As a professional dog walker, you may find yourself dealing with canines who have specific requirements.
This can mean many different things. And, let's be honest, to a degree, all dogs have their individual needs, whether it's because of their breed or their history.
For instance, an example might be short-snouted dogs such as boxers. These canines are more susceptible to heat and need easy access to a temperature-controlled environment and proximity water.
Some dogs may need regular treatments or therapies. Or even have a specific dietary regimen that needs to be followed. While others may have complex behavioural issues, which is common in rescue pups.
Other needs may include:
- Reactive or aggressive behaviours
- High energy needs
- Physical disability
In some cases, this means it won't be a simple walking gig, and you'll need to be extra committed to both owner and puppy.
So it’s essential to be prepared, flexible, dedicated and trustworthy if you're going to be the perfect match in these unique situations.
Here we've put together a list of things you may need to think about when dealing with these special pups.
Walks with visually impaired pooches should be in familiar areas; avoiding any uneven trails and rough terrain.
A blind dog shouldn't get too far ahead of you either and preferably be on a long, loose leash by your side at all times.
In unfamiliar territory, take it slow and be especially careful stepping up or down, avoiding staircases altogether wherever possible. Verbal cues such as wait, step up, step down and stop are really important.
Even with a visual impairment, it's important to socialise and expose a pooch to different environments, people, and other animals. This gives a blind dog confidence and makes them less anxious.
Deaf dogs need a sense of security, whether in their home or out on a walk. And they put a lot of trust in their carers to not take them outside of their comfort zone.
It's crucial not to startle dogs with a hearing impairment. So while you may come up behind other dogs and greet them with a pat. It's best to approach deaf dogs from the front, so they can see you before they feel your touch.
Deaf dogs are adept at reading body language, so talking to them like any other dog is okay. Just make sure they can see you.
When walking an unhearing dog, never let them off-leash. Not even in an off-leash area. It's best instead to use loose-lead walking, so you can signal the pup with the lead when necessary.
High energy dogs need to burn off a lot of physical & mental energy; otherwise, they become destructive chewers.
These pups will likely want both morning and afternoon exercise. They also need a vast off-leash area where they can run. It pays to know the closest and best open spaces for canines in this case, so they don't have to spend too much time in the car.
At some point, you may find yourself walking a dog that's reactive to people or other pooches. This can be common in rescue dogs with past trauma.
Dogs with the potential to be aggressive present real problems to both people and other animals around them. Talk to the client about seeing a dog trainer or behaviourist if they haven't already.
If the client is working with someone, make sure you stay informed about any progress or setbacks. And try to be consistent with ongoing training.
Daily medication for things such as epilepsy, anxiety and skin problems should be discussed with everyone involved in the care of a dog.
This means that as the walker, you'll need all the veterinarian's contact details plus the ability to transport the pup when necessary.
Some pooches may have health issues that require more veterinary care than others. And this can also mean that a pooch may require more individual care such as being exercised alone; usually in a quiet stress-free environment.
Pooches with specific needs, whatever they may be, still need physical and mental stimulation. Often they’ll require a distinct approach to their exercise as well as needing a mindful walker. Every dog is different, so you’ll really must commit to getting to know them well.
We think that all pups have unique quirks and sensitivities that their carers should be attuned to. It may be as simple as an allergy to certain foods that you need to be aware of. Or it may be a challenging temperament requiring a behaviour management plan which needs to be followed by everyone involved in the pooches growth.