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Interview with Janet Finlay of Your End of the Lead [contest]

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This is Janet! I’d go for a walk with her.

So, the other day I told you guys that Your End of the Lead is now being offered as an on-demand online class and that I’ve partnered up with the creator Janet Finlay, to offer you a great deal on the class through April 30th, 2014.

You can read all about that here, if you missed it.

I had some questions about the class and I figured you’d want to know the answers too, so I put together this interview with Janet for all y’all.

Wait a sec! Before you start reading, there’s a contest too. You can win a free spot in the class! Details are at the end of the interview.  But check out the Q+A first (you might learn something):

 

 

Jessica: You’re a certified dog trainer, but Your End of the Lead isn’t a training course. Why did you choose to focus on addressing the human end of the leash?

 

Janet: In my work as a trainer, I was regularly meeting people who were stressed out by their dog’s behaviour. They could no longer even enjoy going for a walk with their dog and often things were also difficult at home so they had no break from it. Even the most committed owners, who were working really hard to help their dogs, were telling me they felt guilty because of what their dog couldn’t do and many felt that it was their fault. And of course well-meaning people – even trainers – often reinforce that feeling by saying things like “he’d be better if you could just relax…”  – but of course you can’t just “switch off” all that stress. So it becomes a vicious circle that leaves people feeling useless and isolated.

While there is a lot of help out there for how to train your dog, I couldn’t find much specifically helping people with this problem. As a qualified coach for people, I know that reframing the way we think about a problem can fundamentally change how we respond to it. And as a TTouch practitioner, I have a whole toolbox of techniques for reducing tension and stress. So I put together a face-to-face “Your End of the Lead” workshop, which was very popular – and later this online course.

 

 

J: The new version of the course is “on demand.” Can you describe what that means and how that’s different than the full support version?

 

Janet: I’ve run Your End of the Lead Online twice now as a fixed session course, where all the students start at the same time and work through the lessons at the same time, as if they were in a class. This works really well but limits numbers and isn’t very flexible. Each time I have run it I have had people ask if it was it possible to do the course at a different time or to fit their particular schedule – and up to now this hasn’t been possible – partly because I feel strongly that online courses are next to useless if they just provide content without any support structures to help students actually complete the course. But I’ve now come up with a support package that will allow people to choose to do the course when they want but without being left to do it alone.

So with the On Demand version you get the whole course immediately and you can follow it at your own pace and in your own time. You’ll get prompts by email reminding about the course, there’s a Q&A page, and I’m running monthly webinars to answer questions live. And as a bonus I am also including 6 months’ membership of my private online community, so that people can discuss what they are doing on the course with other students, past and current. And I’m there daily too. So I am confident that the On Demand package has the flexibility people wanted, but without losing the support that is so important.

 

J: You’re a TTouch practitioner. Can you tell us a bit about TTouch and why it’s included in YEL?

 

Janet: TTouch is a very respectful and gentle training approach that recognizes the connection between physical state, emotional state, and behaviour. It uses a combination of observation, light body work, body wraps and leading exercises to increase an animal’s awareness of themselves, to reduce physical tension and to shift them out of habitual responses. It is well known as a way of calming dogs (and people – it works on any animal that has a nervous system), but it can also help change behaviour by improving the animal’s physical and emotional balance.

It’s included in Your End of the Lead because it offers a really valuable set of tools for owners of reactive dogs. It can really help with stress reduction for both dogs and people – it can reduce the overall level of stress, as well as providing tools to help owners calm themselves and their dogs before, during and after challenging incidents. It is also a great foundation for other forms of training as it reduces physical tension, pain and postural imbalance, all of which can make behavioural issues worse. And the leading and handling techniques we use in TTouch really enable people to keep a loose lead and avoid introducing the tension in the lead that can often trigger reactive behaviour.

 

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Photo credit: David J Laporte on Flickr – CC-BY 2.0 license

 

J: What does it mean for a dog to be out of balance in their body – particularly for dogs that are fearful or aggressive? How does TTouch help?

 

Janet: A dog may be out of physical balance in many ways. They may have tightness in the muscles, which limits free movement and results in stiff posture. They may be weighted unevenly, so they are putting more stress on one or more limbs. They may have poor awareness of some parts of their body, so they may appear uncoordinated. They may have tension in the body that makes them uncomfortable about being handled or touched in that area. They may be out of balance for lots of reasons – such as old injuries, their physical conformation or life experiences – or we can inadvertently throw them out of balance by the way we lead them (pulling into a collar for instance or holding their head up and back).

