Doggy Day Care – It’s Tough, But Someone Has To Do It
A few months back we introduced you to Debbie and the wonderful Tia from KDW in this blog post. We have been lucky enough to catch up with them again and interview Ash the new KDW member on her daily life as a full time professional pet carer.
Looking after animals is a wonderful task, it’s not even really a job, it is a vocation. Ash tells us what she gets up to with our dogs during the day, along with why she loves her job so much.
How did you get into pet care?
I got into this career a little by accident, and a lot by luck. I was fortunate enough to grow up on a small holding, surrounded by animals, including dogs, though never imagined I could make a career from caring for animals unless I became a veterinary surgeon or zoologist!
I made the decision that I would give up my career in IT to make sure my large-breed dogs got all the care and exercise they required, particularly as they had just reached 2 years old and had lots of energy to burn. I realised since I was already spending my days walking my own dogs, I could walk other peoples’ dogs too, so with some guidance from my old dog walker I started my own dog walking & pet sitting service in my own local area.
10 months later, after proving my dedication to the job, and building a strong reputation as a trusted care provider, my previous dog walker presented a fantastic opportunity to absorb my company, and combine our manpower & resources to provide a range of services unlike any other in the area. I haven’t looked back since.
Describe your business in a nutshell!
We are a bespoke service, mainly walking & home boarding dogs, but also providing pet sitting & small holding services. We like quirky requests too, like dog handling at celebratory events. We are not your average dog walkers!
What do you do on a daily basis?
Days start and end with admin work and driving to clients’ homes; In between I visit puppies (including cleaning up puppy messes!), pick up dogs for walking and day care, undertake group and solo walks with dogs, tend small holdings to feed & muck out animals, attend pet sitting clients to clean out litter trays, tanks and cages… There is of course a lot of walking and playing with dogs too, but you see the recurring theme with the cleaning up animal poop? That’s a big part too!
During walks though, I am very observant of individual behaviours and group dynamics; it’s a great way to learn more about dogs every day.
Is there a favourite area in your daily role?
Honestly, just watching dogs be dogs on our group walks is one of the most enjoyable things anyone could do. Of course there is work that goes into matching dogs to specific groups, but when you do it right, it really doesn’t feel like a job; The pack just works together, under your leadership, and enjoys walking, playing, running and jumping without getting over excited. Watching that, and knowing how much the dogs get out of it both physically and mentally is hugely rewarding.
What do you think is the most important area of caring for your customer’s dog or dogs?
Understanding their needs and the needs of their dog(s) is very important to me, as is ensuring the safety of their pet while in my care. I have read shocking stories of Dog Walkers who group unsuitable dogs together for numbers, resulting in devastating consequences, or who have let preventable situations escalate to the point where they have been unable to control and/or protect the dogs their care. We ensure every dog we take on is assessed and grouped with dogs with compatible temperaments and energies, while our walking areas limit exposure to risk factors outside of our control.
Some clients have dogs who enjoy the company of group walks, but don’t need so much exercise as others, so we tailor their walks with this consideration. Others may know their dog has a tendency to wander but still want them to enjoy group walks, so during walks we work with them on standard and long lunge leads, building relationships with the dog and working on recall. Our clients greatly value this flexibility.
Do you think that bespoke dog care is a better option than kennels, if so why?
I do, absolutely. Though it is many years since I worked in a boarding kennel for a summer, comparing the care there to what we do now in home boarding environments, the difference is immense.
I am sure there are many dogs who do ok in kennels, but I believe that most family pets do so much better in a home-from-home environment, and personally, I would want my own dogs to be more than just “ok” in my absence.
With guaranteed 24/7 supervision, frequent outings both in the garden and for walks, socialisation with people and other dogs, and an understanding of & adherence to specific feeding requirements (I am mum to a dog with severe food allergies so this is very important to me), bespoke services such as the kind we provide really make a dog’s time away from their owner as stress free and enjoyable as possible.
What is your most memorable experience in your role?
The first time I was contacted to provide a quote for someone who had been recommended my services through their co-worker who was (and continues to be) a client of mine. Word of mouth recommendations have actually been the biggest source of business for us, but that first time filled me with a great feeling of pride that someone was so happy with my care for their pets that they shared their experience of me to friends and colleagues.
What is the most important advice you would give to someone looking to work with dogs?
There are so many ways to work with dogs, and none should be considered the “easy” option. Whether you want to become a vet or nurse, a trainer or behaviourist, a groomer or walker, each career path has its benefits and drawbacks.
Find your passion and do your research. Perhaps try to do an internship with a local company within your chosen field to build relationships & contacts within the industry, or volunteer with a rescue centre to gain valuable, practical experience.
You can read more about Debbie, Mark, Ash and their wonderful dogs (including Tia) on the Kelty Doggy Walks website.