Working

Canine-to-five; the wonderful life of a dog walker

New River Walk, London through the eyes of a dog walker

A dog walker is out in all weathers and sees the cityscape through the kaleidoscope of  mother nature’s lens. My friend Teri is a dog walker and runs Arthur and Martha’s Dog Service, and regularly posts photos on her facebook page. Many of the pictures show her four-legged clients having the best of times but there are also plenty of stunning landscapes charting the changing seasons. She snaps secret green corners, beautiful skies, fabulous street art – all discovered on her daily wanderings. When I see the day from her perspective a bit of me is ever-so-jealous that I’ve spent far too long at my desk.

Don’t get me wrong – her job is not always about strolling canal side on a sunny day. On wet days, while my dog gets a few round-the-block walks, Teri is out for hours, walk after walk, soaked through and cold. But you don’t hear her complaining about the rain – this job is her passion. It’s everyone’s dream, to change something they love into a business so I asked Teri about her journey.

Q. How did you become a dog walker?
A. I was working as a security guard and got talking to a female dog trainer at an event. I’ve always been interested in dogs and asked her about how you could get started in the business. She suggested I volunteer with a dog charity, which I did, one morning a week for three years.

London dog walking, Arthur and Marthas Dog Service

Q. When did you decide to make it your job?
A. I looked forward to my morning volunteering and realised that it just wasn’t enough. I wanted a dog fix more often. When I was with the dogs it made me feel happier and calmer – I just loved it. I’ve suffered with depression and it can make you withdraw into yourself but dogs help to bring you back into the world. For instance I would previously avoid parks because they were full of people having fun and it would have made me feel isolated – but with a dog it’s not even something you think about.

London treescape, Arthur and Marthas Dog Service

Q. So what was the next step?
A. I looked for jobs with local dog walking businesses and my voluntary experience helped a lot. First I worked for a daycare company, I would drive a van to collect a list of dogs from their homes in the morning, walk and supervise them all day and then drop them home. My next job was as a dog walker for another small business as well as taking dogs home with me overnight when needed. I learned a huge amount from these experiences and how their business practices compared to those of the charity I volunteered for. I didn’t process it at the time but I was gradually working out how I would do it differently.

Q. So you decided to start your own business?
A. Yes I wanted more of a relationship with the dogs and felt that I could get this with a smaller, regular number of clients of my own. The only way to do it was to take the plunge and go it alone. I’d toyed with the idea for a while so when it came to it I already had the name; I sorted out the insurance, printed some business cards and hey presto. Now all I needed was some dogs.

Q. How did you find clients?
A. I wanted to find local clients so that I could manage the dogs on my own and also be able to team up dogs with similar natures etc. I started slowly but I’ve become quite good at handing out my business card to anyone I come across with a nice natured dog. Dog walking is very sociable is so its easy to strike up conversations in parks, cafes or even passing in the street so I just told everyone I was available if they needed me. Now I am established there’s word-of-mouth too and nothing is better than a recommendation. Oh and there’s the facebook page which I like to fill with lots of dog training and behavioural finds.

Q. What about the future?
A. I’ve found my dream job as a dog walker and I will do this forever, or for as long as I can walk.

Misty morning in Victoria Park, Arthur and Marthas Dog Service

Morning sunshine New River Walk, London N1, Arthur and Marthas Dog Service

All images ©Teri Tyndale 2015

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