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Dog Selfie Photo Contest!

It’s photo contest time once again!

Everyone love/hates a good selfie, and here at the TDWA, we can’t get enough of your dog selfies!!

If your dog is so vain, he snaps his own pics when you’re not looking, send them our way.  The prizes up for grabs this time are absolutely fantastic, and will be just what your pooch needs to go from amateur selfie-snapper to professional model.

Here’s how to enter

Send your photos (maximum of 2 entries per household) to info@torontodogwalkers.org by February 1st for a chance to make it into our album of finalists, which will be open to public voting to determine the winners. The contest is open to all residents of Toronto.

And now…..THE PRIZES!!

First Prize

A professional groom from King West’s Spaw Boutique. Spaw is the go-to doggy spa for the who’s who of King West pampered pooches. Time to get photoshoot-ready!  Visit Spaw’s website.
AND
A photo session at Off Leash Studio, including 10 retouched images and the entire raw gallery. Let the pros take some headshots to impress even the most jaded canine talent scouts. Visit Off Leash Studio on Facebook.

Total value of this prize is $450

Second Prize

A tattoo-inspired custom digital illustration of your dog from Dobby Doodles.  These illustrations are absolutely incredible and unique; every legit celebrity should be immortalized this way! Visit Dobby Doodles on Facebook.

Total value of this prize is $25.

 

Good luck, and may the best pooches win!

photo credit: Off Leash Studio

photo credit: Off Leash Studio

dobby doodles1

spaw logo

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Hopes & Dreams for 2016

Responsible dog ownership and the Dog Owner Liability Act are under review at the City of Toronto. This is something the TDWA feels is long overdue. We hope that 2016 will see at least the beginning of a shift towards more compliance and better enforcement.

The fact of the matter is that our laws haven’t been reviewed in over a decade. During that time, the number of dogs living in Toronto has grown exponentially. We all need to find a way to exist together peacefully, in a minimal amount of shared space.

Here’s what means the most to us as professional dog walkers:

Most obviously, pick up after your dogs. It’s really just a matter of self-respect, respect for the city you live in, and respect for your fellow residents. There is no doubt, if you take a look around any sidewalk or park, that too many owners aren’t carrying poop bags. They have no fear of any enforcement or fines for this disgusting oversight.

We see a lot of dogs tethered outside stores, cafes, restaurants, etc.. This practice causes stress for most dogs as they sit waiting, vulnerable, and passerby after passerby stops to talk to/pet him. It’s not comforting to most dogs and you can see it in their body language. Aside from that, imagine the worst things that can happen to your dog while he/she waits for you to come back. We’ve seen it all, from stolen dogs, to dogs injured by passing off-leash dogs. We know that you want to include your pup, but we can’t stress enough that it really just isn’t worth the risk.

Recognize what is actually appropriate behavior for the dog park. Left on their own, dogs do not “work it out.” If yours tends to get into fights often, then he/she isn’t meant for an off-leash dog park setting. In time, and with some training, perhaps you’ll get there, but it takes work. If you’re up for it, it will make your life together much better. In the meantime, enjoy long walks on leash, and discover your city together.

If your dog has ever bitten someone, or you believe he’s capable of biting, then muzzle him. If you don’t, you’re not just putting other people and dogs at risk, but you’re also putting your dog at risk of impoundment/quarantine, or worse.

Respecting other dog owners and non-dog owners by obeying leash laws. This issue causes a major rift between the aforementioned parties. Some dogs are fearful of other dogs, some people are fearful of dogs. Obeying leash laws isn’t a hardship. There’s a time and a place for off-leash activity. No matter how awesomely friendly and obedient your dog is, you are not entitled to infringe on the rights of others. Lately, the number of people walking their dogs off-leash on sidewalks is surprising given the level of danger. It just doesn’t seem worth it.

If your dog isn’t perfect in the eyes of others, don’t take it personally. It’s not a refection of your personality, it’s just what is. And it’s ok. We see owner conflicts on a regular basis, and usually they’re the result of one owner asking another to leash their dog, or asking them to call their dog off if its playing roughly or unfairly. It’s ok for owners to advocate for their dog, and they shouldn’t be made to feel badly when they do.

Above all, we believe owners need to be held accountable/liable for the actions and behavior of their dogs in public spaces, and on their own property. We’re all in this together, and as with any culture or society, respecting the code is integral to a cohesive existence.

To read about the city’s review, click/tap here.

