I’ll preface this to say that obviously there are different types of walkers/set ups for different client requirements/dog personalities. Those who do on leash neighbourhood walks, or work for a daycare won’t necessarily need the same skills as those who operate their own business doing daily runs to Cherry Beach Dog Park. These are simply personality traits or qualities that I would look for in anyone who I leave the love of my life with - Jet Jackson.
1. An understanding of dog behaviour
Obviously I’m not saying your walker has to be a certified dog trainer (although these people do exist (walk and trains) and other walkers who deal specifically with reactive dogs such as the good people at Motley Zoo (@motleyzooto) and Adventure Woofs (@adventure.woofs), but a good walker will see a potential problem and avoid or manage it before it escalates.
Your walker could potentially be walking 18 dogs throughout a day. Doggy Dates just does two runs, and Jet Jackson goes on them both (lucky dog!) so I only manage up to 10 clients in total on a daily basis, and a maximum of 5 at any one time. All of my client information is saved on to my google drive so that I have instant access to it on my phone. Thankfully I’ve only ever had to access this once when I had to take a dog to the vet to get her checked out. I knew which vet to call, and a potentially stressful situation was made just that bit calmer by having all the necessary information at my fingertips.
3. Personal qualities - kind and gentle with a good sense of humour
This is key for me. I don’t subscribe to the surprisingly well known approach to canine social behaviour known as ‘dominance theory’ that states I need to be pack leader. ‘Dominance Theory’ (two million-plus Google hits) is based on a study of captive zoo wolves conducted in the 1930s and 1940s by Swiss animal behaviourist Rudolph Schenkel. Schenkel concluded that wolves in a pack fight to gain dominance, the winner being the Alpha wolf.
Unfortunately, this one study wasn’t compared to others; there wasn’t anything else to compare it to at the time. No one considered this single group of captive animals might be acting completely differently than a non-captive wolf would, or even other captive animals in similar situations. Like poorly conducted marketing research, this one group represented the entire Canine population. This theory has now largely been debunked.
I strongly reinforce positive behaviours and am very generous with the treats, the praise and the routine. Most of my dogs have done some training with Caryn at the The Centre for Canine Education who also uses science based non violent techniques.
Handling multiple dogs isn’t just a ‘walk in the park’. Managing multiple dogs in all sorts of weather conditions in a large offleash park requires a degree of fitness. There’s uneven surfaces, ice, snow and excitable dogs running towards you with the zoomies. Sometimes these things happen all at the same time, so a degree of nimbleness, spatial awareness and balance come in very handy. I once had to carry little Miss Rhubarb from one end of the park to the car when she hurt her leg and was thankful for my years of gym going! Dog walking is demanding on the body so you want someone who looks after their physical health.
5.Fun and safe
If Jet (my dog) was out with someone for an hour every day, I’d want her to absolutely adore them. I’d want it to be fun, for her to be doing different activities and being totally engaged. I’d honestly want it to be the most fun in her day with solid supervision and guidance and that’s what I look to provide for my clients. Check out my instagram storiesto get a feel for who I am and what the dogs get up to. Last but not least, you want to make sure your walker is pet first aid and CPR trained, because whilst we hope this is never needed, if it is, it could save your dog’s life.
Finally, my advice would be to go to whichever dog park you’d like your dog walked and watch the walkers at work on a few occasions, that will give you a feel for who they are. Obviously check out their google reviews and ask for recommendations, but there’s nothing like seeing someone in action.
Stories of hope and transformation - a new antidote for pandemic times
Think Humans of New York except with queer people and rescue dogs. This exhibit is bringing people to tears.
If you’ve been to Cherry Beach or Withrow dog park recently you might have noticed a new outdoor art exhibit. Not in the east end? No problem, the Don’t You Want Me photography exhibit will be on display at Stackt Market from August 4-18.
The Don’t You Want Me project examines the lives of queer people and their rescue dogs by creating a visual global platform for them to tell their stories. Finding strength and purpose in the unconditional love given by dogs we watch the project’s subjects heal and transform.
The project’s aim is to highlight what happens when the marginalized receive unconditional love and support. This bond and the subsequent personal growth form the backbone of the Don’t You Want Me project.
A quick Q&A for you!
Why rescue dogs and why queer people?
This was simply the combination of our life experience, Deb, my project partner was involved in dog rescue and is a portrait photographer, I’m a dog photographer and happen to be trans. The narrative side of the project documents the transformation of each of the subjects, something that I drew upon from my own transition.
People need art now more than ever and with the drive to hold more events outside and a visual project that embodies people overcoming great adversity, the timing was perfect. I know the pandemic isn’t the worst time in some of our participants’ lives and that in itself might prompt a much needed discussion.
Do you think the pandemic has brought more awareness to the vulnerable in our community?
Yes and no. Because of the news people are more aware of how the pandemic has impacted our most vulnerable, but oftentimes the thought stops there. Perhaps more powerfully however, I think people have been forced to be a little more introspective.
