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The Magic of Dog Walking

Pawrus Singapore - The Magic of Dog Walking The Magic of Dog Walking

The world is becoming an increasing globalised place to live in. Today, cross-border migration of people, culture and even pets, are not an uncommon sight. More than ever, time is a much treasured resource that people are having lesser of. If you live in Singapore, you would noticed that our four-legged friends and their human companions coming out for walks either in the early mornings, or late evenings of the day are declining – and in voracious fashion. In addition, you would more frequently encounter medium and large breeds, as compared to small breeds. To make matters worse, the advent of professional dog walkers has seemingly solved the problems of time-constrained; middle-class dog owners who are tied inconspicuously to their corporate desks.

Why is this so? Is there a definitive science behind the act of dog walking? What am I doing to my pet if I hire a professional dog walker? How deeply ingrained do dog owners think that small dogs don’t require walking as compared to medium and large dogs? What are the benefits of dog walking – for our loyal companions and us?

The Definition of Dog Walking

Dog walking is both a pastime and a profession involving the act of a person walking with a dog, typically from the dog's residence and then returning to the said residence. This constitutes part of the daily exercise regime needed to keep a dog healthy. It also provides exercise and companionship for the walker. (Wikipedia, 2015)

Professional Dog Walkers

Pawrus Singapore - History of Dog Walking History of Dog Walking

• A History of Dog Walking, Pros and Cons

Professional dog walkers, both individuals and businesses, are paid by dog owners to walk their dog for them. Though unregulated, in recent years, dog walking had become an incredibly lucrative industry, where mandatory first aid training, insurance for lost dogs/dog bites has become the norm of the trade.

In Singapore, dog walking is one of the most highly demanded services, after dog grooming and dog training, that dog owners pay for. Do note that all three pet-related services are currently unregulated by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA). Rates for freelances generally start from as low as S$5/hour to professionals who charges at rates of over S$25/hour.

While many dog walking businesses in Singapore claim to provide certified dog walkers, who has experience taking care of dogs – big and small, there are many questions that are not answered favourably.

Being unregulated, AVA does not have any rules or regulations on the requirements of a “dog walker”. In fact, anyone can be a “dog walker”. From my experience, many dog walkers (both professional and freelancer alike) have little experience handling dogs of different behavioural temperaments. Most commonly, behavioural profiles of such dog walkers stem from shelter volunteers, with ex-dog owners/current dog owners following close behind. Demographically, most of these dog walkers are young teenagers, or female homemakers looking to earn a quick buck from walking your dog.

This puts us, dog owners, in a precarious position. If we choose to engage a “professional dog walker”, we get to fulfil our dog’s most basic need, which is getting to go out of the house to do their daily business. However, in return, we are getting novice outsiders to handle our dog on their most eagerly awaited activity of the day – dog walking.

The dogs of today has become the ‘starter children’ of dog owners. All of them are remarkably different, in terms of physical outlook, temperament and behaviour. If you ask dog owners this question – do you trust a dog walker to take care of your dog’s needs fully; and without recourse of any form if anything goes south? There are few dog owners who would choose hiring a novice, as opposed to walking their dogs themselves.

Dog Walking for Dogs

Pawrus Singapore - Dog Walking 1 Dog Walking 1

• Debunking the Myth – All Dogs Need Exercise!

For many small dog pet owners, anecdotal studies have confirmed that it is common to think that: “oh, my dog don’t need as much exercise as big dogs”. Objectively, this is a completely wrong way of thinking. Rather, the right amount depends on the dog’s breed type and age.

For active small breeds such as Jack Russell Terriers or Beagles, without sufficient playtime or exercise time, they can get into all kinds of mischief, starting from inside your house! Conversely, for large breeds like Golden Retrievers, without at least a daily walk of an hour of more, they would experience an increase in lethargy, which is reflected in signs of excessive restlessness and sleepiness.

Furthermore, for older pets, walking is essential to the promotion of active joints and bones. To illustrate the severity of this issue, joints and bones which are left unmoved in a sedentary lifestyle are the main precursors to old aged joint problems such as osteoarthritis.

On the whole, all dogs require exercise. In normal situations, a lack of walking time for dogs can result in boredom and restlessness for your dog. In more serious instances, a lack of appetite or persistent behavioural problems might surface if left uncorrected.

Hence, it is critical to find the right balance for your dog to ensure a happy and healthy life.

• Health Benefits

Pawrus Singapore - Dog Walking 2 Dog Walking 2

It is a well-established fact that exercise is good for health. It not only releases healthy endorphins that scientifically boosts happiness levels, but it also helps to accentuate one’s sense of fulfilment. This is no different for our four-legged friends. One of the best examples is the fact that commercial pet food, supplements and treats all boasts a truckload of amino-acids, vitamins and minerals which are made to boost our dog’s health. While these are all beneficial, they have to be exerted to prevent them from turning into unhealthy fats. Obesity is one of the most widespread ailments that afflicts our urban companions today. Left unchecked, obesity is the start to more serious diseases such as exacerbated hip and joint problems, which results in difficulty walking in their older years. Thus, it is paramount for dogs to go out on an hour’s walk a day at least to maintain an optimum level of health.

• Environmental Awareness, Sense of Belonging and Socialisation

Pawrus Singapore - Dog Socialisation 2 Hello, little one!

For us, it is normal to relate to a dog walk as a routine. Whether it is a set path around your home, or around your favourite park, it gradually becomes a habit that we do without much thinking. However, to our dogs, the opening of the gate signifies the start of a venture into a whole new world. A world where their scents identify the people around them, the dogs who have been at the tree, or even changes in their environment. Despite the route staying the same, to them, every walk is different.