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Veterinary emergency or not?

As pet care professionals, our clients often ask us for advice as to whether or not they should take their dog to the vet or try the “wait and see” approach when something isn’t quite right. Sure, we’ve seen a lot over the years, but we’re not vets and sometimes we feel uncomfortable offering this advice, weighing what we would do if it were our own pet against how badly we would feel if we gave the wrong advice.

When we heard that Dr. Scott Bainbridge was hosting a talk at Dundas West Animal Hospital on the subject of ‘recognizing pet emergencies’ a few TDWA members jumped at the chance to attend.

Not surprisingly, the first thing Dr. B discussed was poop. Yes! Every dog walker’s favourite topic! Many dog owners, especially newbies with puppies, book vet appointments for diarrhea, but Scott says you don’t always need to do that. Many owners panic when they see blood in their dog’s stool. Believe me, I get it! But it’s important to know that drops of red blood after a bout of diarrhea are completely normal: it’s usually the result of repeated straining. If your dog’s stool is dark and tar-like in colour, that’s a different type of blood and you should see a vet as son as you can.

So at the first sign of diarrhea, Dr. B recommends a fast. He says 24 hours is an appropriate amount of time to give the bowels a chance to recover. When you reintroduce food, start with a simple homemade concoction of white rice (cooked more than you would for a human), lean ground meat (cooked and fat drained) and low fat cottage cheese. Feed small, frequent meals for two days. When your dog produces a normal stool, start to mix in the “diarrhea diet” with his regular food. The issue should clear up but if it doesn’t your vet will arrange to either have your dog seen or have you drop off a stool sample; sometimes diarrhea can be caused by parasites such as Giardia. Please note that if symptoms like dehydration, vomiting, or lethargy accompany the diarrhea, please call your vet right away.

Sometimes there are underlying diseases IBS/IBD are at play and flare-ups can be caused by dietary indiscretion (new treats, or a found ‘snack’ in the park), or sometimes they occur for no apparent reason. If you have a dog that experiences chronic bouts of diarrhea, mucous coated stools or flatulence, it is wise to look into a home made diet since typically offending ingredients such as gluten can be eliminated. Fresh, cooked food is also much easier to digest. Bowel disease also reduces the absorption of nutrients in the intestine, therefore dogs may experience deficiencies and even malnutrition. Please consult a professional before beginning a home cooking program.

Like us, dogs often react to bug bites and poison ivy. The inflammation is most obvious in the face/jowl area, you also might see hives, but unless your dog is having trouble breathing, don’t panic. Try administering Benadryl – your vet can advise the dosage.

Owners of deep-chested or barrel-chested dogs should all be warned of the signs and danger of Gastric Torsion AKA Bloat. This is a very serious condition where the stomach actually flips and blood supply is cut off. You have a 2 hour window to save a dog’s life, so rush to the nearest vet. Signs: Gaging and unproductive vomiting, bloated bellies (sometimes), pale gums, often an arched back, circling, looking uncomfortable, and/or not wanting to lay down. You can help prevent this by not allowing your dog to exercise an hour after eating or taking a large drink and by feeding smaller, more frequent meals. Find out if you have a susceptible breed and talk to your vet about a surgical fix, which includes tacking the stomach in place. Some vets now do this during spay/neuter surgery.

It’s important for all dog owners and especially dog walkers, to understand that dogs are very susceptible to heat stroke. Brachycephalic (squish faced) breeds, even more so. During extreme heat shorten your walks and avoid strenuous activities. Clinical signs of heat stroke include excessive panting and drooling, choking, gasping, blue tinged gums, glassy eyes, coma and seizures. What to do? Cool your dog with lukewarm water (never cold. ever) and transport him to the vet immediately.

Vomiting paired with constipation? It could be a foreign body obstruction, like rope from a toy or pantyhose. Your dog will likely also show symptoms of abdominal pain. This is a definite emergency.

If your dog is in a fight with another dog, check him over thoroughly for puncture wounds. They are not always obvious. Clean wounds with antiseptic soap and visit your vet for further inspection during regular hours. Sometimes an abscess will form and this is something you really want to prevent, as it is painful and dangerous.

Limping is a hot topic. Ignoring your vet’s advice to “take it easy” results in repeated visits to the clinic, sometimes x-rays, and a delayed healing time. If the lameness is minor, you need to rest your dog for at least seven days. Obviously if your dog is not weight-bearing or vocalizes very loudly at the time of injury, it means a trip to the vet. You can help avoid injuries like these by not playing on ice, avoiding areas with holes in the ground and keeping your dog thin. The latter also helps speed recovery.

