Pet Sitting is not for sissies

Some names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Pet Sitting is not for sissies – I saw this comment and thought how true it was, Dog Walking and Pet Sitting is also not for clean freaks, the squeamish or people of a nervous disposition!

Only this morning I was walking a dog who did his business and then did that thing where they scrape their feet backwards as if to spread their scent. I bent down to pick it up but no, he hadn’t finished ‘spreading his scent’ and I got a face full of grass and mud and I dread to think what else! People wonder why I carry a back pack when I’m walking dogs… it’s full of wet wipes and tissues to wipe the mud and crap off my face!

One of the things I’ve learned is the need to have a spare pair of shoes and socks in my car. Not only for the changeable and untrustworthy weather here in the UK but also foIMG_8307r those instances where a dog decides to use your leg as a tree… the problem is if they decide to do this half way round your walk you still have to walk for half an hour back to the house with soggy feet. Again those wet wipes are needed! I’m sure they don’t do it on purpose but there was the time Prince the Frenchie walked round the other side of a fence and decided to aim through the gap and onto my leg! I had to admire the accuracy of his aiming skills though.

 

I once looked after a cat whose owner informed me (after they had left for their holiday) that the cat was on antibiotics and needed to be given his medicine by squirting it into his mouth. This immediately filled me with dread knowing what this cat was like…he was not going to take this willingly. I googled the easiest methods which involved oven gloves, a large towel and eye shields, this did not help settle my nerves. So I ended up asking the owners how they give it to him. They suggested holding him by the scruff of the neck, prizing his mouth open, and quickly placing the syringe in his mouth and squirting the medicine in. Again this did not sound like it was going to go to plan. Can you imagine an angry cat that doesn’t like being held, having his jaw held open by a stranger and liquid squirting in, nope, it wasn’t going to happen. Needless to say after many attempts I mixed it into his food instead….

One of the things I do before meeting a new customer and their pet for the first time is ask their name and their breed. I don’t discriminate against or turn down any dog breed but just ask purely out of interest and future reference. There was one occasion where I was arranging to meet a new customer and her dog whose name was something very pretty and girly (we’ll go with Poppy) and I later realised I hadn’t asked what kind of dog it was. Oh well I’ll find out when I get there I thought, imagining a spaniel or something like that. I arrive and follow the lady into the kitchen to discover ‘Poppy’ is the biggest Doberman I have ever seen, who was the other side of a stair gate standing on two feet and was the same size as me! The lady then informed me Poppy doesn’t know any commands in English as they speak Polish and that they will be getting a new extendable lead as Poppy had snapped the last one again! I have to say I was a little anxious about this but to be fair she was a lovely dog…and I learnt some Polish.

 

What’s your real job??

You’re a dog walker? Oh ok…but what’s your real job though? Is a question I have been asked many times. Or something similar like ‘oh so this is your ONLY job?’ followed by a shocked expression when I say yes.

It’s usually old ladies who I get talking to whilst I’m out walking dogs that will say ‘aww well at least it gives you something to do’ as if I’m on school holidays or can’t get a ‘proper’ job. I just smile usually but very tempted to say thanks for the compliment but I’m 32!

Oh and how could I forget the time someone misheard me and thought I’d said I was a duck walker haha! I did wonder why she looked so surprised, but she just politely said ‘oh I see’, later realising I had said dog not duck.

Dog walking and pet sitting businesses seem to be booming at the moment but only a few years ago when I first started it was something that not many people had heard of as an actual career option or even knew it existed at all! (I must be making it look too easy).

I think a lot of people can’t believe that you can actually make decent money from it, or enough to live on anyway. I always say to people just think how many pets there are in the area I cover alone, how many people are out at work all day every day. That’s a lot of pets needing walks and feeding! I don’t want to give away how much I earn exactly but let’s just say I am earning more than I did when I was working for the City Council, whether that says I’m doing well or that The Council don’t pay very well is debateable….