These physical issues affect how a dog feels and how they behave. For example, if a dog is tight in the neck and head, so that their posture is stiff and their head carriage inflexible, they can be reactive when approached and their posture is also more challenging for other dogs. If we can reduce that tension then we not only make them more comfortable and less defensive, but we also change their posture to make them less threatening to other dogs. Fearful dogs often have tension in the hindquarters and tail – again we can release that tension and enable more relaxed posture.

TTouch helps because it gives us a set of tools to work on these physical and postural issues and ways of leading and handling dogs to encourage them to stay in balance.

 

J: I love the sections of the class that cover human psychology – from why people invade our dog’s space to how our own thinking can get in the way of positive changes.

One lesson covers the power of language and labels. With DINOS, I’ve tried to give people a more neutral or positive label for their dogs, but as you say in one of the YEL lessons, all labels (positive and negative) can affect our behavior and thinking about our dogs. I agree! Can you share a little more about that idea?

 

Janet: When we label our dogs it can make it more difficult for us to see them clearly. We tend to interpret their behaviour according to our labels. So if we call our dog “stubborn”, for instance, and they stop in a particular situation, we are likely to think it is because they are being stubborn and so may miss the fact that they are actually frightened.

The same happens with positive labels. How many people tell us their dogs are “friendly” when in that moment they are being rude and inappropriate? Positive labels can also be deceptive.

So I would rather ditch labels altogether and focus on learning to be more observant of actual behaviour. That way we don’t fall into a fixed mindset about our dogs. We can see them as they are in any given moment and can more easily notice when they change.  And we can respond to how they are actually behaving rather than to what it is we think they are.

 

J: If there’s one thing you want DINOS families to know about the YEL class, what would it be?

 

Janet: Just one thing?

That it is possible to enjoy being out and about with your dog – even if he or she can be reactive.

The secret to being able to relax is to know you are able to manage any situation you find yourself in calmly and confidently. This is what Your End of the Lead aims to do for you. It will complement whatever training you are doing  to work with your dog, by making you a more aware, calmer and more effective handler, enabling you and your dog to really make progress.

 

Thank you Janet! 

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Want to sign up for Janet’s class?

You can register for Your End of the Lead using the DINOS affiliate link. Through April 30th, the class is only $99! That’s a savings of 40% off the normal price of $165.

There’s more – you’ll also score a free 6 month membership to Janet’s ACE Owner’s Club which offers a ton of extra support, monthly training challenges, and a community forum. All for $99

Update May 1st: The “early bird” special is now over, but you can still register to take Your End of the Lead anytime! For $165 you’ll get all 15 lessons, monthly webinars, and 6 months FREE access to the ACE Owners Club. A great deal!

And here’s the CONTEST!   

The contest has ended – thanks to everyone who entered. Congratulations to Val Appiani and her dog Lilly – they won the free YEL class!

Leave me a comment answering the question below and one lucky person will be chosen to win registration to Your End of the Lead for free! And, because so many of you have registered already, we want to open it up to you too. If you’ve already paid for the class and you win the contest, Janet will refund your $99 so you can take the class for free.  So everyone gets to play. Neat, right?

Leave a comment between now and Wednesday, April 23rd at Midnight EST. One comment will be chosen at random and the winner will be announced here and on the DINOS Facebook page on Thursday, April 24th.  Please make sure your comment or gravatar includes your email contact info, so we can notify you directly as well!

Tell us your answer in the comments for your shot at the prize:

If your dog won a gold medal, what talent or skill would it be for?

 

(My dog Birdie would win a gold medal for staging an effective  nonviolent  pool resistance movement or maybe couch cushion management. Boogie would win for completing a successful Wubba water extraction mission.)

 

 

 

Your End Of The Lead Class: A Very Special Offer for DINOS!

Put down your kale chips. Remove your cat from your keyboard. I’ve got some news:

Your End of the Lead is being offered, for the first time ever, as an on-demand online class. And to celebrate, I’ve partnered up with the founder, Janet Finlay, to offer you some really sweet deals.

This unique online course will change how you think about yourself and your reactive dog. 

 

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First things first.

What is Your End of the Lead?

This is not a training class. Your End of the Lead was designed to complement the training you’ve done or are already doing with your dog. Created and taught by professional dog trainer, coach, and Tellington Touch practitioner Janet Finlay of Canine Confidence in Wales, this is for YOU. The lessons are there to help you become a more aware, calmer, confident, and effective handler.

I’m really excited to share this class with you guys.

 

For a long time, I’ve wanted to offer Team DINOS (that’s you!) something more than what’s on my website and social media, like: an online forum, classes, support groups, a junior prom, and at least one national holiday.