Like any gathering of dog people in one room, we drifted off topic numerous times and as a result, Dr. Bainbridge didn’t have a chance to cover all the subjects he had intended. That said, it was fun and very informational.

Taken from his notes, here’s what we missed:

Treatment of cut pads

  • Apply pressure to the area up to 2 minutes at a time to stop bleeding. If it doesn’t stop, go to the emergency vet.
  • Clean the wound with antiseptic soap.
  • Larger lacerations require stitches, so make an appointment and fast your dog.

Ripped toe nails

  • Soak the foot in antibacterial soap
  • Clip the rest of the toe nail
  • Use a bar of soap for hemostasis. I imagine this means rub a dry bar on the tip of the nail to block the nail from bleeding.

Seizures

  • Generalized seizures involve a dog laying on his side, vocalizing, shaking, paddling, and often they will defecate/urinate.
  • When the seizure is over the dog may have trouble seeing or walking, but this is rarely permanent.
  • Try to keep your dog on a soft surface and talk to him calmly to reassure him.
  • After the seizure, record how long it lasted
  • If he seems fine afterwards, book an appointment with your vet. But any seizure that lasts 5 minutes or more requires immediate medical intervention.

Choking

  • The signs including pawing at the face, coughing, drooling, gagging, or collapsing.
  • Attempt to open your dog’s jaws (may need two people) and reach back to scoop out the object.
  • Check the roof of the mouth, usually between back teeth where sticks often become wedged. Pull it out.
  • Modified Heimlich: compress the trachea just below the larynx with a few quick squeezes.
  • If your dog is small enough you can try picking them up and shaking them gently.

Eye Injuries

  • For immediate relief you can flush with saline and apply Polysporin Ophthalmic from the pharmacy.
  • Make a vet appointment. Eyes are very sensitive and unforgiving.

Thanks again to Dr. Scott Bainbridge and DWAH for hosting the free talk and helping to educate dog owners and pet care professionals.

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A Dog Owner’s Guide to Condo Etiquette

The following post was written by TDWA founding member, Yvette, owner of Tail Blazers. Tail Blazers is entering its 12th year of business and still proudly provides the King and Queen West area with exceptional pet care services.

Living in the city usually means living in very close quarters with our neighbours (challenging at the best of times), and when you add dogs into the mix, tensions can run high. 

Unfortunately, in major urban centres like Toronto, there is often a polarization between ‘dog people’ and everyone else.  And there is a good reason for this:  rampant irresponsible dog ownership.  When dog owners are not responsible, respectful and courteous, they make life unpleasant for everyone, fellow dog owners and non-dog owners alike.

Here is a list of guidelines to follow when living in an apartment or condo with your dog:

A Dog Owner’s Guide to Condo Etiquette

– Only allow your dog to urinate or defecate in designated areas. In particular, do not allow your dog to urinate on the pillars or posts of the building itself, especially at entrances/exits. It’s unsightly, foul-smelling, and infuriates your neighbours. It also encourages all of the dogs that come after yours to do the same.  Same goes for urinating on landscaped areas with flowers or shrubs. 

– Always carry bags (include extras!) and pick up after your dog. This is the number one complaint regarding dog owners in urban settings.  Remember that in addition to being extremely unpleasant, dog waste also carries parasites and disease, and can easily be tracked into the building via shoes and paws. 

– If your dog is not 100% house trained, carry him outside to do his business, and take him out often. If he does have an accident, clean it up immediately, or notify the building. Do not use harsh chemicals that might stain or bleach carpeting. If you need help with the house training but have no friends or family available, enlist the services of a professional dog walker to supplement your existing routine. 

– Keep your dog on leash and under control at all times while on the property, including lobbies, hallways, and outdoor spaces. Your dog might be well behaved, but the rules are there for a reason. Many of your neighbours are fearful or uncomfortable around dogs, have allergies, or possibly have reactive dogs of their own who need their space. In elevators, respect everyone’s personal space and have your dog sit quietly by your feet. 

– If your dog is reactive (barks or lunges at people or other dogs), work on modifying the behaviour.  Seek professional help from a positive reinforcement dog trainer, and in the meantime, use back stairs and side doors whenever possible. And remember that if your dog is causing a problem with a neighbour, rather than reacting defensively, try to be extra courteous and respectful.  It’s not about being right, it’s about getting along. 