If you’re willing to work early mornings, late nights, weekends, bank holidays, and everything in between then you can make a very decent living from dog walking and pet sitting. For example, most people charge around £10 for an hours walk, and say you walk on average 5 dogs a day Monday to Friday, add on visits to cats and other pets, any weekend jobs… you do the maths.

I would say it’s not really a part time job, you need to be available at the last minute sometimes, early mornings, late nights and obviously lunch times are very popular.

I think it is beginning to be seen as a ‘real’ job and certainly a worthwhile one. On days where I think I’m not really doing anything spectacular I remind myself that the owners of the pets I see can go to work with peace of mind, safe in the knowledge that their pet is not home alone all day, that even my half an hour or hour visit is giving them exercise both physically and mentally. That their cats are not shut in a cage in an unfamiliar environment for 2 weeks or that elderly or less able customers can keep their pet at home with them even if they aren’t physically able to walk them themselves.

To me it certainly counts as a REAL job.

8 Misconceptions about being a Dog Walker and Pet Sitter

Before I start I just want to make it clear I’m not moaning about what I do, I absolutely love it despite the ‘down sides’. I feel at the moment there are a lot of people starting up pet sitting and dog walking businesses not realising what it really entails and soon give up once they find out. Maybe this post will help those in 2 minds about it.

1. You are your own boss you can work whatever hours you like and take as much holiday as you want right?!

 

Wrong! Well technically correct but anyone who wants to be a successful dog walker needs to be flexible and above all reliable. Who is going to pay someone to walk their dogs while they’re at work every day if you are constantly taking days off? Your customers can’t always get home from work at short notice and they will need to find another dog walker to cover your days off. Obviously you have a right to time off and actually in my first year my customers were TELLING me to go on holiday ha ha but I don’t like to take days off if I can help it. I do now try to work a 6 day week rather than a 7 day week.

2. The owners are more trouble than the pets

 

Maybe I’ve just been lucky but all of my customers are as lovely as their pets! I’d even say some are now friends. That’s not to say I haven’t had some strange requests, I draw the line at bringing in washing and folding it away neatly, I am not a house keeper….

3. Picking up dog poo on a walk is the worst part of the job

 

I’m afraid it’s not! If you are squeamish this is not the career choice for you. You’re now asking yourself what could possibly be worse?! Believe me walking in to a house greeted by a suspicious smell to find a dog or cat has had diarrhoea and/or puked everywhere (usually on carpet) is far worse. People say to me ‘yeah but you’re not a cleaner’. But I am there to look after the wellbeing of the pet and I wouldn’t want them to be getting it all over them and treading it round the house so I do clean up as best as I can. To be fair this doesn’t happen very often.

4. Surely it’s just a lunch time job

 

While 11am-2pm is a very popular and busy time for a dog walker, not everyone works 9-5. Many of my customers work different shifts which can mean the middle of the day for them is anything from 3pm to 8pm. Some of my customers are elderly so can’t walk their dogs very far, so don’t necessarily need the dog walked at a specific time. Then there’s my feline friends, usually when their owners are on holiday I feed and let them in and out mornings and evenings so I can sometimes leave my house at 7am and get back late evening, it’s so varied every day. I’ve even done jobs at 10pm at night.

5. It must be lovely in the summer

 

It’s certainly nice to be outside rather than in an office when the suns out but walking in the sun and heat for hours usually ends in me being a sweaty mess, make up dripping down my face, sunburnt and dying of thirst (drinking lots of water is an issue when you’re doing hour long walks back to back!) Plus if it’s very hot it’s not always safe to walk the dogs for too long so you end up playing with them inside instead. Which leads me onto….

6. Winter must be the worst

 

I actually prefer the winter just because it’s easier to keep warm when power walking, wrapped up in a scarf, gloves and hat. I suppose the only downside is the mud and dirt so my car is constantly covered in muddy shoe prints. I do have fun trying to wipe muddy doggy feet though, who would have thought so many dogs don’t like being towel dried!? It usually ends in Dog 1 Towel 0.

7. It’s just walking what’s so difficult about that?

 

I think some people do have an image in their mind of you having lovely leisurely walks in the sunshine, birds tweeting, butterflies and waggy tails. The reality is I can have lovely walks like this, and then I go to my next job and get head butted by a Staffy….. I have to say some of my dogs are a dream to walk, they walk at a good speed, have a quick sniff, don’t pull on the lead, not bothered by food laying around and get on with other dogs. But many dogs can be challenging, nervous or aggressive towards other dogs. Some will pull like crazy, lunge towards other dogs, or you may have to avoid other dogs altogether. Some will suddenly take off like Mo Farrah when they see a squirrel, cat or just something they like the look of. This doesn’t always mean an unpleasant walk but does mean you have to be on full alert at all times, plus sore arms, back and shoulders are a daily struggle.

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8. You must have loads of pets at home

 

Truth is I would if I could but I actually don’t have any. People are surprised by this but with my partner out at work all day and me being out at all hours, possibly from 7am until late evening, it wouldn’t be fair to have pets at home while I’m out looking after other peoples buddies. I would have to hire another pet sitter and dog walker for my own pets!

Don’t let this put you off if you love the idea of being a dog walker and pet sitter, there are lots and lots of pros, lovely and funny times and you’ll get really attached to all your buddies 🙂

The day I was mistaken for a blind person…

Today started with an early visit to some of my feline friends so I was up at 7.30am getting ready for my first job. No Saturday morning lay in for me! After the 30 minute visit I made my way to a village on the outskirts of Peterborough to meet some new customers and their 3 dogs. They’re going on holiday soon and so the dogs are being looked after by a relative who isn’t able to walk them during the day. This seems to be a popular option for dog owners these days rather than kennels, nice for the dogs to be in their own home. The dogs seemed to approve of me and we arranged to have a walk together nearer the time so that they are used to me before their owners go on holiday.

Next stop was a 1 hour walk with Obi the Doberman Cross. She was sporting her new harness which has a thick black strap with the words ‘Sports Dog’ on the side. It was a sunny day so had my sunglasses on. We passed a lady sitting on a wall who started to say something to me, looked at me, looked at Obi and then said “Oh I’m so sorry she’s working.” I walked a few more steps thinking ‘did she just… urr…what did she say??’ Yes I actually just got mistaken for a blind person and Obi actually just got mistaken for my guide dog…. Little did this lady know that Obi would make the world’s worst guide dog and would happily drag me in front of a moving car just for a dropped crumb or chip! Could not stop chuckling to myself all the way back to Obi’s house.

I had some lunch and at 12.30 I went out again to do a 1 hour walk with 2 dogs who I see every now and again when their owner is out for the day or unable to get home from work. It’s always comical walking 2 dogs at the same time on lead, you usually end up with the leads wrapped around your legs as if they’re trying to take you down. Luckily today was a nice day as leads wrapped round you, wind and rain, hair in your face and trying to pick up dog poo is like an ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here’ challenge!

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A 15 minute drive to my next customer, another 1 hour dog walk. I see this lovely girl, a Greyhound Cross, occasionally when her owners are out for the day at the weekend although this time was because her human had a broken ankle and so was unable to walk her. She was eager to go for a walk and have a sniff around.

Then back home again after stopping off to get petrol and dropping off a door key to a customer whose cats I had been feeding and its 3.30pm, legs are aching after 3 hours of walking!

Back out the house again at 5.45 to do an hour’s dog walk in the most beautiful little village. One thing that’s been great about becoming a dog walker is discovering hidden gems that I may never have come across. This village is one of them, it even has its own red telephone box which has been turned into a book swap! So cute.

After an hour of power walking I settled my buddy in, fed her and checked on the horses that live in the field next door and it was time for my last visit to 2 dogs who needed feeding and lots of cuddles. They are such little characters and HAVE to be fussed at the same time or they get jealous so luckily I have 2 hands! I stayed a little bit longer than the 30 minutes as they are just too cute and kept giving me ‘the eyes’.

Finally got home at 8.30pm and made dinner. Up again early tomorrow!