be honest the whole idea scares the beejezus out of me, as I can't imaging trusting anyone else to keep my dogs safe out on walks. I won't do it at all, unless I have to, but it would be great if you could offer some advice on how to find someone that is suitably skilled and experienced as well as trustworthy and reliable.

Lilcamper Wed 19-Feb-14 22:38:46

moose if you check with the PPG, they have all sorts of professionals registered with them including walkers and groomers.

Snugglepiggy Thu 20-Feb-14 06:39:06

I joined NARP - National Registered Petsitters - when I started up over a decade ago as I wanted advice and comprehensive insurance.I am no longer with them as I found a better policy and feel I have built up a good solid local reputation and rely on word of mouth for business,plus I vet any new customers as much as they vet me probably!Anyone taking their business seriously will have done their homework before staring up,and I feel most importantly have a safe ,secure way of transporting the dogs.There has been a rash of new walker recently,but how they can safely drive and stop the dogs getting wound up and over excited bunging them all in the boot of a car amazes me.Check their mode of transport.
They should come to meet you at home for a long chat about your requirements.And be very willing to let you go out for a trial walk with them,if that's what you want.Trust your instincts on how they greet ad interact with your dogs.Do they ask their names,ages etc when you ring.Do they seem to consider which walks would suit them best.
And ask your local vets.Several of the ones in the area I cover know me and one wrote me a reference.Both form years of my own pet ownership,and also taking out dogs so often it's inevitable you will need to pop in at sometimes,as dogs are dogs and can cut a paw pad etc..Plus I have whizzed in on my travels with stray,lost dogs to get them identified and re-united with owners,or sadly the dog warden.Or scooped up injured or dead cats to get their chips read so at least the owners know what's happened.Hope that helps.

moosemama Thu 20-Feb-14 08:33:22

Thanks Lilcamper and Snugglepiggy.

I am really resisting doing it, as it doesn't feel right to me and I rarely entrust my dogs to anyone else - even dh is given strict instructions when he takes them out without me. blush

If it does come to that - and at this point I think it will - I just hope I can find someone locally that I'm comfortable entrusting my dogs to. There's only the one company I mentioned upthread that even come close at the moment and I must have looked at about 15-20 services.

Snugglepiggy Thu 20-Feb-14 09:48:22

Sorry lots of typos - early morning! FWIW my family think it's hilarious at the moment that I worry snd fuss over our new pups so much and DH ,who has had dogs all his life and dog walks with me is given instructions.I try not to,but he is much more laid back and I'm a control freak concerned to get it right - we balance each other out mostly !
I have a folder of references from current and past clients for prospective new ones to see.Not saying I'm an expert or always get things right but I try my best.Happy walking !

Owllady Thu 20-Feb-14 18:58:17

My friend does it and walks one or two at a time, most I know do
One I know was reported to local press for the van transporting Chuck out fir 15 mins thing

batteryhen Sat 22-Feb-14 18:19:44

I came across a dog walker with 9 in the woods the other day. Most were spaniels so busy darting into places where she couldn't see them. One also jumped onto my pushchair with DS in it sad
I use a different dog walker and get a written report every time I use them telling me where my dog has been walked and with which other dogs - no more than 4.
The lady with the 9 dogs had no control over them at all.

Handywoman Sat 22-Feb-14 18:54:19

I've been out with my nervy JRT, and come across a walker with seven dogs. It was really scary because the dogs had wound each other up and there was a real 'pack mentality' with them. Luckily we managed to pass them without incident but if it had kicked off it could have been horrific <shudders>

CQ Mon 24-Feb-14 08:47:50

Wow this thread has moved on while I've been dealing with DS and his broken leg……

Snugglepiggy - it's good to hear from a truly 'professional' dog walker. As moose says, it's really hard to entrust your dogs to someone else and who knows what they get up to.

I can see I need to 're-interview' my dog walker and check out a few things before I use her again.

A good idea to ask the local vet for recommendations too.

Sounds like I'm far from the only dog owner who feels they have had a lucky escape with a pack of loosely supervised dogs.

Doodledumdums Mon 24-Feb-14 18:55:08

Definitely a disaster waiting to happen. My lovely well behaved 48kg lab x was attacked by a german shepherd who was being walked by a dog walker with 6 dogs all off lead and totally out of control. My dog didn't fight back but was absolutely howling with fear and stupidly I intervened as the idiotic woman just stood there screaming 'oh no oh no' while the other 5 dogs ran around barking. Luckily both my dog and myself were okay, but it could have been a blood bath if my dog had fought back. I don't think anyone should be walking 6 dogs off lead, even if you know exactly what you are doing, it is far far too many dogs to have total control.

AlpacaLypse Mon 24-Feb-14 19:03:26

Hello Snugglepiggy! Nice to see there's at least one more of us on here smile.

I came on to write a post from the POV of a proper professional dogwalker, but Snugglepiggy's done it beautifully already.

The 'just doing it for a bit of extra cash' brigade really annoy me, they give those of us who take it seriously such a bad name.

I'm still with NARPS, I've been wondering about changing to a different insurer, but NARPS have a support service for both clients and walkers which really came into its own when I was caught up in a bad situation with a (frankly insane) client.

nuttymutty1 Mon 24-Feb-14 19:07:11

Moose I am sorry to here of your health issues that may prevent you walking your dogs. I would suggest the PPG as a starting place and then before you need the walker go out with several of them with your dogs to get a feel for them.

You know what you are looking for in a walker and by going out with them you will see in action how they interact with your dogs and others that they meet.

You can also ask that your dog is not walked in a large group.

I am sure the new dog laws are trying to tackle the problem of large groups of dogs being walked together and restricting the number walked together to be only 4. (which in itself can cause multi dog homes a headache!)

moosemama Mon 24-Feb-14 19:13:51

Thanks nutty, great advice.

I am really hoping it won't come to that. If it does, I will be paying for individual walks and no-one will get to go out with my dogs until I've been out with them and see how they interact with them.

Snugglepiggy Tue 25-Feb-14 14:17:24

Hi there ALAPACA and thanks.Dont know about you but I have been reduced to tears and felt intimidated on more than one occasion by dog walkers with less dogs over the years.In one instance DH and I were walking a group of 6 together in a quiet wood - 4 on lead and two off just snuffling around minding their own business- when we walked around the corner into a woman with a very vocal and aggressive terrier.She picked it up,was swearing and shouting - great for calming dogs down !Her own dog bit her in frustration and she then marched forward and kicked the gentle old Labrador who wasn't even approaching her and told us we had 'too many ' dogs and she was reporting us to the dog warden' We always try to avoid a confrontation but DH in that instance did lose it and told her what he thought of her stinking attitude.Some people just don't like other people, other dogs and dog walkers in general.
One old guy locally has 3 staffies and one is old ,going blind and deaf but he lets it walk yards in front of him and deliberately walks through groups of walkers and their dogs just so he can have a go when his old dog gets grumpy.He did it again the other day when a small group of us were chatting with 8 very chilled dogs between us and he could have easily taken another route around the field.Its like he leaves the house with the intention og being as miserable as he can be!
Glad you got support with your awkward customer. Most of mine are lovely.I did ditch one recently because I just had an uneasy feeling that nothing was ever going to be right.The time we came,how well we rubbed the dog down - tbh for £ 10 a walk she seemed to expect a full grooming service!- which dogs we walked her dog with although it really didn't give a stuff as got on with all of them etc.Just not worth the hassle.

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