Hi everyone, hope you are all staying cool during this spicy summer weather.
Today I wanted to talk about picking a dog walker. More specifically, on the interview process when selecting one. In the past little bit, I had 2 meet and greet interviews where the people informed me "just so you know, we are meeting with another dog walker too... sorry..". I was like, "good!" which seemed to surprise them. Here's why it didn't (and doesn't) bother me:
Ummm, I would do the same thing.
My dogs are my literal babies, it is important to me that I would find someone who I clicked with and got a good vibe with.
Not all dog walkers offer the same services!
For example, we focus primarily on group walks and puppy visits. We do offer solo walks for a select few, and are always willing to work with shy dogs to help slowly bring them into the appropriate group. So if you were looking for more of a long term solo walk solution, it likely isn't us! Also, our after hours walks are subject to availability. We are a small team and only 2 of us live in the service area. On top of that, I truly value living a balanced work/play lifestyle - and want the same for my team. While I can accommodate most evening and weekend walks - sometimes, I can't. I am always very upfront about this, and if you are someone who would often rely on after hours walks - then once again, we probably aren't the right fit.
Are you comfortable with a team of walkers? I COMPLETELY love my team, it allows for a ton of flexibility. We are a very small team, and because of this we all know all the dogs pretty well & day to day we tend to walk the same dogs/groups. But it is great because we can swap around dogs if any of us need time off, or we have some extra dogs added on some days. But maybe you just want ONE person walking your dog (I would urge you to consider not letting this be a single determining factor, as you could be missing out on some amazing companies)..
Some dog walkers specialize in reactive dogs (ME!!!!!!), and some specialize in small dogs, and some do on leash walks while others do off leash walks. You need to find the company that would match the best with your needs!
We are interviewing YOU as well!
The meet and greet is always 2 parts - we need to make sure we are a good fit for each other. This isn't just any type of service, we are taking care of your family. We are entering your home. It is a huge deal. We need to make sure there is a bond and trust between us. On top of that, I know the dogs and the groups that we walk extremely well. I will get a very good sense of if your dog will be a good fit with us or not. If not, I will do my best to help you out and find a more appropriate dog walker. For example, last month I referred an ADORABLE tiny chihuahua to Sparky's Comrade because I determined we wouldn't be able to give this dog everything she deserved. I also suggested someone I had a meet and greet with to use Kerr Dogs instead of us, because the vibe I got told me they would be happier with a smaller solo run company. At the end of the day, what matters most is that your dog THRIVES with us & that we have a good working relationship between us humans. I also need to make sure you follow the same methodologies as we do (living our best force free life hehe).
Tips when searching for a walker:
When Hound Fly wrote a good article about this as well, you can check it out here. Is there anything I am missing? Let me know!
Ugh, my heart has been hurting the last little while. I love this job, I love it so very much. But because of this job - I have signed myself up for heartbreak after heartbreak... and honestly it scares me a little. This is going to be a very emotional post for me and will probably be all over the place as it is just coming straight from my heart. Trigger Warning we talk about dog death.
Since officially starting Dog's World Walking in 2015 we have had 4 of our furry family members pass away. Those are 4 of my best friends, gone. We all know when we bring a dog into our family, we are signing up for inevitable heartbreak. That is the price of admission: devastating heartbreak. Why on earth do we do this to ourselves? We get a companion, love it unconditionally, depend on it like a family member, only to lose it. We know damn well how bad it is going to hurt... but we do it anyway. WHY! I will tell you why.. because that love is so worth it. It is worth every heartbreak in the whole damn world. It is the only love that I will ever have where I need to willingly subject myself to excruciating pain. The pain of loss, is worth it and so much more in exchange for the love we get out of it.
This brings me to Marty. Oh Marty.
Marty came into my life when he was just 1 year old. Marty had a lot of trust issues with dogs, because when he was a baby he almost went blind in one eye and needed emergency surgery. That in itself is a very traumatizing start to life. On top of that, the recovery required isolation - and Marty missed out on a lot of epic socialization. He had a set of friends, but outside that circle he didn't really trust anyone - and wanted A LOT of space. A challenge you say? I'm in. His dad was a friend of one of my closest customers, and so it was a no brainer to take him on. The plan was that I would ease him into groups and help get him to trust other dogs (and me). Well, we definitely went to plan there... but so much more came out of this relationship.