Pawrus Singapore - Dog Socialisation Sniff, sniff!

Experiencing an elevated sense of thrill, dog walking also creates a sense of belonging for your dog. Going out of your home and back again imprints a sense of familiarity. It tells the dog – I am leaving my house momentarily, but I will be back, soon enough. Furthermore, being a social animal like us, they find enjoyment and happiness creating relationships with new dogs around the neighbourhood, or simply knowing what has changed around the block. In the long run, research has shown that dogs who go on walks regularly tend to live longer. Undoubtedly, the social relationships add much immeasurable meaning to our loyal companion’s lives much more than we can ever imagine.

• Discipline and Training

Pawrus Singapore - Dog Walking 3 Dog Walking 3

Besides staying healthy and exploring the world, dog walking is a prime opportunity for dog owners to train their dog in the art of responsible dog discipline. It is a time for dog owners to reinforce proper dog walking, with the dog heeled by your left side, not walking in front of you, and enjoying a slow, leisure walk. When released, your dog should be allowed to mark on trees and explore the grasslands, with you, the alpha dog! Remember, you are making the decision of where to go, NOT your dog.

If your dog displays pulling, tugging, or rushing, it is important to stop, change direction and walk forward. Repeat this until your dog has his attention on you and your movements, always. With time, this form of correction will serve to correct your dog’s behaviour and make him enjoy and anticipate his daily walks with you.

Dog Walking for Humans

• Maintenance and Promotion of a Healthy Lifestyle

Pawrus Singapore - Bonding with Dogs Bonding with my Buddy!

Today, most dog owners hold jobs that require them to sit at a desk, furiously punching into a keyboard from dawn to dusk. As such, in recent years, obesity rates have spiked in Singapore, and around the world. This has led to an exponential increase in the risk of obesity-related diseases.

Thankfully, one of the perks of dog ownership is dog walking. Doing so, we are forced to leave our sedentary lifestyles behind after work, even for a little while after a long day. Best of all, it helps us to get rid of the calories from our morning coffee!

Also, the benefits that we experience are two-fold. Not only do we get to break our routine (Yes, humans get bored doing the same thing day in, day out too!), we get to enjoy a lower risk of deadly diseases and get to spend more time with our loyal companion. Doesn’t that sound great?

The Magic of Dog Walking – A Lifelong Bond

• The Bonding Process of Love

Pawrus Singapore - Fur-kid Bonding! Fur-kid Bonding!

Many people have different reasons for getting a dog. Some do it out of companionship, some do it out of boredom, while some even do it out of rescuing pitiful dogs who are stuck in animal shelters all over the world. Whatever the reason is, the most magical thing is that given the right amount of effort and time, a dog owner can experience an authentic, honest and true relationship with his dog that is unlike any other.

The bedrock of any relationship is trust, understanding and mutual respect. Going on a daily walk not only releases energy and endorphins, but it creates the chemical known as oxytocin, which is responsible for the emotion we call love.

Through walking, and listening to you talking to them about your day (despite them not understanding our words), studies has proven that dogs feel a deeper sense of attachment to their owners. Also, they are likely to exhibit signs of anticipation and happiness as they await you patiently to come back from work.

The Magic Persists Forever

Pawrus Singapore - Hachiko Hachiko, Akita from Shibuya Train Station, Japan

The story of Hachiko, the Akita who waited at Shibuya Train Station faithfully even after his owner’s death demonstrated a dog’s undying fealty and love for us. It taught us that our actions are a physical extension of our love for our beloved loyal companions.

In our time-poor world today, it is easy to make excuses to avoid walking your dog. Before I got into this trade 7 years ago, I thought the same as many people – The hour used to walk my dog could be used to do <insert important task> that is much more productive, could earn more money etc. However, there is something that I hope dog owners around the world would understand.

Dogs are wonderful and magical animals. They are not only our loyal and trusted companions, but they too, have a finite lifespan. Although small dogs live longer as compared to large dogs, their time is limited in this world. Therefore, if our dogs can give us the unconditional love that we ask for, shouldn’t we give it back to them – in even greater amounts of commitment whenever we can?

On a side note, it is important for people to realise that the relationships they build in life is much more valuable than monetary possessions. While monetary possession decay and rot away (eventually), relationships last a lifetime; and more. Just like how we nurture and teach our dogs the right values in life, they; too, teach us how to be honest, selfless and better beings too.

I would like to think that this magic that is bestowed on us lasts forever. Let us continue the magic within, shall we?

 

Resources:

http://www.wikihow.com/Become-a-Professional-Dog-Walker

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_walking

http://www.companionanimalpsychology.com/2014/10/what-encourages-people-to-walk-their-dog.html

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/09/the-dog-walking-economy/407971/

http://www.psmag.com/health-and-behavior/physically-active-got-dog-71038

http://www.dogsbestlife.com/home-page/take-your-dog-for-a-walk-and-create-a-lifelong-bond/

http://www.ava.gov.sg/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hachik%C5%8D

BBA, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP, AVA-Accredited, Former Military Working Dog Trainer author email author website
A Certified Professional Dog Trainer and an AVA-Accredited Dog Trainer, Kevin is one of the two co-founders of Pawrus Singapore. One day, he aspires to become one of the best dog trainers in the world. A Former Dog Trainer in the Military Working Dog Unit (MWDU), Kevin used to train working dogs for guarding, arms and narcotics detection operations. He is a Graduate of the Dog Trainer Professional Course at Karen Pyror Academy under Terry Ryan, World Famous Animal Trainer. He's a Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner. (KPA CTP) On his days off, he can be spotted pursuing his second hobby - photographing all kinds of animals around Sunny Singapore!
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