16 years experienced dog walker in San Francisco! This is what my customers got from me on my anniversary!!
Posted by The San Francisco Dog Walker
Many pet owners add a furry friend to their family to enjoy an adorable puppy for cuddles, playtime, and companionship. They may take their pet to all necessary veterinary appointments and hire professional dog walking services to help with exercise. However, they may forget an important part of care giving, signing their dog up for dog training classes.
If you are one of these people who believes organized obedience or training classes are not necessary, these top reasons may help you change your mind.
Many of my clients have started services with my dog walking company after they have decided that their dog has gained too much weight and they don’t know what to do about it. The problem is that just like with people, exercise helps but it is not the complete cure. You have to cut back on your dog’s food intake too.
I tell my dog walking clients that the very first thing that they must do immediately is STOP GIVING THEM TREATS! Even food scraps at the table, can add inches very quickly to your dog’s waist. Your dog is probably 1/8th your size, so try to remember that before you offer something to eat.
An overweight pet is predisposed to many problems in their senior years such as back/ hip issues, torn ACL’s, arthritis and diabetes. Even if your dog already has any of these conditions, it can still be improved if you reduce your dog’s weight. So, if you want your dog to live a long, healthy life, it is imperative that you keep their weight in check at every stage of their life. Of course, it is your choice whether or not you keep your dog’s weight in check, but the fact is that your dog may need to be euthanized earlier than it’s life-expectancy because they can no longer walk or that their pain level has worsened and no longer can be controlled. It is just a simple fact that overweight dogs just do not live as long as fit dogs do.
So now the question is, what is the right weight? This is something that causes difficult conversations with dog owners because people tend to be super sensitive about their dog’s weight and often do not see them as being fat. Look at your dog from top and then at their sides and you should see a waistline. When viewing them, be honest. They should look slim and you should be able to feel their ribs easily. One tip is to google facts about your breed and see what the web says your dog should weigh. If you have a chow hound, you should try to stick to a program that will help your dog achieve the googled amount. Another tip that will help you is to always use a measuring cup or scale when preparing their meals. Make sure you are giving them the same amount of food everyday.
Cutting out human food may seem like a small change to you and that it doesn’t make sense that it would do anything to improve their waistline. How can this work? What’s a small piece of cheese going to do to my dog? Again, please try to remember that your dog is very small in comparison to yourself and that a small piece of cheese is probably equal to a whole pizza for us humans. If you give a small 10 pound dog a piece of cheese, try to think of it as giving yourself 15 times that amount.
If your dog sleeps most of the day while you are at work, those calories are just sitting there not being burned off. After time, these calories start to add up quickly and you wind up with a fat dog, just because you were giving them a small piece of cheese on your way out the door.
You need to get real with yourself about how many calories in a day you are giving your dog. Once you have done that initial analysis, you can then begin the process of deciding how you will attack this problem. Starting out slowly is a good idea. Like us, when you decrease your dog’s food intake, they will probably feel hungry and beg for treats. You have to stay strong, but you also must have some compassion for them. Start by cutting out the treats and then in a week or two cut their food intake by 1/3. Stay at this measurement for a couple of week and evaluate if your dog is losing any weight. It is a slow process but remember, you have to stay the course. And one more thing, you need to remember is that your dog walker will be providing your dog treats when they are in the park. We have to give dogs treats to keep them motivated and moving in the right direction. It is hard to keep a pack of dogs moving in the same direction and treats really help with that task. So please, do not compound the problem by adding treats on top of the dog walker’s.
If you really love your dog, you will feed them a healthy diet and give them daily exercise. Consider using a dog walking service while you are at work. This will keep them living a very long life. We don’t want them to die before they are a ripe old age.
Posted by The San Francisco Dog Walker
You may kid yourself into thinking that they are “just a dog”, but the truth is you love them like family. So, when something happens to them you want to do the right thing and rush them to the vet office. Then comes the realization that the cost could be thousands of dollars and you stubbornly tell yourself again that they are “just a dog”. But when the time comes, your heart will be broken and will never repair. The guilt over losing your best friend because you couldn’t afford a procedure will stay with you for a lifetime.
The best veterinary care doesn’t come cheap. Pet parents without insurance often settle for less effective treatments because of high costs, compromising the health of their pets. With pet insurance paying the bill, money is never a problem for you. Not only do you get the best care possible, but the big pay off is the peace of mind knowing that you have done everything possible for your BFF.