When I started walking Marty, I wasn't a dog trainer. It was before I even took the Certified Dog Walker course at the TCCE through Dog*Biz. At this point, I was pretty oblivious to a lot of things. Things did go well for the first few weeks, and it was THEN that I took that fateful course just mentioned. I learned so much about body language, positive reinforcement, counter conditioning, and working WITH dogs over one weekend course, and half of the time I was relating to everything I heard to my own dog Sadie (we all know this story), but also to Marty. My scared little guy with a snippy disposition. Once I finished the course, I was so ready to approach Marty's care with a new mindset. I started really watching him - I noticed in elevators his body got really tight & his cheeks started to puff, like he was holding his breath. I realized how scared this little guy was, and I knew exactly what kind of advocate I needed to be for him. I noticed the things that made his body loosen as well (treats, attention from humans). I decided to use those things to show him that those scary things aren't so bad. Long story short, in time Marty wouldn't hold his breath in elevators. He loved meeting new dogs. He still didn't like dogs getting to close to him in front of his front door, but hey! We all have our quirks. This is one of my favourite pictures of Marty - it was the moment I truly realized what my work with him had done. I could see a lightness in him that I hadn't seen before.
So, that alone makes our relationship so incredibly deep. BUT, of course, there is more. With the way Marty was scheduled, I would walk him in the afternoons with my dogs and Teddy their best friend. I realized how comfortable and happy Marty was with them, and because his dad was in school until later I night - I decided that some days I would steal him for a few hours. Pick him up, give a little walk, and then have him come and hang out at my place for a few hours before taking him home. We got pretty close.. but I fell in love with Marty by stealing him without permission LOL! His dad asked me to do a little daycare session with Marty on Canada Day, I obliged. I was to drop him off around dinner time. Here are two pics from that special day.
Ok.... But... what if we took a little nap? I wasn't feeling well, and a nap sounded ideal. So around 4pm we rested our eyes, Marty right by my side. Flash forward to 2 am where I check my phone and don't even have texts like "WHERE IS MY DOG????"... nothing! LOL. I was like omg I just stole this dog... the next morning when his dad woke up he was like "well I saw he wasn't home, and when you didn't reply I figured you guys just fell asleep!". It was really special, the cuddles were epic - but it showed me how much his dad trusted me. Marty really was becoming my part time son. And omg he was such a brat. Most of the time he was good when we left him, but sometimes he really got into things. But not like normal things, he went after the things you loved the most. He would find a way into my makeup bag, and throw my makeup all over the house. Once, he ripped a speaker from my tv stand - and peed on it like at least 5 different times (I could tell by the spray patterns, CSI shit up in here). At his dad's house, he would select the DVD he would like to watch that evening. And he destroyed about 1000 remotes and controllers. BRAT AF.
This went on for about 1.5 years, every day our bond growing deeper and deeper. On the friday of a long weekend, I was heading home to my parents (as I do every year). I was supposed to have one of the girls on my team walk Marty for his afternoon walk so I could get out of town quicker - but for some reason that morning I decided that I wanted to walk him (probably because I would be gone 3 days and that is a long time without Marty).
So I dropped him off, and I made a point to give him a goodbye kiss. His dad was home, so I told them to have a great weekend and that I loved him! I went home, and long story short - Marty passed away the next day. I don't want to talk about that part of the story as it is very personal, but my life was rocked. I was in no way prepared for the hurt that was about to overcome me. I literally scream cried on and off for 72 hours straight. I didn't know it was possible to cry that much. Even to this day, nothing in my life has made me cry the way this has. I don't know if anything ever will. I had family dogs pass in my lifetime, but it was nothing compared to losing Marty. Marty was a HUGE part of my life. He was the dog that made me realize that holy shit - I can make a real impact in a dog's life. He made me understand how important it is to work at a dog's pace. He taught me that a bad reputation doesn't define who you are. He taught me patience (not only was he a brat but he was also KING OF THE BREAKS on walks). Who I was as a person, was in part thanks to Marty.
He changed my whole world, because he let me change his.
