Every dog walker walks a different way, has different levels of experience, qualifications, certifications and preferences. So I thought it was about time I let you all know some of what I get up to on my walks, especially given that Dog Walkers are so hot in the news currently. In general I talk openly about dog welfare, making improvements, continual learning and development, as well as the over whelming positive effects that having a good Dog Professional can have in both you and your dogs life. I am also one of the first to ruffle feathers, question procedures, I push for change when and where it is needed and especially within my own business.
What happens on our walks?
My most commonly used motto is in regards to dogs is, 'Set the dogs up for success', and this starts from before collection all the way to drop off. Dogs who might be a bit nervous or struggle to focus, I work on calm collections. All my walks include lots of treats, so please make sure I know if your dog has any sensitives. I using only force free methods (treats, toys, or other things your dog finds reinforcing) and solely at your dogs pace. This might mean that for the first walk or more that we take things slow and I only offer solo walks until your dog is comfortable with me. If their humans are home I try to avoid chatting, so no one becomes bored or frustrated and they don't have to spend any long traveling that needed. My Collection route is planned according to final walk location, to keep it smooth and efficient so you will get a time slot(9-9:45).
Where do I walk?
The main answer to that is EVERYWHERE! My walk locations are chosen specifically, scouted several times, and are often a little drive out from Epsom for our adventures. Travel times are kept to a minimum, but I strictly avoid high traffic areas/parks/etc. Areas are chosen based on my risk assessment, which includes strict criteria on visibility, popularity, proximity to busy roads, horse riders, livestock, trainlines, and more.
Making the most of the beautiful areas Surrey has to offer, I use the locations to provide a variety of canine enrichment, and breed specific enrichments. From meadow, and sweeping hills for zoomies, to cool river swims for the dogs and me in the warm weather mums. We often play in the woods doing canine parkour over fallen trees and explore all the rabbit holes, and deer tracks through the sweeping woodlands.
What do you actually do?
Each walk location is different, so we have different activities we might do. Soft ground might me we did for treats, we wander through the woods sniffing and exploring, we hike steep hills and admire the views whilst having zoomies in the meadows on the top. On each walk we generally play lots of different games designed to reinforce eye contact, focus, recall, off lead close work and more, each one of these skills are vital to our walks and you never know when a rock solid recall, or ability to be calm comes in handy! Often humans will get homework should their dog need help with specifics, this might mean I recommend you speak with a trainer, vet or clinical behaviour professional.
During walks have times where we just sit and be calm, times were we zoom around for treats, free time where the dogs can do what ever they please (provided it is safe and appropriate). When out on walks I am monitoring body language, behaviour with other dogs, the environment and more. For dogs who are sensitive to over stimulation we concentrate on enriching activities such as scent work to bring levels down. For those who like brain games I might bring out dummies for picking up, or find a good fallen tree to hide treats in.
In the summer for those who enjoy it, we swim in the rivers and wade in the ponds. I try to find something specific to each individual so that they all get the most out of their time with me.
Sometimes we have the perfect weather and the dogs are in the right mind frame, so we turn out walks into a impromptu run at their pace. This might be Canicross style, or your dog might free run along side me. For this your dog needs to be fit and healthy, and old enough, there is no upper age limit for this, as many dogs 10 years or older love a good run. If you feel this is something that your dog can't take part in, let me know :) I have lovely long sniffy enrichment walk alternatives.
However with all of this comes a price, I believe in lettings dogs engage with their natural environment for maximum enrichment, as this promotes calm, happy, well balanced dogs! Sometimes it good to let your dog be a dog. This means they will get muddy and mucky when out with me, I am not a groomer, so I will not be bringing your dog back to you clean. If you do want your dog brought back to you clean, I am not your walker.