One of the pet insurance companies that I often talk about with my clients is called PETPLAN. Although I am not personally experienced with their service, I do know that this insurance seems to cover many things that other insurance companies do not.
For example, they cover costs for:
They also will cover up to 90% reimbursement and have unlimited annual coverage.
Best advice is to compare pet insurance companies and pick the one with the most coverage. Consumers Advocate recently did objective research to create a guide – assisting pet owners in the essential points one should consider when making decisions on pet insurance. I figured you might be interested in reading it. I’ve added a link to the full guide below.
But don’t put it off too long or you might be sorry.
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 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!!
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
Pumpkin tastes good to dogs. Add a little to their daily diet, or use as a supplement when the “runs” strike…
Firm Up! is also a great product to use when your dog is transitioning to a different diet. The fiber helps digestion and makes the switch easier.
Firm Up! is 100% USA GROWN dried pumpkin. Pumpkin is low in fat and dense in nutrients such as Alpha-Carotene, Beta Carotene, Fiber, Vitamin C & E, Potassium, Magnesium, and Pantothenic Acid. Find it online for about $8.
Our dog Abby enjoys her “outings” with Janet so much, that we’ve continued them even after my husband and I retired. Abby knows when Janet is close – she runs back & forth between the front window & door…”she’s here, she’s here”…. and doesn’t look back once she’s out the door. And once Abby does get back, she is tired and happy to be home. Thanks Janet for taking such good care of Abby. Bill & Sera
Posted by The San Francisco Dog Walker
I have been walking dogs in San Francisco for over 11 years now and I can truly say that I love doing this work!
In order to be a successful dog walker in San Francisco, you need to relish being outside everyday in any kind of weather condition. Tramping around in mud on stormy days, freezing cold windy days, you get the idea! The weather can make the job pleasant or unpleasant and that is something that you have to be willing to put up with. It is part of the job description and a must do. I happen to love a stroll through the woods on a rainy day. Do you?
Another job requirement for being a San Francisco dog walker is that you must be ok with a lot of driving! You must be able to drive without accidents or tickets and at the same time make quick pick ups and drop offs. You must operate like a UPS driver. In fact, that is exactly how you will feel, like a UPS driver. Driving the same route everyday can become really monotonous. Also this can be said for the tasks you do everyday. You need to remember to lock the houses, set the alarms, while answering text messages about schedule changes. You need to be a multi-tasker extraordinaire.
You need to be able to say good-bye to dogs. They will either die from old age or move to another location. This is very heartbreaking and if you really love them, you will cry. Emotions run high in this business, so you must be prepared for heartbreak. Can you stand having your dog ripped from your arms? You have to give so much of your heart to be a good dog walker, but you must also be able to walk away, if the time comes. Very difficult to do.
Ok so here is the most important requirement: you must love dogs. Correction, you must love YOUR dogs! Actually, this is the BIGGEST key to being a very successful dog walker in San Francisco. You must love each and every dog that you are taking to the park. You must open up your heart and let them in. Dogs know if you love them and will not follow your lead if you don’t. It is a given.
The best advice my sister gave me is, don’t take every dog that comes along. You must carefully choose candidates for your pack. Are they well trained? Do they have an excellent recall? Are they aggressive or have any play styles that might be misinterpreted by other dogs? Don’t be afraid to turn down dogs that will not be good for your pack. Do not try to grow big without considering how it will affect your day, your attitude and the behavior of your pack. I know for a fact that when you are walking too many dogs, you are tired and grumpy. The job no longer seems fun and you are not happy doing this work. Young, struggling dog walkers often work for dog walking companies as employees or contractors and need to make enough money to cover expenses. They often cut corners to make things work, thus there is a high turnover in the dog walking industry. They find out that the job requires too much work for the amount of pay and the fun of being with dogs all day looses its appeal.
I have been told time and time again that people really like my dogs and my pack. They are in awe that they behave so well. I have been called a dog whisperer, but mostly I just love my dogs and they know it. They are all really good dogs and behave. I chose my pack carefully and did not making “growing business” a priority. More importantly, I do the right thing for the dogs and the owners. Other dog walkers in San Francisco cannot say this.
Another must have – a strong desire to open your own business and willingness to put in the time. Owning your own dog walking business in San Francisco is not easy and you will need to love it so much that you are willing to spend the time. You need to market your business, interview clients, bill your clients every month, create schedules, purchase equipment and clean your vehicle inside and out. This is not a 9-5 job and you have to have the flexibility to work the many hours necessary to make the business take off.