But I know my limitations. I’ve never felt comfortable creating and offering those particular kind of resources. Still, I knew there was a gap and I really wanted to fill it because many of you need more support. I wanted so badly to offer it to you!

So imagine how stinking happy I was when Janet started offering her online class Your End of the Lead last year and I began hearing from her students that they loved it. Janet let me audit the course a few months ago and in all 15 lessons, you could hear me shouting at my computer “Amen!!” and “I meant to write about that for DINOS!” and “Oohh, that’s a great idea!”

I immediately started putting some of her suggestions to use, particularly her calming practices. And not just when I’m dog walking. It’s good stuff for all the time.

 

your end of the lead

This looks nothing like me and my dogs, but HIGH FIVE y’all!

 

Your End of the Lead covers, in depth, a lot of what I just touch on over at DINOS, along with other stuff we never really get into – thanks to Janet’s TTouch and dog training expertise. So if you find DINOS helpful, I think you’ll really dig YEL.

YEL covers everything from understanding your dog’s triggers and thresholds to dealing with other dog owners out in public to learning TTouch wraps and breathing exercises to help you relax. Each lesson is overflowing with information, thought provoking prompts, and exercises for you to try.

Janet is really talented. She put all of this together in such a professional, yet compassionate way.

That’s why I’m promoting the class as an affiliate partner. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to all of you, so I don’t take promotions or sharing other people’s work lightly. I hope you know how much I want things to be better for you and your dogs. I think this class can help many of you.

If you’re stressed out by your dog’s reactive behavior, this course is designed for you.

 

Ready to sign up right now? Don’t let me stop you! Hop on over to the DINOS affiliate page to learn more about the class and register now.

 

Living with a reactive or fearful dog can be really hard and isolating. Maybe you’ve gone to dog training classes already, but found there really isn’t anything out there that directly supports you. Now there is! Your End of the Lead is really special in that it addresses your needs. And you can take the class on your schedule, at home, no matter where you live.

 

Using techniques from Tellington TTouch, coaching, and positive-based dog training techniques the class will:

Increase your awareness of yourself and your dog

Teach you how to be calm under pressure

Show you how to handle your dog with kindness and confidence

Not sure if you should take the class? Go on over to this page and watch Janet’s special video just for Team DINOS to hear more from her about why this class rocks and how the lessons are formatted.  You can also access a free sample lesson on TTouch.

Who is this class for?

This class is for you if any of the following apply:

You live with a dog that is reactive, fearful, anxious, or aggressive.

You want to learn relaxation techniques that you can apply to yourself and/or your dogs.

You’re interested in learning and incorporating TTouch techniques.

You work with reactive dogs, especially those of us that walk them.

You’re interested in becoming a better observer – of our dogs, our environment, and ourselves.

You work with owners of reactive, fearful, aggressive, or anxious dogs and you want to learn new skills to help dog owners stay calm while working with their dogs.

 

I think most folks would benefit from the class. Even if you’re already an experienced dog trainer or have owned reactive dogs for years, I bet there’s more than a few week’s worth of lessons that will be fresh material for you. Like Lesson Five on Limiting Beliefs or Lesson Ten on Practicing Calm. This is not your average class about living with dogs.

But it’s not for everyone. You’ll only get out of it as much as you put into it. There are no magic potions or quick fixes offered in this class. You have to dedicate time to each lesson. You still have to do dog training and management. You have to be interested in exploring your relationship with your dog.

 

Ahh, I feel better already!

Ahh, I feel better already!

 

Thinking about signing up?

 

Just for you! A special DINOS offer:

The class is normally $165. But for the next two weeks, through April 30th, the class is only $99.

That’s 40% off the normal price.

You’ll get 15 lessons that include multimedia teachings, weekly prompts, monthly live webinars with Janet, and so much more.

You’ll even get 6 months of FREE access to her ACE Owners Club. This club has additional resources and mini training challenges, as well as a private community forum where all of her students – past and present – support each other.

Starting May 1st, the class goes back to $165, so why not sign up now and save 40%?

Here’s the thing: even if you don’t have time to take the class right now, you’ll have access to the course materials for a full year. So you can buy it now to save some dough, then start the class when you have the time to devote to it.

Update May 1st: The “early bird” special is now over, but you can still register to take Your End of the Lead anytime! For $165 you’ll get all 15 lessons, monthly webinars, and 6 months FREE access to the ACE Owners Club. A great deal!

Bonus time!

