13 years experienced dog walker in San Francisco! This is what my customers got from me on my anniversary!! Aren’t they lucky!!!
13 years experienced dog walker in San Francisco! This is what my customers got from me on my anniversary!! Aren’t they lucky!!!
A few years back a dog walking company by the name of Wag moved into the world of dog care providers. What made them different from other existing dog walking companies was that they were not a small, local company managed by professional dog walkers, but rather they came in brandishing their guns and tried to monopolize the dog care industry. Wag is a giant, national tech company which was started with 2 million dollars.
By making themselves appear trendy with celebrity endorsements, slick advertisements and an app for quick online scheduling they were off to a fast start. Wag’s marketing strategy included the phrase “Uber for dog walkers”. It was clever to say the least, given how popular Uber has become. Wag recruits thousands of people without experience and places them on an app, which is very easy to use and it schedules on-demand dog walking services in a snap. Quick, easy and no strings, what more could you want?
When a dog walker can be found instantly in one click on a gimmicky website such as Wag, it’s important for you to understand that these people, who are signed up to be dog walkers, do not necessarily have any training in dog care. Wag and Rover hire anyone to do their dog walks and are not allowed to provide any training to these people because they are hired as contractors.
What stands out most about Wag’s hiring process is that there doesn’t seem to be any attempt to get to know their walkers. Wag employees should spend a week or two shadowing them out on the job to see how they relate to animals, how dedicated and reliable they may be and how they handle the stress of being in charge of someone’s pet. You have to see them in person to be sure they are capable of doing the job correctly.
Wag’s may have taken the on-demand dog walking business by storm, but what they didn’t count on was the scrutiny and backlash they would get from their participants. Glassdoor is a website that give employees a place to share their insider info and a place to air their dirty laundry. The hiring process consists of filling out a multiple choice questionnaire, watching a video, and attending an exam in which the object is to fit three kinds of harnesses to a dummy dog. It is reported that anyone can fake who they are on the tests and still pass the scrutiny of Wag.
Would you really want to give the key to your house to just anyone? Sure, you read over their bios, but do you really know them? Are their references people that live in your neighborhood and have used this person before? Who are their friends? Sure they look trustworthy in their pictures, but you are leaving your key in a lockbox and you have never even met the person that is coming into your house to walk your dog. These are things to think about before hiring Wag to walk your dog.
Let’s face it, we all look at YELP when we are looking to do business with an unknown firm. I know I do it every time, just to see what others say about them. I recognize that most of us view YELP as an encyclopedia and make our decisions based on what others say. I know I use YELP especially when I am curious to find out if they have any bad reviews, how many, and how important or believable are the claims.
When I started my business over 10 years ago, I really had no intention of growing into a large enterprise, even though this concept seems to be the all American Dream. When I would have doubts as to whether or not I was going down the right path, I would moan that it seemed like my competitors were doing really well with a more profit driven business model, and my sister would remind me that this is not a race to the finish line, but rather, that I was creating something that I could be proud of and it is commendable to not follow the herd. Having the courage to use my brain power to design the critical concepts of my business model instead of being driven by what the competition is doing, was an important component to my confidence as a business leader and to my future success. By staying small, I could offer a higher quality service, which would be driven and shaped by my ethics, not my desire to be a successful dog walking business entrepreneur.
It seems funny to say this now, but I have had only 8-20 customers over the last 10 years, while other successful dog walking businesses have had hundreds of customers. The reason I have survived, even with so many fewer clients than my competitors is because I do not have a high customer turn-over rate. Most of my clients have been with me 10+ years and that is why I have only a few reviews on YELP and GOOGLE. I don’t have a lot of clients, but if you look at it from a different perspective, that can be a good thing! It’s not quantity, it’s quality!!
So, what is so important about being such a small sized company?