– If your dog barks excessively, consult a trainer, and consider hiring a professional dog walker to take him out of the home midday to drain some of his energy and reduce stress/anxiety.  You can also keep him in a bedroom or in an area away from the door to minimize the amount of stimulus he is receiving and reduce the impact of the dog’s barking on your neighbours. 

– Exercise and engage your dog!!  Walking him around the block two or three times a day to relieve himself is NOT enough!  Many behavioural issues in dogs are as a result of a lack of exercise and stimulus. This, along with providing food, water, shelter and love, is the most basic responsibility of all dog owners, regardless of the size or breed of dog. 

Remember, apartment and condo living is a very unnatural environment for dogs, with little green space, and dozens of other dogs and people at every turn.  The responsibility rests with you as the owner to provide your dog with the tools and guidelines necessary to live harmoniously with your neighbours (human and canine) in the concrete jungle. 

To find a qualified professional dog walker in your area, or for tips on safety, mental stimulation and more, please browse the rest of our blog, and explore our site.

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Dog Fights, Part 2: Dealing with a Fight in Progress

The following post was written by TDWA member, Rachael Johnston. Rachael is a dog walker, and the manager of operations at Rover Achiever, which serves the Annex, Little Italy and Seaton Village. In addition to years of dog walking experience, Rachael is also an accredited dog trainer.

Dealing with dog fights in progress:

Key points

  • Don’t’ panic
  • Interrupt
  • Space and momentary quiet
  • Redirect attention and give them space
  • Leash up and leave if necessary.

We’ve talked about strategies to put in place to avoid (as best we can) dog fights at the park.  But as with all things in life, sometimes things don’t always work out the way you plan; you get momentarily distracted and suddenly you hear a dog fight break out.

I won’t get into specifics about how to separate the dogs from one another.  The focus of this post is in dealing with dog fights in general and how to de – escalate the situation.

  1. DON’T PANIC! One sure fire way to add fuel to the fire of a dog fight is to panic and run in shrieking with flailing limbs!  Remain calm.  Walk briskly, purposefully and quietly over and separate them.  Do this quickly – dog fights can draw other dogs over – best to separate the dogs in question before others join in.
  2. Do not scold the dogs or punish them in any way.  Dogs will be dogs and your punishment will not prevent the dog from getting in an argument in the future.  What it will do is add stress and tension to the present situation – a situation that is already stressful and tense.
  3. Give the dogs in question space from one another.  Pick up their leash if they are dragging one or momentarily leash them up and guide them to a quiet spacious area of the park
  4. Take a moment to be with your dog.  Check them for injuries – if none are found talk to them in a gentle, quiet voice and help them calm themselves.  Give them some treats and if you are able ask for a couple of sits and reward them for offering this nice calm behavior (or some other quiet behavior) – giving your dog something else to do that is focused and calm can be very helpful.  The focus is to help your dog feel calmer and less agitated/stressed.
  5. Watch your dog and the dog whom s/he fought with.  Often fights are momentary and once interrupted the dogs move on to other things – often they can even go near each other once again without incident.  However if you notice either dog looking stressed, tense, continuing to give each other hard stares with stiff, tense bodies it may be time just to leash up and leave the park for the day.
  6. Check with the owner of the other dog to make sure things are ok on their end as well.  If injuries have occurred (to either dog) exchange contact information.

We cannot stress enough however, that most dog fight are preventable, so please refer to part one of this post to learn more.

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Dog Fights, Part One: How to Avoid

The following post was written by TDWA member, Rachael Johnston. Rachael is a dog walker, and the manager of operations at Rover Achiever, which serves the Annex, Little Italy and Seaton Village. In addition to years of dog walking experience, Rachael is also an accredited dog trainer.

Contrary to popular belief not all dogs get along.  Just like people dislike the company of certain individuals from time to time so too do our dogs (even ones with a solid social history) sometimes dislike the company of other dogs.

They may not like another dog’s style of play or a rude pushy greeting.  Some dogs are nervous of certain dogs or certain breeds for various reasons or can be agitated by the presence of a dog or a certain breed. Some dogs get upset if a dog tries to steal their toys or treats etc.  And just like people – our dogs sometimes argue with each other.  The difference is that dogs tend to argue by growling, snarling, snapping, wrestling, pinning each other – generally being loud, rough and very unpleasant to one another – most would call these dog arguments a “dog fight”.  However we label them they are unpleasant experiences for all involved – dogs and owners/walkers alike.  The majority of dog fights that occur are ritual aggressive skirmishes – injuries (serious ones) rarely occur.  However even if our dogs have no intention of harming one another –  these aggressive displays cause tension and stress in dog parks and should be avoided whenever possible.

