From Toronto to Vancouver dog walkers give Get Leashed the goods on their goods
By Lindsay Shostal and Renée Erdman
Walking dogs in a big city comes with its own set of challenges. After several years on the jobs, I fine-tuned exactly what I need to have on me at all times to make my job easier.I grew into wear a hip pouch over the years (instead of a knapsack), because I like having everything quickly accessible. I often don’t have time to fumble with a bag on my back, or with something draping over my shoulder.
The dogs also know that if my hands drift down to my waist, chances are they’ll be getting a treat. The biggest key to having well-behaved dogs who listen are treats! I always have a full stash of liver treats in my pouch. It’s super easy to train my dogs to recognize the reward that follows my hand movement. This is incredibly useful, especially when I need them to look at me in order to redirect them on busy city streets.
I always have alcohol wipes on hand, to quickly clean and disinfect paws that may have been scratched on the concrete sidewalks, or a paw pad that may have been nicked. I’ve also used these wipes on myself, after getting a good accidental scratch at the park. I don’t typically use band aids as they always fall off, but you never know when you might need one. Lip chap is great, because it’s multi-functional. Spending lots of time outdoors means my lips can get extremely dry, but I’ve also used it on dry dog paw pads. It’s the perfect emergency paw balm.
Poop bags are a given. I always have at least a full roll on hand. On the days when I know that I’ll be spending more time outdoors with my pups, I’ll bring two rolls. I never want to be stuck without them.
I keep all of my ID with me at all times. This includes my health card, my dog walking permit, and business insurance. All of my emergency contact telephone numbers (Animal Services, The Humane Society, Toronto Police non-emergency number, vets in the area and a few contacts for local dog rescues) are also stored in my phone. My cell phone is always with me and fully charged.
A critical piece of my dog walking attire is my favorite hands-free tether leash. I always keep this clipped around my waist like a belt. I use it with dog clients that walk well with very little direction. I’ve also used it to retrieve a dog wandering in an alleyway. You just never know when you need a good leash. I’ve also used this with a client who left me a retractable leash – having the perfect tools makes my job so much easier and stress-free. I start my morning by refilling and reviewing the contents of my hip pouch, restocking what I need. This is a ritual for me, and keeps my day running smoothly and safely.
On the West Coast we are lucky enough to have access to mountain trails just minutes from urban areas. This allows dog walkers a few more options as we can offer group off-leash hikes. Many companies pick up in the city and drive to the mountain trails.
Having the right safety equipment is crucial, as we can potentially run into wildlife such as bears, coyotes and even cougars. Bear bells, whistles and bear spray are often in our backpacks. Attaching a bear bell to a few dogs usually does the trick, as bears generally don’t want to be bothered and will stay clear if they hear noise. However, it’s important to keep an eagle-eye on smaller dogs, as coyotes and cougars are more predatory. Having some sort of spray handy is a good idea.
I keep a full first aid kit in a dry bag, as the “wet coast” tends to be unpredictable in the weather department. My kit includes: gauze, tweezers, scissors, sterile pads, tongue depressors for making stints, medical tape and Benadryl for bee stings. Last year I stepped in a wasp nest and was stung well over ten times, as were my dogs, the Benadryl was a huge help.
I carry a rope just in case I get stuck or a dog gets stuck in a steep area. I once fell off a narrow trail into a creek and almost didn’t make it back out. That rope came in handy. The whistle I carry could also prove a lifesaver if I were to get stuck or lost. I also carry an outdoor safety kit with a reflective blanket and a tarp shelter, just in case. We hike all year round in snow, rain and sun.
Lastly, I always carry my permits to be identified as a commercial walker in my area and of course, plenty of poop bags!