Certainly when the pandemic first hit, people were scared. Scared about losing their jobs, losing their businesses, scared about how they were going to pay the rent or mortgage. Alcohol sales rocketed at the onset of the pandemic, and continue to be considerably above average so I imagine people may have more insight into how it feels to experience more uncertainty, not to work, not to have routine, not to have those support networks around them that so many took for granted, yet the more vulnerable simply don’t have. Isolation and poverty are their own pandemic.
I feel like we are living through a revolution and people are no longer tolerating discrimination and injustices or abuse of power. I believe the events of the last few months have taught us that we need to radically change how we support and help our most vulnerable.
The project has just announced a partnership with Wild At Heart Foundation - a dog rescue, education and advocacy organization whose values align so perfectly with the project that we’re working together to offer a first of its kind grant. The grant will provide ongoing support to individuals from the LGBTQ community who desperately want and would benefit from having a dog, but who can’t afford one. The grant will also include dog walking services (courtesy of Doggy Dates Toronto) for a community that often earn less, live alone or are without family help nearby. We will also be integrating DYWM’s mission into WAHF’s education curriculum! How cool is that?!
Move over pharmaceuticals, all some people really need is love.
Not everyone wants or needs the same thing from a dog walker. Here’s some questions to think about before hiring a dog walker. Here’s our answers!
Do you provide off leash or on leash walks?
We offer both off leash walks and on leash walks. All of our off leash walks are at Cherry Beach Dog Park. We feel so lucky to have such a wonderful large dog park just a 5 minute drive from the city. In our opinion this is the safest place to take the dogs - there is a constant source of water for swimming and hydration and the park is big enough to avoid any unruly dogs. There’s also plenty of shade for the really hot days. Check out our video here! We offer private walks if required subject to availability. Your dog may not like or enjoy dog parks, your dog may have some reactivity to other dogs or people, your dog may be elderly or frail, or your dog may simply need a more leisurely paced walk with individual attention. We offer 30 minute private walks on leash subject to availability.
How long will my dog be out with you for?
We are at the beach for the full hour and depending on what order Jack picks up and drops off your dog, your dog will usually be out anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours. Depending on the day / no. of dogs / traffic / weather we always give a 2 hour window in which we will collect your dog.
Are the dogs happy and safe in the car?
Jack takes his own dog Jet with him on all group dog walks, so rest assured your dog is 100% having fun, 100% treated like family and safety is key! Jet loves the car ride, she enjoys sniffing the air and likes greeting each dog as we collect them on the way to the beach. The AC in on full blast during the summer and all pick ups/drop offs are done in 3 minutes or under!
What happens when we go on vacation, do you offer boarding?
Jack can do boarding and we also recommend K925 whom we trust implicitly. This is where Jet stays when Jack goes away.
What happens if my dog becomes unwell on the walk?
Jack has your vet details on his google drive on my phone so that I have access to your information at all times. Jack will contact you immediately if your dog is showing signs of illness or distress. If Jack believes your dog requires urgent veterinary care he will take them directly to your vet. Jack has taken a pet first aid course and has business insurance. Always check that your walker has these, the pet first aid could save your dog’s life.
What if I take the day off work last minute?
Most dog walkers who work for themselves will usually require 24 hours notice of changes to your agreed schedule. This is because they may be able to cover for another dog walker, or they may have a dog on a waitlist and if they can’t fill your spot they will lose income.
What happens when it’s really bad weather?
We provide dog walking 365 days of the year! If the weather is extremely cold or hot the group will be closely monitored. Some breeds love the cold weather, others not so much! If a dangerous storm is forecast Jack will simply adjust the time of the walk accordingly to avoid it. Jack may also adjust the time of the walk to avoid extreme heat, or match dogs to different weather conditions! Husky breeds for example love the snow, chihuahuas not so much.
Do you provide any updates about how our dog was on their walk?
We totally understand that when you first leave you dog in someone else’s care you can’t help but worry. Rest assured we provide daily updates on how your dog enjoyed their walk. Jack will text you at the end of each day and normally provide you with a video or photo. Once you feel totally comfortable that your dog is in the best hands possible, these updates will migrate onto Instagram stories - check them out, you’ll get a feel for Jack’s personality and how much fun the doggy daters have.
Is there anything else that you offer?
Jack just happens to be one of the top dog photographers in Toronto so you are sure to get some amazing photos of your dog partying with their new pals at the beach. We love it if you share these images on your social media channels and just ask that you give the appropriate photo credit to Doggy Dates Toronto.
Finally, why else should we choose Doggy Dates Toronto?
Jack is just an all round caring, professional and physically fit person who loves his job and takes great pride in it. It’s not all hardcore partying like it might seem from the Instagram stories, Jack is a big softie and has a heart of gold. Check out Jack’s softer side at the Don’t You Want Me project and you can also see what other clients have to say here.