What does this image say to you?
Yes, it’s a pavement with four darker patches on it.
Let me give you a scenario…
They are paw prints, but the dog that made them hasn’t just walked through a puddle.
Neither is it a really hot day (in fact it’s quite cold!) so the dog is not shedding excess heat.
The dog was on his usual walk and had just stopped, turned to face in the opposite direction and sat down. When he got up, these paw prints were left behind.
So, what’s going on with the dog?
I suspect that many dog walkers would consider the dog as being stubborn or lazy, or just not having good lead-walking skills.
The sweaty paw prints on the floor tell a whole different story to me, and that is one of STRESS.
The dog in question was not demonstrating any of the ‘normal’ stress behaviours. Up until this point his tail was up and swishy, his body was fluid and bendy, his ears were relaxed, he wasn’t drooling, panting or shedding etc. But he was displaying subtle avoidance behaviours (sitting down) and he was sweating profusely through his paws.
It’s very easy to miss these signs of stress in our dogs, but it’s really important to respect these feelings so that our dogs feel heard and understood. This little pup was obviously not happy, so we changed direction which stopped the sweating, but as we got further away from home in the other direction he stopped, turned, sat and sweated again. Now this isn’t ‘normal’ behaviour for him so I cut his walk short and took him home.
Speaking to his mum, we uncovered that he’d had a different routine that morning which meant he was on his own for a while, and the combination of not being with his mum earlier, and then being on a walk without her was just too much for him. Sadly, lockdowns 1, 2 & 3 have made separation anxiety a massive problem for our dogs.
This got me thinking…
What do people think they pay me for as a dog walker?
Hint: It’s not just my time!
I freely admit that I am not the cheapest dog walker in town. In fact I’m one of the more expensive ones, but that financial investment comes with benefits that you simply don’t get when you pay peanuts.
Firstly, I only walk one dog at a time, or two if they live together. Dogs need our undivided attention on walks, not only to keep them safe, but so they feel that their time with you is special. If you split their time with lots of other dogs, or you spend all of it on the phone, then they feel like they are an afterthought. It’s vital that they are your primary focus.
I have spent nearly two decades learning about dogs. As a pet parent, a dog trainer, an animal therapist and animal communicator I have a huge raft of experience and knowledge to draw on to ensure the pets in my care are safe and happy. Your fee includes the effort and financial investment I made in completing my one-year APDT dog training qualification which helps me train and handle your dog correctly, my one-year canine massage rehabilitation training which taught me about movement and lameness, my one-year herbal-self medication training which taught me about anxiety and stress management and my one-year canine behaviour management training which helps with reactive dogs. Then there are the countless one- and two- day courses on canine first aid, canine nutrition, behaviour management and therapies. I also invest in a dog law membership which means I have access to the latest updates on dog laws and requirements, and also have access to free legal defence for clients from the UK’s best team of dog lawyers in case there is an incident on a walk with me and your dog is prosecuted. You can see them all on the Credentials page.
You are also contributing to the cost of my Swindon Borough Council Commercial Dog Walker registration, which is a stringent assessment of my working practices, assessed by the dog warden to ensure that only the very best services get approved and validated by the council. As a result I am one of only four listed on their website. The other dog walkers in Swindon all considered the application, but decided against it because they would have had to change their working methods to meet the best practice requirements and that would mean losing money. I’m happy to say my services exceeded the requirements already.
Your payment for my services also includes all the administration requirements of running a customer-focused dog walking business. Firstly there’s the app I use to manage bookings and keep you updated on your dog’s walks, pees, poos and photos. Then there is the cost of insurance (three lots – van, dog walking and therapy), my professional memberships (APDT, ISAP, dog law etc), a laptop and office software and packages to manage my website and email, as well as the mobile phone. Then, because I am a limited company I have to provide a full set of accounts, and that needs an accountant, plus bank transaction fees.
Your investment also contributes towards the cost of my vehicle which gets me to your door. The Happy Wagon van is well maintained for safety, with air-conditioning for those hot days and custom built dog crates that can adapt to perfectly fit the size of any combination of two dogs, so they always travel safely on their adventure walks. It also has snow-mode so that we are extra safe in icy weather. Oh, and fuel. We won’t be going anywhere without that!
Once we get out on a walk, your investment contributes towards the cost of my leads (I am required to use my own during the Covid-19 crisis), poo bags (lots and lots of poo bags), homemade treats (and the time it takes me to loving make a kilo of these every month and store them in my freezer!), my portable dog shower to wash your dog’s paws and belly if they have got muddy, or the rest of them if they have rolled in something nasty, and the warm water that goes in it.
Oh, and then there’s my time, travelling to you and the time I spend with your dog, charged at living wage.
So that all adds up to quite a lot really, and that just covers my costs.
So if see a dog walker that charges much less than I do, or you see articles that say that dog walkers make £60k a year, then take a look at their service model. I suspect they walk multiple dogs at the same time, have little regard for their wellbeing as an individual, and don’t invest the same amount of love and attention to their business so you can be assured of the highest quality service.
And I guarantee they won’t pick up on the subtle signs of stress like these paw prints, and as a result the dog(s) in their care may have an unhappy walk and unpleasant experiences.
You really do get what you pay for, and I’m proud to offer such a high-quality service.