The first 10 people to sign up using the DINOS  link will win a FREE 40 minute, private Skype coaching session with Janet so you can discuss your questions related to the class and your dog’s reactive behavior. For real! Watch the video here and at the end, she’ll tell you more about the one-on-one session 10 lucky people will win.   All 10 spots have been filled!  Thanks to everyone who has registered so far. For those of you that won the free session, enjoy your time with Janet! If you’ve missed out on this bonus don’t worry – there is still lots of opportunity to get feedback and support through the ACE forum and the monthly webinars – all included in the course fee.

 

You can only get these offers – the $99 price and a chance to win a free session with Janet – through the DINOS affiliate link, so be sure to access the YEL registration page through the links provided here, ok?

 

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Do you have questions about the class? Take a look at Janet’s class page and watch her video for more info. I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have here in the comments section too. And stay tuned – I’ve got an interview with Janet coming in a few days that you won’t want to miss!

 

 

I Heart Volunteers

Note: Since it’s Volunteer Appreciation Week, I thought I’d share an older piece I wrote a few years ago for StubbyDog (where I was a volunteer myself!). It was originally published Oct. 2011. Be back with new stuff soon!

 

They’re there first thing in the morning, ready to walk the dogs. In the snow, rain, heat, they put on their sneakers, grab their treat bags and show up. “Hi guys! Who wants to go out for a walk?” they smile and get to work.

No matter what, if the dogs are at the shelter, so are they.

They show up to clean the kennels, wash the bodies, train the newbies, take the photos, do the laundry, update the website, repair the building, stuff the Kongs, sew the adoption vests, mow the lawn, man the event tables, post the Petfinder bios, massage the bodies and hold the weary.

They open their hearts to the endless stream of dogs pouring in through the shelter doors. Bonding with new souls, in just a few minutes, on the kennel floor. Promising, “It’s going to be OK” and hoping that it’s true.

They come as reliably as the sun rises, lifting the spirits of the dogs and shelter staff with their presence. They keep coming, so strong of heart, to care for the orphans.

Photos by Melissa Lipani

They are the worker bees, absolutely essential to the bustling hive that is the shelter. They work together towards a common goal: saving more lives.

They discover that they themselves have found a home among the temporarily homeless.

The work is tough, but they feel uplifted, empowered, and proud. They are contributing to a cause, making a difference in every single life they touch. A community is discovered, new friends are made, a purpose is revealed, a fire is lit!

Then it happens: An adoption. A dog that they helped keep sane, that they walked, bathed and loved on has been chosen. They shout it from the rooftops: “Charlie went home today!”

Payment for all their hard work.

Dedicated, compassionate, strong; their energy fills the halls and helps heal the dogs as they wait for new beginnings.

They are an army of love, lifting up the shelters and rescues, on their strong shoulders.

They are volunteers – true everyday heroes.


You can read my post about shelter workers and foster families. ‘Cuz they rock my world too. 



Walking and Reading: 3|29|14

 

For the Humans: 

See that quote above. Phew. That’s a biggie. Do you have a hard time asking for help? I do. Watch this.  It’s short but it’ll blow your mind.

I am addicted to taking classes and this one is next on my list. 

And I think we should all be wearing this.

 

For the Dogs:

Lately, I’ve had a few people ask me for resources about medications for fearful and anxious dogs. Here’s a good place to start. 

Vintage photos of dogs on the high seas. Ahoy!

I may have shared this before, but I recently passed this along to some friends and thought, what the heck, let’s make sure everyone has a copy of “Relax on a Mat” from Whole Dog Training.

 

For the Laugh:

I just discovered  a new cartoon to keep me in the laughs. Meet The Rut.

 

And Offline: 

Along with some textbooks and a stack of magazines, I’m enjoying Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson (author of Buddha’s Brain).  It’s brain science and I can still understand it. So bonus.

 

What about you? Books? Classes? What are you learning about these days?

 

 

Use It Or Lose It

Spring. It’s right around the corner. At least, that’s what the calendar tells me. We just got a bunch of snow yesterday. But before that, I saw a patch of grass. And we had a bunch of 40 degree + days here in Maine.

You know what happens when it gets even a little bit nicer out, right? All the dogs come out.  All. Of. Them.

I don’t know where these dogs come from. All winter long, I’m out walking the same dogs, along the same quiet streets. It’s just us, the mailmen, and a few manic speed walkers on their lunch breaks.  We see other dogs too, but it’s the same crew every day. Then spring hits and a tsunami of new dogs hits every neighborhood.

Where are all of these dogs for months and months? Do their people train them to poop in a bucket in the basement until its warm enough for them to go outside again?  Do they all have one of these?

