Walkin the Dawg
Dog walkers deliver numerous benefits . . . and come in many ‘flavors’
Let’s admit it – we all lead busy lives. But for all the sacrifices imposed by such busy-ness, for those of us who “must have dog,” we’ll find a way to make it work — for our family and the hound.
One of the complications every pet guardian faces at one time or another is having time to properly care for and meet the pup’s energy requirements. When life changes — and it does — Fido or Fifi can pay the price: getting insufficient exercise, being stuck at home for long periods, etc. This scenario often leads from bad to worse: destructive behavior that can turn a household upside-down. Potty issues or inappropriate chewing may not seem major in theory, but in real life? Yeah, usually major. The good news is, much acting out is simply due to lack of stimulation and an overabundance of energy. How is that good news? It’s fixable!
That’s thanks to these days of busy lives also being times of abundant choices for dog walkers. Even better, they come in all styles — rugged, sporty, easy strollin’, city, country — and it’s a good bet any one you might choose will possesses a great love and reverence for the canine spirit.
Following is a look at just how truly important regular exercise is for dogs, and the professionals making it easy for busy families to keep their pets moving, healthy and happy . . . and not turning into the household “problem.”
Recent studies list benefits of utilizing dog walkers such as reduced stress, cholesterol and blood pressure levels, increased energy, and improvements in chronic health conditions. Of course a trimmer waistline for two- and four-leggers is great, too. WebMD references a recent study comparing those who have and walk their dogs to those who don’t have dogs or don’t walk them regularly. Non-walkers were nearly SIXTY PERCENT “more likely to be overweight,” in addition to being “more than twice as likely to have high blood pressure.” The study goes on to discuss positive characteristics of those who walk or utilize dog walkers, such as being less likely to use tobacco or experience depression.
For pets, energy burned while walking is energy not spent on the destructive behaviors that often signal boredom. It’s an oft-repeated truth: a tired dog (the right kind of tired) makes for a happy home, aka “A tired dog is a good dog.”
The Northwest is known for its haute dog scene and general pet friendliness, so finding a dog walker, whether to fill in as a pinch-walker from time to time or to keep the pup on a regular routine, is easy. In fact, thanks to the variety of styles, it can even be fun. Once you discover that Rover can go to doggie camp, be part of a scout troop, or even hit mountainous acreage off leash, you might even want to provide that pup with the ultimate . . . a little bit of everything!
Following are a few Portland-area dog walkers who illustrate the latest offerings.
Portland Mutt Strut, LLC
Patricia McKinney followed her passion for animals in January 2009 by launching Portland Mutt Strut, a unique dog-walking venture. She and her animal-loving cohorts volunteer at Oregon Humane Society to ensure shelter dogs enjoy the benefits of going for walks, while maintaining daily walks with her client dogs. McKinney says the best thing about her job is “being in the presence of animals,” which she describes as angels on earth. “They are full of energy and enthusiasm, and they make me think I am the best thing in the world,” she says.
Armed with extensive experience and great passion, McKinney says she understands animals in a way that helps her help the pets she works with. Dogs and families experiencing problem behaviors may benefit from her experience. Sometimes just engaging regularly with a caring someone outside the family — not a “pack member” — makes a difference. Social exposure is a building block in growing a confident, well-behaved dog. In addition to dog walking, Portland Mutt Strut provides a host of pet services. Learn more at portlandmuttstrut.com
Dog Scout Troop 192
Alison’s Dog Training and Dog Scouts of America Troop 192 offer dog walking and training services in and around SW Washington. Alison Eberhard can be found in various facilities from Battle Ground to Gresham, OR, and from Camas WA to Portland OR. She trained her first dog at age seven, which she says hooked her for a life living for dogs. Eberhard and her husband opened their first pet care business in 2000 while living in New Jersey. While her primary focus is training, dog walking is integral. She says, “The best thing about being a dog walker is having a relationship with so many dogs.” Eberhard even goes so far as to equate dog walkers to surrogate parents.
While the weather can be a burden from time to time, dogs need exercise rains or shine. About showing up whatever the weather, Eberhard says, “Having a sense of humor really helps.” She loves being able to work outdoors, getting as much exercise as she herself can handle, and the flexibility to work her own hours. She says that of course hanging out with unconditionally loving animals who always have a smile for her doesn’t hurt. Learn more at alisonsdogtraining.com.
Doesn’t their name just sound like fun? Dependable. Personable. Friendly. Oh, and guaranteed availability for established clientele. What more could you ask for? Hot Diggity is out and about walking and caring for clients in Portland, Lake Oswego, Clackamas, West Linn, Tigard, Tualatin, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Vancouver, and beyond (waay beyond: they’ve got clients in Austin, TX!).
The menu lists many services, including, to name just a few: dog walking, running, pet sitting (drop-in care up to four times per day), house-sitting, family-style pet boarding, pet taxi, and even housekeeping. Ten years and counting in business, Hot Diggity is licensed, bonded, insured, is experienced in pet first aid, and is a Portland Metro pet community staple. Learn more at hotdiggitypetsitting.com
Recess in the Pearl
LeRae Hunt, of Recess in the Pearl, is no stranger to hardcore dog walking. She spent two years in New York City learning from Beth, a pro at Recess in NYC. When it was time to return home to the Northwest, it was natural to take business with her. Recess in the Pearl was born last September and Hunt says it has been a joy for her and her charges.
“The thing I love most about my job is the pups,” says Hunt. “I love them with all my heart.” Between walking dogs along favorite routes on the waterfront and around Riverplace Marina, Hunt chairs the Friends of the Fields Dog Run Organization, formed in hopes of gaining a larger off-leash area for dogs in the upcoming Fields Park in Portland’s Pearl District. Hunt’s charitable heart for rescue dogs is apparent: fifty cents from every walk is donated to rescue organizations. Learn more at recessinthepearl.com.
Reigning Pets NW
Offering dog walking, pet sitting and other pet services in the Portland Metro area, Amy Frankwick, owner of Reigning Pets NW, is proud that all of her employees are accredited by Pet Sitters International, a certification she says is held nationally by just 1% of pet professionals. Frankwick says one of the services her clients like best is receiving emails following each visit or walk, letting them know how their babies are doing. “They don’t have to wait to read a handwritten note after work,” she says. Since two of three Reigning Pets staff are trainers, they’re pleased to offer basic manners training “included with the price of a walk.” To learn more, including which zip codes Reigning Pets serves, visit www.ReigningPetsNW.com.
When You’re Walkin’ the Dawg
Be a good steward in the community. Use a leash and make sure your dog has ID on his or her collar. Pick up the poop! Make sure both of you stay hydrated always, whatever the weather. Take breaks when necessary.
Whether you find a well-tread path you love or venture off to new places, take pleasure in the time you spend together. This time allows you to bond with your pet while providing many physical, emotional and even social benefits to you both. Just trust that Fido and Fifi are thankful even though they can’t express it to you. Their longevity, their smiles, and their health are reason enough to lace up again and again and walk the dawg!
Kennedy Morgan is a Portland-area dog mom, customer service manager for a small software company, and now freelance writer. Kennedy, her Dane, Vegas, and new addition, a Pomeranian, Leo, can be found playing with their many Dane friends (and their people) at weekly Portland Great Dane Community meetups. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Photo is Vegas (Apache Vegas Rose)