Getting a dogwalking gig with no dog experience
February 22, 2013 7:55 PM   Subscribe

I often wish I had a dog to take with me on solo Friday hiking jaunts, but a dog is not possible for me right now. Today I got thinking that, hey, I live in an absurdly wealthy part of the country: perhaps one of these rich people would be willing to pay me to take their dog on a hike. Problem is, I have walked a dog exactly once in my life and don't have much experience with them beyond that. I'm wondering how likely it would be that someone would be willing to hand their precious doggie off to me given that lack of experience, and if they are, how I should go about finding 'clients' and how much would be a reasonable amount to charge. I am in the North Bay area.
posted by imalaowai to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I would NEVER let anyone with no experience walk my dog, let alone pay them to walk my dog. Volunteer at an animal shelter to get some walking and handling experience.
posted by OsoMeaty at 7:58 PM on February 22, 2013 [10 favorites]

Not only would I not let you walk my dog, but I would certainly not let you take my dog into the woods alone for a hike. I like Osomeaty's suggestion; if you came to me and said you worked at a shelter walking dogs, that'd be a different story. Dog walking is not hard, but it's not intuitive.
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:12 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Dog walking is a skill for both the person and the dog and unless the dog has rock solid training I could see this ending in tragedy.

I think with a calm and skilled enough dog it could maybe work but really there are easier places to build your dog walking chops.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 8:15 PM on February 22, 2013

Maybe you could get a part-time job at a dog walking service? An ex of mine did that on the weekends and that's basically all she did - take dogs to the North shoreof Vancouver to walk in the mountains.
posted by mannequito at 8:15 PM on February 22, 2013

Make friends with one of your neighbors who has a dog, and start with walking their dog around the neighborhood from time to time.

Honestly--I walk my friend's dog several times a week and I used to work at a doggie daycare, but I'm still a little hesitant to take someone else's dog with me on a hike out of the range of cell phone towers. I'd feel awful if something happened to him.

Also, side note as a fellow Bay Area resident: it's hard to find North Bay trails that allow dogs. East Bay parks allow them, but unfortunately a lot of the nice North Bay trails are officially off-limits to dogs.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:27 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Walking a dog on a leash in an urban environment can be plenty challenging for someone with little experience (Do you know how to deal with leash aggression? A stubborn dog who refuses to walk?), let alone taking a dog on a hike. Dogs often bolt and go missing, even when they're leashed and collared. I'm perfectly willing to shell out good money for my dog's health and wellbeing, but I would never leave my furbaby with a novice. Were I to hire someone to take my dog on a hike, I would prefer them to have dog training and first aid experience to begin with.
posted by peripathetic at 10:26 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nthing short answer, no. If you could find someone with a little dog who likes to hike, maybe, but even then I'd be a little nervous. It's not as easy to walk many dogs as you might think and even if you have the perfect dog, other dogs on the trail may not be so perfect. It was a good thought, though.
posted by walla at 10:43 PM on February 22, 2013

Ha, ok, message received. I see that even just asking this question displays my ignorance of dogs (and their owners). I'm going to look at volunteering at a shelter, or perhaps at the guide dog school near me.

Needs more cowbell - great point about north bay trails. Now that I think about it, probably most of the dogs I've seen on trails were not "legal" (and of course, they've all been off-leash. Seriously, why do Californians not obey leash laws? This is not a thing where I'm from. Ok, end rant).
posted by imalaowai at 11:33 PM on February 22, 2013

Seriously, why do Californians not obey leash laws?

Letting a dog off-leash has some practical advantages (the dog gets a lot more exercise that way), and it's great fun if the dog is well-behaved, stays nearby and comes when called. My last dog, a beagle, loved the woods but would reliably stay within 50 yards or so, disappearing over a hill or into a ravine for a few moments, reappearing, making eye contact and then going off again. I've since moved to a more urban area and no longer have a place to do that sort of thing. I miss it.
posted by jon1270 at 2:06 AM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

i'd never hire anyone who'd never had a dog of their own as a dog walker, full stop.
posted by lia at 6:00 AM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hmm, maybe I'm a horrible dog owner, but I know my dogs and how they react to the leash and to strangers. After some instruction on the proper way to hold a leash, and some time watching you and my dog interact, I'd let you take The Happy Mutt Who Loves Everybody* on a hike. It sounds like I'm in the minority on this though.

Maybe you could encourage a friend or family member with a dog to go with you on the occasional hike, so you can get some experience, or at least observe the tricky parts in your usual hiking routes? In an urban or suburban area, you want to know where the neighborhood dogs live, and which ones will come charging at you - potentially scaring the dog you're walking - and which ones mean business with their barking and which ones are just saying howdy. You want to know where there is likely to be loud, scary-to-a-dog sounds - construction sites, church bells, loading docks, stuff like that. Obviously you want to know where the safest places are to cross busy streets. In more rural areas, you might run into more unleashed dogs not confined behind a fence, more speeding cars, and wildlife that tend to excite dogs - geese, rabbits, squirrels, etc.

Volunteering at a shelter is also a great idea. It would also allow you to tap into a network of dog lovers, who can then help you find clients. Shelters might also be a good source of dog first aid information, which would be a selling point for a dog handler of any kind.

*The Nose-y Beagle, The Neurotic Shepherd and The Surly Pomeranian are all monsters on a leash, so I wouldn't trust them with an inexperienced dog handler.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:18 AM on February 23, 2013

Getting away from the issue of actually turning this into a profit center for you, you must have friends with dogs, right? Ask if any of them think their dog could use a good walk once a week. They might want to see you interact with the dog locally before they let you take it off on an all day hike, but I think an awful lot of people would be happy to have someone who was willing to take over an occasional dog-walk for them. Not paid, but if what you really want is a companion on your hikes, I can totally see that happening easily.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:56 AM on February 23, 2013

Leash laws and whether dogs are allowed in parks is a tough issue. I hate that it's hard to find places to hike with my friend and his dog (other than the East Bay parks) if we want to obey the law, and in general I think that dogs enhance almost any setting, but I've also seen/heard some stories of off-leash dogs knocking down hikers and causing real problems.

Years ago on a huge rock on top of Old Rag mountain in the Shenandoahs, we came across a woman who'd been knocked down by a boisterous off-leash dog. Her leg was injured to the point that she couldn't walk, and it was close to sunset and getting cold. Rescue crews were on the way, fortunately, but it emphasized to me that there can be a good reason for leash laws. (Although I'm not sure if this is always the logic behind them...)
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:05 PM on February 23, 2013

The Marin Humane Society offers a beginning dog handling class--I believe you can take it even if you don't have a dog. They also use volunteer walkers/socializers. Guide Dogs for the Blind tends to like to have people who have some dog experience--but they do use "puppy socializers" who play with the puppies--usually with a more experienced volunteer to show you the special tests and exercises they like to do.
posted by agatha_magatha at 10:13 PM on February 24, 2013

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