I don’t how it works, but it’s the same every year.  The temperature goes up just a little bit and suddenly my afternoon walks go from being calm and routine to a game of Donkey Kong.

All of the dogs I walk are reactive to some degree. Many of them have some solid training under their belts and are able to stay relatively calm when we pass by dogs on the street (as long as we have some space). Our walks are pretty laid back all winter and we get to be on autopilot.

But when spring comes and the number of dogs they need to deal with is suddenly 1 billion times higher than what they’ve been dealing with all winter, they struggle a bit. They need a little time to acclimate to the deluge.

And I can see the same thing happening for all the basement bucket poopers too. They’re out and about for the first time in months and, while they might normally be very cool on leash, they’re a hot mess at the beginning of spring.

In my experience, the ability to stay calm on leash around other dogs is like a muscle:  If they don’t use it, they lose it. This goes double for reactive dogs.


useit


A lot of people I know are surprised by this. They think that if they take their reactive dogs to a class or two and their dogs improve, then they’re set for life. But in reality, it takes regular practice. You have to keep working at it.

We wouldn’t go to the gym every day for a month, never go back again, but still expect our bodies to stay in shape forever. I have tried this so, so many times and, I swear, it never works. We have to exercise consistently in order to maintain and build our muscles.

“What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”

Gretchen Rubin


That’s why so many reactive dog owners keep going to classes, join group walks, and do other structured activities around other dogs. It allows them to practice in a safe, structured environment around other dogs. It keeps other dogs from becoming a total novelty (aka a really big deal!) to their dogs. And that helps their dogs stay “fit” so that when they’re out taking a walk in a more hectic environment, their dogs are better equipped to handle the challenges that pop up.

If your reactive dog made huge strides for a while, but then you kept them inside most of the winter (that polar vortex was NO JOKE), then you might experience this sort of “muscle atrophy” when you start going for walks again this spring.

Your dogs haven’t flexed their “I totally know what to do when I see another dog and it is NOT to fling my turds at them” muscle for a while. Every dog they see is a novelty and they’re having trouble remembering the game plan. Don’t panic. Your dogs are  just out of shape.

No judgement. It happens to all of us.

Same goes for the dogs that have been walking all winter. If they’re anything like the dogs I walk, then they’ve been using those muscles, but at the same low level for months. When springtime hits, it’s like jumping up a few levels on the old stair climber. The dogs need some time to gently reacclimate their muscles to this increased challenge.

So if you and your dogs are a little rusty – for whatever reason – don’t freak out. Spring might be a good time to take a training class to ease back into hanging out with other people and dogs again. Or take a few walks with your friends and their dogs. Or if your dog would be up for it, try a structured group walk. Add some sort of regular practice into your routine.

And don’t forget to bring more treats on your walks for a while. There are at least a gazillion and half more dogs out there, plus joggers, that you’ll want to reward your dog for staying cool around. Be sure your pockets are well stocked. No one said we can’t have a snack while we’re working out. So go ahead: Use it, reward it, keep it.  

In the comments tell me: Has this happened with your dogs in the spring or after a dog walking sabbatical? How have you helped them?

One Pamphlet, Two Years, and an Oscar Speech

Way back in 2012, someone asked me to make a tri-fold pamphlet about DINOS. That’s right. Two years ago. Well, I did it!

I may never win a trophy for speed, but I’d like to think that one day I’ll win the Oscar for “Best Dog Walker in the Better Late Than Never” Category.

Just getting nominated would be an honor, but I’d really like to win so that I can give a thank you speech and say stuff like “Hashtag Suck it” to Julia Roberts and then get drunk at the Vanity Fair party with new best friend Daniel Day-Lewis.

Oh, right, so here’s the trifold. It’s pretty simple:

business in the front, party in the back.



This is all the yada yada on the inside. The point is to tell folks about DINOS…



…and give them general tips for safe, polite dog walking so that all of us (DINOS or not) can enjoy being out in public with our dogs:



You can download and print the trifold here. 

 

If you have a table at an upcoming event or work at a pet store, a vet’s office, a shelter, or just like to stand on the corner and hand stuff out, feel free to print (double sided-style) and distribute! If this one doesn’t float your boat, there are a bunch more handouts on the DINOS website here. 

Finally, I’d like to thank the Academy for recognizing my epic slowness in the field of printed educational materials. A special thanks to Rebecca Greenwood for asking me to do this and then sending me her own version to get my slowpoke self into gear. I’d also like to thank my laptop for not overheating and my printer for not running out of ink, just this one time. Most of all, I’d like to thank my mother. When I was a kid she’d always tell me that if I could dream it, I could make it into a handout. She taught me to never, ever give up, even when people used my “literature” to line their bird cages. I wouldn’t be here, annoying the public, if you didn’t believe in me mom. Alright, alright, alright. Hashtag suck it Julia!