Well, for one thing, I give my San Francisco client’s more personalized service. They feel very important and they are very important to me. I treat my clients vey well and that is why they have stayed with me for many years. For example, at the end of every year, I give my clients a beautiful, professionally published photo book with their dog’s picture playing with their friends at the park or beach. Do the large companies do this for their clients? Probably not or probably not for very long. It is expensive to do this and it eats into the profits. In order for it to work for them, they will have to walk even more dogs everyday. Many dog walkers feel that this business is already a burn out for them with the number of dogs they have to walk every day, and it is for most. If you do the profit model, you need to charge less than your competitors, walk more dogs to make up for the loss and enjoy making yourself crazy.
As I mentioned in one of my other blog posts, I go out of my way to provide the best possible service for my clients, but it is a subtle thing. For example, I use only rubber ball on my dog walks. These rubber balls save your dog’s teeth. Regular tennis ball are like Brillo Pads and wear down your dog’s teeth quickly, causing problems later in life when the their teeth are completely filed down. And on a regular basis, your dogs lose these costly balls at the park, but I replace them because I care about your dogs. Other dog walkers tell me that they don’t use balls out in the dog parks because it causes problems, such a jealousy between dogs, loud barking of joy, and oh yes, loss of income. But why do they think that a dog’s joyful, loud bark is not an important factor? Just how horrible is a dog’s bark at a dog park?
Ask your San Francisco dog walker if they use rubber balls rather than tennis balls on their walks? My guess is, no, they do not. Again, it is the bottom line that shapes their businesses.
So then, why do I think that some of the very best dog walking companies may not be surfacing to the top of YELP’s list? The answer is, the algorithms. Let me talk more about this in my next blog. Stay tuned!!
YELP is not going away any time soon and it is probably the #1 way people compile a list of names of companies that provide a specific service in their geographic area.
So, for example, if you are wanting to know the names of all the dog walking companies in San Francisco all you would have to do is type in “Dog Walkers, San Francisco” in the YELP query box and up would pop a list of dog walkers that service your area.
How YELP decides which dog walkers are at the top of the list is a science called algorithms, which magically chooses who will be first on the list. It is basically a pretty simple concept, but to be at the top of the list, you must have a lot of positive reviews under your belt.
At first blush, this may seem like a good way to find the best dog walker in your area, but think again. All it really says is that you have identified a “large COMPANY with positive reviews”. They have more reviews because they have more employees providing service. So is bigger actually better in this type of service?
Just because a San Francisco dog walking company has hundreds of positive reviews on YELP, doesn’t necessarily mean they are actually the best dog walking company for your particular needs. Big does not always mean best in the dog walking world. Sure, they have a lot of customers and they are a big company with many dog walking employees or contractors, but they may actually have a high customer turn over rate if they are marketing to a younger demographics. If they have a lot of YELP reviews, their target market is most likely the young, shakers and movers who relocate often and never look back, which just happens to be YELP’s target market. These people are known as YELPERS.
So lets take a look. What do young people that relocate often actually look for in a dog walker? I would say that they are probably really price sensitive and are looking for a low rate because they are mostly single and are a one income household wanting to move up financially. Two, they are probably swayed by charming, athletic looking, equally young dog walkers that they can relate to.
Are these really the factors that make up a good dog walker? In San Francisco, dog walking employees can find it very difficult to make ends meet. There is a high turn over rate in employees because they take these jobs as summer jobs or just until another one comes along that pays more. Often this means they are not completely focused on their work, but rather on their money worries. Is this who you want walking your dog?
Just because a dog walking company has hundreds of positive reviews on YELP and they are one of the first to come up in your search, it does not mean that you have found the best company. It just means that you have found either a big company or a company with a high customer turn over, which often means that you have not found the best dog walker after all. In the dog walking business, small usually means more because the dog walking companies can be focused on keeping the customers happy, rather than on how fast their drivers can get to the next house to keep to the companies scheduling goals.
I remember when I was in my twenties and thirties, there was no way I could afford to take a Taxi to work or home after an evening out in San Francisco. They were just so darn expensive! But along came Uber and for people that could not afford a Taxi ride, this opened the door for a whole new class of customers, those with lower disposable income. So now, Uber is affordable for most everyone.