I was not actively blogging when this happened, and to be honest - I don't think I would have been ready to talk about. It has taken me 2 years to write about this - and I think that's because I have needed those 2 years to work on my feelings. To work on healing that Marty sized hole in my heart. One thing I learned is that the hole never fully goes away. It will shrink over time, and the pain will be less constant... but it does not go away. You hold on to that smile with the crooked teeth. You hold on to the memory of his rancid gas. You still smile when you think about the time he was obsessed with locking himself into rooms. That stuff never leaves. But you also hold on to the pain, just a little bit. It will always be there. And that, that is the price we pay. And as I am sitting here typing through tears upon tears, I know damn well that I would do it over and over again. I will gladly go through this devastating and earth shattering heartbreak, if it means getting to impact a life in the way that I could with Marty. I would do anything to smell one last stinky fart. Or god what I wouldn't give to see that smile one last time. It sucks, but, so worth it.
Here is the video slideshow I made 2 years ago... I think it is a really beautiful showcase of his life. I will miss you for god damn ever, Marty. And for those of you who ever wondered why I have the word "brat" tattooed on my arm... well now you know. My brat. My Marty.
Hi everyone, I hope you are all getting excited for Doggy Yoga (aka DOGA) taking place this Saturday (July 13th) at 10:30, in Liberty Village Park. This is a free community event, and you are welcome to come with our without your dog.
To see my first DOGA tip, click here.
Today's tip is multi faceted, so buckle up!
Bringing a "pacifier" to DOGA
We know our dogs, and we know bringing them to an outdoor event with lots of humans & other dogs might be a little overwhelming for them. While I gave tips on how to teach your dog to settle (you can see it on the event facebook page under discussion), I wanted to also mention using a pacifier to help keep your dog nice and settled.
What is a pacifier? Well, we all know what pacifiers are with human babies - so why not apply the concept to our dogs. At the school I teach at (When Hounds Fly, they are the bomb), they started a new practice for group classes where dog parents are asked to bring a "pacifier" to class. They are instructed to give the dog the pacifier while the instructor is, you know, instructing. These times can get boring for the dogs, and that's when you get a dog that demand barks/whines/etc. By having the pacifier ready, you are able to appropriately prevent the demand/boredom behaviour from happening in the first place. (If you wait until the dog is barking/whining and THEN give the pacifier, you are reinforcing the undesired behaviour - so the key is to be one step ahead of your pup and "pacify" them when you know they will likely become a little stir crazy).
Anyway! Appropriate pacifiers for dogs are stuffed Kongs, treat dispensing toys, or long lasting chew sticks (like bully sticks/yak cheese sticks/beef tendon etc). These are all wonderful at keeping our dogs busy and pacified. I highly recommend you bring along a pacifier if you know your dog may be getting a little antsy (which like, fair enough haha this is a very exciting day).
Being SAFE with our pacifiers - resource guarding
It would be irresponsible of me to ask you all to bring pacifiers without talking about resource guarding. I am planning on doing a very in depth post/video about resource guarding - but for the purpose of today's post I will keep it simple.
Resource guarding is where our dogs have an item that they see valuable (aka their pacifiers) and will do what it takes to prevent it from being stolen. At the most minor level this involves either gulping the item down, or turning their head away. At a more severe level, this involves growling and even biting in order to protect the resource. Dog's will resource guard from us humans, but also from other dogs. When it comes to us, we can offer our dog a trade in order to get the pacifier back ("hey! here's a handful of treats!" and while dog is eating treats, you remove the pacifier). However, when it comes to other dogs - they don't offer any sort of exchange or trade, and so we need to make sure we have safety protocols in place for our pacifiers to prevent any dog to dog resource guarding.
When we first get to the event, there will be a lot of moving around with people coming in and out. During this time, please just periodically reinforce your dog using treats. Keep the pacifiers safe and tucked away. Once everyone is settled and on their yoga mats I will instruct you that it is time to give your dog their pacifiers. Only then may you give your dog the high value item. It is also critical that you keep your dog ON LEASH, and don't let fido stroll over to another dog's pacifier. We don't want any thieves and we don't want any drama over resources. Keep your dog in your station, and everyone will be set!
So in summary: