A short piece about dog walking in Newcastle..
My attention was grabbed this week by an article headline in Pet Business World News. It read: “Everybody needs good neighbours!”
The article opens thus:
“Pets strengthen neighbourhood ties according to a new study conducted by the University of Western Australia in collaboration with the UK-based Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, part of Mars Petcare.”
Well to any dedicated dog walker, (and I’ve been professionally dog walking one-on-one for the last 25 years), this hardly counts as breaking news – I thought. When you are walking with a dog it is often much easier to break the ice and open a conversation with someone you meet on the trail than when walking alone. This to me is one of the great plus points to walking dogs for a living.
When two dogs meet, more often than not (once they have figured each other out), they too find companionship on this and all subsequent meetings. Whilst this regularly results in two very muddy animals chasing each other through puddles and over fields, it gives two people an opportunity to discuss their dogs and pass the time of day. A good thing surely?
The Dog Walking Pack
But recently I have come upon increasing numbers of professional pack-walking dog walkers on my regular out-of-the-way routes. This is new. I am used to seeing them in the distance, on the Town Moor or around the country parks and landscaped collieries. But now, on the old tracks and bridleways, I frequently find myself part of a dog traffic jam, having to hold back my own client dog from a maypole of leads and dogs dancing around their professional walker.
The reaction of individual dog owners to this type of encounter is, I observe, much less friendly than it should be between dog walkers. The owner’s main concern is how they are going to negotiate the situation without becoming embroiled in a bark-fest with the pack or getting tangled up in leads. And the experience of the individual dog – facing a pack of six strangers coming the other way, can only be very stressful.
Luckily, with one-on-one walking, I am able to constantly reinforce good walking etiquette and training, in my clients. With regular eye contact and a deep understanding of each other, I rarely (in the case of most of my clients), need to return my dog to the lead – even when faced with an oncoming pack.
Most people I meet are surprised when I tell them that I am walking a client, because I am not their picture of a typical professional dog walker. So, here’s my a plea to pack-walkers: Please keep your business to the many wide open spaces that we are lucky enough to have in and around Newcastle and leave the rest of us to enjoy a sociable, individual dog walking experience on the back roads and bridlepaths, with our dogs, acquaintances, friends and neighbours.
[The PBW News article was based on a study lead by Lisa Wood, School of Population Health, The University of Western Australia. Full details of the study can be found HERE.]