The same could be said for dog walkers. Dog walkers seem indispensable for people that work or are limited in their abilities to walk long distances. What once seemed like a luxury for the richest people, all of a sudden became a must-have for the working class. Longer hours required at the office made it impossible for people to have a pet unless they could get someone dependable to help them out. Ozzie and Harriet days of 9-5 are long gone. Everything in San Francisco is so expensive, therefore people must work more hours to afford the extras. And San Francisco is the capital of dog ownership! Everyone has a dog!!
Lower middle class citizens now-a-days seem to demand house-keepers too, so that they can have time to relax on their weekends. I never had any of these luxuries in my young corporate working days and am very surprised by this turn of events. What it means is that young people are making larger salaries in San Francisco, so they can afford the extras and are putting off the purchase of a house or increasing their savings accounts – to a much future date, if ever.
Picking a dog walker is very much dependent on your income level. There are some of us that are at the top of our game, have years of experience under our belts and can offer subtle differences, (but important differences), that the newer dog walkers can’t possibly have under their belts.
So pricing may or may not be an important factor in choosing your walker. Kind of like the Taxi vs. Uber debate. By hiring a San Francisco dog walker that does not have a business license and chooses to evade the laws, you are taking a risk. Uber drivers are employees and must abide by the rules set out by their company, but they get away without purchasing a costly special license. Dog walking companies seem not to abide by such rigid set of rules. The companies they work for can be very lax in their expectations of their employees. Most of them do not hire employees, but rather use contractors. This is a big no-no and if caught using contractors on a regular basis as if they are employees, the fines are hundreds of thousands of dollars. But there are many dog walking companies that do this and seemingly get away with it. Most of their employees (contractors) are not certified dog walkers, nor do they have park permits. Very few dog walking companies actually do a background check on their employees (contractors). Everything is fine until one day when something goes terribly wrong.
So, if these companies are willing to cheat at dog walking they are more likely to cheat you in small, unnoticeable ways. Instead of a one hour walk, they take your dog to the park for 20 minutes. Or on rainy days, they just sit in the car and then give your dog a pee break, not a walk. Most of them never clean their autos regularly and your dog might get trampled under foot of bigger dogs. Most importantly your dogs are extremely aroused by the time they arrive at the park. They arrive at the park in a truck, barking and snarling at each other, while the driver pulls into the parking lot. And many times when the dog walkers get to the park, they just stand around and don’t tend to the wants and desires of their dogs.
Like I say, the differences between dog walkers are subtle and mostly go undetected. Make sure you ask the right questions, so you know the type of person you are dealing with. People without ethics in their business practices are hard to hold accountable, if the time ever comes for that need. But it may never come to that, since they seem to get away with it. They will grin and tell you how accomplished they are, but some of us know the real truth. There is no short-cut to doing the right thing.
Animal experts say that it’s a common misconception that dogs can survive if the windows are cracked on a hot day, or if the car is parked in the shade. They said people often think that dogs can handle high temperatures. Wrong! In fact, even a dog walk in high heat can hurt or kill them. Dogs can get overheated much quicker than we can. Their temperature can shoot up to 104, 105 in just a matter of ten to fifteen minutes, and that can lead to a seizure. Even cracking a window a little bit, thinking they’ll be okay isn’t enough in to keep them safe. There’s not enough breeze. Dogs don’t cool down the way we do. They cool down by panting.
If you think your dog is suffering from heatstroke, get him out of the heat as soon as possible. Here are a few other things you can do:
Heatstroke or exhaustion can occur very quickly for our dogs as they only have the ability to sweat throught the pads of their feet. The major way they expel heat is through panting. The two most common ways that pets get overheated is being left in cars or kennels when it is too hot or playing or running excessively in the heat. Our canine friends are almost always up for a brisk dog walk or a game of fetch. The problem is that they do not know when they are overheated until it is too late. Thus, it is up to us as their caregivers to understand when it is time to take a break, drink some water and rest in the shade for awhile. A dog’s normal temperature runs between 101 and 102.5 degrees so they are naturally warmer than we are. When their temperature exceeds 106 degrees there is a very real danger in damaging cells in their brain and causing permanent damage or even death. Treatment for heat stroke is immediately getting the pet into a cool shady area or inside an air-conditioned building. Cooling can be continued with cool cloths or ice packs in the groin area or in the armpits. It is important not to submerge the pet in cold water as this can lead to shock.
