In defence of the dog walker on Monday morning? A return to your work day is vastly different to your house helps, or dog walkers day. We’re looking at this primarily from an Indian perspective. House help, domestics, maids- whatever label you choose the aim is to ease your burden. This is because you can afford the luxury of staff. One of the lures of living in a country like India, for locals and immigrants is the easy, cheap availability of labour. Of course in metros like Mumbai, house help has levelled up with English speaking maids at a premium. And the reality of their work week and day is a monotonous routine.
Reviled or revered there is no in between
Descriptions range from “brilliant” to “useless.” The blame for useless dog walkers lies squarely on the shoulders of pet owners. In defence of the dog walker, they are often house staff with little or no training. When you hand someone a leash and a dog (or worse puppy) and do not expect miracles. When there is a mishap the blame lies with you. Dog walkers are not people with leashes and dogs. They are individuals who are trained or have basic knowledge of dog behaviour and body language. They needn’t be behaviourists or trainers. Live and work with dogs long enough and any one is competent to walk a dog.
A dog walker must be a person who shows even a mild affection to the dog. With no bond or emotional attachment your dog and dog walker are two strangers forced into relationship for which neither is prepared.
In defence of the dog walker
Monday morning commute to work in Mumbai traffic, it seems rising at dawn for an early start is no longer good enough to ‘beat the traffic.’ Crawling along on the pavement my attention goes to a dog, a cocker spaniel. He is sitting on the pavement his dog walker sitting next to him, neither taking much notice of each other. But to watch the expression on the dog walkers face made me think of the times I have been guilty of reprimanding (polite way of saying screaming my head off!) walkers. We’ve all been there watch a dog or puppy dragged along and the need to intervene even when the dog is not yours!
This walker had a dejected look about him, shoulders hunched, face riddled with stress. He was a young man not ill treating the dog in any manner but to watch him was to watch a person in anguish. And that is when (admittedly many years later) it dawns, we’re so focused up in the animal we’ve forgotten the human being.
This is not to excuse abuse or beating of any animal. Numerous dog walkers and services have been guilty of, that is behaviour which is never acceptable. Until we acknowledge the disparity of this cocker spaniels life and his dog walkers we do both an injustice. This dog, adorable of course, is clearly the king of the house. Kitted out with a colourful harness and well groomed this is a dog who’s owner personally supervises its care. The human being at the other end of a leash has a story, a life and struggles which we must address.
Dog walkers are human beings
Too often we forget the human being at the end of the leash. Pets have become big business so much so that twinning and pet parties are now a thriving business. Imagine if you are a carer with no choice but to carry out your allotted duties. And add to that to you have to watch a dog live a better life than your family! Our cell phone infused world means information is available at our fingertips. Which means they know what you spend on your dog. In a country such as India, with the massive disparity in financial realities it is easy to overlook the underdog.
Dogs are family but that does not excuse ignoring your staff and their emotions. A person you employ has no obligation to fall in love with your pets. To expect it is to impose your will on another human being. You cannot force a person to love their job! What is the solution to this vexing problem? Walk your dog yourself. Life gets in the way of living, but try and a lot one walk a day for ‘dog and you” time. There is so much more to dog care than pet parties and cuddling. It is some of the hardest most rewarding work you will ever do.
Dogs are astoundingly smart at figuring out your feelings and attitudes to house help. Like an impressionable child be mindful of how you treat staff when your pets are around. For that matter it should not matter who is around, treating people with respect is not negotiable.
Inexperienced owners & dog walkers
Are a lethal combination, the quintessential ‘blind leading the blind’. In defence of a novice dog walker many individuals turn to dog walking because families are willing to pay huge amount and in these difficult times we must encourage a person trying to earn an honest wage. What are some common reactions of dog walkers who’ve been confronted- they may surprise you!
- “The dog keeps sniffing.” (This is from a walker on a morning walk with a Beagle. The dog is bred to sniff!)
- “He keeps stopping” (the dog trying to relieve itself- expect some kidney complications if this is a routine)
- “I’ve asked for a harness, I don’t get one” (This dog had on an expensive collar, this is not a money problem, it is a lack of education)
- “The firecracker scared her” (The dog was literally suspended from her collar, choking or damage to her trachea a very real possibility)
These may sound like “excuses” they’re so much more. It is a stark reminder that we have a long way to go when educating our help and ourselves. Incidents of missing and lost dogs are on the rise. Because unscrupulous dog walkers (some not all) may part with your dog to breeders. New pet owners are buying dogs from “breeders” with little or no knowledge of breed standard or the health of a pups parents.
We see a rise in cases of, “I don’t know what happened, he went for a walk and came home with a limp”.
A veterinarian or physiotherapist cannot treat your pet without accurate information which you may or may not get from a dog walker.
There are many aspects to dog walking a pet owner or family should learn before buying or adopting a dog. If you have a good dog walker you are lucky! If your house help love your pets you struck gold!