What happens when you are suddenly put in a situation which leaves you without the time or energy to exercise your beloved canine child? What do you do if, for instance, your working hours are extended for an urgent project which involves you leaving home very early in the morning and returning well after nightfall? You can ensure that there is sufficient food and water left for your dog, but what about the exercise he/she needs on a daily basis? Larger breeds of dog need generous open spaces in which to get up speed and have a really good run, and modern gardens simply cannot provide this. Even if they are ageing, and prefer to walk rather than run because of arthritis or simply due to aching joints, they need to have this exercise to keep them mobile, just as we do.
Have no volunteers able to help?
You may be lucky enough to have friends, neighbours or family who will be willing to take up the slack – so to speak – for the period you are unable to meet your exercise commitments to your dog, but not all of us are so lucky. The fact is that you need to be able to apply yourself in your working hours without worrying about your dog’s exercise needs at a time when you cannot provide the time yourself.
This is one of the main reasons why dog walkers have become so popular in recent years. They are able to step in and ensure that your dog is properly exercised when you are unable to do this yourself.
Whether your dog is mainly just an extended burglar alarm …
Many people believe that having a dog – the bigger, the better – is an excellent deterrent for petty thieves who are eyeing your home with the nefarious intent of relieving you of some of your more interesting or entertaining gadgets, such as TV’s, computers, sound systems, speakers, mobile phones, tablets and any jewellery which may be lying around. Whilst many larger dogs offer an extra layer of natural protection due to their size and possible aggression towards strangers, smaller breeds offer a mobile and very noisy alert that strangers are approaching your property.
… or a much-loved part of your family – hand over to someone who understands your dog
Then again, there are people who just love dogs. Period. They cannot imagine living without a dog in their family but, whilst they do their best, sometimes they simply do not have the time to give the dog the exercise it needs. Not only that, but dogs enjoy walking and meeting up with other dogs and people, sniffing out unfamiliar scents and marking new territories as their own – just because they can. Take this away from them, and you also diminish their lives to a certain extent. This is especially true of dogs which live behind solid walls where they cannot see what is happening around them. It’s rather like being in a prison without external stimulation. Dogs are usually sociable animals, although there are obviously exceptions, and some are naturally more introverted or fearful than others. When you walk your own dog, you know their habits, their preferences, the speed at which you can walk with them (or jog, as some runners do with their dogs), their fears and their sociability. It is important that dog walkers who take over the lead from you are informed of all these factors right from the get-go. If your dog becomes nervous and reacts with signs of either fear or aggression around unfamiliar dogs, the dog walker must be aware of this and be able to handle the situation when it arises. Dog walkers need to be patient with their charges, as some dogs prefer a leisurely stroll with plenty of scent-sniffing, territory-marking, social interactions with other dogs and people, and time to do their doggy ‘business’ without being hurried along. There is nothing more hurtful than seeing a dog (usually the smaller breeds) being impatiently dragged along by their leads by an irritated walker who just wants to get the job done as quickly as possible, and this can be true of dog owners themselves, so there is no finger-pointing intended here. Walking with your dog should be a time of bonding and companionship between you, and if you really don’t want to spend the time and effort doing this right, either don’t have a dog at all or make sure that someone else who loves dogs and is reliable, calm and confident is able to take this responsibility off your shoulders.
Wherever possible, choose a dog-walker who loves dogs
A dog walker is a special kind of person. This is an individual who actually loves dogs and enjoys spending time around them – which is why he, or she, takes up the job of walking them in the first place (with any luck). Whilst there are those who walk dogs just to earn extra money and provide a much-needed service, hopefully they are in the minority. You will know from the interactions between your dog walker and your dog whether this is a labour of love, or simply another job. If your dog shows delight and excitement when the walker arrives, you’ve won the doggie jackpot in a sense, because it shows that there is a bond existing between them. YOU are still number One in your dog’s life, but there is someone else who cares and can help to ensure that your dog has the best possible experience of life. With the right dog walker sharing your responsibilities towards your beloved canine child/friend/protector, you can confidently continue with the intricacies of life and work and earning the means to keep your furry mate properly and nutritiously fed and given the best medical care when necessary.
Guilt? What guilt? And why should there be guilt?
On a final note, there is absolutely no need to feel guilty about hiring a professional dog walker when you cannot – for any reason – walk your dog yourself as it is part and parcel of providing the best life you can give to your four-pawed friend by letting him/her fully experience the world whilst enjoying wonderful exercise, even when you are unable to be there for a while.