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Dublin: 2 °C Monday 16 December, 2019

No bites yet, but dog walking is anything but easy

As part of our Odd Jobs series spoke to Stephen Robinson from Dog Walkers Dublin.

IF THE MODERN world is responsible for anything, that thing is opulent pet care.

A phenomenon that seems to have been spawned in the United States over the past twenty years, it is now firmly embedded over here.

In Ireland, one fifth of all households have a dog, so it’s not a surprise that pet care has grown as an industry.

One area that has seen particular growth is the number of dog walkers operating in Ireland.

“People are more and more into doggy culture, spoiling their dogs,” explains Stephen Robinson, dog walker and company director with Dog Walkers Dublin, “Apart from ourselves there are a lot of doggy grooming businesses that have popped up.

“I suppose traditionally it was sort of an American thing where people would spoil their dog and put a lot of money into taking care of them. It is definitely something that has caught on here.”

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Having studied business in the Institute of Technology in Tallaght, Robinson was inspired to set up his business after spending time abroad in the United States.

“I noticed there were a lot of people over there walking around with 20 dogs hanging off of them. I said it to my partner and we set the business up over here because I thought there was a chance over here to supply that service,” he said.

That’s how it started, and we’ve developed and built it up slowly over a year and a half since then – at the point now that we have four full time dog walkers, both in north and south Dublin.

Difficult dogs 

Dog walking is something that comes with a unique set of challenges, high among them you might think would be not getting bit by the animals.

Is this something that Robinson has come across?

“Touch wood, not so far. We haven’t had anybody biting anybody,” he says.

It was actually one of the things people asked about when I got into the business, ‘what if a dog bites you or bites another dog?’

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“It was like, you know, ‘a dog can bite you in any kind of day to day situation’, it was something, if you are going to be working with dogs it’s a possibility that it might happen. If you tile roofs, you might fall off the roof.”

And if someone does get bit, his company has both public liability and pet insurance.

Even if they do bite us, we’re ok!

One thing that’s a big factor when out walking a dog is dealing with the different personalities.

“There’s always one or two who try to make trouble,” Robinson explains, “We try to walk them altogether, or as much of them together as possible, just for the social aspect of it so that they get to socialise with other dogs.”

Every dog is different. It was one of the things that I learnt on the job. They all have very distinctive personalities and you get to know who’s who and what one dog likes and what another dog doesn’t like.

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Who needs their dogs walked?

The fact that people are working longer hours and living in smaller accommodation works to the advantage of the industry.

“It is a lot of young people who are working or in apartments and stuff like that who have dogs and work all day. We basically call around to their apartments on a daily basis and just take the dog out,” explains Robinson.

While people might be time poor, they still seek out the best treatment available for their animals. To make sure that this happens, Robinson makes sure that anyone hired by the company has a passion for it.

“We’re all very much pet lovers and the people we hire, we like to make sure they have a history of having pets in the family and working with pets in the past and really having a love for them,” he says.

That is really the main thing that our clients are looking for, they are looking for people that will love their pets as much as they do. That gives them the peace of mind when they are at work or when they are travelling.

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While it might seem like a great profession for someone with a love of animals, there are a couple of downsides.

For one thing, there is a lot of travelling involved, with walkers having to drive long distances to collect animals.

And if someone is paying you to look after their pet, it isn’t unusual for them to get a bit picky about how their animal is treated.

“A lot of owners are very particular about what time the dog is picked up, whether it is on the lead or off the lead, how many dogs the dog is walked with, what the dog likes to eat, leaving the radio on when you drop it home, leaving the window open,” says Robinson.

People are pretty specific about their animals and what they like.

Odd Job: Dog Walker

What does it pay? What somebody could expect to earn in a 9 to 5 entry level position.

How many are there? Around four larger companies in Dublin, with lots of smaller operations nationally.

What qualifications/experience do you need? Dog walkers are garda vetted and a background of being around animals is required.

Dog Walkers Dublin can be contacted through their website here on on 0861231919. 

Do you know someone with an unusual occupation for our Odd Jobs series? Email the author below.

Read: How do you know whether a dog is dangerous or not?

Also: 8-year-old boy seriously injured following attack by dog

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