So how does one go about avoiding dog fights in dog parks?  There are a number of points to remember:

  1. Avoid busy parks or stick to a quieter areas.  The more dogs you have crowded together in a small space the likelier you are to see dogs get frustrated/over aroused/ and upset with each other.  Many dog fights can be avoided simply by making sure that your dogs have space around them and are not crowded by many dogs running and playing rough.
  2. Watch for rough players in the park.  Some dogs wrestle hard and run hard.  There is nothing inherently wrong with this if the parties involved are enjoying the interaction – however intense play can more easily spill over into a fight as the dogs are already in a state of high arousal.  If a dog (or multiple dogs) looks like they are playing too roughly find some space away from them or leash up and leave the park if necessary.
  3. Interrupt rough over aroused play.  What if it’s your dogs playing in an over the top manner?  When in doubt interrupt the play and give the dogs a small break or give them another focus. Sometimes just stepping in between rough players and guiding their attention over for a quiet sit while you give them a few treats for a nice calm behaviour can work wonders.  The dogs get a chance to reset and often when they resume playing the play is less intense.
  4. Keep a close eye on the dogs in your group that tend to be the trouble makers.  Get to know their triggers.  For instance if you have a dog that doesn’t like puppies watch for puppies in the park and give your dog space away from those puppies.  Pick up their leash (leaving a leash dragging on your trouble makers makes it easer to quickly catch them and guide them away from trouble) and guide them away if necessary and reward them for coming with you.  Give them an alternate focus away from their trigger (a toy to play with – or an appropriate play mate).  If they are really struggling and slipping into a state of frustration/ agitation / over arousal it may just be best to leash up and leave the park for the day.
  5. Interrupt humping – there is nothing inherently wrong with humping but many dogs do not like to be humped.  Humping can cause tension and arguments among dogs at the park. Interrupt humping and give that dog something else to focus on.
  6. Know the signs.  Dogs don’t go from being happy and playful to suddenly fighting.  Watch for signs that the interaction is souring or is about to sour.

If you see:

  • Dogs giving each other hard direct stares with stiff bodies with high stiff tails.
  • Dogs snarling/bearing their teeth (know your dogs – some dogs growl and bare their teeth in friendly play)
  • Play getting too rough or fast
  • A dog trying to escape (with a tucked tail, ears pulled back/flattened) the attention of another dog who is pursuing him/her, step in, interrupt and give the dogs in question space from one another.

Part Two: Dealing with a fight in progress – Coming Soon!

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What Makes a Good Dog Walker?

The following post was written for us by TDWA member, Cindy Carol, owner of For Dog’s Sake, serving certain neighbourhoods in the west end. Cindy’s an experienced dog walker and trainer, a volunteer and foster home for Australian Shepherd Rescue, and a member of the High Park K9 Committee. She believes in continuing education and is therefore always growing her professional knowledge and skills.

If you are considering hiring a dog walker to care for your beloved pet, or perhaps are contemplating becoming one yourself, it is important to reflect on the essential qualities that make a good dog walker. As dog walkers, we have a job and a responsibility that is complex and demanding, but at the end of the day the essence of our job is simple – to love and care for the dogs, have some fun and good exercise, and to bring them home safe.

This article suggests some of the more intangible qualities that go into making an excellent dog walker, rather than legalistic issues such as permitting and insurance. It may not be possible to screen for all these qualities when you are looking for a new dog walker, but you can get a good sense of the walker when you meet and talk during the initial home visit. For those who are considering becoming professional dog walkers, these points may be useful for self-reflection in determining whether you have the skills and qualities necessary to become a true professional.

Genuine Caring

Caring for your pet does not necessarily mean your dog walker fusses and gushes over your dog every time she sees him (though it may!) It does mean that your walker cares about you and your pet wholeheartedly and wants the best for both of you. This means he or she will go the extra mile to do what is needed to keep your pet healthy, happy and safe. To quote the former poet laureate of Toronto, Pier Giorgio Di Cicco – “Those who are not in love are irresponsible.” Conversely, those who are in love and love what they do have a sense of responsibility – and can make great dog walkers! Caring alone is not enough, however, and needs to be accompanied by many other qualities and skills.