Bottom line: Dogs can’t handle the heat as well as we can and run the risk of developing heat stroke much more quickly. Even if you leave the window open and park in the shade, it may not be good enough. The test to tell if it is too hot to leave your pet in the car, if it is too hot for you in the car, it is way to hot for your dog. And don’t forget the longer you are away, the hotter your car gets. Even 15 minutes may be too long.
Tips from San Francisco Dog Walkers – Costly Foxtails
All Dog Walkers should tell you the faster you get the dog to the vet, the less it will probably cost to get the foxtail out. The reason for this is that if the vet can remove it without knocking the dog out with anesthesia, then it will be less expensive.
So, as soon as you dog shows symptons, like shaking head and holding his head to the side, licking paw, flapping ears or sneezing violently, run, don’t walk him to your vet. If the vet does not have to put the dog under to grab the foxtail the cost is around $150 for removal. However if you wait a day or two before taking the dog to the vet, the foxtail will travel further up the canal and the cost jumps up around $500 – $1,000 because the foxtail has to be surgically removed by a veterinarian. If the foxtail causes an infection because you waited, the trip to the vet could run you at least $1,000.00 to $2,000.00! Not removing the foxtail is very dangerous and can be life threatening to the dog because the foxtail penetrates the skin and moves through the bloodstream towards the heart or brain. Doing “nothing” is not an option!
Dog Walkers should always tell their clients to check their dogs for foxtails during the spring and summer months following a hike.
Foxtails come from the grasses and are in all of the parks in San Francisco. When pulled apart, the are little arrow shaped pointed stickers that it can burrow into your dogs’ paws, ears, nose, eyes and fur coat.
ON A DAILY BASIS, during foxtail season (when grasses are dry) it is VERY important to check between your dogs’ toes (look up into the cavity of each toe and feel around in there); and to thoroughly feel around in the dog’s fur for foxtails. I try my best to remove the foxtails I see after the walk, but it is always good for the owner to double check, as foxtails can and often are, missed.
If your dog begins sneezing violently, even if they stop for a day or two, they most likely have a foxtail in their nose.
■ Keep your pet’s fur coat short, especially between the toes and around the ears.
■ Long-haired dogs are most prone to having foxtails attach to their fur and embed in the skin.
■ Avoid walking your dog in areas where dry grass is prevalent.
■ Prime areas for foxtails to penetrate the skin of an animal are between the toes, in and around the ears, nose, armpits and genitalia. Animals with foxtails under the skin are often licking the affected area where a red bump may be seen.
■ When returning home from a walk or hike in an area that might have foxtails, examine your dog thoroughly and remove any burrs or foxtails you might find before they have a chance to burrow into the skin.
Coyote are a part of the San Francisco landscape and are here to stay. Now might be a good time to review some coyote behaviors and what you could do should you encounter one on a walk. This information is now available from CoyoteCoexistence.Com in their video presentation.
Coyotes have been spotted in some of the popular San Francisco parks and this year it is much worse than ever. Places reported are Golden Gate Park, Presidio, Glen Canyon Park and Stern Grove. You should avoid places that they inhabbit, especially if you have a small dog. Coyotes in San Francisco appear unafraid of people.
Coyotes were sighted last week at Stern Grove and Pine Lake, and others on Yerba Buena Avenue and Miraloma Park near Mount Davidson. Those who walk their dogs in the vicinity of Golden Gate Park (the bison enclosure), Stern Grove and Mount Davidson are advised to keep their dogs on leashes and cats inside.
The sightings last week in Stern Grove include an adult female with three pups spotted twice on the cement path next to Pine Lake. Another coyote was seen last week at Yerba Buena Avenue and Casitas southwest of Mount Davidson. A coyote was also seen near the Miraloma Park housing area, east of Mount Davidson.
