Walking dogs must be one of the best professions in the world.
Why? You get outdoors, you get exercise and you get to play with dogs all day — all of which is like heaven to me. But honestly, not every day is a walk in the park with my canine charges.
I’ve been a dog walker now for about 2 years. In my tenure, I’ve learned a few unusual things — both good and bad — that I’d like to share with all you fellow dog walkers.
1. You Become Dogs’ Winter Weather Watcher
Weather can be your best friend or your worst enemy. For one thing, it’s much easier to walk a dog in the bright spring sunshine than it is in the dead of January, when the wind is howling and a blizzard is imminent.
In other words, long underwear fast became my best friend this past winter.
You also need to consider the dog whom you’re walking. Cold weather affects the dogs as much as it does you. Paws get cold and freeze, short-haired and smaller breed dogs can get cold quicker and coats are sometimes mandatory.
But some dogs really hate their coats. So plan on spending a good 10 minutes chasing them, wrestling them into their jacket and then feeling like a jerk under their reproachful gaze.
Some people mistakenly believe that dogs are capable of withstanding much more cold than they can due to their coats. But “cats and dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia and should be kept inside,” the American Veterinary Medical Association warns. While it’s true that some breeds “are more tolerant of cold weather … no pet should be left outside for long periods of time in below-freezing weather.”
Don’t be afraid to tell people that it’s too cold for their pup to be outside — you’re just putting the dog’s health first.
2. You Walk Your Way to Fitness
If you’re the proud owner of a Fitbit, being a dog walker has a handy side benefit — you’re probably going to kick everyone else’s butt when it comes to reaching those daily 10,000 steps.
Working, getting in shape, being with dogs and beating your friends’ daily walking score? Solid gold.
3. Waste Becomes Your Life
Dog poop literally becomes the most important part of your day.
It sounds a little wacky, but when you walk dogs regularly, you get to know their, um, schedule. When a dog doesn’t eliminate according to their normal routine, you start to worry. You wonder if they’re sick, if they ate something they shouldn’t have — or if they’re going to go in the house the minute you drive away.
You invest in catchy dog waste bag carriers. People open your glove compartment to find waste bags in a variety of colors and sizes. You talk about “your” dog’s waste to other people. You leave detailed notes to the dogs’ humans about size, weight, color and time.
On top of all that, you become one of those people who are enraged to see piles of waste left carelessly by the side of the road. Jeez, don’t people know how to responsibly pick up after their pet?
And then you pick it up because you have all those waste bags handy … and because you are a responsible citizen (grumble, grumble.)
4. You Become Obsessed With Dog Gear
Remember when your child was a toddler and you just couldn’t resist buying all those cute clothes? This is like that — but worse.
You have leashes in all sizes, colors and styles. You have harnesses. You have beds, jackets, treats and collars. Pet supply aisles draw you like a magnet, and you can spend 3 hours on Amazon debating the pros and cons of different head collars. Oh, and you carry dog biscuits in your pockets, and you never remember to take them out of your pockets before you wash your clothes.
You also carry lint rollers but never actually use them because you’re just going to get covered with hair at the next job.
What a lovely day to be a dog walker:
5. The Joy Dogs Bring You Is Hard to Beat
All of the craziness notwithstanding, I wouldn’t choose any other profession.
There is absolutely nothing like walking into a home and seeing a dog’s eyes light up because they see that it’s you. To know without a doubt that this animal trusts you and even loves you, and that seeing you makes their day? Let me tell you — that’s aces.