 

 

The Dog Walker’s Guide To Choosing A Dog Walker

The Whole Dog Journal just published a handy article on stuff you should know about hiring a dog walker. Since anyone can call themselves a dog walker (just like anyone can call themselves a dog trainer), you gotta know how to pick a qualified person if you’re going to hire one. WDJ recommends asking smart questions, such as:

  • If your company has multiple employees, who will actually be the person walking my dog?
  • How many dogs do you walk at once? How do you choose which dogs walk with each other?
  • What kind of training do you have to walk multiple dogs at a time?
  • What happens when you can’t make it? What kind of experience do you have with dogs?
  • Where will you go on your walks? Will you be taking my dog to the dog park?

These are all good. Please ask these questions. Since I’m a pro street walker myself, I wanted to share some other tips to help you in your search.

How to find a dog walker: 

You can always start with a search on the interwebz. Companies with multiple employees should have a website. That being said, some of the best, most reliable and skilled dog walkers I know aren’t necessarily advertising their services. So always ask around.

Ask your vet tech, your groomer, your trainer, your local pet store owner, or your rescue and shelter workers for recommendations. Who do they hire for their own dogs? Who are their clients (with dogs that are similar to yours) using?

New Yorker Cartoon By Edward Frascino

New Yorker Cartoon By Edward Frascino

There are some very skilled dog walkers that are flying under the radar, working part-time as vet techs, groomers, and in animal shelters (or in my case, as part time writers), who might be an excellent fit for your dogs.

Go with someone that does this for a living (part or full time), rather than someone who is a student or retiree or a kid that loves dogs.  It’s a huge commitment to show up at someone’s home every single day for months and years. You want a pro – someone who is internally motivated to hold themselves accountable to the job they’ve committed to doing, no matter how cold it is outside.

People often ask me if they should hire a solo dog walking artiste, such as myself, or a larger dog walking service. I wish I could say that one is a more reliable bet than the other. In my experience, there is an equal risk with both that your dog might spend 30 minutes every afternoon wearing a sombrero and busking for change in the park.

So, start with yourself: what kind of relationship do you want and what kind of service does your schedule require? To generalize in a big, big way:

Solo dog walkers are like shopping at a small, locally owned store: highly personal relationships, flexible service, but with individual quirks and varying availability.

Dog walking companies are more like shopping at a large store: increased convenience, more accountability, but with more rules and less personalized service.

Overall, they’re both fine. You just have to pick which works best for you.  And remember: there is little to no oversight in dog walking. The bosses rarely see their employees in action. So ultimately, the person who is walking your dog – whether or not they are self-employed or working for a service – is alone with your dogs almost all of the time.

I’m not trying to scare you. I just want you to understand that this is a weird job. Other than the folks at the dog park or that old Italian lady that’s always peeking out her window trying to catch us letting dogs pee on her curb so she can chase us away with a broom, no one is watching us walk your dogs. So you have to do your homework during the hiring process.

Let’s say you’ve found a few people/companies that look pretty good. Here are some tips for meeting with a potential dog walker:

1. There should be a free consultation at your home, with no obligation to hire the dog walker. This is the meet and greet. With larger companies, sometimes only the boss comes to meet you. Ask that whomever will actually be walking your dog – the primary walker – comes with them too.

2. Watch them interact with your dogs during this initial meeting. Unless your dog is fearful, they should pretty much love the dog walker right away. Dog walkers stink of other dogs and have meat dust leaking out of every pore.  Dogs should react accordingly. And the dog walker? You should see pure joy on their faces. Meeting new dogs is FUN for us.

2a. If your dog is fearful with new people, watch how the dog walker handles this. Are they forcing themselves on your dog, insisting that they interact? Or are they hanging back, sitting on the floor, and calmly talking to you while your dog launches a covert exploration of their coat?

If your dog is uber-shy or has other serious quirks, it’s ok to ask for a second meeting. You’ll probably have to pay for it this time, but it will be helpful to have the dog walker meet your dog with you there again. Then, if you see that a little progress has been made and/or you trust that the dog walker is a good one, go for it. Sometimes shy dogs are less shy when you’re not home. Which leads to…

2b. Remember that dogs are different when you’re not around. I have a friend with three big, loud-ass dogs that go bananas when someone comes to the door. She assumed that when I came to walk them that they would make an insane racket – enough to scare off a dozen intruders. Turns out, all three of her dogs were mute when I walked in the door. So much for her security system.