Coyotes might look cute at first and can fascinate those who haven’t seen them. But like all predators, they will kill, eat and populate in an area. One strategy a pack will use to kill dogs is to send in a lone yearling, which will trot, stop and turn, luring an unleashed dog to follow it. It then will lead the dog into the pack waiting to ambush.
Excerpt taken from Tom Stienstra- SF Gate
Updated 9:53 a.m., Monday, October 1, 2012
It is very common at this time of the year that dogs will have swollen faces with eyes that are nearly closed up. In most cases this is from a bee sting. It can also be from vegetation that is caused by allergies. In most cases an antihistamine, such as Benedryl, will will take the swelling and discomfort down rapidly, but in severe cases it may be necessary for the pet to be seen to receive treatment with cortisone or even epinephrine. During times when insect activity is high, it is not safe to use repellants like OFF to discourage them from attacking your pet, because it contains DEET which is poisonous if ingested by dogs. Instead try, K9-Advantix, which repels mosquitoes, ticks and fleas.
By far the most common concern seen in the spring and summer months involves pets that eat things that they shouldn’t. This can happen any time of the year, but when the weather is nice and the ground is warm and moist it becomes a perfect incubator for viruses, bacteria and parasites.
Ticks are currently abundant in McLaren Park. Tom Scott of Save McLaren Park said, “In the past two weeks alone I’ve found 3 different ticks on me. I don’t recall finding any ticks in the previous 8 years that I’ve been going to the park. My dog remains tick-free thanks to the medication she uses.”
Suggestions when going to the park: Apply mosquito repellent, especially to your legs and even if you’re wearing pants. Also, it’s a good idea to check yourself after returning from the park. Ticks tend to go for warm moist areas, such as armpits and groins.
Tom explains, “the ticks I found on myself have been identified as Dermacentor variabilis, also known as American Dog Tick and Wood Tick. This species is not known to carry Lyme Disease, but it can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. It’s unlikely, though, that the ticks in McLaren carry this disease. I don’t think this is an urgent health concern for park users, but something to be aware of.”
Posted by The San Francisco Dog Walker
Ticks can detect heat emitted from dogs and humans from far distances and will often situate themselves on well traveled paths to gain access to hosts. They will generally drop off the animal when full, but this may take several days. In some cases ticks will live for some time on the blood of an animal. Ticks are more active outdoors in warm weather, but can attack a dog at any time. Ticks can be found in most wooded or forested regions throughout the world. As a San Francisco dog walker, I find that they are especially common in areas where there are deer trails or human tracks. Ticks are especially abundant near water, where warm-blooded animals come to drink, and in meadows wherever shrubs and brush provide woody surfaces and cover. Ticks are a vector for a number of diseases including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
The Western black-legged tick lives in the western part of North America and is responsible for spreading Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. It tends to prefer livestock such as cows as its adult host.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can be lethal. Initial signs and symptoms of the disease include sudden onset of fever, headache and muscle pain followed by development of rash. The disease can be difficult to diagnose in the early stages, and without prompt and appropriate treatment it can be fatal. Tetracycline has dramatically reduced the number of deaths caused by Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
watch this video for more tips! 5min.com/Video/How-to-Remove-a-Tick-from-Your-Dog
Maybe you have seen this plant at a San Francisco dog park? . . . I took these pictures at Stern Grove.
I was told by a former San Francisco city parks gardener that this plant is called Hemlock and is very poisonous to dogs!
What makes it particularly troubling is that is grows in abundance and it grows next to that tasty grass your dog loves.
If you see this plant, keep your dog away!
I came upon a Dog Walker in McLaren Park while he was on his cell phone discussing an issue with one of his clients. As he was preoccupied and had his back to his pack of dogs, he didn’t notice that one of the dogs was drinking from a muddy puddle of water. As a fellow SF Dog Walker, I thought I would help him out by shooing the dog away from it. When he got off the phone, he said that I need not bother doing this in the future; that he lets his dogs drink from puddles and has been doing so for over 10 years and nothing has happened yet. He then reminded me of the time that I informed him that one of his dogs was eating a dead seal on the beach. He informed me that the dog had been eating dead sea lions on the beach for years and nothing had happened yet.