Detail Oriented

Dog walking is in the details. From keeping track of the schedule, to knowing which dogs have food allergies or are afraid of thunder, safety protocol around opening doors, maintaining a pet-safe temperature in the vehicle, secure handling of keys and contact information, and managing group and park dynamics, skilled dog walkers are good multi-taskers, and are able to keep track of many dogs (and things) happening all at once. A simple dropped or inappropriately hooked leash, or the unsafe opening of a vehicle door, can mean the difference between a pleasant walk and an accident.

Good Observation Skills

The better your dog walker knows your dog the safer and more enjoyable the walk will be. Through careful observation and daily interaction, your walker will learn what your dog likes and dislikes, his or her habits and tendencies, and notice any physical or behaviour changes which may be early indicators of discomfort or illness.

Knowledgeable of Dog Behaviour

This may sound obvious, but a good dog walker has a working understanding of dog behaviour, canine body language and dog-dog and dog-human interactions. This understanding is gained through observation, education and experience with many different dogs of varying ages, breeds and temperaments. Some people make the mistake of assuming all dogs will behave the same as their own dog does, and this is simply not the case. There are as many variations of dog behaviours as there are variations of human behaviours, and it takes time to develop an understanding and instinct for what is safe, and what presents as a warning sign.

Aware and Attentive

A good dog walker is always focused on the dogs in his or her care, constantly alert to body language and canine dynamics, looking ahead for potential trouble, and aware of surrounding and incoming people, dogs and the environment. Potentially harmful items on the ground, an aggressive dog approaching, or a play interaction that is becoming a bit tense, these are the kinds of situations a walker is on the alert for, ready to adjust, change directions, or move away as needed.

Gentle, yet Clear and Consistent

Managing a group of dogs requires establishing clear guidelines and expectations for behaviour,     and implementing them consistently. It does not require force, but rather a gentle and compassionate approach, combined with a communication tool, such as positive reinforcement training, to effectively implement the desired behaviours and structure.

Patient, with a Sense of Humour

Dog walking is not always just an easy walk in the park! Weather and traffic conditions can be difficult, and managing a group of six independently minded animals that don’t speak a human language can also present challenges. Occasionally, a dog may accidentally do their business in the vehicle, requiring some unpleasant clean-up. All of these situations demand a certain resilience and sense of humour!

Energetic and Fun

Need we say more?

Good Judgement and Problem Solving Skills

This is a rather intangible quality, but when hiring a walker, this may be one of the most important attributes to look for. Can this person observe a situation, assess any areas of potential difficulty, and make appropriate decisions to avoid any problems? Does this person have what might be called “a good head” on his or her shoulders?

Able to Think and Act Appropriately in an Emergency

Thankfully, emergencies don’t happen often, but if one does occur it is important that your dog walker is able to think and act in an effective manner. This is a skill that can be learned and improved upon through education such as pet first-aid training, and through foresight and planning about what to do in the unlikely event that an accident or emergency present itself.

Has Integrity and the Ability To Communicate Openly

Much of the work we do as dog walkers is unseen. We enter our clients houses when they are away at work, and take their dogs for walks when they are not around. A dog walker must have a high level of integrity, delivering the services safely and as agreed upon, communicating any changes in schedule, a dog’s behaviour, or difficulties encountered along the way. A successful relationship is based on trust, and, in large part, the trust between dog walker and client is based on open and clear communication.

Courteous and Polite in Public

As we care for our clients’ pets, we represent them and are the face of our profession in the public eye. It is important to be able to interact with neighbours, service people and the public in a kind and conscientious manner.

Curious and Interested in Learning

Dog walkers who enjoy what they do are interested in learning new skills, engaging in continuing education opportunities and educating the public about dogs and their profession. It is possible to teach old dogs new tricks, and that includes dog walkers!

Willing and Able to Make Tough Decisions

Occasionally, it happens that we may love a dog we care for, but that dog may just not be suited to the dynamics of our particular group or the park we visit. In these situations, it is important to be able to accurately assess what supports the well-being of the individual dog or group as a whole, and to adjust the situation or even let that client go to another walker if needed. We may also encounter circumstances that may be proving difficult or unmanageable for our clients, and need to recognize what an appropriate solution might be given the presenting circumstances. We may called upon to support our clients in receiving assistance with behaviour modification, re-homing a dog or even euthanasia in the cases of severe illness. This is not the easiest part of our profession, but an important skill to develop if we wish to be of true service to our clients.