This kind of thing happens a lot. Your dogs may be bolder or shyer in your presence. Friendly dogs might charge the door, growling and barking, when they are alone in the house and a stranger walks in. Shy dogs might be emboldened to go for a walk with the meat-dusted stranger, now that mom isn’t looking. At some point, if you like the dog walker, you just have to let them show up alone and see what happens.

3. Ask them to go on a walk with you and your dogs. If your dog is cool with it, ask to do this step during the initial meeting. Unless your dog is a robot (or super easy going) then you’ll want to see the dog walker handling them. Have the dog walker put on their harness/collar/leash and go for a short walk together.

If your dog is reactive, you don’t want to skip this part. Anyone can talk a good game, but that doesn’t mean they can stay cool when your reactive dog starts a break dancing competition with the neighbor’s dog. Go for a group walk and see them interact with your dog.

New Yorker Cartoon by Lee Lorenz

New Yorker Cartoon by Lee Lorenz

4. If your dog has medical or behavioral issues, talk about them honestly. You want to know if the dog walker has the skills to work with your dog and they need to be able to make an informed decision. A good dog walker knows their limits. It’s ok for them to tell you they aren’t skilled enough to work with your aggressive dog. In fact, it’s the responsible thing to do. So don’t hide anything from them.

And don’t try to sugarcoat your dog’s issues so they’ll want to work for you. It’s not fair and it’s not safe. If you hire them, they will have to walk into your home – alone – and it can be dangerous if you fail to mention that your 110 pound dog will be loose in the house and has been known to pin strangers to the wall (I still love you Mo!).  This is the time to be honest. Come up with a management plan for future visits, so that the dog walker can enter your home safely with minimal stress for them and your dogs.  For instance, if your dog is fearful, you can plan to leave their harness on, so that the dog walker doesn’t have to touch them too much on the first visit. Or if your dog is a nutter with strangers, you can plan to crate or gate them away from the door. This is a good time to start talking about this stuff.

Also, the more you share, the more you can get a feel for their experience and skill level. Let’s say you tell them your dog is reactive. A dog walker that’s any good will have many follow up questions for you, so that the can better understand what your dog’s triggers are, what walking routes are safest, and what your training plans are, etc. If they say, “Oh, I know how to walk reactive dogs,” but they don’t care to hear about your individual reactive dog’s needs or have any questions, move on.

5. Find out how you’ll know that they were there. I leave a note after every walk. My clients have affectionately dubbed these “The Poop Diaries” and I’m proud to say that after more than ten years of leaving these notes each day for multiple clients, I’ve written the dog walker’s equivalent of War and Peace. But, I’m willing to concede that writing a note takes a minute or two away from your dogs and the average dog walker isn’t as excited as I am about finding a thousand different ways to say, “Your dog made a sizable deposit at the turd bank today.”

Many dog walkers will do cool stuff like get little post-it-sized checklists that are pre-printed, so they can leave you a quick report:

Poop – check

Pee – check

Butt Scritches – check

If they don’t leave notes, ask them how you’ll know they’ve been there each day. This company does all kinds of stuff to prove they’re doing their jobs. Don’t be obnoxious about it, but it’s totally fine to ask for some sort of proof your dog walker showed up.

6. They should have their professional goods on hand to show you. Dog walkers should have liability insurance, references, a detailed service contract, and clear, written policies and rates. No matter who they work for or if they’re self-employed, all dog walkers should have this stuff. Before you hire them, you’ll want to know: what’s their cancellation policy? What are your daily and weekly rates and what forms of payment do you accept? What window of time will you be coming each day? Who pays the vet bills if my dog gets hurt at the dog park? Who will pay my dry cleaning bills if I catch you wearing my evening gowns? This stuff should be in writing.

Then at some point, you’ll have to just cross your heart, lock up grandma’s diamonds, and give them the keys to your house. It’s scary to trust a stranger with your dog and your home. I’m always amazed at how many people have given me the keys to their houses within 30 minutes of meeting me over the years. Quite frankly, it’s an honor to be trusted that way. Good dog walkers understand this and do everything they can to make you feel comfortable and confident in them.

In the end, go with your gut  and choose the person your dogs and you really dig.

In the comments, tell me about your dog walkers. Are they good, bad, weirdos, life-savers? I wanna know. 

p.s. You think you wanna be a dog walker, huh punk? It’s hard and there is epic poop involved. Read all about here. 

Walking and Reading: 2|21|14

I wish someone would hire me to pet sit a Highland Cow (otherwise known as a "hairy coo").

