Going back to work? Tips from a professional dog walker.
Updated: Aug 1
(This post was originally written as we started to emerge from the Covid shutdown, but the tips apply to any dog owner who is gearing up to leave their pup while they head back to work.)
We know it’s been a minute since things felt normal. We’ve been stuck in our homes and your dog probably hasn’t been alone for more than 14 minutes since March 15, 2020. But you know what? It’s OK! We’ve got this. Pre-pandemic we had completed over half a MILLION dog walks while parents were out of the house at work (or out of town on vacations. Remember vacations? You go somewhere that is not your house! Sometimes it is overseas. Crazy!)
It’s hard to imagine that dogs CAN spend time alone, but we promise you they can and we can help ease the transition back to work. Since 2005, we’ve helped pet parents navigate being away from their pets: both logistically and emotionally. (Let’s face it being away isn’t always awesome.) Here are our top tricks as you start to think about going back to the office (or school, or the lab, or New Zealand.)
Practice makes perfect (Leave your house! Do it!)
Give yourself excuses to get out a little bit each day before you head back to the office. Go for a walk, pick up a coffee, run an errand, but leave your pup at home. I know. Going for a walk without your dog when you COULD take them with you? Blasphemy! But it’s kinda like how you crate train a puppy. Start with short intervals away and build on them. We want to let our dogs know that we might be leaving them, but we’ll always come home! (For Daniel Tiger parents: think - “Grownups come back.”) If your pup hasn’t been alone for more than 30 minutes for the last year and then you leave them for an entire day, things could get bumpy. Every time you leave (and come home) you’re teaching them that you’ll always come back! (And we’re huge fans of frozen stuffed Kongs to keep monsters occupied.)
We have quite a few clients that are using us once or twice a week as “test drives” with their dogs. They’re using the afternoons we visit to get out of the house as practice runs for the longer work days that lie ahead.
Set up a routine NOW and form a relationship with your chosen caregiver.
We hope that you choose us but whoever you pick, not only will your monster be happier about seeing a known friend each day, your mind will be at ease because YOU will already have a relationship with your walker. Don’t want to leave your pup with a stranger? There’s only one way to get to know someone. (Wink! Wink!)
We are strongly suggesting that clients who MIGHT go back to work soon set up regular service, even if it’s 1-2 walks a week to start while you are still working from home. Since the pandemic hit, we have completed over 20,000 walks. About 30% of those walks were done when someone is working from home. (We have tried and tested safety protocols that work for both our employees and our clients.)
With incoming clients, we are also seeing increased cases of dogs that aren’t socialized due to the necessary social distancing that 2020 ushered in. Think about it - many of us haven’t had friends or family in our homes for over a year. Some of our new canine clients are taking a while to get comfortable with other people (us) in their homes. Trust when we say your first few weeks back at work will be more relaxing if you’re not worried about your dog at home.
Plan ahead! We might be in short supply soon.
Has your employer given hints that you might be starting walks in September? Don’t wait until a few days before you have to head back into the office to set up walks. We’re not 100% sure what type of flood we’re going to get when people head back to work. There is a very good chance that for at least a while, we’ll need to shut down for new client intake if we reach capacity.
Everyone laughs now at the overused word unprecedented, but it has been used on repeat for a reason. Quality and experienced dog walkers may actually be in short supply in a few months. Our industry contracted in a massive way last year. We’re doing everything we can to plan ahead, but we don’t have a crystal ball. Lock your dog walker down early. We will move heaven and earth to schedule walks for our active clients. But at some point, we may need to limit taking on new clients. We just don’t know! Don’t be stuck without a dog walker when you need one the most. It’s no fun calling 20 services to hear, “We’re already booked.”
Ask for advice!
We have worked with thousands of dog walking clients in Philly since 2005. If you’re unsure of what type of schedule you want, when or where to get started, just reach out. We’re happy to workshop with you to come up with a plan that works for you and your monster. We joke that “we’ve seen it all” and it’s not far from the truth. Lean on us if you need a professional.
Go easy on yourself.
Last but not least, be kind to yourself. We’re hearing from a lot of dog owners that they’re experiencing feelings of guilt about leaving their pets after over a year essentially spent at home. Please remember, you are a GOOD dog owner. The fact that you're reading this means that you're researching how to best meet your dog's needs. Also try to remember that prior to 2020, millions of dogs lived very happy lives while their human was at work or school. (And truthfully, most of the hours were probably spent napping!) We can be there to offer your pup an adventure and offer YOU peace of mind while you’re away. Our experience can help make the transition less stressful for everyone involved. (It might even feel normal.)