Six Toronto dog walkers tell us what it’s like to hang out with other people’s pooches

Six Toronto dog walkers tell us what it’s like to hang out with other people’s pooches

Ask any professional dog walker and they’ll tell you the same thing: it’s not always a walk in the park. The gig is as seriously stressful as it is super fun—and, with kids in school, the temperature dropping and the busy holiday season about to ramp up, dog walkers’ services are as in-demand as ever. We asked some local experts to give us the scoop on what it’s like to mind their fleets of furry charges.

Jessi Ehret of Jessi Dog Walker

Photographed at Trinity Bellwoods
The cost: “My fee ranges from $18-25 per walk, depending on frequency and whether it’s a pack or solo walk.”
The route: “I’m located in the King West area, and there are five off-leash dog parks within walking distance. There’s also lots of beautiful residential streets to explore, and the lake is just a hop, skip and a jump away. We like variety in our outings.”
Tricky customers: “I walk Othello, a French bulldog who lost the use of his hind legs and has custom made wheels to help him get around. As long as he’s supervised, he does well to get out of his wheels for some rolling around on the grass, belly rubs and massages. Other than stairs, there isn’t much that can stop him.”
Horror stories: “I used to walk a dog that was very destructive. When I’d pick him up, I’d often find he’d gotten into the closet or bathroom and shredded anything he could sink his teeth into. He destroyed clothing, shoes, handbags, his person’s bed, a lamp. Some of the things I would find in his poop were scary!”

 

Stacey Grieve of A New Leash on Life

Photographed at Cherry Beach
The cost: “I charge $20 per dog per walk.”
The route: “I go strictly to off-leash dog parks, most often Cherry Beach.”
Tricky customers: “A big part of this job is knowing if any of the dogs I walk have problems with certain types of other dogs—some don’t like puppies, for instance, while others get bothered by un-neutered males. I’ll either distract the dog or leash it up and move it away when one of their ‘triggers’ comes around.”
Horror stories: “My worst situation involved a dog who I took to the beach. Her owner told me the dog didn’t like the water, so I was very surprised when she wandered into the lake to play fetch. I looked down for a second to get my phone out of my pocket to take a video of her splashing around, only to look back up and not see the dog anywhere. I quickly realized that the dog was, in fact drowning: she was under the surface, desperately trying to get her nose into the air. So into the lake I went, shoes, socks, cell phone and all, and grabbed her. The dog was fine—and actually ended up becoming quite a fan of water.”

 

Glen Marr, independent dog walker

Photographed at Cherry Beach
The cost: “It’s $20 per walk per dog, but I’ll offer a price break if a household needs more than one dog walked at the same time.”
The route: “I only take my pack to two off-leash parks: Cherry Beach and Woodbine beach. The other off leash parks are too crowded, and usually turn into mud pits in the wet months.”
Tricky customers: “The only really bad things I’ve had happen are the usual issues most walkers face from time to time, like scraps over toys that sound way worse than they actually are, or a dog that wanders to the lake for a quick drink. Most issues can be avoided by paying close attention to the pack.”

 

Lisa Marson of Your Pet Porter

Photographed on Adelaide West
The cost: “I charge $20 per dog for small group walks and $25 for solo walks. Cat visits, or other animal visits, are $25 per visit.”
The route: “I walk around Lakeshore, Fort York, Exhibition, Ontario Place, and Trinity Bellwoods. I also take my dogs on sidewalk walks, which are great for keeping nails short, and make use of alleys or other quieter green spaces for reactive dogs. Some dogs seem to like routine and others like more adventure.”
Tricky customers: “I have cared for many senior dogs and dogs with a myriad of health considerations. While it can be emotionally draining, I’m always prepared, whether it’s a seizure or any other emergency. It’s very satisfying to know how to help and assist dogs with special needs in different situations.”

 

Regina Lie Bobzien of Barks N Purrs

Photographed at Stanley Park
The cost: “A 60 minutes walk four to five times a week is $18 per walk. If the client is looking for fewer walks—say, one to three walks a week—then the rate is $20.”
The route: “I walk my dogs in the Liberty Village area. If possible, I try to take my dogs on different routes every day to give them variety, although some dogs prefer the same route to pee and poop in the same spots every day. Often times, I’ll try to find parks or quiet areas with trees.”
Tricky customers: “Last year, I took care of an older dog suffering from cancer. In the last few weeks, her energy faded, so she required shorter walks, but more frequent visits during the day. Given the circumstances, we changed her schedule.”

 

Christine Ford of Oh My Dog!

Photographed at High Park
The cost: “We charge $18 to $20 per walk.
The route: “We do everything from shorter local walks to off-leash adventures at the beach and High Park.
Tricky customers: “If a dog is stressed out or not enjoying their time, we are completely transparent with our clients, and work to find a solution, whether that means transferring the dog to another company, or recommending our training walks. We all work together.”
Horror stories: “After hearing countless stories of dogs going missing, I co-founded the Toronto Dog Walkers Association, and Lost and Found Pets Toronto. We also developed a safety strap to try to reduce those numbers and we constantly advocate for safety first.”