As a SF Dog Walker, I know from research that puddles in San Francisco Parks are often sources of drinking water for racoons, rats and other wildlife and can cause a dog to develop bouts of vomiting, diarrhea, by infecting the dog with Giardia, a water borne disease. Additionally, if a dog is eating dead or coming into contact with dying seals on the beach, they are potentially being exposed to Leptospirosis – a serious and deadly situation.
These two diseases are currently very active in San Francisco and both are contagious to dogs and humans and can be passed from dog to human. What this means to the average San Franciscan is that the family dog may be exposing your family to very serious illnesses if they are regularly drinking from muddy puddles in the parks or eating dead or dying seals on the beach.
Five documented cases of Leptospirosis in the past two months! Don’t let your pets near muddy puddles in the parks or dead seals on the beaches! Leptospirosis is rarely seen in San Francisco’s dog population, but this year, it’s rampant.
This potentially fatal bacteria is spread through the urine of infected animals, particularly wildlife like raccoons, skunks and coyotes. If excreted in standing water, it can live for weeks if not months, infecting dogs and other animals tramping through or drinking from puddles. This year’s marked increase in leptospirosis cases is likely due to the mud and puddles left by the rains.
When the disease is caught in time, most studies show a 75 percent survival rate. Unfortunately, the initial symptoms can be hard to recognize. Symptoms are often non-specific and variable, and can include lethargy, decreased appetite, increased drinking and/or urination, vomiting or diarrhea.
Leptospirosis is preventable: the canine DHLPP vaccine protects against the bacteria, as well as against distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus and parainfluenza. Though the vaccine is not 100 percent effective, it is a dog’s best defense.
If your dog seems to be under the weather, “it is important to bring up to your veterinarian that your dog is out at the park or swims a lot, as these lifestyle components increase exposure to leptospirosis.
The DHLPP vaccination is available at any veterinary office.
Have you seen the Red Tides at Fort Funston?
If you have been out to Fort Funston, you might have been lucky enough to see an unusual red color in the water. Red tide is a common name for a phenomenon more correctly known as an algal bloom. These algae are plant-like organisms that can form dense, visible patches near the water’s surface.
Some red tides are associated with the production of natural toxins, depletion of dissolved oxygen or other harmful effects, and are generally described as harmful algal blooms. The most conspicuous effects of red tides are the associated wildlife mortalities among marine and coastal species of fish, birds, and marine mammals. This is probably why there were dead crabs on the beach a couple of days before the red tide showed it’s face to us.
At this point, it is unknown if the red tide is toxic to dogs and humans, but some surfers have stated that they have been sick after being out in this water. The red color will disappear once the conditions change.
If you have been wondering about the origin of the foam you can often find on the beach during the summer, it has noting to do with soap suds.It is caused by the decaying remains of microscopic organisms in the sea.
Every spring the ocean has sudden bursts of life. Phytoplankton bloom starts at the end of March. After a couple of weeks tiny algae like diatoms occur in such numbers that the water becomes yellow-brown.
So, what is that black stuff on the beach in Fort Funston? Is it oil left over from the Cosco Busan spill? No, in fact it is the chalky substance-veins of volcanic ash thrown from Mount Lassen thousands of years ago. After all of our heavy storms this winter, most of the top layer of silica sand had been blown or washed away to leave dark colored streaks on the beaches. This black sand is a kind of iron ore called magnetite. The magnetite is a part of the cliff walls, and as the sandstone erodes, it leaves the heavier iron-based magnetite on the beach.
Black sand can be seen as a layer on top of silica sand in regions with high wave energy. This weight enables it to remain when high-energy waves wash the lighter sand grains out into the surf zone.
Take a magnet with you to the beach and run it through the sand, magnetite will stick to the ends. The dark minerals in beach sand at right, from Fort Funston are primarily magnetite and amphiboles, which are non-magnetic black minerals. Both of these mineral types tend to fracture into very small grains that collect on the surface of the sand, by virtue of being smaller and, therefore, lighter.
(taken directly from the GGNRA website)