Aware of the Flow of Life

Any dog walker who has been around for a while is very aware that life is in a constant state of flux. Our clients move to another city, have babies or lose their jobs. Our beloved dogs get older, and pass away from old age or illness. It is a sad fact, but these animal companions are not with us forever, and we need to recognize that our job is to care for them with all our hearts while they are with us, cherish the moments we have together, and to be able to let them go when it is time.  Easier said than done, but something that we learn to accept gracefully with time, delighting in the dogs in our care, while always holding a place in our hearts for the canine friends no longer with us.

To sum it up

Dog walking can be a fun and rewarding profession, but it requires skillfulness and vigilance to practice well. When looking for a dog walker, we can first make sure all the basics are in place – permits and insurance, training and experience, a positive approach – and then get a sense of who the walker is during the initial meeting. The right walker will be the one we feel comfortable and at ease with, trusted completely with our pet.

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Spring Clean Up at Trinity Bellwoods Parkno

Join us for the 1st Annual Toronto Dog Walkers Association Spring Clean Up in Trinity Bellwoods! Our goal is to make the dog bowl POOP FREE.

Come visit us at the North End of the dog bowl on April 12, 2014 from 11am – 1pm & pick up your bags, treats & raffle ticket for a chance to win a great prize!!

Free Coffee courtesy of The Tampered Press!

Prizes donated by Helmutt’s and Northern Biscuit

Other free stuff courtesy of the TDWA. Any funds raised will donated to T.E.A.M. Dog Rescue so bring spare change if you’ve got it!

tap or click the poster to enlarge

tdwa_clean_up_2014

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Becoming a TDWA Member

This post was written by TDWA founding member, Yvette at Tail Blazers. Tail Blazers serves King & Queen West and Liberty Village.

We get a lot of inquiries from dog walkers asking how they can get listed on the Toronto Dog Walkers Association website.  The thing is, we are not just an online directory of businesses, we are an association, so you don’t simply ‘sign up’ – you become a member of the team.  We’re not just holding the dog walkers in this city to a higher standard, we’re also having regular meetings, planning community events, raising funds for charity, and educating the public on responsible dog ownership and safety.  We brainstorm, plan and execute these things together, and we’re darn proud of how our association is evolving and expanding.

So how do you join our team?

First, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Have I been a dog walker for at least 2 years?
  2. Have I read through the TDWA website, including the Code of Conduct, to ensure that my business practices and ideologies align with those of the TDWA?
  3. Do I use exclusively force-free methods of dog handling?
  4. Am I well educated and experienced in all things Dog?
  5. Am I one of the best dog walkers in Toronto?

If you answered yes to all of those questions, read on!

If you have read through our website (and we know you have, as per Question No. 2!), you are already aware of our mission to maintain a network of like-minded dog walkers who operate under a strict code of conduct and ethics.  We aim to keep the business of professional dog walking as it should be: focused on force-free care and safety, continuing education, and respect for the community.

Membership is free and is extended to you when you are nominated by an existing TDWA member, and subsequently approved by the Board of Directors.

How do you get nominated?

If you know an existing TDWA member, ask them for a nomination to be put forward on your behalf at the next Board of Directors meeting.

If you do not have a contact, you may provide us with your business information (website, Facebook page, Twitter, Yelp listing, Google + page, relevant credentials, letters of recommendation from pet care professionals, etc.) and we will begin researching your business to determine whether or not you qualify. This process may take weeks or even months.  You may be asked to complete a questionnaire assessment and also provide dates on which you may be shadowed and/or interviewed by a member of the Board.  Inquiries should be sent to info@torontodogwalkers.org.

Here is a short list of what we look for in a new member, including employees, if applicable.  Failure to meet any of these requirements may result in the rejection of a new nominee by the Board of Directors.

  • a business history free of any negligence and/or complaints from pet owners, community members, or other pet care professionals
  • demonstration of an interest in ongoing education
  • practice of exclusively force-free dog handling methods
  • professionalism in dealing with clients and the public
  • respect for public spaces and bylaws
  • an excellent reputation within the pet care community
  • professional online presence

In short, you must embody everything that makes a dog walker a true professional, and act as an ambassador for our profession.

Our requirements for membership may seem strict, but this is the only way to maintain an
association that is trustworthy, reputable and credible.