I wish someone would hire me to pet sit a Highland Cow (otherwise known as a “hairy coo!”).


For the Humans:

Old folks and young whippersnappers swap clothes. Sweetness ensues. Photos here.

How to say “no” to everything from smarty pants Alexandra Franzen.

Someone please make this for breakfast and send me some. Thanks.


For the Dogs: 

Does your dog hang out at dog parks? Please read this. 

Renting with dogs can be tough, particularly if you have large dogs or certain breeds. Good advice here. 

We should all get this t-shirt and this pillow (or just send them to me with that breakfast you’re packing up).


For the Laugh: 

I can’t stop watching this video.  It’s not new, but man, it’s the funniest.


And Offline:

I’m reading Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn. How about you? Any good books keeping you busy this chilly winter?

Searching For Answers: Lightning Round

Last year I decided to start giving search terms (one of my fave parts of blogging) a little love. You can see those posts here and here. 

Short version: you search for stuff on Google and results pop up. If you click on a blog that came up in the search results, then the writer of the blog will see the search terms you used to find their blog in the “search term results” of their blog’s back end.

I keep meaning to do another post with these nuggets of human gold, but man – life is hectic y’all. So let’s just do a lightning round. Ready, Set, Search!

Search terms you’d think have nothing to do with my blog, but you’d be wrong:



“Dog poops in house after tuba song”

“Men ride river rapid while balancing on log of bamboo

Steve Martin butt cheeks”

Governor peeing on plane”

Bitches be acting like they have rabies”
 

This has nothing to do with dogs. I just want people to start getting my blog when they search "Bill Murray and Hunter S. Thompson."

This is here because: 1. I want to see if people start getting my blog when they search “Bill Murray and Hunter S. Thompson.” 2. I want to be on that boat.

Fast answers to your burning searches:



“What kind of fences do dogs like?”: Bacon Flavored. 


“I’d like to put a lock on my wood gate”: Mazel Tov!


“My dog ran off today for 4 hours should I leash him from now on?”: Ayuh.


“Which dog breed has a skinny tongue?”: The Gene Simmons Fox Hound. You weirdo.


“What does it mean when two dogs show up out of nowhere?”: Ghosts! The Apocalypse! Aliens!

 

Top Dog: Thelwell’s Complete Canine Compendium

Things might be a little quiet on the DINOS Facebook page/Notes From A Dog Walker blog front for a bit. I’m not going anywhere, but I’m redirecting some of my energy to a couple of other projects this winter. Specifically:

1. I’m currently taking a graduate level course to help me decide if I want to go back to school and get my master’s degree. Homework is happening.

2. I’m working on a DINOS eBook! So far it’s shaping up to be the best of my blog, with a bunch of new essays and helpful tips thrown in for funsies. I’m writing it for the newbies who are living with DINOS for the first time. It can be overwhelming and they need a one-stop booklet to help boost their morale.

2a. The stuff I’d normally publish here about DINOS is getting saved for the book.

3. And I have to go to work. Those pesky jobs and their silly paychecks.

I find that the best way to deal with an impossibly long to-do list is to run away to the movies on a Sunday afternoon after doing a little thrift store shopping. Am I right?

Yes I am and here’s the proof. I scored this yesterday:

Top Dog by Norman Thelwell

Cover of Top Dog by Norman Thelwell



Published in 1964, this gem of a book is a compilation of the British cartoonist Norman Thelwell’s Sunday Express illustrations.

In the book he covers everything a dog owner needs to know about caring for a dog.  Such as “Choosing Your Dog”:

Top Dog by Norman Thelwell


How to care for their health:

Top Dog by Norman Thelwell


How to train dogs: “Some dogs bark and bark and bark…until the sound becomes unbearable…the only way to stop a dog from barking….”

Top Dog by Norman Thelwell

…is to learn the violin.”  That is, by far, the most sensible dog training advice I’ve ever gotten.

Top Dog by Norman Thelwell


There is an entire section devoted to how to handle your dog outdoors (clearly Thelwell was an early member of Team DINOS).

Top Dog by Norman Thelwell


“Meeting other dogs can be tricky. Restrain your own animal…and keep calm…above all…avoid a fight.”

top dog 3

The book also covers responsible dog owner laws:

Top Dog by Norman Thelwell


And my favorite illustration spans two pages.  “And he must be kept on a lead in public parks.”

Top Dog by Norman Thelwell


It’s a wonderful book, filled with cheeky text and illustrations and more than a few surprisingly helpful and progressive tips for real life dog care. If you ever come across a copy, scoop it up.

And now, it’s back to work for me – see you guys soon!

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