Are you new to the industry and just starting up a dog walking business?  We haven’t forgotten about you!  The TDWA is in the process of developing a Mentorship program to help you to become the best dog walker you can be, and hopefully a future TDWA member!

Thank you for your interest in joining the TDWA, and we hope to see you in the parks!

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Gear up and Go!

This post is written by TDWA member, Lisa, owner of Dog Embarks. Lisa serves the King and Queen West neighbourhoods. 

Everyday essentials for adventures with your dog

In life, it isn’t what you do that is important, but rather how you do it. Just about anyone can care for a dog, but it is the quality of that care that really counts! In order to provide loving, professional and efficient care, it is important to have sound knowledge as well as proper tools, gear, and supplies. Whether you are a loving dog owner, or a professional dog walker, here are some good tips for what to bring along with you while out and about with your furry friends.

Comfortable & Spacious pack: As a dog walker I have gone through many different types of packs in order to nail down which bag works best for me. Every person is different, however it is probably correct to say that we all enjoy a bag that is comfortable, spacious enough to hold our gear, and of good quality (waterproof is a definite bonus too!). Fanny packs are great for a small hike as they allow enough room to store supplies for the day, but keep weight off your shoulders. If you’re likely to spend a greater portion of your day dog walking, a small, supportive backpack or a messenger bag is what you need. These packs help to distribute the weight properly and will allow for healthier posture as you’re walking.

Carabiner: Carabiner, generally used for rock climbing, have become quite the efficient tool for dog walkers and owners alike. I clip two onto the strap of my messenger bag, and then hook the dog’s leashes onto them. This way, the dog’s leashes are securely tied to me and there is no chance of a dropped leash. This can also be helpful for dog owners who like to run or bike with their dog – you can have your hand’s free and peace of mind at the same time. And don’t miss 5 ways a carabiner can save your dog’s life!

Dog bags & holders: As dog owners and professional dog walkers, it is our responsibility to pick up after our dogs. I keep extra dog bags in my pack so that I never find myself in one of those “without a bag” moments. I generally keep 3 rolls, and when I open my last one I make note to place 3 new ones in my bag. Sealed wet naps are great to have in case of an accident while picking up – some of the pros have coined this “poo finger.” I know, so creative.

Extra equipment: It’s a good idea to always keep spare equipment in your bag, just in case something breaks or is lost. In my pack I have a spare leash, spare collar, and a gentle leader. Not only is spare equipment good for an emergency with your dog, it can be a life-saver for another dog. There are many times where I have come across a lost or escaped dog and was able to help retrieve them with my spare leash. I also keep a pen handy. This little tool is so useful in an array of different situations, emergency or not.

Water bottle and portable water bowl: During the summer, or extended hikes, it is absolutely necessary to allow access to water. I carry a small thermos that keeps the water cool. My favourite portable dog bowl is the DEXAS Portable dog bowl. It is light, collapsible, and durable. While walking dogs it can be easy to forget about yourself and your needs – the dogs aren’t the only ones who need water, you do too!

Pet First Aid Pack: Whether you’re a pro, or a dog owner (or both), it is important to have a pet first aid kit with you when you travel with your dog. These kits range from small to large, and can be put together yourself or purchased. A kit should hold the basic essentials such as gauze rolls, bandages, scissors, tweezers, tape roll, latex gloves, hydrogen peroxide, and antibiotic ointment. You can add much more to your pack as you see fit. I also like to have some small Popsicle sticks that can be used as splints, and some bandannas that can be used to make a sling if needed.

Emergency Contacts: It’s crucial to have emergency contact information on hand, even if you are just going out for a quick run with your dog. Keep your veterinarian’s contact information and emergency vet information in your phone, and also on a piece of paper or note pad in your walking bag. This way, if you don’t bring your phone with you, or the battery dies, you will still have the phone numbers on hand. As a professional dog walker, you must keep all of your clients’ contact and emergency information in your phone and in your bag. And extra charger for your phone is ideal to carry also.

Fun stuff: A dog’s life is all about FUN! So, it’s a great idea to keep your outings full of learning and adventure. If you’re working on any new commands, or simply re-enforcing old ones, having treats, kibble, and a clicker/whistle on hand is a good idea. A dog’s learning is never done, and it benefits both you and your dog to keep practicing basic commands, and adding more to your repertoire! The same goes for professional dog walkers. Never leave for work without a stocked treat pouch. The dog will love the extra stimulation from learning something new – and so will their owners!

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